Thursday, August 27, 2009

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to appeal

Yangon - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has agreed to appeal a recent court decision that put her under house detention for the next 18 months, her attorneys said Thursday.

"We will file the appeal to the Divisional Court for Daw [Madame] Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday or Tuesday next week," Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's three lawyers, said after meeting with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to discuss her appeal.

Suu Kyi, 64, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years under detention, has also requested that authorities allow her personal doctor Tin Myo Win to be allowed to visit her regularly for check-ups as was permitted under the previous rules of her detention.

On August 11, a special court set up in Yangon's Insein Prison found Suu Kyi guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest and sentenced her to three years in prison. The sentence was quickly commuted to 18 months under house detention by Myanmar's military supremo, Senior General Than Shwe.

Suu Kyi was found guilty of allowing US national John William Yettaw to swim to her lakeside home-cum-prison on May 3, where he stayed uninvited until May 5, to warn her of an assassination attempt he had envisioned.

The bizarre escapade provided a pretext for Myanmar's military regime to accuse Suu Kyi of violating the terms of her detention and to keep her out of the political picture for the next 18 months while it prepares for a general election next year, which promises to be neither free nor fair.

Yettaw, 54, was sentenced to seven years in prison but was freed on August 16 at the request of visiting US Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the US Senate's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee.

Webb, in a rare interview with Than Shwe, also requested that Suu Kyi be released but failed to secure the opposition leader's freedom.

Suu Kyi's ongoing house detention meant that it was unlikely that her National League for Democracy opposition party, which won the last polls in 1990 but has been denied power for the past 19 years, would participate in next year's election.

It also dashed hopes that prior to the polls, the regime might open a dialogue with the democracy icon and consider amending the 2008 constitution, which essentially cements the military's control over any democratically elected government.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mara People’s Army was organized on 15 June 2009 by a retired military officer under the junta’s guidance-Mara social and religious groups reject Mara People’s Army

News – Khonumthung News
WEDNESDAY, 19 AUGUST 2009 10:51
Mara social organizations and religious leaders have rejected the Mara People’s Army (MPA). They declared it an illegal group on 18 July in Mara district, Mizoram state, northeast India.
A leader of a Mara social organization said that the MPA had been into many illegal activities like kidnapping a daughter of a Paumoe villager, in Paletwa township, Chin state in 2008 and snatching money and locally-made guns from local Mara people as well as disturbing local peace and security. So social, youth and religious organizations cannot accept them as the representative of their tribe.
“The MPA is a burden and a liability for the people. There is no benefit in having an armed group. Each of our organization’s leaders have put their signature on paper about not accepting MPA to defend ourselves as well as to protect our Maraland,” a member of the Mara Peace Commission told Khonumthung News.
In fact, the Mara People’s Army has submitted some resolutions to the Burmese military junta in keeping with their agreement with Mr. Aung Myo Hlai, the second-in-command of the Sabawlte based military camp LIB 140 on July 12 in Chapui village, Saiha district in Mizoram state.
The original agreement and the resolution on July 14 highlighted that the MPA group supports and trusts the military government. Therefore it will support the forthcoming 2010 general elections in Burma. It has demanded security guards for Maraland and its people as well as a separate township where all Mara people can live together in unity under the military regime as the group has being fighting for the military government.
The resolution of the Mara People’s Army will be submitted to higher authorities. They will have another meeting in September this year, said a source close to MPA.
Meanwhile, Mr. H.C. Ralnghinga, General Secretary of the Chin National Front said, “It is the way of the junta. They will recognize MPA as a legal armed group, and then they will use them to accomplish whatever they want. If MPA exists in the border area, the local people will suffer as they have to give food and give into other demands. It will be difficult for local Mara people.”
Mara People’s Army was organized on 15 June 2009 by a retired military officer under the junta’s guidance. There are about 13 armed forces. In the statement, they said their main target is to have a local self government and a separate Maraland where all Mara people can stay together.

Friday, August 14, 2009

US Top Offical to Visit Myanmar; New Hope for Suu Kyi, Christians

For the first time in a decade, a high ranking official from United States will stop over Myanmar, also known as Burma to meet with the junta top leaders raising hope for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Christians in the reclusive country

  • Protestors wave flags during a demonstration outside the Myanmar Embassy in London, Tuesday Aug. 11, 2009, to protest against the 18-month house arrest of pro-democray leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
    (Photo AP)
    Protestors wave flags during a demonstration outside the Myanmar Embassy in London, Tuesday Aug. 11, 2009, to protest against the 18-month house arrest of pro-democray leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
  • A child watches, during a demonstration outside the Myanmar Embassy in London, Tuesday Aug. 11, 2009, to protest against the 18-month house arrest of pro-democray leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
    (Photo AP)
    A child watches, during a demonstration outside the Myanmar Embassy in London, Tuesday Aug. 11, 2009, to protest against the 18-month house arrest of pro-democray leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Virginia Democrat Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will arrive in Burma on Friday as part of his two-week five nation tour of Asia, his office announced Wednesday.
A spokesman for the US embassy in Yangon, formerly Rangoon told the Associated Press that Webb was expected to spend three days in Myanmar and would visit the new administrative capital of Naypyidaw to meet government leaders.
Sen. Webb will also be the first top U.S. official to meet Myanmar’s top official, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the man in charge of the military regime.
United States has strongly condemned the sentencing of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months house arrest by Myanmar government. The court has first commuted her to 3 years prison term which was reduced by Than Shwe.
1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi was found guilty on Tuesday of violating her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American John John Yettaw to stay at her home. Mr. Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, four with hard labour. The court also sentenced Suu Kyi's two female house companions, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, to 18 months.
Myanmar, the new name for Burma until the junta change it in 1989 is ranked No.24 by Open Doors 2009 Watch List of the top 50 nations that are worst persecutors of Christians. Myanmar has been under the junta since the infamous military coup in 1962.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights organization specialized in religious freedom around the world in a secret visit to the Burma-Thailand border in May this year said there is rampant violation of human rights and restriction of religious freedom especially those of the minority Christians.
The report uncovers that forced labour, rape, torture, the destruction of villages, crops and livestock, and the use of human minesweepers at the hands of the military regime are common in states dominated by ethnic minorities like Chin, Kachin, Karen and Karenni – who are majority Christians.
Christians make up about 4 percent of the estimated 55 million populations of which Baptists are the single largest Christian denomination. It is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country with as many as 89 percent adhering to Buddhism.
Many ethnic Christian minorities who form majority of Burmese Christians have fled the country due to rampant human rights violation and religious persecutions in the country.
The visit of Sen. Webb will be watch with anticipation by Aung San Suu Kyi supporters and the persecuted Christians.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi's sentence commuted to 18-month house arrest

 YANGON, Aug. 11 -- The Myanmar State Peace and Development Council Tuesday commuted Aung San Suu Kyi's sentence to 18-month confinement to her residence after a district court sentenced her three years' jail term for violating her terms of house arrest.
    The commutation order was signed by SPDC Chairman Senior-General Than Shwe on Monday, according to Home Minister Major-General Maung Oo.
    The remaining one and a half years' term out of the three years' sentence would be suspended for carrying out.
    Over the period of suspension, Aung San Suu Kyi is set to stay at her Yangon lake-side residence, Maung Oo said, adding that if she abides by the rules prescribed for her, all the remaining terms could be exempted.
    According to Tuesday's verdict of the court, Aung San Suu Kyi'stwo female housemates, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, were also sentenced to three years' prison term each but were each given one and a half years' commutation by the Myanmar SPDC chairman.
    The remaining one and a half years' terms set the two housemates to stay at home together with Aung San Suu Kyi.
    According to the court verdict, the American citizen John William Yettaw was given a seven-year jail term.
    Aung San Suu Kyi, 64, was convicted on charge of breaching "the Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts" by accommodating the American, John William Yettaw, who entered into her restricted lakeside house for three days from May 3 to 5.
    Yettaw, who was hospitalized on Aug. 3 for suffering from epilepsy in the midst, was reportedly taken back to the court from the hospital Monday night to hear the sentence.
    The trial on Aung San Suu Kyi and the other three started on May 18 at Yangon's Insein Prison.
    Yettaw, 54, holding American passport and tourist visa, arrived in Yangon on May 2 and stayed at the Beauty Land Hotel-2. He swam through the Inya Lake and secretly entered Aung San Suu Kyi's Yangon lake-side house on May 3 night and left the house on May 5 night.
    Yettaw was only arrested on May 6 dawn by Myanmar's security force while he was swimming back across Inya Lake out of Aung San Suu Kyi's house after three days' sneaking, according to the authorities.
    Yettaw had also once swum across the Inya Lake and entered the barred residential compound of Aung San Suu Kyi on Nov. 30 last year.
    Yettaw is a student of Clinical Psychology of Forest Institute attending Ph. D and a war veteran for two years.
    Aung San Suu Kyi had been put under detention and later house arrest at her lake-side residence in Yangon for 14 years out of 20 from July 1989 to May 26, 2009.
    She was so restricted under the authorities' four orders in respective terms -- "Restriction Order Against Her Fundamental Rights under Section-7 of the Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts", "Arrest Order under Section 10-A," "Prohibition Order under Section 10-B/11" and "Continued Prohibition Order under Section 13/14".

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Hope Now for Burmese People's Justice

The efforts by various pro-activist Burma groups, the United States and others have made it possible that the UN Security Council will hold an investigation into war crimes by the military Junta in Burma...
August 8, 2009

Subject: Recent Developments Give Hope for Burmese People's Justice


This action alert shows the promise of progressive developments helping bring justice to the Burmese people and their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi , through the actions of various groups , governments and the United Nations.  Although the verdict in her trial is set for August 11 with the outcome likely to be unfair and harsh, these legal possibilities for action in the Security Council of the United Nations seems to be fairly strong at this time.  I've included several websites with updated and historic information here.  Too, they have actions to be taken which we can contribute.  With continued effort and pressure within legal and non-violent measures and actions chances for success in freeing the thousands of political prisoners in Burma remains hopeful.

"They assert that with such overwhelming evidence from its own documents, the U.N. Security Council should establish a commission to investigate war crimes in Burma, then create a special tribunal to try those responsible for them. "
1. Activists Laud U.S. Congress for Passing Burma Sanctions,
    Ask President Obama to Organize UN Security Council Action
2. U.S. Senate's Webb to visit Myanmar this month
3. Burma Lawyers Council
4. Women’s Groups around the World Call on the UNSC to   Prosecute Senior General Than Shwe at the International Criminal Court
5. Putting Burma's Junta on Trial
arn specter, phila.

Activists Laud U.S. Congress for Passing Burma Sanctions, Ask President Obama to Organize UN Security Council Action

U.S.  C A M P A I G N   F O R   B U R M A July 24th, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum, (202) 246-7924

Activists Laud U.S. Congress for Passing Burma Sanctions, Ask President Obama to Organize UN Security Council Action
United Kingdom and United States to Chair UN Body in August, September

(Washington, DC)  The U.S. Campaign for Burma today praised leaders in the U.S. Congress for passing a measure maintaining U.S. sanctions on the Southeast Asian country of Burma.  The bill passed in the Senate after 11:00 pm on Thursday, July 23rd.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar bill on July 21st, 2009.
In an unprecedented move, 66 U.S. Senators co-sponsored the legislation, more than at any time since portions of the legislation originally passed in 2003. The bill was led by a bi-partisan group of senior senators, including Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Senator John McCain.  At the same time, 11 of the 14 new U.S. Senators, who were elected in 2008, co-sponsored the measure. The legislation has now been sent to the White House for the signature of President Obama, who in May recently decided to extend a ban on U.S. investment in Burma.
“This strong, bi-partisan measure will help to deny hundreds of millions of dollars to Burma’s military regime,” said Aung Din, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, who served as a political prisoner in the country for over four years. The move comes as Burma’s military regime rejected overtures by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton appealing for the release of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi in exchange for new U.S. investment in Burma, a practice ended by President Bill Clinton in 1997.  Referring to Clinton’s remarks, Burma’s state-run media said, “Demanding release of Daw Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law.”  Burma’s military regime completely controls the country’s judiciary and according to the United Nations there is no independent judiciary in Burma, but the regime has pretended it can not free Aung San Suu Kyi because she is on trial and it can not interfere in a legal case.
Aung San Suu Kyi is not just a human rights leader she led her political party the National League for Democracy to win 82% of the seats in parliament in Burma’s last election.  Its legitimacy in danger, the regime, led by Senior General Than Shwe, effectively annulled the results.
Meanwhile, the regime has continued to carry out vicious attacks against civilians in eastern Burma, forcing thousands to flee over the border into Thailand as refugees.  Since 1996, the regime has forced over a million people to flee their homes and destroyed 3,300 ethnic minority villages attacks on par with the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.  The regime has raped ethnic women and girls, burned food supplies, laid landmines throughout the region, and recruited thousands of children into its military ranks in its attempts to wipe out any and all resistance to its rule. Observers point out that such attacks are likely to ramp-up even further in the coming months in northern Burma, as the Burmese regime seeks to disarm ethnic groups opposed to military domination.
In May, a group of five of the world’s leading judges and jurists including those with experience at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda and Yugoslavia, urged the UN Security Council to initiate a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity committed by Than Shwe’s regime.  Fifty-five members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take action to stop these crimes. Members of Congress are also pressing the administration to organize an international arms embargo against Than Shwe’s regime.
“This move by the Congress makes it clear that there is overwhelming, bi-partisan support for stronger action on Burma,” added Aung Din.  “It’s time for the United States to lead an effort at the UN Security Council   which it will chair in September to seek action on crimes against humanity and an arms embargo.  The longer the U.S. waits, the more people will die in Burma.”
The United Kingdom chairs the UN Security Council in August. ##

Friday, August 7, 2009

Women’s groups urge Security Council to act on Burma

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Women activists the world over on Friday urged Ban Ki-moon United Nations Secretary General to push the Security Council to form a Commission of Inquiry to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

The 64 groups representing various women’s groups across the globe, in a letter written to Ban Ki-moon, said Burma’s military rulers led by Snr Gen Than Shwe have been committing crimes against humanity, particularly on women folk, with impunity.

“We are calling on the UN Secretary General to push for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate into the crimes against humanity committed by the ruling junta at the least, and we are demanding that the UNSC refer Snr. Gen Than Shwe to the International Criminal Court,” Thin Thin Aung, a presidium board member of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), an umbrella Burmese women’s group, said.

Among many forms of violations, rape and sexual violence have been long used as a tool to intimidate ethnic women in remote areas of the country by the junta’s army and most of the time, the perpetrator goes unpunished, Thin Thin Aung said.

The call came as the 15 members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Friday were set to hold an informal debate on the Secretary General’s report on the situation of women across the globe.

In the report, submitted on July 15 to the Council, Ban acknowledged that discrimination against women in areas where minority communities reside are rampant, and the prevalence of sexual violence against rural women from the ethnic groups including Shan, Mon, Karen, Palaung and Chin by members of the junta’s armed forces.

In relevance to Ban Ki-moon’s report to the UN Security Council resolution 1820, the women’s groups urged the Secretary General to invoke the Right to Protect (R2P) and conduct a humanitarian intervention, as the ruling junta, despite the amount of evidence of their crimes, will resist any form of UN intervention.

“The UNSC is the highest body internationally and their referral to the ICC is the only way to force Than Shwe to justice because the junta will not agree to any UN intervention,” Thin Thin Aung said.

“In Myanmar [Burma], women and girls are afraid of working in the fields or travelling unaccompanied, given regular military checkpoints where they are often subjected to sexual harassment,” Ban said in his report to the Council.

WLB, since 2008, has begun a campaign to push the Security Council to refer Than Shwe to the ICC, and during the open debate on its resolution 1820, members of the WLB will also meet member states of the Council and will urge to endorse their call.

In their letter to the Secretary General, the women’s groups said, reports of past violations, continued systematic repression, and an incapacitated judicial system stand as solid witness to the need for  strong international intervention.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Junta permits new radio stations to air

Aug 5, 2009 (DVB)–Three new FM radio stations will soon begin broadcasting across 10 states and divisions in Burma in a joint operative between private companies and the Burmese government.

The stations, named Shwe, Cherry and Padamya, will go on air on 15 August, adding to the four FM stations already in existence in Burma.

This is the first time stations not fully owned by the government will be allowed to broadcast in the country, although the three have been given permission by the ruling junta.

“Now we can say we are stepping into a new era of the broadcasting service,” said Maung Thit Min, from the Myanmar Music Association (MMA), a state-formed industry body.

“Before there were only government broadcasting stations but now it is more like a joint cooperation between the government and the private companies,” he said.

Shwe FM radio station, which is based in Bago division, will cover the Bago and Tenasserim divisions, and Karen and Mon state.

Cherry FM will cover Shan state and Karenni state, while Padamya FM will broadcast across Magwe and Sagaing divisions, and Kachin state and Chin state.

At present there is no copyright law in Burma and stations can freely use artists’ music with no financial gains for the creator.

However, in an initiative set up by Mandalay FM, one of the four existing FM radio stations, fees are being paid individually to artists. The three new radio stations are currently negotiating with the MMA for a similar deal.

“Because the broadcasting is becoming more privatised, they start to give more favour to copyright as well as a profit for [the artists],” said Maung Thit Min.

It is unclear why the government has given permission for the new stations, although the looming 2010 elections might provide a reason for the government to step-up its broadcasts.

Observers have said they expect to see the junta looking for new ways to spread campaign messages in the run-up to the elections.

Only four opposition radio stations, including DVB, broadcast into Burma and are picked up on shortwave radio frequencies.

All media in Burma is strictly controlled by the government's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, and no opposition media legally exists.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Six Youths Conscripted into Burmese Army

Bandarban: Six Arakanese youth from the Indo-Burma border area in southern Chin State were recruited by the Burmese army last week with food and other property given to their family, said a teacher from the area.

"The youths are from Tharaw Ai Village and their families are very poor. The army officials organized the youths' families by giving food and cash to recruit their sons. Later the army officials forced the youth to join the army," he said.

The village of Tharaw Ai is located on the upper Kaladan River near the Indian border and consists of over 70 households, all of which are Arakanese.

The six youths who were conscripted into the army are Bo Win Tun, 18-year-old son of U Thein Aung, Aung Aung Than, 18-year-old son of Chin Khaing, Kyaw Kyaw Win, 18-year-old son of U Maung Kyaw, Aung Thein, 20-year-old son of U Aung Tun Oo, Pho Thein Kyaw, 18 years old, U Aung Thein Kyaw, and Maung Loon, 17-year-old son of U Aung Tun Khaing.

"The six youths were sent on Sunday to LIB 289 based in Paletwa. They will be sent to the Sittwe recruitment center from there for military training," the teacher added.

The youths who were conscripted by the army are mostly illiterate, and Maung Loon has never attended school.

The Burmese army is currently collecting a list of youths aged 18 to 25 who are living in the Indo-Burma border area but has not disclosed the reason for collecting this list. However, the army battalions stationed in the border area have been recruiting young people extensively by giving pay-offs of cash and food to their families.

Recently, three Khami youths in the area joined the Burmese army after army officials gave food and other items to their famine-stricken families. Youths in the border area who are illiterate and poor have been targeted by the Burmese army for recruitment and conscription.