Saturday, May 30, 2009

Burma should listen to the world: FM

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Burmese military junta should respond in positive to international pleas to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.

Burma should take into consideration seriously as the international community unanimously called the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners for national reconciliation, he said.

It is very rare the international community from the United Nations Security Council, the United States, the European Union, the Asean and countries in East Asia took the same stance on the Burma, he said.

"Now the ball is in their court, I think Burma is thinking about the call seriously," Kasit told reporters.

Aung San Suu Kyi's is on the trial for the charge of breaching her house arrest term as an American John Yettaw swam across the Inya Lake to her resident in Rangoon.

The meetings of Asia-Europe in Hanoi and EU-Asean in Phnom Penh this week were dominated by Burma issue. Ministers to the meetings expressed their concern and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burma, however, stayed the court defending it was internal affairs and trial was conducted in accordance with its laws.

Kasit said Burma as a member of the Asean has an obligation to comply with Asean Charter which guilds the regional grouping to a people caring community.

"Of course, the charter's text has no sanction clause but there is a moral obligation which members have to comply," he said.

It is not interference in domestic affairs since all concerns were raised with good intention to see progressive of national reconciliation in Burma, he said.

"How the national reconciliation could take place if Aung San Suu Kyi was under detention. The process is not inclusive," he said.

Burma's political situation would loom large again next week when leaders of the Asean gathered in South Korea's Jeju Island to commemorate 20th year anniversary of Korea-Asean relation.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Forced recruitment of tribal youths into Burmese Army

Dhaka: Officers have forcibly recruited Khami tribal youths, especially from Pelatwa and Buthidaung Township on the western Burma border to serve in the Burmese Army, said Aung Soe a Khami youth in the area.

“Army officers from LIB 55 and 289 have recruited our youths in the border area with the help of some Khami leaders who are supporters of the Burmese Army. Some Khami youths have joined the army while some have fled from the areas to avoid recruitment,” Aung said.

Khami is an ethnic nationality of Burma and most Khami people live in Arakan state and southern Chin State.

“Most of our youths are unable to speak Burmese language fluently but yet the army officials recruited them. The Burmese Army needs more youths to serve in the armed forces, so they have recruited young men no matter who they are,” Aung said.

Army officials have to provide some assistance like rice and money to the family after recruiting youths from the families.

Aung Said, “Two bags of rice and 10,000 Kyats have been given by army officials to the families whose youth joined the Burmese Army.”

The Burmese Army has recently registered a decrease in the number of youths joining in two western provinces after many youths in Arakan and Chin went looking for jobs in Thailand and Malaysia illegally.

“Most of our youths were engaged in mountain cultivation with the family before but they are now leaving for neighbouring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and India as well as Bangladesh looking for jobs. There are good jobs for our young people,” Aung said.

The Burmese junta has disallowed mountain cultivation in the western parts of Burma to prevent deforestation. Because of this many Khami young people became jobless and later left for neighbouring countries. The remaining youths in the area have been forced to join the army.

The recruitment of Khami youths started this year and local army officials are carrying out the plan in accordance with the instructions of senior Burmese Army officials from the western command based in Ann.

Call to suspend Myanmar

By Goh Chin Lian

(ST) -THE Myanmar government's continued disregard of Asean's concerns over its treatment of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has prompted two MPs to call for its suspension from the regional grouping.

Mr Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) argued that having Myanmar as a member would dent the credibility of Asean in the eyes of the world.

Replying, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed defended Asean's preference to engage Myanmar rather than isolate it.

He cautioned that expulsion or suspension is not as straightforward as it seems.

Western sanctions have had little effect on Myanmar as long as China and India keep their borders with Myanmar open.

Myanmar is also used to being isolated by the international community, and has shown over the years that it will not yield to sanctions and intimidation.

'We have always believed in Asean that we have more influence over Myanmar, however limited, through engagement rather than isolating it,' he said.

Mr Zainul Abidin acknowledged that domestic developments in the country have 'adversely affected' Asean's reputation and credibility.

Myanmar does have to meet certain obligations to human rights under the Asean Charter that it ratified. Asean has made clear its stand as well.

Asean has also called on the Myanmar government to release Ms Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years.

Read the full story in The Straits Times today.

Burmese Army delegates in Kolkata

New Delhi – A Burmese Army delegation led by Brig Gen Tin Maung Ohn, Deputy Commander of the Northwest Military Command, arrived in Kolkata, West Bengal on Wednesday on a goodwill visit.

The delegates’ Kolkata leg of the visit came after it attended the 36th bi-annual Indo-Burma border meeting held on May 26, at the Assam Rifles headquarters in Imphal, capital of Manipur state in northeast India.

While details of the Kolkata visit are still unknown, a military source in the city said, the Burmese team has arrived on a good will visit and will meet several Indian Army officials.

Brig-Gen Tin Maung Ohn heading a 15-member delegation met the 17 member team led by Assam Rifle’s Maj Gen AK Choudhury during the 36th bi-annual Indo-Burmese liaison meeting in Imphal.

India and Burma in recent years have stepped up bilateral relations including military cooperation and have been regularly holding meetings between the defence establishments of the two countries.

An Indian journalist, who has long covered Indo-Burma relations, said both Indian and Burmese military delegates have discussed a final strategy to crackdown on northeast rebel groups, several of which are reportedly operating from Burmese soil.

“They have come to finalize the plans for a counter insurgency operation in Sagaing Division,” the journalist told Mizzima, referring to the North-western division in Burma, bordering India’s Nagaland and Manipur states.

A similar meeting was also held in Nagaland in April 2008. The meeting focused on issues related to cross-border insurgency, arms smuggling and border management.

During his last visit, Brig Gen. Tin Maung Ohn and his team also travelled to Kolkata, and met Lt. Gen. V.K Singh, the General Officer Commanding-in- Chief of the Eastern Command and Lt. Gen. P.K. Goel, the Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command.

Chevron determined to retain investments in Burma

New Delhi - Chevron Corps has made it abundantly clear that it will not pull out of Burma but would retain its investments for compelling business reasons, and even if they do withdraw they will be replaced by other competitors.

Chevron’s stance was in response to a query by Mizzima regarding the company shareholder’s proposal to disclose the criteria it uses to start and end investments in high-risk countries particularly Burma.

The proposal by, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, an advocacy group for workers, to Chevron to disclose its criteria to decide on starting investments in a country, was supported by more than 25 per cent of the company’s share holders on Wednesday.

Teamsters (IBT) said the shareholders support indicates that there is growing concern among investors on Chevron’s investments in Burma.

In 2005 Chevron began investing in Burma after taking over the shares from another US Oil company UNOCAL, joining Total of France and PTTEP of Thailand in its investments on exploration of oil and natural gas.

Human rights activists, however, have severely condemned Chevron and urged it to pull out of Burma saying its business involvement provides a financial lifeline to the Burmese military regime, which is well-known for its appalling human rights violations.

“We are pleased that other Chevron shareholders recognize the enormous legal, financial, political and risks to reputation associated with operating in Burma and are demanding increased disclosure on how these decisions are made,” Thomas Keegel, General Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters said in a statement released on Wednesday.

But Gareth Johnstone, Chevron Corps’ Media Advisor for Asia Pacific, told Mizzima in an email interview, “We do not disclose our investments on a country-by-country basis.”

He said, Chevron maintains health and social programmes that improve the quality of life of communities in Burma, where it operates.

“The benefits of Yadana projects community engagement programmes along the pipeline have been confirmed by multiple third-party audits,” Johnstone added.

Chevron intends to be “a force for positive change” and brings international experience and a sound approach to corporate responsibility in working with communities, he said.

“People living near the project are better off by virtue of Chevron and its partners being there,” he said.

Johnstone also said, even if Chevron pulls out of Burma “many competitors would take Chevron’s place – potentially impacting the commitment and level of CE/CR activities along with programmes and opportunities for the people of Myanmar [Burma].”

But Naing Htoo, a Burmese environmental activist, working with the Earth Rights International said, the Yadana project has brought in militarization along the pipeline and evidence speaks of severe human rights violations committed by the soldiers.

He said, as the Burmese Army is responsible for protecting the pipeline, an increasing number of army battalions have been moved along the pipeline in Karen and Mon states of southern Burma.

Rights abuses such as forced labour, land confiscation, forced relocation, rape, torture, and extra-judicial killings have increased in these states since 1992, he added.

Though the Burmese regime earns over US$ 900 million from the Yadana project from 2007, the money fills the coffers of the military and is never spent on development or social welfare programmes.

He said, while the benefits go to the military regime, the locals pay a heavy price for the pipeline and therefore urged the company to pull out of Burma.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Burmese junta fears repeat of NLD's 1990 triumph

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Burmese military junta is challenging the credibility of Thailand, Asean and the international community over the on-going trial of opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, which might extend her detention for another five years.

Statement after statement from Thailand as chair of Asean, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the Asia-Europe Meeting calling for her immediate release were unlikely heard in Nay Pyi Taw and Rangoon.

Leaders and officials of many countries and regional groupings worked very hard to find words which could hit hard directly to the junta. They called on the generals to take responsibility as a member of the international community.

US President Barack Obama in his latest statement said Suu Kyi's continued detention, isolation and "show trial based on spurious charges" cast serious doubt on the Burmese government's willingness to be a responsible member of the international community.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as chairman of Asean, stressed clearly that with the eyes of the international community on Burma, the honour and credibility of its government were at stake.

The Asia-Europe Meeting's statement after a gathering of foreign ministers in Hanoi on Tuesday called for the early release of those under detention and the lifting of restrictions placed on political parties.

The Burmese junta reacted to these statements negatively and regarded them as interference in its domestic affairs. Perhaps the international community does not really exist in the junta's imagination. Sense of isolation is still strong among the generals whose military regime has run this country continuously for nearly half a century.

A counter statement from Burma's Foreign Ministry said Thailand, as the chair, had "failed to preserve the dignity of Asean, the dignity of Burma and the dignity of Thailand" since Bangkok had commented on a member's internal affairs.

The Burmese authorities continued the trial of Suu Kyi as usual. The presence of some foreign diplomats and journalists in the courtroom in the Insein prison was a single indicator that the international support existed, although the foreign attendance was on and off.

Many observers said the trial was a pretext to keep Aung San Suu Kyi, secretary-general of the National League for Democracy, away from the planned general election next year.

Lessons from the previous election nearly 20 years ago taught the junta that Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom is a grave danger to them. The military-backed National Unity Party won only 10 seats or about 2 per cent of the total 485 seats in the parliament while the NLD swallowed 392 seats in the 1990 election.

That is the reason why Aung San Suu Kyi has had to spend most of her time under house arrest since returning to her home country shortly before the 1988 uprising.

Her current term of house arrest since the bloodshed incident in May 2003 had already ended, on Wednesday 27 May, but Police Brigadier-General Myint Thein, head of the Police Special Branch said the term of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest could be legally extended for another six months, from now until November 27.

According to the police, the authorities considered releasing her, until the May 4 incident when American John Yettaw swam across the Inya Lake to her residence and spent overnight there with Aung San Suu Kyi's acknowledgement.

The junta charged her of breaching the authorities' "Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts" by accommodating the American. If convicted she might be punished with a maximum five years' imprisonment.

Asean and the international community needs to do more to get Aung San Suu Kyi released. Statements alone do not work.

Even sanctions imposed by the US and EU did not seriously hurt the junta, since trade and investment from neighbouring countries like Thailand and China helped release the pressure.

Burmese Citizens are Angry, but Silent


The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has gripped the hearts of the Burmese people because they respect and love her. Rationally, however, they know they can have little affect on the junta’s show trial now unfolding in Insein Prison.

A prominent writer in Rangoon summed it up in a phone conversation with The Irrawaddy on Wednesday: “The trial has made people feel helpless and even more hopeless.”

There are three factors that account for the lack of even modest public protests by ordinary citizens and political activists—economic hardship, harsh military oppression and lack of opposition leadership.

The people know the trial of the pro-democracy leader is rigged, and that she will soon be sentenced to up to five years in prison. They’re angry, but their anger is suppressed, boiling but contained—they can’t afford to let it overcome their daily struggle to survive and provide for their families.

Win Tin, a prominent member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party, said: “People are angry, but they are more concerned with their daily living.”

There’s no doubt that many people are unwilling to openly show their support for Suu Kyi because of the junta’s well-known willingness to use violence against citizens, which creates real, understandable fear. Images of the bloody crackdown on the monk-led protests in 2007 are still fresh in people’s minds.

“The trial has made people harbor more hatred towards the generals than ever,” the writer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “On the other hand, they are more frightened.”

For Burma, the political tide turned on May 14 when Suu Kyi was transferred from her home to Insein Prison and charged with violating the terms of her house arrest after an eccentric American intruder swam across Inya Lake and illegally entered her compound, where he remained for two days.

A lack of leadership within the political opposition has been a topic of concern. About 2,100 political prisoners, including many potential leaders, are in jail.

Sein Win, an outspoken and well-known Rangoon journalist, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, “The leading political party is weak.”

Even so, the ailing, respected journalist said he still believes in the people: “Our people are as courageous as ever since the era of the independence struggle,” in the early 20th Century.

On Wednesday, the NLD held its 19th anniversary of the election in which it won by a landslide, only to see the junta not honor the results, and it issued a strong statement calling for the release of its leader, Suu Kyi.

Since the trial began last week, the junta has beefed up security around Insein Prison and infiltrated members of Sawn Arr Shin, a junta-backed paramilitary group, among Suu Kyi’s supporters, who maintain a vigil outside the gates.

One supporter at the prison said, “They provoke us. One of them deliberately uttered a provocative remark: “‘Why are you guys coming to see the wife of a kalar?’” referring to Suu Kyi’s marriage to a British citizen. In Burmese, kalar is a vulgar term that refers to an Indian and Western people. The supporter said, “We have to hold back our anger.”

While anger is suppressed inside the country, the uproar within the international community is louder than ever.

“It is time for the Burmese government to drop all charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and unconditionally release her and her fellow political prisoners,” US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday. “Aung San Suu Kyi has represented profound patriotism, sacrifice and the vision of a democratic and prosperous Burma.”

The international community, including the European Union and the United Nations Security Council, has all expressed their concerns about Suu Kyi’s trial. Even members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been more outspoken than ever against the junta.

However, seasoned observers are skeptical that the international community will take further steps beyond expressing concern. Again, the ruling generals are experts at gauging international reaction and moving ahead with disdain, ever tightening their grip on power while nullifying the moves of the opposition.

The international community’s competing policies of economic sanctions versus constructive engagement have both had little impact on the junta’s hold on power or influenced its movement toward democratic reconciliation.

Both critics and dissents are also saddened that mounting pressure from the international community will likely have no affect on the trial’s verdict or sentence. After attending the trial last week, British Ambassador to Burma Mark Canning summed it up, “I think this is a story where the conclusion is already scripted. I don’t have confidence in the outcome.”

What wasn’t scripted was the spontaneous sign of respect by international diplomats last week and on Tuesday, who rose to their feet when Suu Kyi walked into the courtroom. The gesture spoke louder than words.

Monday, May 25, 2009

CSW uncovers more evidence of human rights abuses in Burma

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) recently returned from a three-week visit to South-East Asia with fresh evidence of human rights violations in Burma.

CSW visited the Kachin ethnic group in northern Burma with the Free Burma Rangers, and made a separate visit to Chin refugees in Malaysia.
A CSW representative heard first-hand testimony of rape, religious discrimination and land confiscation in Kachin State, and met a Chin pastor, now in Malaysia, who had been forced by Burma’s military regime to deliver a speech at a public rally denouncing human rights campaigners and claiming to enjoy complete religious freedom.
CSW also met representatives of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) the day after the regime had ordered the KIO to surrender its arms and soldiers to Burma Army control.

In a detailed report of the visit to the Kachin released on Friday, CSW quoted the testimony of a 21 year-old Bible school student who was raped and strangled by two Burma Army soldiers.
After describing her ordeal, the student told CSW that she had heard that one of the soldiers had raped many girls, but had never been brought to justice.
“Every woman should be careful. My experience is an example for other girls … I want justice to be done," she said.

CSW’s East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers, said: “The Kachin people have a ceasefire with the regime, but the peace dividend is severely limited.
"An end to widespread killing and mass displacement is welcome, but it comes at the cost of a climate of intense restriction, discrimination, and crimes committed with impunity by military personnel.
"Similarly, the Chin people face constant religious and ethnic discrimination and severe abuse. Worst of all, these two ethnic groups feel particularly forgotten by the international community.
"It is time that their voices were heard, and that the international community responded to the political, social, humanitarian and environmental disaster in northern and western Burma.”

Ethinic Minorities Draw Inspiration from Aung San Suu Kyi

Active ImageBurmese ethnic minorities, including the Chin, Karenni, and Shan, look to Aung San Suu Kyi to lead a call for national reconciliation within Burma.
Below is an article published by Mizzama :

Expressing concern for democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, currently facing trial in Rangoon’s Insein prison, Burma’s ethnic nationalities have said that they look at her as a turning point for national reconciliation in the country.

Duwa Mahkaw Hkunsa, General Secretary of the Ethnic Nationalities Council-Union of Burma (ENC), in exile said, the Nobel Peace Laureate had won their hearts and trust and hoped that she could unite the various ethnics of Burma into a federal union.

“We believe, she can lead the process of national reconciliation and also build a federal union, which we, the ethnics have been demanding,” said Hkunsa.

Earlier, ethnic leaders have had opportunities to discuss with Aung San Suu Kyi, during her short periods of freedom from house arrests, and have spoken of issues, including the building of a federal union, he said.

“She has also promised the ethnic leaders of wanting to build such an union,” Hkunsa added.

The ENC was first established in 2001, as Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC), with an objective of bringing together different ethnics and also to advocate for a tripartite dialogue, as the solution for Burma’s political crisis.

Later, it was transformed into the Council in 2004 and was renamed as the Ethnic Nationalities Council. The ENC was later re-structured and was made into a state-based organization, representing the existing states of Burma – Arakan, Chin, Karen, Karenni (Kayah), Mon and Shan.

Hkunsa said, the ENC is concerned over the current trial that Aung San Suu Kyi is facing and has called the charges against her, mere pretexts to continue detaining her.

“We already know that the junta will do something to her before her detention period ends, because they do not want to see her out before the 2010 elections,” Hkunsa said, adding that Aung San Suu Kyi continues to pose a threat to the junta, as she is well loved and is popular among the people.

“People love her, including soldiers and back her, so the authority are afraid and simply wants to continue detaining her,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the longest running armed resistance groups in Burma, also expressed their concern over the trial against Aung San Suu Kyi.

Naw Zipporah Sein, General Secretary of the KNU, told Mizzima, she is concerned about Aung San Suu Kyi and believes that she is the only person, who can lead a tripartite dialogue, in the process of national reconciliation.

“She means a lot of hope for all of us and as a leader, she has proved her ability to work with all ethnics,” Naw Zipporah Sein said.

Meanwhile, without Aung San Suu Kyi, it is almost hopeless to talk about a tripartite dialogue, which is being demanded by all ethnic groups, the KNU leader said.

Condemning the current trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, Naw Zipporah Sein, called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene and stop the junta from detaining her further.

“We oppose this trial. It is simply unjust, the international community must pressurize the junta to release her,” Naw Zipporah Sein said.


Cooperation needed for quality education: Jayenta

Imphal, May 25 : Education Minister L Jayentakumar today called for cooperation of all sections of the society in bringing quality education in the state.

Speaking as the chief guest during the 4th Foundation Day of Mega Manipur School, Yaralpat, L.Jayentakumar said that though several organisations have campaigned for quality education in the state, sadly, there has been no attempt to unfold the real meaning of quality education.

Education Minister Jayenta handing over memento to Dr Palin

He said if one cannot apply his/her education in the society, the same cannot be termed as quality education even the individual may be equipped with vast knowledge.

As such, imparting moral education is needed which will instill a sense of contributions to the society.

Contrasting the education systems in Mizoram and the state, the Education Minister said the literary rate is much higher in neighbouring Mizoram than here due to the sincere approach by the people.

He said that the education oriented scheme, Sarva Siksha Ahiyan (SSA) has been implemented in the state in 2004-05, four years later the launch of the scheme.

Jayentakumar said that food meant for mid-day meals were seized by undergrounds and instances of some groups taking hold of books meant for distribution to children saying they would distribute it.

The Education Minister appeals to shun the trend so as to create a viable and free atmosphere.

The function was attended by the Chairperson of Mega Manipur Society, Dr RK Nimai as the president while the guests of honour were Advocate General N Koteshore and the Chairperson of the Mega Manipur School management committee, Rupachandra Yumnam.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr RK Nimai said that the school has been set up with firm conviction to mould future leaders of the state.

The students are imparted not only classroom education but they are also given practical lessons.

Rewards were also given to donors, teachers, and students of the school during the function.

Various extravaganzas from the students were also shown during the Foundation Day of the school.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

CSW: Chin and Kachin Face Brutalities In Burma

By Van Biak Thang, Chinland Guardian, 23 May, 2009
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) yesterday released a report documenting first-hand information on SPDC’s human rights violations among the Chin and Kachin in Burma after making a visit to the Kachin State and to Chin refugees in Malaysia last week.
CSW visited the Kachin ethnic group in northern Burma with the Free Burma Rangers, and made a separate visit to Chin refugees in Malaysia.
A CSW representative heard first-hand testimony of rape, religious discrimination and land confiscation in Kachin State, and met a Chin pastor, now in Malaysia, who had been forced by Burma’s military regime to deliver a speech at a public rally denouncing human rights campaigners and claiming to enjoy complete religious freedom.
CSW also met representatives of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) the day after the regime had ordered the KIO to surrender its arms and soldiers to Burma Army control.
In a detailed report of the visit to the Kachin released today, CSW quotes the testimony of a 21 year-old Bible school student who was raped and strangled by two Burma Army soldiers. After describing her ordeal, the student told CSW that she had heard that one of the soldiers had raped many girls, but had never been brought to justice. “Every woman should be careful. My experience is an example for other girls … I want justice to be done.”
CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, Benedict Rogers, said: “The Kachin people have a ceasefire with the regime, but the peace dividend is severely limited. An end to widespread killing and mass displacement is welcome, but it comes at the cost of a climate of intense restriction, discrimination, and crimes committed with impunity by military personnel.”
“Similarly, the Chin people face constant religious and ethnic discrimination and severe abuse. Worst of all, these two ethnic groups feel particularly forgotten by the international community. It is time that their voices were heard, and that the international community responded to the political, social, humanitarian and environmental disaster in northern and western Burma.”
CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

Burma Military Involved In Massive Rape And Discrimination, investigators claim

RANGOON, BURMA (Worthy News)-- United Nations officials on Saturday, May 23, remained concerned over the situation  of Burma's political prisoners, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as Christian rights investigators reported fresh evidence of "human rights violations" by the ruling military in the country.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife it just returned from a three-week trip to the region with the 'Free Burma Rangers' group to investigate widespread the Burma's military involvement in widespread "rape, religious discrimination and land confiscation in Kachin State", an area of the Kachin ethnic group, including many Christian believers.

In a detailed report of the visit to the Kachin, CSW quotes the testimony of a 21 year-old Bible school student who was "raped and strangled by two Burma Army soldiers."

After describing her ordeal, the student told CSW she had heard that one of the soldiers had raped many girls, but had never been brought to justice. “Every woman should be careful. My experience is an example for other girls … I want justice to be done.”


CSW said it also met representatives of the rebel Kachin Independence Organisation a day after the military government of Burma, also known as Myanmar, ordered it to surrender its arms and soldiers "to Burma Army control."

In addition, CSw said met a Chin pastor, now in Malaysia, who "had been forced" by Burma’s military government to deliver a speech at a public rally "denouncing human rights campaigners and claiming to enjoy complete religious freedom."

It comes at a time when observers said the military government is concerned about world opinion as the U.N. Security Council in a unanimous statement expressed concern about the "political impact" of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi charging her with violating the terms of her house arrest.

Christians among the Karen, another ethnic group fighting for more autonomy and human rights, say they would accept Aung San Suu Kyi as Burma's leader as she is seen as a voice of reconciliation, BosNewsLife learned.


Burma's foreign minister, Nyan Win, has denied allegations that the government had framed its case against Aung San Suu Kyi.

In an interview published Friday, May 22, in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar he suggested the incident could have been created by the opposition to attract international attention, the Voice of America (VOA) network reported.

Burmese authorities have accused Aung San Suu Kyi of violating the terms of her six-year house arrest for allowing American John Yettaw to stay at her house for two days after swimming to her lakeside residence on May 3.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Burma’s Ploy Backfires Big Time

By Buffalohair

By Buffalohair

What was going to be an open and shut case with regard to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has gleaned unprecedented international attention and distain. Never before has there been such keen awareness on all levels of the world population. From the Internet, radio, television and feature films Burma is in the limelight like never before. The plight of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma are no longer a quiet diplomatic issue relegated to the impotent United Nations and meaningless sanctions. Now the people of the world are watching with great intensity and they are not pleased.

Than Shwe’s plan to eliminate Aung San Suu Kyi’s presence during his sham 2010 election has woefully backfired. Inquisitive citizens from every nation on Earth are seeking out information and hard facts about the plight of Burma and they are shocked at with they’ve discovered. Finally the world is paying attention and the efforts of all the pro democracy organizations over the years is bearing fruit in Than Shwe’s unexpected harvest. Now people are fast becoming aware of the once secret and corrupt world of Gen. Than Shwe and his criminal regime.

Average people who only a few weeks ago did not even know where Burma was are educating themselves about the criminal regime and the criminal corporations who’ve sponsored Than Shwe’s bloody exploits. International corporations and nations who’ve financed Burma’s blood bath for financial gain are coming under the microscope and it will not be long before Than Shwe’s secret partners in crime are dragged into the streets of public opinion. Guilty of slavery, rape and murder many corporations from around the world gleaned a handsome profit from Than Shwe’s criminally corrupt regime and now the gory details of their exploits have a willing audience.

Though the military junta of Burma is struggling with damage control the cat is out of the bag. The floodgates have burst as outrage of not only Than Shwe’s government but with impotent politicians and the United Nations become a central issue. The public from all points of the globe are coming to realize the power they truly have. They are the consumers of the world who’ve filled the coffers of international corporations. Without the consumer dollar corporations would shrivel up and disappear fore no one can be forced to buy anything they don’t want to. Now these once invincible conglomerates face an adversary they are powerless to influence, extort or lobby, the angry consumer. And as the truth about once secret deals with Burma’s criminal regime comes into focus the public will exclude products associated with these firms.

There will be no bail-out for these corporations and the individuals who were the liaison and go betweens with the regime will undoubtedly join Than Shwe and his generals in the court of public opinion. They will also be held accountable for the people who were used as slaves and murdered with the blessing of Than Shwe. International corporate goons will be identified by junta generals who seek immunity in the eventual international tribunal for “crimes against humanity”. Ironically this is an aspect of Globalization corporations did not calculate into their equation as they gleaned handsome profits at the expense of humanity on every continent.

“If corporate and economic issues are to take precedents over humanity then it’s time for humanity to use economics in its battle for human rights, fight fire with fire”

The plight of Aung San Suu Kyi and the People of Burma is a microcosm of the plight of the people of the world in the face of corporate greed. The consumer dollar is the Achilles Tendon in the once invincible corporate body armor. Now the individual consumer is becoming aware of the power they truly have as average folks around the world rally support for Aung San Suu Kyi and the People of Burma. By withholding one dollar from any corporation who does business with Burma you pierce the armor of corporations fore without your money they are nothing. Everything comes full circle and the days of brow beating from corporations and lack luster politicians is coming to an end. In releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and the People of Burma we will break the stranglehold of corporate greed around the world as well fore we possess the ultimate weapon of corporate mass destruction, the all mighty dollar.

If you don’t buy, they will die.

Protest And Hunger Strike Demanding Aung San Suu Kyi’s Release

By Van Biak Thang
Chinland Guardian
19 May, 2009

More than 200 people yesterday joined a 'heated-up' demonstration in front of Burmese Embassy in London, as part of a global day of action for Aung San Suu Kyi, whose 'illegal' trial has drawn into a second day in Rangoon's notorious Insein Prison after being charged with breaching security laws following an intrusion by the American swimmer into her lakeside residence.

The protesters, angered by the brutal and inhumane behaviours of SPDC, demanded the immediate release of Burma's pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi along with other political prisoners, shouting slogans including 'Free innocent Aung San Suu Kyi, right now'.

Anna Roberts, Director of Burma Campaign UK, told Chinland Guardian: “Today, there has been a fantastic turnout demonstrating in front of the Burmese Embassy in London. It shows that how angry people are at what the regime has done, arresting Aung San Suu Kyi on trumped-up charges and trying to keep her in detention."

"Clearly, the regime wants to make sure that Aung San Suu Kyi and all voices that represent are squashed before their sham election in 2010 next year. What was very clear from the demonstration today is that people want to see the international communities take actions and to see the United Nations, the EU and Burma's neighbours translate what they have said 'they are concerned about Aung San Suu Kyi' into actions.”

London-based Burmese Embassy was closed on the day with a placard reading ‘Today, Embassy is temporarily closed. Sorry for the inconvenience’. The London Police had to block the street as it was filled up with protesters including mothers with babies.

Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader of Christian Solidarity Worldwide UK, told Chinland Guardian: "Today is a very important demonstration and an important expression of outrage, anger, and disgust at the decision by the regime to put Aung San Suu Kyi in Insein prison and to come up with full charges. And I think all of us here are expressing that outrage. We need to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as representative of the sufferings in the whole of Burma and it is absolutely right that we focus on her plights today and in the immediate future because her situation is very grave and dangerous and she is such an important person for all of Burma but we also need to remember the sufferings of the peoples of Burma. And until all the people of Burma can be free, we will not stay silent."

"We hope that the leaders of this world - of the UN, of the EU, of China and ASEAN - will also hear their consciences and will stop working with this regime and stop tolerating what they are doing, and actually take action to free Aung San Suu Kyi and to bring an end to the suffering of the people of Burma," continued Ben Rogers, highlighting in his message the famous speech of Martin Luther King saying ‘stand up for truth, righteousness and justice’.

Other key speakers included representatives from National League for Democracy (Liberated Area, UK), Women of Burma UK, Burma Muslin Association, Karen National Union, Kachin National Organisation, Chin Community, Arakan Rohingya National Organisation, Wai Hnin Pwint Thon (daughter of political prisoner Mya Aye), Burma Democratic Concern, human rights activists and other Burmese organisations.

Miss Dim Lian, on behalf of the Chin in the UK, told the protesters: "The Chin people are also deeply saddened by the awakening of this horrendous news. Shocking as it is, but I hope this may not come to you all as a surprise, as we are immune to the Burmese authority's inhumane and relentless behaviours.”

“Burma is a country known for its brutal regime's atrocities against its own people mainly on three accounts: ethnicity, politics and religion. The charge against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible manifestation of the regime's atrocity and brutality. She is a woman who sacrifices her freedom for the freedom of Burmese people. We, the Chin people, pray that God will sustain her, comfort her and keep her in peace in this most difficult time,” she added.

After the demonstration, a group of Burmese protesters started a 24-hour hunger strike to show their solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

A multi-faith prayer service, where Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and non-believers gathered in unity, was last Sunday held at a Buddhist monastery in Colindale, North London. A Chin pastor, who wants to remain unnamed, attended the service, representing the Chin and Burmese Christians in the UK.

The global day of action for Aung San Suu Kyi took place in more than 20 cities around the world, calling on world’s leaders and the international communities to take action on Burma and to free Aung San Suu Kyi, whose terms of detention is officially expiring late this month.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Myanmar Opens Suu Kyi Trial to Media

YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar's military regime unexpectedly opened pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's trial to reporters Wednesday and allowed diplomats to meet her – rare concessions in the face of world-wide outrage over the handling of her case.
Army-ruled Myanmar opened the prison trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to a limited number of diplomats and journalists.
The Nobel Peace laureate, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man stayed at her home without official permission. The offense is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.
She is standing trial with two female members of her party who live with her, and John W. Yettaw, the American who swam to Ms. Suu Kyi's lakeside home under the cover of darkness earlier this month and sneaked in uninvited.
Ms. Suu Kyi, appearing alert and in good spirits, greeted diplomats and told them she hoped they could meet again "in better times," according to two diplomats who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The trial adjourned Wednesday after two more police officers testified for the prosecution, including one who interviewed Ms. Suu Kyi after her arrest. He said Ms. Suu Kyi told him that she provided Mr. Yettaw with rehydration salts and several meals.
A township police officer also presented 23 items of evidence, including two black cloaks that resembled abayas typically found in Saudi Arabia, which Mr. Yettaw allegedly left behind for Ms. Suu Kyi. Two women modeled the all-black garb in the courtroom.

Ms. Suu Kyi, who is being held at the infamous Insein Prison along with scores of other political prisoners, had been scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years under house arrest. The charges against her are widely seen as a pretext for her to stay in detention during polls scheduled for next year –the culmination of the junta's "roadmap to democracy," which has been criticized as a fig leaf for continued military rule.
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. It last held an election in 1990, but the junta refused to honor the results after a landslide victory by Ms. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.
The court on Monday rejected a request by Ms. Suu Kyi's lawyer for an open trial.
But on Wednesday, the country's Information Ministry ruled that five foreign correspondents and five local reporters could attend the trial's afternoon session. Authorities also said all embassies could send one diplomat.
A U.S. consular official had been allowed to attend the court sessions because Mr. Yettaw is standing trial, but the proceedings were otherwise closed to the press and public.
At the same time, authorities have agreed to allow the Thai, Singapore and Russian ambassadors to meet with Ms. Suu Kyi at the conclusion of her trial on Wednesday, said a diplomat, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press. They are expected to meet her in a "guest house" within the prison compound where she is being held.
The move comes a day after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed "grave concern" about developments related to Ms. Suu Kyi and reaffirmed calls for her immediate release. It also called for her to get adequate medical care and be treated with dignity.
"With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honor and the credibility of the government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake," ASEAN said in a statement.
The comments were unusually tough for an organization that normally refrains from criticizing its member countries.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the charges against Ms. Suu Kyi were "unjustified" and called for her unconditional release and that of more than 2,100 other political prisoners.
Ms. Suu Kyi's arrest could well derail a "softer" approach that the Obama administration had been searching for to replace sanctions and other get-tough policies that have done nothing to divert the junta's iron-fisted rule.
China, which as Myanmar's closest ally probably has the most influence with its ruling generals, has shown no sign it is exerting pressure on Myanmar's government.
"Myanmar's issue should be decided by the Myanmar people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said at a regular news briefing. "We hope that the relevant parties in Myanmar could realize reconciliation, stability and development through dialogue."
Hundreds of police in full riot gear, some armed with rifles, were deployed along all roads leading to Insein prison where the trial was taking place, while Ms. Suu Kyi supporters gathered peacefully nearby.
Two photographers working for Japanese media were detained Wednesday by authorities for 20 minutes after they took shots of diplomat's cars entering the prison, witnesses said. They were released after showing proof they were foreign correspondents.
The family of 53-year-old Mr. Yettaw, of Falcon Missouri, describes him as a well-intentioned admirer of Ms. Suu Kyi who merely wanted to interview her, unaware of the possible consequences. Ms. Suu Kyi's supporters have expressed anger at him for getting her into trouble.

Bravery Fills Secret Burmese Dispatches

Burma VJ (2008)


(NYT) -Many of the images in “Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country” are shaky and blurred, captured with video cameras small enough to be quickly concealed in circumstances of danger and chaos. The lack of cinematic polish emphasizes the urgency of these pictures and the bravery of the anonymous camera operators — “VJ” stands for “video journalists” — who risked their safety, their freedom and their lives to record popular protests against the military government of Myanmar and the regime’s brutal response.

Directed by Anders Ostergaard, a Danish filmmaker, this documentary is largely a collage of those clandestine videos, recorded in August and September 2007 and narrated by a Burmese pro-democracy activist known as Joshua, whose face and identity are shrouded for his own protection. Joshua and his colleagues are haunted by memories of the early 1990s, when the military junta known as Slorc (an acronym for the State Law and Order Restoration Council) responded to its electoral defeat by Aung San Suu Kyi by cracking down ruthlessly on the citizens of the country that nearly everyone in this film pointedly calls Burma, rather than the new name imposed on it by Slorc.

As public defiance of the regime grows through the late summer of 2007, Joshua hopes the result will be different. He is part of the Democratic Voice of Burma, a network of journalists who discreetly gathered information about Burmese life by interviewing ordinary people and recording their everyday activities. When small, apparently spontaneous demonstrations begin in the capital, the group’s cameras are there to witness the events, and as video circulates at home and abroad, the gatherings grow bigger and bolder.

Somewhat reluctantly, Joshua flees to Thailand, where, via cellphone and Internet, he receives firsthand reports and raw footage of a rapidly escalating movement. Myanmar’s normally quiescent Buddhist monks emerge as the symbolic and strategic linchpin of anti-government activity, and images of their defiance spread around the world in spite of the government’s ban on foreign journalists.

“Burma VJ” is a rich, thought-provoking film not only because of the story it tells, which is by turns inspiring and devastatingly sad, but also because of the perspective it offers on the role that new communications technologies can play in political change. The viral videos of the Democratic Voice of Burma are like the hidden printing presses of earlier underground revolutionary movements, except that the portability of the cameras and the ease of Web and satellite-based distribution make them harder to suppress.

But not impossible. While much of the film offers the stirring drama of a population shaking off passivity and fear and standing up to tyranny, the denouement shows that old-fashioned police-state repression can still overpower a rebellion fueled by new media. The cameras are on hand to record the eventual crackdown in horrific detail — there is something indelibly and uniquely appalling about the sight of soldiers firing on crowds of their fellow citizens — but they cannot alter the terrible course of events. And so the narrative of “Burma VJ” takes on a somber, elegiac cast, as the potential for freedom flares up and is, in short order, snuffed out.

The story is not over, of course, as a glance at recent headlines suggests. The cruelty and paranoia of the Myanmar government may yet be overcome by the patience and resilience of people like the brave and anonymous monks, students and office workers glimpsed in “Burma VJ.” But while the film refuses despair, it also declines to traffic in hopes that may prove, once again, illusory. Instead it tries, with a fascinating mixture of directness and sophistication, to tell the truth.


Reporting From a Closed Country

Opens on Wednesday in


Directed by Anders Ostergaard; written by Mr. Ostergaard and Jan Krogsgaard; directors of photography, Simon Plum and Burmese video journalists; edited by Janus Billeskov Jansen and Thomas Papapetros; music by Conny Malmqvist; produced by Lise Lense-Moller; released by Oscilloscope Laboratories and HBO Documentary Films. At Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village. In English and Burmese, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. This film is not rated.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Burmese Die in Malaysian Detention Center


KUALA LUMPUR — Two Burmese migrant workers who were detained at an immigration detention center in Malaysia have died of leptospirosi, an ailment caused by unhealthy drinking water, sources said.

According to the Burma Worker Rights Protection Committee, two migrant workers died in Bukit Mertajam at Bukit Mertajam Hospital following their detention in Juru Immigration Detention Center in Pulau Pinang Province.

“We heard that a second Burmese from the immigration camp died on Monday. On May 12, another Burmese died of the same cause,” said Ye Min Tun, the secretary of the group. The names of the dead were not available.

“There is no proper drinking water system for detained foreigners,” said Ye Min Tun.
“There is no health care for detainees.”

Malaysian health officials told local newspapers that about 25 people from the immigration camp have contracted leptospirosi and are being treated now. One man is in critical condition.

Leptospirosis is commonly transmitted by allowing water that has been contaminated by animal urine to come into contact with unhealed cuts or abrasions on the skin, eyes or mucous membranes. It is a relatively rare bacterial infection in humans, health experts said.

“Out of the 23 cases under treatment as of yesterday, one has died. Three were discharged, leaving 19 cases still under treatment now,” said Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican, in a statement.

Former inmates said that water storage facilities in the detention camp are near toilet areas. There are three buildings in the camp. An estimated 700 foreigners, held by immigration authorities for various offenses, are detained there.

Earlier this year, two Burmese migrant workers died at a detention center. Two men, indentified as Ko Paul and Kyaw Swa, died in January 2008, sources said. No cause of death was given.

“After they tighten the rules in the centers, immigration officials and RELA [a government-backed group that focuses on illegal immigration] harassed detainees at the center,” said a former detainee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said that during searches detainees are sometimes beaten. RELA is a mass group that is used to suppress illegal migrant workers in Malaysia. Human rights groups say RELA members are not trained properly as professionals. In 2005, authorities granted RELA the right to help oversee immigration detention centers and arrest illegal migrants.
In an effort to escape economic hardship at home, millions of Burmese migrant workers are in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Thailand.

Malaysia is home to an estimated 500,000 Burmese migrant workers, illegally or legally, while Thailand hosts at least 2.5 million migrant workers from Burma.

“Malaysia is not a good place for foreigner migrants, particularly migrant workers,” said Latheefa Koya, a well-know Malaysian human rights lawyer. Human rights standards for migrant workers are low, she said, and there is also a high level of xenophobia, which compounds the problem.

Malaysia needs to reform its migrant worker laws, which now allow systematic abuse of migrant workers, she said.

This story was written under a 2009 Southeast Asian Press Alliance Fellowship

Monday, May 18, 2009

Burma government ‘responsible’ for Yettaw incident

A renowned former Burmese political prisoner has pinned the blame for the United States’ citizen who entered Aung San Suu Kyi’s compound on 4 May squarely on the government, and has labelled today’s trial “bogus”.

U Win Tin, a journalist and member of the National League for Democracy’s central committee, was released last October after spending 19 years in prison, including spells at Insein prison where Suu Kyi is being held.

“The government has control over all the security measures in the country and it’s completely up to them to whether or not to give the American a chance to enter her house,” he said.

“So the government is responsible for what happened.”

Suu Kyi, her two caretakers, and the US citizen John William Yettaw, all face trial today at a court hearing inside Insein prison.

Yettaw faces charges related to trespassing and breaching of immigration laws, while Suu Kyi has been accused of breaching conditions of her house arrest by allowing Yettaw to stay at her compound, where she has been held under house arrest for the past six years.

“There are about 250 security personnel around Daw Suu’s house, including three outposts guarding the neighbourhood, the road at the front and Inya lake,” said exiled former Burmese ambassador to the United States, Aung Linn Htut.

“It is no way possible for someone to infiltrate such heavy security.”

Meanwhile, journalist and Burma expert Larry Jagan said that the Burmese junta may not have been prepared for the outcry from the international community over Suu Kyi’s trial.

“I think that the leaders of the Burmese junta must be surprised at the international reactions to what they have done,” he said.

“And I think that the junta are going to realize that if they pursue this avenue they are going to become increasingly isolated not just from the West but also from their Asian neighbours.”

He added that should Suu Kyi be found guilty, people may take to the streets again, as they did in September 2007.

“There's already pent up anger because of the 2007 crackdown on the monks,” he said.

“We've seen local communities invigorated and empowered by their efforts, their own efforts to help people during and in the aftermath of the cyclone.

“This is a different Burma than it was two years ago and I think that the generals have miscalculated and I think the Burmese people, if she is sentenced to five years, will vent their anger on the street.”

Myanmar's Suu Kyi defiant ahead of trial - lawyer

YANGON - Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health and ready to defend herself against new charges that have triggered international condemnation of the military regime, her lawyer said.

Kyi Win, Suu Kyi's main defence lawyer at her trial due to start on Monday, was allowed to meet the Nobel Peace laureate for one hour at a guest house in Yangon's Insein Prison on Saturday.

"She asked me to tell her friends and everyone that she is quite well," Kyi Win told Reuters. "She is ready to tell the truth that she never broke the law."

The 63-year-old Suu Kyi is charged with breaking the conditions of her nearly six-year house arrest after an American intruder sneaked inside her lakeside villa in Yangon this month.

If convicted, she faces up to five years in jail.

Suu Kyi's two female companions have also been charged in a case denounced by critics as a pretext for keeping the charismatic opposition leader in detention ahead of elections in 2010. Her current detention expires on May 27.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide election victory in 1990 only to be denied power by the military, which has ruled the former Burma since 1962.

The generals have detained Suu Kyi for more than 13 of the past 19 years, mostly at her home on a leafy Yangon avenue guarded by police, her phone line cut and visitors restricted.

Suu Kyi's doctor, Tin Myo Win, was freed late on Saturday after he was detained on May 7 for questioning, relatives said. Suu Kyi was recently treated for low blood pressure and dehydration, and activists fear for her health in prison.

Rights groups also slammed the junta on Saturday for revoking the law licence of Aung Thein, a prominent activist lawyer who was to be on Suu Kyi's defence team.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) called it "a blatant attempt by the regime to damage the defence for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her two live-in party members".


Kyi Win said Suu Kyi was innocent because she did not invite John Yettaw, who according to state media swam across Yangon's Inya Lake to her home using homemade flippers earlier this month.

"She told me that they found him at the back of her house at about 5 a.m. She told him to leave, but he refused saying he was exhausted," Kyi Win said.

Suu Kyi did not report him to authorities because "she did not want anybody to get into trouble because of her", he said.

Yettaw, described by state media as a 53-year-old psychology student from Missouri, has been charged with "illegal swimming", immigration violations and encouraging others to break the law.

Kyi Win said Yettaw had tried a similar stunt to meet Suu Kyi in November 2008, but she refused to speak to him and the incident was reported to authorities.

Yettaw's motives remain unclear, but speculation about his role in the junta's latest crackdown on Suu Kyi has swirled for days in the streets of Yangon.

"I think the regime must be behind this incident one way or another. They do not want to free Daw Suu," a retired politician, using the Burmese honorific for older women, said.

The junta has so far ignored the international outcry over what critics say are "trumped up" and "baseless" charges against Suu Kyi.

U.S. President Barack Obama renewed sanctions against the regime on Friday, saying its actions and policies, including the jailing of more than 2,000 political prisoners, continued to pose a serious threat to U.S. interests.

Washington has led the West in tightening sanctions, but Asian neighbours with an eye on the country's rich timber, gas and mineral reserves have favoured a policy of engagement.

Neither has succeeded in coaxing meaningful reforms from junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, who is widely believed to loathe Suu Kyi.

He has vowed to press ahead with a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in 2010 elections which the West derides as a sham to entrench the military's grip on the country.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Zomi History: Sukte Independent Army


The founder of Sukte Independent Army Pu Hau Za Lian was born in royal family clan on April 14, 1912 at Suangzang Village in Tedim Township. When he becomes 8th year old he studied at the Burmeses School 1920-1924 and continues His education at Tedim Vernacular School Standard I-VII 1924-1932. He could not continue his education, because of his father Pu Pau Za Cin as the chief of Suangzang was become old and requested to assist his father.


In contrast between the dictatorship policy and democratic policy, the Second World War was risen in 1939 and alliance of dictatorship policy (Germany Italy, Russia and Japan) the Japans entered in Burma in the early of 1943 and conquered all the centre land of Burma. The remain of the hill area was still in the hand of The British Government (Democratic policy alliance: England, America, and France). Then, to defend that area was formed the Eastern Kachin Levy and Western Chin Levy.

When Col. N.W. Kelly. OBE, DC called the headmen to discuss how to collect among the people for Western Levy Army and discussed three days (25-27, April 1942) with 25 persons of the chief and headmen. He promised that the twelve (12) items for the development of that area. After making agreement, the Headmen collected for to defend the authority of British. Then, to work under the tactical direction of Col. N.W. Kelly. OBE, DC, Pu Hau Za Lian was promoted as Commando Company commander and Pu Thawng Cin Thang was as Lieutenant.


While defending two year by the Western Levy Corp, under the leadership of Chief Pum Za Mang discussed how to drive out the British from our land but Pu Lian Khaw Mang (The headman of Mualnuam) strongly opposed his proposal. However, The chief Pum Za Mang was tailed to get it as the government it self encouraged autocracy than democracy. Because of in the early February, 1943 The Japan corps conquered this land because of the secret invitation and co-cooperative involvement with the Chief of Pum Za Mang. Due to withdraw of British Army and Western Levy Army to India.


On the victory of that Land the Japanese centered at Tedim and Chin Defence Army was formed, a general meeting was held at Tedim Town with the Chief and headmen. General Yanagida talked to the Chief and headmen in a soft voice for about half hour. When he finished speaking, Inada translated in a very loud voice into two dozen word which means: “You the Chin Leaders must be feel this land is yours, this county belong to you from now on. You must cooperate with the Japanese Army.”

Commissioner Itoh then invited all the Chin Leaders to meet him in his office and told them that they were empowered as higher commanders in Burma-India theatre of war. Practically, nationalism crystallized when the Japanese occupied the Chin Hills and empowered the Chin Leaders in Tedim was very high in Civil and military ranks and summary powers hitherto not enjoyed by the previous government authorities. This was the reasons why Chief Pum Za Mang preferred the over lordship of the Japanese that the British over lordship that his forefathers’ conquest of land had been ceded to its surrounding territories by under the authority of the British Government.


The Japanese held a meeting with the chiefs and headmen on 5-10 June, 1944, discussing about development issues. In that meeting Pu Hau Za Lian said to Japanese Officers that: “We are very grateful to the Nippon Government for delivering us from the reign of the British and working towards our development. I would like to request one things to you that: ‘Those who oppose and betray you, you may kill them according to the law. But please do not kill the many people who were not unjustly arrested without thorough interrogation and fair judgment” At this meeting Mr. Za Biak (Japan name was Hachita), the District Administration Officer said: “There are three people on the western side of the river waiting to be executed. People from that side must surrender all their guns and horses. Those who fail to do so will be beheaded”. The people came across the rule of Japanese was worse than the British government and acknowledged that the British cares as fatherhood.


On the way back home from the meeting, Pu Hau Za Lian had secret agreement with Pu Thawng Za Khup. Pu Thuam Za Mang and Pu Pau Za Kam to fight against Japanese. Volunteers were to be recruited by Pu Thawng Za Khup and Pu Thuam Za Mang on the eastern side of the river and by Pu Hau Za Lian on the western side of the river. When Pu Hau Za Lian back to his village on June 11, 1944, he informed all the chiefs and headmen of the western side of the river not to surrender their guns and horses without his instruction.

On June 14, 1944 all the Chiefs and headmen at Heilei village. Pu Hau Za Lian re-lated to them about the meeting with the Japanes that was held the previous week. In that meeting what Mr. Za Biak said, how the Japanese treated our peoples and the order issued by the Japanese, is it not better to die fighting against them? Everyone at that meeting immediately agreed to fight against the Japanese. Soon, Pu Hau Za Lian had recruited 875 volunteers from the villages. They were issued arms and ammunition hidden by the Western Chin Levy at Leitawhtan yet by Capt. Burne and Lt. Thawng Cin Thang, leaders of the Western Chin Levy who were stationed at Sa-ek. The Western Chin Levies made headquarter at Taakzang, a place located north of Suangzang villages, and underwent military training together headquarter with the army of Pu Hau Za Lian.

When the Japanese knew about it, they dispatched 58 Chin Defense Army to crush the headquarter. Pu Hau Za Lian and Lt. Pu Thawng Cin Thang got this news and sent some soldiers from the army to ambush them at Kaptel Village. They captured all the 58 Chin Defense Army soldiers alive and made them their own soldiers.

At the same time, 60 soldiers from the Chin Defense Army and Gurkha Corps could no longer stand the ill treatments of the Japanese and deserted their Tedim Headquarters and surrendered to the Sukte Independent Army to joint in the fight against the Japanese. They were warmly welcome.

Pu Hau Za Lian and Lt. Thawng Cin Thang called a meeting at Heilei village on July 11, 1944, inviting the headmen and elders from the west river and discusses about attacking the Japanese Headquarter in November when the rainy season was over, and set the freedom from the Japanese rule. They agreed to wipe out the Japanese from the land, and name their troop the “Free Chin Movement” or “Zo Suakta”. The ranks were assigned as the follows:

1. Commander in Chief Pu Hau Za Lian (Suangzang)
2. Subedar Pu Thawng Khaw Mang (Suangzang)
3. Subedar Pu Thang Khen Thang (Heilei)
4. Jemedar Pu Cin Za Dal (Suangzang)
5. Jemedar Pu Tun Thual (Kaptel)
6. Jemedar Pu Song Theu (Kaptel)
7. Jemedar Pu Kam Khan Khup (Tuitawh)
8. Jemedar Pu Kam Khup (Laitui)
9. Jemedar Pu Sawm Pau (Muizawl)
10. Jemedar Pu Ngin Za Dal (Heilei)
11. Jemedar Pu Khoi Za Ngo (Heilei)

Pu Hau Za Lian was in charge as military affairs and Lt. Thawng Cin Thang of the administration as the whole movement had been organized under their leadership


A meeting of the Free Chin Movement officer and the villages headmen at Taakzang Heaquarters on September 1, 1944, Jemedar Tun That of Kaptel said that his proposal to change the name: “I propose to change the of our movement from “Free Chim Movement” to “Sukte Independent Army” after the land of Sukte on which started our movement to attack and wipe out the Japanese army. The proposal was unanimously accepted and the “Sukte Independent Army seal and decorations were approved”. The Pu Hau Za Lian said that: “Our new approval name the Sukte Independent Army refers to the land on which was born our movement. Our mission is to get rid of the Japanese army, who have been torturing, enslaving and killing our brothers. We must set free without discrimination all our land and our people. We are committed to sacrifice our lives fight our enemies and save our land and our people.

While the SIA Commander Pu Hau Za Lian was in the Laitui village during his tour, visiting the troops who were stationed as various villages, an urgent letter was sent to him by by Chief Pu Thuam Za Mang, Chief Pu Thawng Za Khup and Tedim Headquarters Pu Pau Za Kam. So he came back to learn from the letter that all the Chiefs and headmen from the Land of western and eastern gathering together with guns report at Suahlim, and Mr. Za Biak would arrive at Mualbem on September 14, 1944 to arrest them.

Therefore, Pu Hau Za Lian and Pu Thawng Cin Thang called a meeting with the SIA officers and headmen from the various villages at Taakzaang on September 7, 1944 to discuss about this letter. In the meeting they signed agreement to protect the chiefs and headmen of eastern side of the river from arrest by Japanese and that every villages should take the responsibility to provide the required number of men and materials for the battle. Then 421 guns and 17,000 bullets were distributed to the villages in to empowerment of the SIA activities.

Pu Hau Za Lian-Commander in Chief of SIA and Pu Thawng Cin Thang of the Western Chin Levy led the troops from Taakzang Headquarters on September 8, 1944 encamped at Suklui valley along the Manipur river. It took three days for all the troops to get eastern side of the river of the river as they have to cross it by hanging on suspended rope. Then they encamped again at the place called Belmual that was rather close to Mualbem village. When they got the information that Mr. Za Biak had arrived at Mualbem with 15 Japanese and 30 Chin Defense soldiers, the SIA soldiers left their camp Belmual at the midnight and surrounded Mualbem. Theu had planed to attack at dawn, but somebody let loose the gun at midnight and the fight began right away. The SIA killed on Japanese soldier and captured Mr. Za Biak and otheres alive. From the SIA side, Pu Phawng Kim of Suangzang village was killed and Pu Ngo Nang, Vial Lang, Pu Hau Khual and Pu Khai Za Khup were wounded.

After capturing Mualbem, the SIA opened its headquarter at the Chief Pun Thuam Za Mang house on the morning of September 15, 1944 and sent words to all people and Chin Defense Army soldiers from various village to surrender. “Then many CDA officers from the various Japanese comps came to surrender unconditionally at the SIA headquaters. They included Pu Pau Kam and Pu Lam Zam from the Limkhai village camp, Pu Kiam Piu from the Vangteh village camp, Pu Vum Khaw Hau, Pu Thian Pum and Pu Awn Ngin from Lawibual Headquarters and Pu Gin Khaw Thang, Pu Gin Za Tuang, Pu Vung Suan and Pu Pau Za Kam from the Suahlim village camp”. Since they were all young and educated, ranks and duties were immediately assigned to them as appropriate.

The Sukte Independent Army leaders continued traveling to villages around Mualbem to recruite soldiers, bring along whatever weapons they had. They were assigned ranks and duties in the Sukte Independent Army and equipped with the necessary weapons. The Sukte Independent Army increased in number and strength. Now, they were enough troops to attack the various enemy camps and headquarters in that land. The Japanese camps at Saizang, Khuavum, Takheuh, Sialtu, Khualumual, Thangngal, Zawngkong, Suahlim, Suangatkuam, Phunom, Thangnuai and Sakhiang were completely eliminated. At the same time as the Japanese in the surrounding villages of the Tedim town were fought by the Sukte Independent Army and Western Levy. On the other hand, the camps in stationed in the Kam Hau land were also attack and driven off from Lamzang, Gawngmual and other villages by the local people using their own weapons.


After the elimination all the Japanese camps and heaaquarters in Tedim Township by The Sukte Independent Army and western Chin Levy under the leadership of Pu Hau Za Lian and Pu Thawng Cin Thang, a big celebration was held on November 27, 1944 at the Thuamvum (Forewhite). On that memorable day, Lieutenant Colonel Warren and Major Franklin from the 5th Division of British Army greeted the Sukte Independent Army commander in Chief Pu Hau Za Lian, Western Chin Levy leader Lieutenant Pu Thawng Cin Thang and all the respective officers at Thang Mual (Forwhite) with respect and admiration. In his official address, Major Franklin said that: “The 5th Division of the British Army came to fight the Japanese army and expel them from India and Burma. However, even before we arrived, the Sukte Independent Army and Western Chin Levy, out of you love for your land and your people, sacrifice your life, making use whatever weapon and ration you have, had driven away the Japanese army from your land. We acknowledge your victory with great appreciation. We will continue to pursue the remaining Japanese army in the Burmese proper. You can return to villages and families now”. By hearing the message from the Major Franklin, the Sukte Independent Army soldiers and the Western Chin Levies, returned to their villages and families with great pride and celebrated their victory even the name Sukte Independent Army is forgetting, name as their personal names, village’s names and their clan names with their own folks happily.

The commander in Chief of Sukte Independent Army Pu Hau Za Lian and the Western Chin Levy leader Lieutenant Pu Thawng Cin Thang presented their respective members with certificate of appreciation according ti their performance.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Myanmar: Ethnic Minorities & Aung San Suu Kyi

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent

Aung San Suu Kyi
The current regime in Myanmar is clearly unconcerned about international opinion because daily persecution continues. This applies to the continuing persecution of many minorities, notably the Chin, Karen, Rohingya, Shan, and others. At the same time, the leading political figure in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces further confinement. However, the regime fears little because of power politics and geopolitical factors.
Another major concern in Myanmar is the systematic persecution of religious minorities and this especially applies to Christians and Muslims. Therefore, the Christian dominated Karen National Union (KNU) faces a joint military and Buddhist onslaught because the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) is a staunch ally of the regime.
Other Christian and Muslim minorities also face daily persecution. Therefore, like I reported in my last article called
"Karen Christians face joint army and Buddhist onslaught," I will quote Benedict Rogers who is a human rights advocate and journalist.
Because Benedict Rogers (12 Dec, 2004) notified the British House of Commons about systematic persecution. He stated that "Christians among the Chin, Kachin, Karen and Karenni ethnic nationalities report serious religious discrimination and persecution, including the destruction of churches and Christian symbols. In Chin State, all crosses on mountain-tops have been destroyed and Christians have been forced to build Buddhist pagodas in their place. Church services have been disrupted, and Chin children from Christian families have been taken and placed in Buddhist monasteries, where they have been forced to become novice monks. The printing of the Bible is banned, and Christians in government service are denied promotion."
Muslims are also in dire straights because they have been persecuted for decades. Amnesty International, for example stated that "The Rohingyas’ freedom of movement is severely restricted and the vast majority of them have effectively been denied Burma (Myanmar) citizenship. They are also subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation; forced eviction and house destruction ... "

The report continues that "In 1978 over 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, following the ‘Nagamin’ (‘Dragon King’) operation of the Burma (Myanmar) army. Officially this campaign aimed at "scrutinising each individual living in the state, designating citizens and foreigners in accordance with the law and taking actions against foreigners who have filtered into the country illegally." This military campaign directly targeted civilians, and resulted in widespread killings, rape and destruction of mosques and further religious persecution."

"During 1991-92 a new wave of over a quarter of a million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh. They reported widespread forced labour, as well as summary executions, torture, and rape. Rohingyas were forced to work without pay by the Burma (Myanmar) army on infrastructure and economic projects, often under harsh conditions. Many other human rights violations occurred in the context of forced labour of Rohingya civilians by the security forces."

Therefore, many ethnic and religious minorities have been persecuted for decades and this is the real tragedy of Myanmar. After all, it would appear that regional nations are more concerned about economic trade and maintaining a regional consensus.

Yes, from time to time you hear disenting voices throughout the region but these are few and far. Also, for regional powers like China and India, they both understand the geopolitical importance of Myanmar and of course economic interests are also important. So it would appear that ethnic and religious minorities have little hope under the current political system in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, the most famous political figure in Myanmar faces fresh political charges in order to keep her under house arrest. However, Aung San Suu Kyi remains defiant despite her endless persecution and the “ray of hope remains.”

Aung San Suu Kyi once stated that “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

Yet for the people who wield power in Myanmar, it is apparent that China and India, and others, are willing to play the geopolitical game. Therefore, despite the European Union and America taking a strong stance, it is clear that Myanmar can survive because of trading links with China, India, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and other nations.

Also, Aung San Suu Kyi understands that only an internal collapse or uprising will change the current status quo. Despite this, she remains loyal to non-violent action and “her weapon” is her firm democratic conviction.

However, just like the ethnic Christian and Muslim minorities, and others, it is clear that decades of struggle is zapping the energy out of many; so words of strength by Aung San Suu Kyi are badly needed. Yet the chains appear to be getting tighter so the future remains bleak.

Myanmar bars Suu Kyi lawyer as U.S. renews sanctions

By Aung Hla Tun
(Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alex Richardson)

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's junta has barred a prominent activist lawyer from defending opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as pressure intensifies on the regime to drop new charges against the Nobel Peace laureate.

Aung Thein said the order revoking his licence was issued on Friday, a day after a prison court charged Suu Kyi with breaking the conditions of her nearly six-year house arrest, which is due to expire on May 27. "I went to Insein Prison to be one of the five defence lawyers for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and they issued the order the next day," Aung Thein told Reuters.

Critics of the regime have denounced the trial of Suu Kyi and two female companions, due to start on Monday, on charges stemming from the mysterious visit of an American intruder who was arrested after he claimed to have spent two days at her lakeside home in Yangon.

Suu Kyi, 63, faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

Her lawyers insist she is innocent and did not invite U.S. citizen John Yettaw, who according to state media swam to her tightly-guarded lakeside home using homemade flippers.

Yettaw's motives remain unclear, but he has been charged with various offences, including encouraging others to break the law and "illegal swimming."

The military, which has ruled the former Burma since 1962, has so far ignored the international outcry over its latest crackdown on Suu Kyi, who has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years in some form of detention.


U.S. President Barack Obama renewed sanctions against the regime on Friday, saying its actions and policies continued to pose a serious threat to U.S. interests.

"The crisis between the United States and Burma ... has not been resolved," Obama said, citing sanctions first imposed by the United States in 1997 and ratcheted up several times in response to repression of democracy activists.

"These actions and policies are hostile to U.S. interests," Obama said. "For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to ... maintain in force the sanctions against Burma to respond to this threat."

Washington has led Western governments in gradually tightening sanctions against the regime over its resistance to political reforms and detention of Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other activists.

But neither sanctions, nor the policy of engagement espoused by Myanmar's regional neighbours, have succeeded in coaxing the generals into meaningful reforms.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's admitted in February that sanctions have not worked and Washington was looking for new ways to influence the regime. But analysts had not expected that review to lead to a swift change in America's sanctions policy.

Pro-democracy activists cheered Obama's announcement and urged him to lead a wider effort to pressure the regime.

"Now that President Obama has continued a wise policy from the United States, it is time for him to seize the moment and take action internationally," said Jeremy Woodrum of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

"We hope he will immediately pursue a global arms embargo at the UN Security Council, as well as an investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Burma's military regime," he said in a statement.

Analysts say the charges against Suu Kyi are aimed at keeping her sidelined ahead of the junta's promised elections in 2010, part of its seven-step "roadmap to democracy."

The West has derided the roadmap as a sham to ensure the military's grip on power.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide election victory in 1990 only to be denied power by the military.

It has set several conditions, including reform of the army-drafted constitution and the release of all political prisoners, before it will decide whether to run in the 2010 polls.

Carter discusses Myanmar

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Demand for Bibles in Burma is Growing Despite Enormous Persecution of Christians

Bibles in Burma
CFI co-workers take enormous risks to hike into Burma to deliver much requested Bibles.
Burma is ruled by a highly repressive, authoritarian military regime self-named as the “State Peace and Development Council.” But in realty there is no peace or development in Burma, also called Myanmar by the current military dictatorship.
Since 1999 the U.S. Secretary of State has designated the country as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The U.S. Government has a wide array of sanctions in place against the country for its violations of human rights.
According to official statistics, almost 90 percent of the population practice Buddhism, 6 percent Christianity, and 4 percent Islam. These statistics grossly underestimate the rapid growth of Christianity, especially among the many ethnic groups in the country. Christianity is the dominant religion among many of these ethnic groups such as the Karen, Kachin, Karenni, and Chin.
The junta has not allowed permanent foreign religious missions to operate in the country since the mid 1960s, when it expelled nearly all foreign missionaries and nationalized almost all private schools and hospitals. The junta did not pay any compensation in connection with these extensive confiscations.
Bible in Burma
Bible distribution to
underground pastors.
Proselytizing is forbidden, and the printing of Bibles in the country is strictly prohibited. Christian groups, however, have brought in foreign clergy and religious workers for visits as tourists, but they have to be extremely careful to ensure that the junta does not perceive their activities as proselytizing.
According to Christian Freedom International President Jim Jacobson, “The scarcity of Bibles is a stark reality for Christians in Burma, and as the underground Church continues to grow by the thousands – especially in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis -- the demand for Bibles in Burma is greater than ever.”
Since the 1960s Christian groups have had enormous difficulty importing religious literature. All publications, religious and secular, remain subject to control and censorship. It is illegal to import translations of the Bible in indigenous languages.
“The severe deficit of Bibles has forced many Christians in Burma to painstakingly copy by hand and memorize entire books of the Bible,” said Jacobson. “Life is extremely harsh for believers in Burma, where Christianity is viewed as a ‘Western’ religion that threatens the junta’s powers.”

Bibles in Burma
Underground church
Bible study in Burma.
The few, censored Bibles that are sporadically available are only delivered to the few legally registered churches, leaving almost no genuine Bibles for tens of thousands of Christians in unregistered house churches throughout the country.

“That is why for the past 10 years Christian Freedom International has been working diligently to get Bibles into the hands of house church Christians in Burma,” said Jacobson

“We specialize in smuggling Bibles into Burma’s active war zones where ethnic Karen, Karenni, and Chin Christians have been fighting for survival for more than 50 years,” said Jacobson. “This year we have stepped up our efforts to bring the Word of God to as many people in Burma as possible.”

Through an amazing network of courageous men and women along the Burma/Thailand border, Christian Freedom International has been able to literally smuggle thousands of native language Bibles into Burma’s underground house churches.

Clinton to Raise Suu Kyi’s Case Worldwide


WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she will raise the imprisonment of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi with the UN, Burma’s partners within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)—and even China.

Describing the removal of Suu Kyi from her home to Rangoon’s infamous Insein Prison as unlawful and “a pretext to place further unjustified restrictions on her,” Clinton told a press conference in Washington on Thursday that she would also raise the democracy icon’s plight with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Clinton was speaking after meeting visiting Malaysian Foreign Minister YB Datuk Anifah bin Haji Aman, who promised to raise the matter with the Asean Secretariat and also seek a solution through the Asean+3 group, which includes China.

Clinton said: “We are reaching out to our Asean partners like Malaysia. I hope to be speaking myself to the [UN] Secretary-General. We think that this does rise to the level of the kind of regional statements of concern that we would ask for.

“We will also raise this with other nations like China and see if we can’t, on a humanitarian basis, seek relief for Aung San Suu Kyi from this latest effort to intimidate and perhaps even incarcerate her.”

The Malaysian Foreign Minister said the arrest of Suu Kyi made it all the more important not to isolate Burma. “We do not want to leave Myanmar in isolation,” he said.

“We will use the good office of the Asean Secretariat to immediately engage in and to finding solutions to this matter, and if it is possible, this—the Asean+3, which includes China—we would also be, if it’s necessary to engage in, to seek their views and assistance in trying to solve the problem.”

Clinton said she was deeply troubled by the decision by the Burmese regime to charge Suu Kyi with a baseless crime. “It comes just before the six-year anniversary of her house arrest, and it is not in keeping with the rule of law, the Asean charter, or efforts to promote national reconciliation and progress in Burma.

“We oppose the regime’s efforts to use this incident as a pretext to place further unjustified restrictions on her, and therefore we call on the Burmese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally, along with her doctor and the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently being held.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I went to prison for telling a lie. In Burma, people are in prison for telling the truth

Burma’s plight has been neglected for too long. The time has come to say enough is enough, says Jonathan Aitken.

By Jonathan Aitken

Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has suffered a further travesty of justice, on top of the 13 years of house arrest she has already endured. Later this month her current period of detention expires, but now she has been moved to the notorious Insein Prison to stand trial on new charges. Even before today, her detention - according to the United Nations - violates both international and Burmese law, and she remains the world’s only jailed Nobel Laureate. The brutal junta ruling Burma even denied her medical treatment, and arrested her personal doctor. She has committed no crime – indeed, it is the regime that is criminal.

But Aung San Suu Kyi is simply the most visible of Burma’s prisoners of conscience. At least 2,100 dissidents remain in jail, in conditions far more brutal than her house arrest. A recent report, Burma’s Prisons and Labour Camps: Silent Killing Fields, released by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), details systematic and horrific torture, denial of medical treatment and refusal of visits from family. Food is inedible and exercise severely restricted. At least 127 are in poor health, and 19 urgently need medical care. Since 1988, at least 139 political prisoners have died in jail.

Some of the most recent inmates have been given sentences of staggering absurdity, for simply expressing an opinion, and jailed in remote locations hundreds of miles from relatives. Elected Shan Member of Parliament Khun Tun Oo was jailed for 93 years in 2005. Leading activist Min Ko Naing, jailed for 65 years last year, is losing his eyesight. Ko Ko Gyi, serving the same sentence, has liver problems. Comedian Zarganar, serving 35 years for organising relief for the victims of Cyclone Nargis, also has liver and heart disease. A further 20 civilians who volunteered to help in the post-Cyclone disaster situation have been jailed for their efforts.

And it is not only those in jail who are prisoners. Burma’s ruling military junta has held the entire nation captive for almost fifty years. It ranks alongside North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe in the inhumanity stakes. The regime’s callousness was on full display a year ago, when after Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster in years, it initially refused international aid and denied access to aid workers. Over 140,000 people died, with more than 2.5 million left homeless.

As if this catalogue of horrors was not enough, the regime is carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Karen, Karenni and Shan peoples in eastern Burma. More than 3,300 villages have been destroyed and a million people driven from their homes into hiding, without food, medicine or shelter. Civilians, including women and children, are shot at point-blank range. Rape is used as a weapon of war, forced labour is widespread and the use of human minesweepers common. It has the highest number of forcibly conscripted child soldiers in the world. Burma has become Asia’s Darfur, but without the world’s cameras.

Even more forgotten still are the ethnic groups in northern and western Burma. The Muslim Rohingyas are denied citizenship despite living in Burma for generations. The Chin are a majority Christian population, and they are targeted for their faith. Christians are forced to tear down crosses and build Buddhist pagodas in their place. Forced conversion is common. The regime misuses religion as a political tool, and perverts Buddhism for its own purposes.

For too long, Burma’s plight has been neglected. The time has come to say enough is enough. It is time for the UN to invoke its much-flaunted Responsibility to Protect mechanism, to impose an arms embargo on the regime and establish a commission of inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity.

As an immediate step, the UN Secretary-General must hear the appeals of hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have signed a petition calling on him to make the release of political prisoners in Burma a top priority. The UN should send a senior envoy immediately to Burma, to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and access to medical care. As Aung San Suu Kyi has said, “until all of our political prisoners are free, none of us can say that Burma is now truly on the road towards democratic change.”

In 1997, I went to prison for very different reasons. I was convicted of perjury. I had committed a crime, and paid the price. Since then, I have devoted my time to two causes – prison reform and international human rights. I know that I went to prison for telling a lie. It is for that reason that I cannot stay silent when in Burma, over 2,000 people are in prison for telling the truth.

Jonathan Aitken is a former Cabinet minister, and Honorary President of the international human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). CSW has recently launched a new online campaign,