Friday, October 23, 2009

UN expert slams Burma impunity

Oct 23, 2009 –Widespread government impunity in Burma has allowed the country’s “alarming” human rights situation to continue unabated, the United Nations special rapporteur for Burma said yesterday.

Little progress has been made to correct “a pattern of widespread and systematic violations” in the military-ruled country, according to Tomas Ojea Quintana, who was speaking at a press conference.

He also called for special attention to be paid to the plight of Muslim communities in Burma, who face frequent religious persecution.

Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting in Thailand today for the start of the 15th ASEAN summit, where controversial elections in Burma scheduled for next year, are high on the agenda for discussion.

Burma’s presence in the bloc has become increasingly thorny since the imprisonment in August of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose detention was widely seen as a ploy by the government to keep her away from the elections.

An appeal drafted by ASEAN leaders that called for her release was scrapped earlier this week after critics accused it of breaching ASEAN’s non-interference policy. Quintana said that he had urged the Burmese junta on a number of occasions to ensure that the elections are fair and transparent.

“I told the Government that…freedom of speech, movement and association should be guaranteed in the country, and of course that all prisoners of conscience should be released before those elections,” he said.

He also called on the government to “take prompt measures to establish accountability and responsibility” with regard to human rights violations.

The issue of food security in Burma has made headlines in recent weeks, with a human rights group warning that Karen state in the east of the country was facing its worst food crisis in over a decade.

Quintana referred to the “starvation situation” in many regions of the country, including the Arakan, Chin, and Shan states. He also voiced concern over the “dire” social and economic conditions within the country.

Included in a four-point plan outlined by Quintana was the installation of an independent judiciary in Burma, and the reform of the military, “which needs to respect international humanitarian law in conflict areas, as well as the rights of civilians.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Photo exhibition portrays horrors of Burmese refugees

no refugee exhibition 151009-07.jpgImages of refugees in deplorable living conditions, poignant facial expressions, distraught children form the gist of the work of five international photojournalists who documented the lives of Burmese refugees in Malaysia.
A rare exhibition titled ‘No Refuge: Burmese Refugees in Malaysia’ depicting the conditions of refugees was launched yesterday at The Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market.
The exhibition will last until the Oct 25.

“The work of Greg Constantine (USA), Halim Berbar (France), Rahman Roslan (Malaysia), Simon Wheatley (UK) and Zhang Wubin (Singapore) reveals the underside of the most marginalised people in Malaysia,” said Klang member of parliament, Charles Santiago.
In his speech when opening the event, he said that a report had been published by the US Department of State on trafficking activities in Malaysia, where refugees were sold at the Thai and Malaysia’s border.
no refugee exhibition 151009-08.jpg“In the report, refugees who are now residing in the US, and who once lived in Malaysia, were interviewed and they have one thing in common. All of them have been sold,” he told a crowd of 60 people.
He also accused the government of being in denial on the issues of human trafficking.
Kicking them when down
klscah launch civil society award 191207 charles santiagoHowever, Santiago (right) credited the government for taking some action to arrest traffickers in the last couple of months.
“But this will not solve the problem because trafficking is a systemic collaboration of government officers and syndicates, therefore we need to fix this at the level of structure and enforcement,” he adds.
Arts programme director of The Annexe, Pang Khee Teik, in commenting on the trafficking and the harsh living conditions, said that this was akin to ‘kicking them when they are down’.
“This is what Malaysias are doing to the refugees,” he said.
no refugee exhibition 151009-02.jpgThe audience were also treated to a performance by two Burmese musicians.
Thiam Pui, a refugee from the Chin state sang about how much she misses her country and she was accompanied by Sang Kawn, another refugee from the Mon state who played the guitar.
No protection for refugees

Santiago also launched a nationwide petition campaign by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) entitled “Sign the Refugee Convention and Stop the Arrest, Detention and Deportation of Refugees”.
no refugee exhibition 151009-01.jpgSuaram is expecting to collect at least 10,000 signatures from Malaysians by May 21, 2010 to be submitted to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
This is a move to ensure that refugees are recognised and given better access to livelihood and to encourage cooperation between the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR).
Unfortunately, Malaysia is one of the few remaining countries that has ratified neither the 1951 Refugee Convention nor the 1967 Protocol and it has also failed to enact any legislation for the protection of refugees.
no refugee exhibition 151009-05.jpgRefugees, adults and children alike, are instead treated as ‘illegal immigrants’ and are subjected to harsh penalties, detention and deportation under the Immigration Act.
They risk fines of up to RM10,000 or jail terms of up to five years or both. They are also liable to be whipped up to six strokes of the cane.
Malaysiakini by Christine Chan

Monday, October 12, 2009

Forced Labor Used for Military Outpost Construction

Pelatwa: The Burmese army has been using local tribal people from the western Burmese border area as forced labor in the construction of army outposts along the Burma-Bangladesh border since the beginning of October, said one villager from the border.

"Our community in the area had been forced by local army officials to work on construction at Latpenwa army outpost, which is being renovated by the army authority as a defensive position," he said.

The Latpenwa outpost is a key strategic outpost for the Burmese army and it is located in Paletwa Township in Chin State on the western border near Bangladesh. The Burmese army has been reconstructing the outposts so it could serve major defensive operations on the western Border.

According to a local source, many Khami villages are located in the area surrounding Latpenwa outpost and the people there are the main targets for use as forced labor by the military authority.

"Villagers from several villages in the area are summoned by army officials every day from 7 am to 4 pm to work on the construction site, and we have to go there with our own food. The army officials have not assisted with payment of wages for the construction," he said.

Khami people from several villages, including Thae Daung, Fyut Chaung Wa, Bu Chaun Phyr, Htut Pin, Chin Letwa, and Shin Ma Tean, have had to work daily at the army outpost.

"Our villagers have been forced by army officials to work at many construction work sites, like bamboo and wood cutting, digging earth for bunkers, constructing barricades, and carrying materials like cement, iron, and tin, for the outpost," he added.

One column from Light Infantry Battalion 538 based in Rathidaung is now posted at the Latpenwa outpost, the army source said.

Many villagers in the area have not been able to attend to their own livelihoods because they've been forced to work on the outpost, and it is currently a crucial period for farmers because the mountain paddy is ready to be harvested.

According to local source, the Burmese army authority has been renovating many army outposts located along the western border, including Kha Mon, Pri Zaw, Toke Pi, Wanet Ron, Kin Tha Lin, Mrit Waa, Kha Mong Wa, and Latpenwa.

Many new temporary outposts are also being constructed along the border and many people are being forced by authorities to work on the construction without pay.

Local sources also say that Burmese army authorities are using locals as porters to transport army equipment from one place to another along the border after a number of army battalions have been deployed to the area.

Friday, October 2, 2009

7 Myanmarese release from jail

Imphal, Oct 1: State government released seven Myanmarese Nationals yesteday after they were convicted and imprisioned at Sajiwa Jail for one year for illegal intrusion into Indian territory.

According to the official source, seven Myanmarese nationals identified as Aung Tin Win 28, Md Amin 19, Md Majibur Rahaman 20, Swantinthang 39, Tuankinthang 39, Md Abdul Gabar 32 and Nursalinthang 35, who was apprehended by the Assam Rilfes personnel from Moreh areas before one years back after they were found loitering around the Indian border without proper documents and late handed over to the Tengnouple police.

Later the seven Myanmar nationals were convicted imprisionment by the court for their unauthrised movement in Indian territory.

On the other hand the seven Myanmarese nationals with the completion of their one imprisionment at Sajiwa Jail yesterday, they have released from the Sajiwa and jail and handed over to the Myanmar authorities at Moreh yesterday afternoon the official source added.