Thursday, December 30, 2010

Revised Cost Estimates of Tuirial Hydro Electric Project (60 MW) in Mizoram-Restarting of project works by NEEPCO

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs today approved the revised cost estimate of Tuirial Hydro Electric Project (60 MW) in Mizoram by North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited amounting to Rs.913.63 crore including Interest During Construction (IDC) of Rs.36.57 crore at March, 2010 Price Level. The financial pattern of the total cost of Rs.913.63 crore comprises of (i) equity of Rs.137.04 crore, (ii) loan from financial institutions amounting to Rs.184.63 crore, (iii) subordinate loan from Government of India amounting to Rs.291.96 crore and (iv) Grant from DoNER amounting to Rs.300 crore. The CCEA also approved conversion of Government of India loan of Rs.15.30 crore into equity and waiver of accumulated interest and penal interest of Rs.16.13 crore on Government of India loan. The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 36 months from the date of investment approval of Revised Cost Estimate (RCE).

The Government of Mizoram have signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the purchase of power from this project at CERC rates. The project will help the State of Mizoram / North Eastern Region in mitigating the power shortage with a clean source of energy. Apart from benefits due to power generation, the storage created due to project would contribute to economic development through promotion of fisheries, navigation, tourism etc. The project will improve the hydro-thermal mix in the North Eastern Region and the country.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mizoram governor for census of migrants

Silchar Dec. 21 : Mizoram Governor Lt Gen. (retd) M.M. Lakhera has advocated a comprehensive census of Myanmarese nationals staying illegally in the state.

The suggestion came at a recent meeting with delegates of the Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitu Committee in Aizawl and stemmed from concern over a sudden spurt of crime and narcotics peddling.

Mizoram chief minister Lalthanhawla could not attend the meet, as he was undergoing a stomach operation in Aizawl.

Sources said these incidents of crime are mainly attributed to the Myanmarse migrants who have been entering the state through its 404km border with Chin state in northwest Myanmar.

It is difficult to identify the Myanmarese Mizos as they share similarities of features and language with the Mizos of Mizoram.

A recent case of rape and murder of a five-year-old girl allegedly by a Myanmarese Mizo had sent shock waves in the state.

Henry Vaneichung was accused of raping and killing the girl in a secluded forest groove near her village on November 8. He was later caught by villagers and handed over to police.

The number of Myanmarese Mizos in the state is estimated to be between 40,000 and 75,000.

They mostly earn a living by doing odd jobs in automobile workshops, laundries and as domestic helps in Aizawl and other towns.

Many of them engage in drug-peddling and bootlegging in Mizoram, where sales and consumption of drinks is prohibited since 1997.

Myanmarese Mizos and Chin nationals are permitted to engage in border trade within a 15km radius in Mizoram and then return, but a majority of them choose to remain in Mizoram for a longer period.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Aizawl on a Reang rebound

by JB Lama

ONE can only imagine what it has cost the Tripura government to look after Reang (known locally as Bru) refugees, so its desire for a lifting of this burden is very understandable. For more than a decade the state provided shelter to 55,000 Chakma refugees from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts and just when the final phase of their repatriation was about to resume in October 1997, there was a sudden exodus of 12,000 Reangs from Mizoram, triggered by the ethnic clashes in the aftermath of the killing of a Mizo forest warden by suspected Bru militants. This incident merely added to the already surcharged atmosphere created by the Bru National Union’s demand for an autonomous district council and the Mizo Zirlai Pawi — a students’ organisation — whipping up passions against the Reangs.
Over the next few months, the number of refugees swelled to more than 40,000. Several attempts to disperse them failed because the Mizoram government insisted, and continues to do so, that all those huddled in Tripura refugee camps are not its citizens and that it would take back only those with documents to prove their required status.
After verification, the refugees were to leave in November last year but a day before their scheduled departure Bru militants killed a Mizo youth in what seemed an organised move to stall the process.
However, Union home minister P Chidambaram visited Mizoram in October this year and was able to persuade chief minister Lalthanhawla to start repatriation from the last day of that month. The first batch left in early November and the second was to start two weeks later. But now comes the unpleasant news that the Mizoram government has suspended the operation after a faction of refugees blocked passage. The Mizoram Bru Displaced Welfare Organisation now wants the state government to fully implement the rehabilitation package for the first group before more refugees are allowed to leave. The organisation’s major demand – that the refugees be resettled in a compact area for security reasons — has not been met.
Well, Aizawl will have to take the refugees into confidence. Under the Mizo Accord, it is committed to protect the interests of minorities. And unless there is an assurance of sorts for those who do not “qualify” for resettlement, there is little prospect of the problem being solved once and for all.

Monita and Mamta made to sweat

M.R. Praveen Chandran
— Photo: H. Vibhu

TIGHT CONTEST: Monita overcame Sarjubala's challenge in the second round.
Thrissur: Hot contenders Monita Devi (Arunachal Pradesh) and Mamta (Bihar) had to sweat it out but defending champion Vanlal Duati had it easy in the second round of the 48kg category in the 11th National senior women's boxing championship at the Lulu International Convention Centre here on Monday.
National junior champion Sarjubala Devi (Manipur) went down fighting to Monita, a silver medallist behind Mary Kom in the 46kg section in the 2008 National championship. Sarjubala, who is taking part in her first senior National, lost the closely-contested bout 0-1.
Not overawed
The Manipur boxer was not overawed by her opponent and it was sheer inexperience which cost Sarjubala a victory. Monita connected with a straight left in the first round, but after that she was busy ducking and weaving out of Sarjubala's punches.
Despite being the aggressor, Sarjubala could not nail the crucial point as Monita used the hit-and-run tactic to good effect in the last three rounds.
Last year's runner-up Mamta found unexpected challenge from Assam's Jahnabi Gogri after leading by a point at the end of the second round. Jhanabi went all out in the third but Mamta managed to evade most of Jahnabi's punches.
Mamta, however, ran out of steam in the fourth round as Jahnabi equalled the scores by connecting with a left hook. The scores were tied 1-1 at the end of that round. However, the judges ruled 3-2 in favour of Mamta.
Defending champion Vanlal had a smooth passage against Khalda Wali of Maharashtra.
The results:
48kg (second round): Monita Devi (Aru) bt Sarjubala Devi (Man) 1-0; Aarti (Del) bt Sarita Vishvkarma (AP) 9-1; Roshni Bhushal (Meg) bt Sharda (Cht) 8-0; Vanlal Duati bt Khalda Wali, RSC; Krishna Thapa (Bih) bt A. Punyavati (AP) 11-2; Mamta bt Jahnabi Gogri (Asm) 3-2.
51kg (second round): Daljeet Kaur (Pun) bt Poonam (Raj) 9-2; P. Nirosha (AP) bt Anajali Chauhan (HP) 8-3; Rebecca Lalimawii (Miz) bt Hema Yogesh (Ker) 10-1; Vinita (Utr) bt Karpagavalli (TN) RSC; Suman (Har) bt Sashi Kiran (MP) 2-0.
57kg (first round): Pavitra (Har) bt Savita Rawat (Delhi) 14-1; Shylaja Reddy (RSCB) bt Anjali Krishnan (Ker) 14-1; Minu Basmatary (Asm) bt Mona Unnikrishnan (Guj), RSC; Margareth Nongrum (Meg) bt Aren Imsong (Ngl) 14-10; Kumari Nisha (HP) bt Roshni Bisht (Utr), RSC; Priyanka Kumari (Jha) bt Uma Maheshwari (AP), RSC .

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mizo woman gang-raped in Assam

A 30-year-old Mizo woman was reportedly gang-raped by a group of youths in Assams Cachar district, police said Saturday.

"A woman from Mizorams Champai district was raped by ten youths, including six students, at Silchar in southern Assam late Thursday night," a police official told reporters.

Police, quoting the Mizo woman, said that she had no money to return to her home in eastern Mizoram when she unexpectedly found another Mizo woman, Malsoama Sanga, in Silchar and sought assistance.

"Malsoama took the victim to a house at the outskirts of Silchar city, where the girl was gang raped," the official said adding that the girl escaped from the place and went to the Mizoram Circuit House and informed the liaison officer about the incident.

Police arrested the seven people, including Malsoama, and are probing the incident. During interrogation, the youths admitted that they had paid Malsoama for bringing the victim to them.

The Assam Police have informed their Mizoram counterparts of the incident.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Aizawl One Step Ahead

Aizawl is the largest city as well as the capital of the state of Mizoram in India.
Mizoram is basically a one step ahead for rising the literacy rate. The government really triedto work on this specific areas and several challenges are also come across it..

Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana told reporters in Aizawl that‘Our state government has decided to suspend the ongoing repatriation of Reang refugees from six relief camps in Tripura in the wake of protests by anti-repatriation groups,’

‘The anti-repatriation groups, backed by suspected militants, not only blocked roads to prevent the refugees from returning to Mizoram, but even obstructed state government officials from identifying bonafide residents of Mizoram among refugees.’

The home minister R. Lalzirliana said , There are armed extremists who have been trying to sabotage the government’s programme to repatriate refugees from Tripura. Security forces would not hesitate to use their weapons against such armed elements,’ .

Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana said these militants are intimidating the tribals, locally called Bru, against returning to their villages in Mizoram and warning them of dire consequences if they disobey.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Make Delhi safer for northeast women: NGOs

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Scores of people from various NGOs, students from the northeast and others participated in a protest rally in the capital Wednesday demanding speedy justice in the gangrape of a BPO staffer from Mizoram last week.

They also demanded that the Delhi government issue a set of guidelines for BPOs so that the safety of their women employees is not compromised.

The protest was organised by NGO Nirantar. A similar protest was organised Monday by the Mizo Students Union and the Mizo Welfare Association, voicing their anger over the rape and other similar cases of harassment against northeastern women in the capital.

A member of Nirantar said: 'We are shocked by the repeated incidents of sexual assault on women from the northeast in the capital in recent months. The rape of a northeastern woman in Dhaula Kuan has again pointed to the failure of the Delhi government to ensure safety of women and especially of women from the northeast.'

In a statement they said: 'Often it is assumed that they (northeastern) are 'available' and (these) women are of 'loose character'. The sexual assaults on women from the northeast are even justified by saying that they 'asked for it' because of the way they look and dress.'

'We demand that the Delhi government take appropriate measures to address and curb sexual assault on women, and in particular women from the northeast who have been particularly targeted in the recent past. The Delhi Police must be more responsive or else its claims to make Delhi safe for women will be proved entirely hollow,' it added.

'The Delhi government must issue guidelines to BPOs and other employers in order that they increase security measures when women staff members are dropped to their residence. Also police patrols should be ensured in all areas and all roads should be well lit, including the bus stops,' it further said.

Madhu Chandra of the Northeast Support Centre and Helpline who participated in the protest at Jantar Mantar Wednesday said: 'The safety of northeastern women in Delhi is a very serious issue. Every other day you hear of girls from the region getting harassed here, and all because they look different.'

'A team of Delhi Police officials was supposed to come and meet me to discuss a plan to make the city safer for the women of the region today, but it didn't work out. They are now coming tomorrow (Thursday) and I hope something concrete comes out of it,' Chandra told IANS.

The victim of the Nov 24 gangrape was a 30-year-old woman from Mizoram working in a BPO. She was abducted by four men and gangraped in a moving goods carrier.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Increase patrolling, L-G tells cops

New Delhi, Dec 1 : Delhi lieutenant governor Tejendra Khanna has directed the city police to increase their presence on routes frequented by call centre cabs and be "more vigilant towards safety of women" working in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in and around the city. Following last week's rape of a female BPO employee, Khanna held a meeting with Delhi Police and representatives of 21 BPO companies in Delhi and the NCR.

"All call centre cabs should have a company-employed guard at all times. No woman employee should ever travel in the cab alone," said a spokesman from the L-G House.

The L-G after discussing the matter with the police and the BPO officials has asked Delhi Police to send awareness SMSes on women's safety on the lines of traffic advisory messages.

It was decided that from now on, more PCR vans will be manning city roads as the BPO officials insisted on more "police visibility" as a safety measure.

The L-G has also said cab drivers should not pick up strangers on the way as they may commit carjacking or other crimes. "There should be effective check and control of vehicles' movement to check the unwarranted activities of the cab drivers. The installation of GPs system and issuance of RFID cards to cab drivers to effectively check the movement of the cabs was also suggested," said the official.

Police meet with representatives

On Wednesday, the Delhi Police would meet representatives of the Northeast Support Centre and Helpline to draw up a plan for making the city safer for women from the region.

Madhu Chandra, spokesperson of the support centre, said: "A team of Delhi Police officials will come to meet me tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss how the city can be made safer for the northeastern community, especially the women."

A delegation of activists and lawyers, led by Chandra, had earlier met the joint commissioner of police (southern range), Amulya Patnaik, to press for speedy justice in the rape case as well as draw up a concrete plan of action to make the city safer for women.

Meanwhile, the northeast community in the capital submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister seeking compensation for the victim under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) since she belonged to the ST category.

On the lines of the Monday protest at Jantar Mantar organised by Mizo Students Union and Mizo Welfare Association, a similar protest will be organised on Wednesday.

(With agency inputs)

Mizoram postpones return home of refugees from Tripura

Aizawl/Agartala, Nov 30 (IANS) The Mizoram government announced it was suspending taking back of tribal refugees from six relief camps in Tripura, claiming obstacle from a section of the refugees and suspected militants, officials said Tuesday.

“Our state government has decided to suspend the ongoing repatriation of Reang refugees from six relief camps in Tripura in the wake of protests by anti-repatriation groups,” Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana told reporters in Aizawl.

“The anti-repatriation groups, backed by suspected militants, not only blocked roads to prevent the refugees from returning to Mizoram, but even obstructed state government officials from identifying bonafide residents of Mizoram among refugees.”

“There are armed extremists who have been trying to sabotage the government’s programme to repatriate refugees from Tripura. Security forces would not hesitate to use their weapons against such armed elements,” the home minister said.

Lalzirliana said these militants are intimidating the tribals, locally called Bru, against returning to their villages in Mizoram and warning them of dire consequences if they disobey.

Over 41,600 Reang tribals have been living in six camps in north Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division since October 1997. They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos following the killing of a Mizo forest official.

officials in Tripura said they were unaware of the Mizoram government’s decision to stop the repatriation process and their claim about the militants’ activity in the refugee camps.

“We are not aware about the Mizoram government’s decision to suspend the repatriation process. We are providing logistical help to them after the repatriation process began on Nov 3,” North Tripura district magistrate Saumya Gupta told IANS by phone.

“We have no specific reports of militants intimidating the home-bound willing refugees,” she said, adding that the Tripura government wants the refugee imbroglio to end at the earliest.

The repatriation of 41,600 Reang tribal refugees from North Tripura district’s Kanchanpur sub-division to their villages in western Mizoram began Nov 3. Since then, only 400 refugees have returned to their homes.

When 66 families were ready to return home Nov 19, hundreds of other refugees put up a blockade on the Tripura-Mizoram highway, protesting non-settlement of their eight-point demands, which includes signing of a four-partite agreement between the centre. Tripura and Mizoram and refugee leaders over the repatriation.

“The police arrested 655 protesters and cleared the blockade. Subsequently, 48 refugee families left Tripura for their homes,” a Tripura official said.

In April 2005, the Mizoram government and the militant Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) signed an agreement after 13 rounds of talks to solve the decades-old ethnic crisis, leading to the surrender of about 1,040 militants of the BNLF and Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM), another separatist outfit.

Both the rebel outfits have been fighting for setting up an autonomous council for the Reangs.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How unsafe ‘the women’ are in New Delhi

NEW DELHI – Ever since a Mizo woman was pulled into a vehicle near her house at Moti Bagh and gang raped by four men on November 23, people from the Northeast have been alleging that they are being discriminated against. While every networking site has people denouncing the act, many blogs and web portals have also come out strongly against the lack of safety measures for women from Northeast states in Delhi.

“When the rapists saw the woman alighting from the office cab, they did not check to see if she was Mizo or Manipuri or Arunachali. She was simply Northeastern, and therefore an easy target,” says Madhu Chandra, the spokesperson of NE Helpline, highlighting how people from the seven Northeastern states are categorised under one definition in Delhi.

Incidents of Northeastern women being eve-teased are common, and it has often been alleged that the police do not bother to look into their complaints. Jasmine Rupini from Tripura, who has been living in the city for the last five years, says, “We are here to study and work, not harm anybody. Yet, we are the ones who are targeted.”
While the ‘Stop discriminating against people from the North-East regions’ community on Facebook has over 162 people demanding stringent action against the guilty, news portal ‘Mizoram Express’ has urged politicians to make Delhi a safer place for women. The Mizoram Student Union is also planning a demonstration on Monday to demand justice for the girl.
Though security has been increased in Nanakpura, where the incident occurred, residents do not expect it to remain for long. “Whenevesomething terrible happens, they post policemen at every corner to make us believe that they are doing their job well. But as time passes, the administration forgets about the crime,” says ST Jha, a resident of Nanakpura.
“Nothing has changed since 2005. I feel as vulnerable as I felt then,” says Asha, a Manipuri girl. However, 21-year-old Jasmin, a student of Motilal Nehru College, does not believe that Northeastern girls are specifically targeted. “That’s not correct,” she says, “I feel that all the girls are unsafe in the city. Whenever I go out at night, I take male friends along.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bus plunges into Chin ravine, 14 dead

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Fourteen passengers died and more than 30 were injured after a bus plunged into a ravine near Tedim in the west of Chin State in northwestern Burma yesterday afternoon, a passenger said.

Trucks negotiate the steep valley roads of Chin State in late November, 2010. The Indian government promised early this year to provide Burma with US$60 million to pave the notoriously treacherous roads of the state. Photo: Mizzima
The bus carrying 80 passengers from Tonzang to Tedim to the south plunged into the 100-foot-deep ravine (30 metres) about eight miles (12 kilometres) from Tedim, a town near the border with Mizoram State, India. Twelve passengers reportedly died instantly and two died after they reached hospital in Tedim.

“The bus was heavily overloaded and the driver going too fast so the bus plunged into the ravine at a curve in the road,” Kam Lian from Tedim told Mizzima.

The injured and dead were first taken to hospital in Tedim, then the 14 dead, all from Tonzang, were returned to their hometown at about 5 p.m. on Friday, a resident said.

A heavily loaded jeep struggles at a crawl along a muddy road near Tedim in Chin State in late November, 2010. The Indian government promised early this year to provide Burma with US$60 million to pave the notoriously treacherous roads of the state. Photo: Mizzima
Most of those on the bus were travelling to Tedim to attend a Chin literature ceremony, according to residents.

“Relatives of the passengers had arrived in Tedim … [and realising family members were missing, went to] rescue the passengers using cars reserved for the ceremony, and motorcycles,” Kam Lian said.

The bus, named Chin Mountain, is owned by Cin Pu of Tahan Ward in Kalay, Sagaing Division.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mynamarese national suspected of rape, lynched

Aizawl: A 35-year-old Myanmarese national, suspected of raping and murdering a five-year-old girl on Monday was lynched by an irate mob near here on Tuesday in the second such incident in just over three weeks in Mizoram, police said.

Police said the girl belonging to Muallungthu village near here was lured by Henry Vanneichung of Chungling village in Myanmar's Kalemyo district on the pretext of taking her to her mother who was fetching firewood from the nearby jungle.

Tipped off by the victim's friend, the villagers sent a search party in and around the village as the girl did not return home even after her mother returned to the village at around 5:30 pm on Monday.

The villagers found the battered body of the victim this morning near the village and forensic reports indicated that she had been raped before being killed.

The Muallungthu village search party received information that the suspect was detained at nearby Sateek village and rushed to Sateek where the accused was lynched by an angry mob.

Vanneichung succumbed to his injuries while being brought to Aizawl Civil Hospital by the police.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is change possible in Burma?

Danielle Sabaï

In Burma, more than twenty years have passed since the last election on May 27, 1990. The military junta refused to recognize the outcome of the elections, won overwhelmingly by the National League for Democracy (NLD) party formed two years earlier by the Burmese oppositionist Aung San Suu Kyi.
Burma: is change possible? Danielle Sabai.
In Burma, more than twenty years have passed since the last election on May 27, 1990. The military junta refused to recognize the outcome of the elections, won overwhelmingly by the National League for Democracy (NLD) party formed two years earlier by the Burmese oppositionist Aung San Suu Kyi.
The people of Burma suffer from its strategic position - between China and India, between the Indian Ocean, the Malacca Straits and the China Sea - and its abundance of natural resources: gas, oil, rare wood, precious jewels and so on. These riches are coveted by neighbouring countries with few scruples (China, Thailand and India in particular) who do not hesitate to do business with the junta, helping to limit the effects of international pressure and allowing the military to maintain power through coercion and repression with their main aim being their personal enrichment.
It is in this context that the military junta will organise new parliamentary elections on November 7, 2010. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC-official name of the junta) will organize the fifth stage of the "roadmap to democracy" of which the seventh and final step is to "build a modern, developed and democratic nation".
Behind the facade of this discourse, the military seek to perpetuate their power through parliamentary elections and the establishment of a civilian government. There is no doubt that their goal is not to give power to civilians but to change their green khaki clothes for civilian garb. In a remodelling of an unprecedented scale, in late August most senior officers left the army in order to stand in the elections. They will be candidates alongside 26 members of the government.
These elections are held in the wake of two major political crises during which the regime of the Burmese generals has persisted despite international pressure and condemnations: the “Saffron Revolution” led by Buddhist monks in September and October 2007 [1] and the holding of the referendum on the new constitution even though the Irrawaddy delta was devastated by cyclone Nargis in May 2008 [2]. More than ever, the junta seems to control the Burmese political landscape.
The November 7 elections are thus a major political event. The majority of voters are aged under 38 and have never been involved in an election (just three in 50 years). The question is raging among oppositionists and activists in Burma and among exiles as to what extent they could provide opportunities for change. These elections being neither free nor fair, the question arises of whether to participate in the electoral framework proposed by the Burmese junta or to boycott it.
Without trying to resolve this debate, this article tries to give an overview before the vote and describe the issues at stake.

Transfer of power?

Begun in 2003 and relaunched in 1993, the "roadmap to democracy’ fuelled fears in the ranks of the military junta that power might escape them during the process of transfer to a civilian Government. [3]. The junta has therefore done everything to conserve power, and in particular in May 2008 it forced through the adoption of a preliminary draft of a new customized constitution.
Among the most prominent elements of the constitution which should take effect after the elections, 25% of the seats in the two national parliaments (upper and lower chambers) will be filled by soldiers nominated by the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The assemblies will appoint a President who must "have military experience" and does not have children of foreign nationality (which excludes the possible candidacy of Aung San Suu Kyi). The ministers for Defence, the Interior and Foreign Affairs will be appointed by the President from a list submitted by... the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The constitution provides no right of scrutiny over military affairs or control over their expenditure. The amendment of the constitution will require a vote of 75% by members followed by a referendum validated by at least 50% of people of voting age. In other words with 25% of designated military members in both houses, it will be impossible to amend the constitution against their wishes. The Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces is empowered to declare a state of emergency if they perceive a threat of “disintegration of national solidarity”. As for the military junta, article 445 guarantees that no legal action can be taken against members of the SLORC ( State Law and Order Restoration Council) and SPDC, the two successive names taken by the junta since it took power in 1988 [4]. Finally, sub section (a) of article 121 of the constitution stipulates that persons who have been imprisoned or convicted are not entitled to stand in the elections. This article excludes from the outset more than 2,171 political prisoners including the main oppositionists and ethnic leaders (379 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) including Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest since 2003; 40 members of the 88 Generation Students including Min Ko Naing , Ko Ko Gyi and Nilar Thein; 200 ethnic leaders and activists including the spokesperson Hkun Htun Oo and secretary Sai Nyunt Lwin of the League of Shan Nationalities For Democracy imprisoned since 2005 for respectively 93 and 85 years) [5].
The actions taken leave little doubt as to the role that the military intend to play in the future civilian disposition. Unfortunately, these elections do not set Burma on the road to democracy.

A controlled process

The electoral process is itself closely controlled by the junta which does not want to see a new major setback as in 1990. The stakes are high: 1,157 seats are to be filled with 326 for the People’s Assembly (lower house), 168 for the National Assembly (upper house) and 663 for representatives of the 7 regions (Sagaing, Magwe, Mandalay, Pegu, Irrawaddy, Rangoon and Tenasserim) and 7 States (Kachin, Chin, Shan, Arakan, Karen, Karenni and My) distributed between the people’s assemblies and the regional or state assemblies [6] .
Out of 47 requests, 37 parties obtained permission to run in the elections. Existing parties, including the NLD, which did not apply for registration were dissolved by the electoral commission. In fact, only the two parties close to the Government, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) led by Prime Minister Thein Sein and the National Unity Party (NUP-formerly the Burma Socialist Programme Party founded by dictator Ne Win in 1974) will be able to compete on a national scale. These two parties will present three times more candidates than the other 35 parties put together. In many constituencies with a Burmese majority, there will only be USDP and NUP candidates. But in nearly 20 constituencies, including Rangoon, a number of opposition candidates will be in competition [7]. This should provide the two pro-government parties with a large majority in the upper and lower chambers as well as in the regional parliaments, the seven regions being populated predominantly by Burmese. According to this one round electoral system already in place in 1990, the winner is the candidate who gets the most votes irrespective of turnout. Finally, in contests where there is only one candidate, the latter is declared elected without an election being held.
Among the opposition parties, only three have the means to run in a significant number of constituencies: the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP-157 candidates), the Democratic Party led by the oppositionist Thu Wai (DP- 49 candidates) and the National Democratic Force (NDF-163 candidates) led by former NLD leaders. The barriers are financial and organizational. In this country where a third of the population lives below the poverty level and where an employee earns $50 per month, each candidate must, in order to stand in the election, pay the sum of 500,000 kyats which is equivalent to approximately $500, non-recoverable. No opposition party has $580,000 for the financing of candidates at the national level, without counting the cost of the campaign.
At the organizational level, the Burmese opposition is weak and divided. The national council of the NLD, the main opposition force, met on March 29 and unanimously decided to boycott the elections. But in practice, a part of its leadership has formed a new party, the NDF. For them, the absence of NLD candidates leaves no obvious anti-governmental choice for voters. Many parties have been constituted for the elections, their electoral base is weak, or indeed not yet established. The SPDC has wished to see a multiplicity of political parties in order to reduce the votes for the opposition parties. It is possible that for tactical reasons or through political weakness a number of these small parties will not differentiate themselves from the military junta. With the approach of the elections the latter seems to be manoeuvring: funding of the NDF by somebody close to the junta has destabilized the alliance of 6 [8] opposition parties formed in October to oppose the pro-government candidates and work together inside the future parliament. These manoeuvres cast doubt on the independence of the different candidates and political parties and the risk is great of increasing abstention or the division of the vote among several opposition parties.

Neither just nor fair elections

To say that these elections are neither fair nor fair is not mere verbiage. The rules laid down by the electoral commission drastically restrict freedom of expression, assembly and organization of political parties. The publications of parties are subject to censorship and election material must not oppose the regime or the army. The organisation of public meetings is not free either. An application must be filed one week in advance specifying the number of participants expected. Finally, in this country where there is no independent press, opposition parties suffer a serious disability.
The restrictive measures do not equally apply to all parties. The USDP represents the transformation into a political party of the powerful USDA (Union Solidarity Development Association), a mass association formed in 1993 one year after the inauguration of General Than Shwe as head of state. The USDA has since fulfilled the function of control of society and repression of social mobilization. Members of the USDA attacked the convoy of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003 near Depayin with the objective of killing her, and they attacked the monks during the demonstrations of autumn 2007. The USDP therefore receives the political support of the USDA and its financial resources. It also enjoys support from the government and army of whom most high placed members are among the USDP candidates. Its transformation into a political party has not changed its methods. There are accounts of intimidation by USDP members against opposition candidates and voters [9]. The NUP represents the old guard of dictator Ne Win, the head of the State in 1988. The party also has powerful support and financial resources.

The ethnic question, a central question

No democratic Burmese State will emerge without taking into account the demands of ethnic minorities which represent nearby one-third of the population [10]. Prior to independence in 1948, the Panglong Agreement (February 12, 1947) drew the contours of the rights of ethnic minorities. The guarantees granted were never really respected and shortly after independence the first armed conflicts broke out with the government, with some persisting today. In 1989, a year after taking power, the junta began negotiations with the ethnic groups at war so as to agree a cease-fire. Most groups signed and the junta pursued a war without mercy against the other groups.
The armies of Wa and Kokang, serving until 1987 the Burmese Communist Party, were among the first signatories. In exchange for a cease-fire, they were allowed to cultivate opium and trade "without interference”. Entire border areas [11] were thus left under the control of armed ethnic militias. The junta exploited the divisions that resulted between different ethnic groups, with some organizations such as the Karen National Union and Kachin Organization for Independence objecting strongly to the cultivation and sale of drugs.
In April 2009 the junta decided to retrieve the territories in the hands of the armed ethnic groups. It ordered that the groups that had signed cease-fire agreements should be transformed into a new border force guard under the authority of the government. Most armed groups agreed but the most important including the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) refused. In August 2009, the situation deteriorated when the Tatmadaw (Burmese regular army) launched an attack against the army of the National Democratic Alliance of Myanmar in Kokang territory. More than 30,000 people took refuge in China. A serious subject of discontent for Beijing whose main objective is the maintenance of stability of 2,192 miles of common border. On his trip to Burma last June, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao let it be known that he wanted to see a broad participation of ethnic groups in the electoral process in order to increase its credibility and reduce the risk of tensions on the borders.
The participation of ethnic groups in the elections was however not agreed. To participate in the elections could mean that the ethnic groups recognize the validity of the constitution of 2008 that denies the right of self-determination and renders armed militias illegal. Participation would also recognize the future organization of the country under the control of a centralized executive against their demand for a Union or a federal state [12]. Since August the UWSA has made it known that it rejected the elections and will not allow their conduct in the territory it controls. During September, as a reprisal for the refusal to integrate into the border guard force, the election commission refused to register three Kachin parties as well as all the independent candidates for members of these organizations, depriving the Kachin of independent political representation. On September 16, the commission announced that the elections would not be held in 3,401 villages in Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan states because it was not possible “to ensure free and fair elections"(sic!). This decision deprives about 1.5 million voters in the regions which do not have a Burmese majority [13]. "An implicit confession of the failure of regime to impose its candidates and elections in the regions inhabited by ethnic minorities" [14]. One of the first consequences of the elections could be the return of war with the various ethnic groups [15]

To participate or not in the elections?

There is little doubt that the conditions in which the November 7 elections take place leave little room for a (happy) surprise as was the case in 1990. The government has done everything to ensure that pro-government parties, primarily the USDP, win the elections, including in the ethnic areas controlled by armed groups. Parliament will consist mainly of pro-government members and appointed soldiers. The share of progressive deputies and independent representatives of ethnic groups in comparison will be relatively very low. An unknown is the balance of power between USDP elected officials and those belonging to the NUP. This latter party is composed of members loyal to the dictator Ne Win, deposed in 1988 and replaced by the current junta. Some believe that its members are relatively independent of the government and may in the context of a parliamentary process gain in autonomy. It remains to be seen to what extent this party is supported by the military.
It remains nonetheless that these elections represent a major political event for an entire generation of Burmese. Any activist involved in Burma political life, in the country or outside, must decide on the ultimate issue; whether or not to participate in the elections.
Although the electoral process is not democratic, a significant number of parties have decided to participate in the elections. The decision to boycott the elections by the NLD and several ethnic parties has been very controversial. The boycott of the election could undermine its credibility if it was accompanied by a very low participation. In this case, the international community would be very much obliged to denounce the masquerade. But the experience of the referendum in 2008 proves that the junta is quite able to falsify the results. The critics believe that not participating in the elections reinforces automatically the number of pro-government deputies having regard to the electoral system in place. In this perspective, for many parties, these elections represent "the only valid option”. And participating does not imply accepting them, but considering them as inevitable. Groups and associations activist in Burma have also argued that it is dangerous to rely on the international community whose divisions over the past 20 years have not allowed the imposition of any change to the current regime.
A number of groups within Burmese civil society think that "elections represent the first opportunity in 20 years to be able to mobilize communities on the issue of their democratic rights". This is a "chance to develop the political consciousness of the people, particularly among young people who have not had the opportunity to vote before" [16]. They believe that the elections will bring a bit of democracy and freedom in the country. The establishment of a Parliament could offer the possibility to express opposition. Knowing that the elections are legislative and won’t bring a change of regime in the immediate future, their stated goal is to work for the mobilization of a base which could lead to new elections by 2015. This position is also defended by “think tanks" and major international non-governmental organisations who see the possibility of a major political transformation with the emergence of new political parties and new leaders [17]. One of the arguments put forward by these groups is "the absence of any results brought about by sanctions" [18]. Instead of continuing on this path, they propose Burma be reintegrated into the international community, which the electoral process could allow, if it is not decried by the international community.

Provisional conclusion

Nobody seriously thinks that elections will bring significant changes in the coming months. The military junta will continue to run the economy for its own benefit and to the detriment of the Burmese people as a whole even after the establishment of a "civilian" Government
It is hard to see too much which could prevent it. Inside Burma it does not feel threatened by a weak and divided opposition. At the international level, economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe have fizzled out, especially because states such as France and Germany oppose any sanctions relating to strategic sectors which bring money to the junta and help keep it in power because these sanctions threaten their own interests in Burma [19]. Calls for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners do not obscure the cynicism and the lack of political will of the Western and Asian states to fight against the military junta.
The Burmese generals do not need to hold fair and democratic elections since other states and international organizations are willing to settle for a parody of democratic elections. Some states wish it to be believed (or want to believe) that supporting the electoral process is equivalent to supporting incremental change towards democracy. In fact, they are looking to the end of sanctions and the opportunity to invest in the country. More and more articles explain that the path of democracy in Burma lies through development (and therefore investments).
The latest victim is the Burmese pro-democracy movement, deeply divided by the difficult question of whether or not to boycott or participate in elections while there is no doubt that the big winner will be once more the ruling junta.
-Danielle Sabaï is one of IV’s correspondents for Asia.
[1] See Danielle Sabai “Burmese crisis, its foundation and the urgency of solidarity: enough of hypocrisy!” [
[2] Marc Johnson and Danielle Sabai. “Issues that have little to do with international solidarity”. [
[3] Larry Jagan and Renaud Egreteau. "Back to the Old Habits." Isolationism or the Self Preservation of Burma’s Military Regime "(Page_44)." Irasec [here-≥]. For an analysis of the 2008 constitution see “The SPDC constitutional referendum: a dead end for democracy in Burma”. Altsean Burma
[5] "SPDC Election Law Strangle Democracy". Altsean Burma. July 15, 2010 [
[6] For details of seats see [Altsean Burma] For details of the political parties and their platform see [Mizzima
[7] The Irrawaddy Magazine. [A Foregone Conclusion
[8] The Irrawaddy. October 18, 2010. [Donor Dispute Shakes 6-Party Alliance
[9] The Irrawaddy, 22 October 2010.[ Rohingya Party Prevented from Campaigning] Voters "Urged to Cast Advance bundles". [The Irrawaddy
[10] In the absence of a census we do not know the exact composition of the population of Burma. Identified ethnic groups are Karen, Shan, Akha, Chin, Chinese, Danu, Indian, Kachin, Karenni, Kayan, Kokang, Lahu, Mon, Naga, Palaung, Pao, Rakhine, Rohingya Tavoyan and Wa
[11] Most ethnic minorities live in mountainous areas on Burma’s borders established during the British settlement between 1824 and 1948
[12] China’s Myanmar Strategy: Elections, Ethnic Groups and Economics. International Crisis Group. Asia Briefing N ° 112. Update. /media/Files/asia/north-east-asia/B112%20Chinas%20Myanmar%20Strategy%20%20Elections%20Ethnic%20Politics%20and%20Economics.ashx
[13] Burma Bulletin Issue n ° 45 - September 2010. Altsean Burma.
[14] Info Burma - analysis September elections 2010
[15] “Burma’s ethnic Minorities Prepare for War”. Denis D. gray. The Irrawaddy. November 2, 2010.
[16] Report of the workshop PRIVÉES: The Emerging Role of Civil Society in Burma and challenges and Opportunities of the 2010 Elections. October 3, 2010. http://Euro-Burma.EU/doc/Report_-_AEPF_workshop_notes_-_FINAL.PDF
[17] See e.g. FFT: Burma’s 2010 Elections: challenges and Opportunities. June 2010. International Crisis Group: Elections in Burma (Myanmar) won’t be fair, but they will be significant. Jim Della-Giacoma, The Christian Science Monitor.
[18] For a review of sanctions and why this policy did not obtain the expected results read: The European Union and Burma: The Case for Targeted Sanctions. Burma Campaign UK (March 2004). EU & Burma, briefing and recommendation (March 2008).
[19] French diplomacy did not hesitate to support the Total company, one of the most important investors in Burma, accused of having recourse to forced labour

Mizoram observes diwali sans fireworks and crackers

Aizawl, Nov 8 : For the first time, Mizoram is observing a diwali sans fireworks and crackers. Basically, this is due to a significant absence of fireworks and crackers during the last Christmas and New Year festival, following a prohibition imposed by the Mizoram government with the backing of influential bodies such as the churches and the Young Mizo Association.

Following the example of their Mizo Christian brethren, the Hindu community in Mizoram has restrained from displaying fireworks and crackers in the festival of light though the government has not officially announced any fresh prohibition.

''In respect of our Mizo Christian brethren who had kept away from fireworks and crackers during their biggest festival, we have decided not to display fireworks and crackers. Nobody has told us to avoid fireworks and crackers,'' said P Chakraborty, the state law secretary and president of Hindustan Club of Aizawl.

''After all, fireworks and crackers are just a waste of money and cause air pollution,'' he added.

''We all know firecrackers release harmful gases in the atmosphere but we do nothing about it. People blindly follow things that everyone participates in. The true essence of Diwali is lost in the noise and smoke of crackers,'' commented a 28-year-old IT professional who is on a holiday with his parents in Aizawl.

However, the traditional lighting up of houses and mandirs are not absent. The diwali revellers have their homes and worship places lit up beautifully.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

UNHCR Affiliates Accused of Refugee Corruption

KUALA LUMPUR—Several Burmese organizations in Malaysia, which are affiliated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), are selling resettlement registrations for profit to refugees, according to victims of the scheme and witnesses in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
The groups in question include the Chin Refugee Committee (CRC), the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) Malaysia (NLDLA), the Burma Refugee Organization (BRO) and the Arakan Refugees Relief Committee (ARRC). But sources say other affiliated groups, including several ethnic representatives, are also involved.
Burmese refugees protest in front of the UNHCR offices in Kuala Lumpur in 2009. (Photo: AFP)
Earlier this year, the UNHCR began delegating the authority for issuing resettlement registration documents to Burmese groups based in Malaysia. Refugees who are recommended for resettlement by the agencies are then interviewed by the UNHCR. The exception is the CRC, which was first authorized to register its people for resettlement in 2001. The UNHCR began issuing registration documents for Burmese refugees on Aug. 17 in a process that ended on Sept. 19. According to the sources, some 6,000 refugees from Burma were recommended for resettlement during that period. 
Speaking to The Irrawaddy, Ko Maung, a member of both the BRO and NLDLA, said, “I became a member of two organizations doing business with the Burmese refugees. I have paid a so-called 'membership fee' of 60 Malaysian Ringgit (US $20) per month to each group for one year now. But when the UNHCR began registering refugees, I was overlooked for others who had paid more money.
“I’ve no document to live in Malaysia,” he added. “I am frustrated that the UNHCR passed responsibility [for the registration process] to other organizations and that it is not involved directly with the refugees.”
Possession of UNHCR registration documents are highly prized among Burmese refugees in Malaysia because it offers them some protection if they are arrested by the Malaysian authorities. Registered refugees also qualify for half-price medical services at several local hospitals.
Fees to register with brokers such the CRC, the BRO and the NLDLA have gone up since the process began from 310 Ringgit ($100) to 700 Ringgit ($225), say sources. In each case, the Burmese groups then promise to put the paying refugees on a priority list with the UN, the sources said.
“I heard that the BRO was charging 500 Ringgit ($160) to register a refugee while the NLDLA was charging 700 Ringgit,” said Sunny, a Burmese migrant worker who came to Malaysia with a work permit. “I cannot decide whether I should register or not.”
Burmese refugees who are registered for resettlement by the UNHCR frequently wait for up to one year or longer for resettlement toa third country.
“In general, many Burmese migrants think that the Malaysian-based NLDLA is organizing a boycott for the upcoming election, but what they are really doing is cheating money out of people who want refugee registration.” said Kyaw Htoo Aung, a social worker who works with illegal Burmese migrants. “I cannot stand it. I have interviewed victims of the scheme and posted their testimonies on my blog.”
Both the NLDLA and the ARRC refuted the accusations when contacted by The Irrawaddy. The BRO said it has no spokesperson who can comment on the matter.
Ethnic Burman and Arakanese people were not recognized as “refugees” by the UN until this year. About 50 Arakanese protested on June 6 outside the UNHCR office in Malaysia, saying the UN was discriminating between different Burmese ethnic groups and religious affiliations.
Yan Naing Tun, the editor of Thuriya, a bi-monthly journal based in Kuala Lumpur, said, “The UNHCR give first priority to Chins and Rohingyas. They discriminate against other ethnicities. It has become very difficult for real refugees to get registered.
“As far as I can remember, the UNHCR employed a Chin translator when it started the operation,” he added. “However, they did not employ translators for other ethnicities, including Burmese.”
The UNHCR did not respond to the accusations when contacted by The Irrawaddy.
The CRC said that in 2001 several Chin leaders urged the UNHCR to grant refugee registration to their people and that the process began that same year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mizoram thanks Centre for NLUP

Aizawl, Sept 28 (PTI) The Mizoram Assembly today unanimously adopted an official resolution expressing gratitude to the Centre for providing funds for the New Land Use Policy (NLUP), the flagship programme of the Congress government led by Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla.The resolution, moved in the state legislature by law minister Lalsaawta.

"The Congress party came to power with a thumping majority in the 2008 state assembly polls with the NLUP as its main plank after being out of power for a decade," he said.Sources in the government said that the NLUP would be implemented during this year.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Indian Government dispels fears of n-weapons in Myanmar

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) There is no nuclear threat from Myanmar, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said Thursday, adding that strict vigil was being maintained and admitting that nuclear weapons in neighbouring countries were a matter of concern.

'Myanamar asserts that it has no nuclear programme on its anvil. The government of India will have to believe,' Krishna said while replying to a supplementary in the Rajya Sabha Thursday.

The minister, however, added that information was being gathered through intelligence networks as well.

'We will also gather through our own intelligence what is happening. The government always monitors development closely because it concerns our security,' Krishna said.

He stated that nuclear weapons in neighbouring countries were a matter of concern and that the Indian intelligence was keeping tight vigil on the situation.

'We know Pakistan has nuclear weapons, China also has. We also know there has been a clandestine proliferation effort that Libya and other similar countries are making. We know A.Q. Khan network is very active. (The) government is monitoring the situation and will take steps to see India's security is not jeopardised,' he said.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962 under a government known as the military junta. Its leader Senior General Than Shwe visited India in July.

©Indo-Asian News Service

Monday, August 16, 2010

No one should take law into his hands: Mizoram CM

Aizawl : Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla today said the state government remained firm in its commitment that no one should be allowed to take law into their own hands and there was no place for militancy.

While the government remained sensitive to complaints, dissatisfaction and misgivings of the people, no one should break the law, Lal Thanhawla said at a public meeting at the Assam Rifles ground here after unfurling the tri-colour on the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of the Independence Day.

"Nothing is achieved by indulging in violence and destroying public properties," he said.

Highlighting the policies and programmes of the government, the chief minister said that the flagship programme of his government, the New Land Use Policy (NLUP) would soon be launched and the Centre has approved Rs 2,873.13 crore under additional central assistance for implementation of the NLUP during five years for reconstruction of the rural economy.

Lal Thanhawla said 1,20,000 families would be covered by the NLUP which aimed at ending the slash and burn way of shifting cultivation (jhum) and creation of permanent settlement for the cultivators.

The state government had been able to provide 95 days of employment to 1,80,140 households under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, he said.

As part of the endeavour to make Mizoram a preferred tourist destination, construction of 'Institute of Hotel Management' was in progress at Bung Picnic Spot and aero-sport equipment had been procured to launch adventure tourism in the state.

He made special mention that the two wine vineyards have been established at Champhai and Hnahlan which would provide economic boost to the grape growers.

The CM said that incompetence and corruption in public administration would not be tolerated.

Friday, August 13, 2010

There should be stringent legislation against drug menace

Aizawl, Aug 13 (PTI) Mizoram's state level apex coordination committee on drugs today proposed that a stringent 'Mizoram Drugs Control Act' be legislated to effectively combat the drug menace in the state.

The committee, headed by Van Hela Pachuau, the chief secretary, was of the opinion that the Assam Drug Control Act, 1950 and the Drugs and Cosmetic Act, 1940 in force in the state, were ineffective to fight drugs problems.

It also proposed to approach the Centre for amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 as the act had lost its teeth.

More than a thousand youth have died in the state due to drug abuse since 1984 when the first drug-related death was reported.

The highest annual death was 149 in 2004. Around 90 per cent of the vicitms died due to abuse of spasmo proxyvon, a painkiller.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Aizawl municipality polls in October

Aizawl, Aug 10 (PTI) The first election to 19-ward Aizawl Municipal Council would be held in late October, an official statement said here today.

A meeting of Municipal Authority held at the office chamber of P Lianhrima, Secretary for Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation yesterday decided to organise awareness campaign for the village council members (to be dissolved after the formation of municipality) and the general public, the statement said.

Meanwhile voters'' lists for the election to Aizawl Municipal council have already been published by the state election commission in which there were around 1.6 lakh voters. Out of the 19 wards, six seats would be reserved for women in accordance with Mizoram Municipality Act.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

UN warns of worsening famine in central dry zone

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Drought-ridden areas of central Burma that have suffered food shortages and low rainfall for three years are facing an even more severe famine in what is one of the poorest areas of the country, the World Food Programme says.

However, Burmese government meteorologist Dr. Tun Lwin says the areas will soon receive monsoonal rains, because of the La Niña effect.

Burma’s central “dry zone” covers nearly 10 per cent of Burma’s total area and is densely populated, underdeveloped and poor, and suffers constant food shortages.

“It’s a slow-burn problem but evidence would suggest it is getting worse”, Reuters AlertNet quoted outgoing World Food Progamme country chief Chris Kaye as saying.

“Firstly rains were delayed. Then rains did begin to kick in and farmers started the planting,” he said. “Since then there’s been a break and now that first set of inputs into the ground is withering and dying.”

But the water needed for crops grown in the dry zone might still become available from monsoon rain later in the year, according to Tun Lwin.

“There may be two times in October, one time in November and up to December if not in September. There will be monsoon rains in these four to five months,” he said.

A heatwave in April hit Magway, Sagaing, Mandalay, Pegu, Rangoon divisions and Mon, Shan and Arakan states and led to severe water shortages, and in some areas the daily death rate doubled, Mizzima reported in May, citing reports from the region’s free funeral services.

Even tropical plants such as palm and Shah trees were affected by the temperatures in Magway, which reached record highs of more than 104 degrees Farhenheit (40 Celsius).

Burma, once known as the rice bowl of Southeast Asia, was facing a worsening food crisis, which the UN agency blamed on the restrictions the ruling Burmese junta had imposed on WFP work. It had allowed only limited access to the region, rules that had made assessment of the food amounts needed, and distribution, very difficult, the WFP said.

A resident of Yenangyaung confirmed the WFP reports of food shortages already being suffered by local people.

“Some could have only one meal a day. Some could cook only two-three empty condensed milk tins of rice for a family of four instead of normal requirement of four tins,” an opposition activist working for farmers said. “Families have to share the limited resources available to them. Sometimes they would have to skip dinner and have a meal only on mornings that they could find rice.”

Another consequence of the food shortage was that more young people were being forced to migrate away from homes in search of work, he added.

According to local residents contacted by Mizzima, a lot of sesame fields were also recently damaged in central Burma.

Sesame is the main crop grown in the parched region that includes Chauk, Kyaupadaung, Meiktila, Yenangyaung, Magway, Taungdwingyi, Pakokku, Yesagyo and Pauk, and minor crops are peanuts and green mung beans.

Farmers who lost their sesame harvest this season are depending on the monsoonal rain for their remaining groundnuts, which are to be harvested in the next two months.

“The La Niña will begin in August and it has started in the Pacific [Ocean]. If this La Niña becomes moderately stronger, the entire Indochina region will experience wet and humid climate including Burma so that Burma will get a late rainy season especially storm water”, Dr. Tun Lwin said.

La Niña translates from the Spanish as “The Child Girl” and meteorologically is the opposite of the more well known El Niño. The term La Niña refers to the extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific.

Globally La Niña, in very general terms, will mean that those parts of the world that normally experience dry weather will be drier and those with wet weather will be wetter. Atlantic and Pacific hurricane activity will increase with La Niña and the effects of severe droughts are likely in those already dry parts of the world.

The Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry commissioned a UN food security survey in 11 states and divisions including areas hit by Cyclone Nargis and Chin State. The report said more than five million people in Burma go hungry every day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Queen''s baton rally

Imphal, July 27 (PTI) Manipur hockey Olympian Nilakomol Singh today led Queen''s baton rally flag for commonwealth games 2010 in Manipur leg today.

The rallyists, flagged by Manipur chief minister O Ibobi Singh, marched through all important points of Imphal city before they ended up at Khuman Lampak sports stadium complex.

Official sources said the the flag of the queen''s baton rally would be organised in Mizoram tommorrow.

Cancer hospital to come up in Aizawl

Aizawl, Jul 27 (PTI) Prompted by high incidence of cancer, the Mizoram government today said they are planning to establish a 200-bedded cancer hospital here in the city.The facility is expected to function soon, state health minister Lalrinliana Sailo said.

The cobalt therapy unit installed at the cancer treatment centre at Zemabawk is treating an average of 30 patients a day, but the availability of only one radiotherapy technician has made it impossible to cater the needs of more patients as around 50 patients are usually in the waiting lists.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fake NBFCs defrauding people in Mizoram

AIZAWL, July 19 – There were 21 fake financial institutions in Mizoram having offices in the State capital Aizawl indulging in financial fraud, Chief Secretary Van Hela Pachuau said yesterday.

Such non-banking financial institutions (NBFCs) have cheated the people taking advantage of their ignorance, Pachuau told a seminar of government and police officials on the Regulation of Unauthorised Elements of Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Un-incorporated Bodies (UIBS) in Mizoram.

“Majority of these institutions are from outside the State and we, the Mizo people, help them in their surreptitious intentions due to our greed,” he said.

He urged the law enforcement officials to strictly enforce the laws prohibiting such nefarious activities by unauthorised institutions.

The seminar was jointly organised by the State Finance department and the Reserve Bank of India and attended by RBI officials, top Finance department officials and senior police officers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bharat bandh: Life normal in Mizoram

Aizawl: The country-wide bandh called by the NDA and other opposition parties in protest against hike in oil prices did not have any impact in Mizoram barring cancellation of some Kolkata-Aizawl flights today.

All the government offices, educational institutions and shops remained open and vehicles plied as usual.

However, except for the Air India morning Kolkata-Aizawl and Guwahati-Aizawl flights, Air India Airbus and Kingfisher flights between Kolkata and Aizawl were cancelled, airport sources said.

There is no other national party in the Congress-ruled state.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Conflict and Displacement in Burma

Bertil Lintner
[former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and the author of ten books on ethnicity and politics in Burma and other countries in the region. He is currently with the Asia Pacific Media Services]

Decades of civil war, insurgencies and counterinsurgency campaigns as well as gross economic mismanagement by successive military-controlled regimes have driven millions of people from their homes in Burma, either as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) or as refugees or stateless migrant workers to neighbouring countries. The total number of IDPs is impossible to ascertain, but refugee organisations which are engaged in cross border relief operations on the Thai-Burma frontier believe they number in the hundreds of thousands. On the Thai side of the border, at least 500,000 people are living in refugee camps and less formal, makeshift settlements which resemble squatter villages. Many of them are ethnic Karen, who have fled fighting between ethnic Karen guerrillas and the government’s forces, or ethnic Shan who have escaped to Thailand because of the civil war in their part of the country. Fighting between various separatist rebel movements and the central government broke out shortly after Burma’s independence from Britain in 1948, and is still continuing.

In addition, migrant workers from Burma rank the highest in numbers of human-trafficking victims in Thailand. On June 4 this year, the New Delhi and Kolkata-based Burmese news group Mizzima quoted Sompong Sakaew, director of the Thai NGO the Labour Rights Promotion Network, as saying that 700,000 foreign workers have registered officially with Thai authorities. A recent estimate, however, put the actual number at more than three million, and they are mainly from Burma. Many are employed in Thailand’s fishing industry, on construction sites or as lowly-paid factory workers. Others are street vendors, and many young women are kept in slave-like conditions in Thailand’s many urban and rural brothels. Transnational networks use Burmese children as beggars in the streets of Bangkok — and most of the money they are able to collect ends up in the hands of the criminals, not the children.

There is also an unknown number of mostly ethnic Chin refugees in the north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram. In January 2009, Human Rights Watch released a 104-page report titled “We Are Like Forgotten People: The Chin People of Burma: Unsafe in Burma, Unprotected in India,” which states that “the Chin Population in Mizoram is estimated to be as high as 100,000, about 20 per cent of the total Chin population in [Burma’s] Chin State.” The Chin call themselves Zomi, or Mizo the other way round, and the two peoples are closely related, which often makes it difficult to tell a Burmese Chin from a Mizo from India. But once settled in India, the Chins, or Zomis, nevertheless remain stateless. According to Human Rights Watch, “the Chin face discrimination and threats of forces return by Mizo voluntary associations in collusion with the Mizoram authorities.” Only about 1,800 Chins have made it to New Delhi, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has an office, which makes it possible for them to have their refugee claims decided and be considered for resettlement in third countries.

Human Rights Watch also states that as many as 30,000 Chins have fled to Malaysia hoping to obtain UNHCR recognition — in addition to the tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas who already are there as cheap labour. Even more of Rohingyas, natives of Burma’s Arakan or Rakhine State, are living in south-eastern Bangladesh, in camps or small villages near the border. Both the predominantly Christian Chins and the Muslim Rohingyas complain about religious discrimination in their homeland. They claim they are often driven from their land, and used as forced labour by the Burmese army.

The Rohingyas especially are vulnerable in a predominantly Buddhist country, where they have been made scapegoats for the government’s failed economic policies. Even many pro-democracy activists in Burma refuse to recognise the Rohingyas as an “indigenous people”, claiming they are “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. While the Rohingyas speak the Chittagonian dialect of Bengali, they have been living on what now is the Burmese side of the border for centuries. In Chin State, Christian pastors have been forced to worship in Buddhist temples, and the refugees allege that the authorities are destroying churches, crosses and other religious symbols as well as restricting the printing and importing of Christian bibles and literature.

The number of refugees and migrants from Burma in China is unknown, but there are substantial communities of Burmese of various nationalities living in the south-western province of Yunnan, mainly in border towns such as Ruili, Tengchong, Mangshih and Jinghong. Most of the refugees and migrant workers there are Kachin or Shan, and can quite easily mingle with their ethnic cousins in China, called Jingpo and Dai respectively.

There is no easy solution to Burma’s multitude of refugee problems. Repatriation is not an option as long as the civil war continues in several parts of the country — and, some would argue, as long as the country remains under repressive military rule. A general election, scheduled for this year, is unlikely to change Burma’s military-dominated power structure; rather, the election is designed to legitimise the military’s hold on power, perhaps with a few token civilians in the new national assembly.

Further, Thailand does not recognise people from Burma as refugees but refers to them as “displaced persons”, which makes their situation extremely precarious. India, although reluctantly tolerating the presence of refugees from Burma, has not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, which means that Burmese refugees in India lack basic protection of their rights under international agreements.

In recent years, some Western countries such as the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Finland have accepted substantial numbers or people from the camps in Thailand — and some from India as well — for resettlement in their respective countries. But a lasting solution to the problem cannot be found until and unless there is a meaningful political settlement inside Burma, between the military government and the pro-democracy opposition, and between whatever government is in power and the country’s many ethnic minorities. On the other hand, it is not realistic to expect a solution to any of these problems within the foreseeable future. Burma’s refugee problem is here to stay for many years to come, perhaps even decades.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blood donation marks YMA raising day in CCpur

Churachandpur, June 16 : As part of their 75th years of raising Day ie Platinum Raising Day celebration, the Lamka Branch of the Young Mizo ssociation,YMA, volunteers organised a blood donation camp at Churachandpur district hospital.

The Blood Bank at the district hospital here run out of stock since the past many years and it remain only as a nameshack. The blood donation camp organised by the YMA, CC Pur branch has revived the blood bank.

The YMA has been the first organisations of its kind among the NGO who have donated blood beyond the banks capacity at the hospital which is stated to have been 30 litres capacity sources from the district hospital has said adding altogather 26 males and another 4 females from volunteers of the YMA have donated in todays philnthropic act.

The secretary of the YMA Lamka Branch said to this correspondent the non availabilty of blood at the banks since the past many years has been a cause of concern for them . Which is why we took this decision in favour of donating blood to atleast lessen the difficulty facing the publics and the sick people he said.

The Central Young Mizo Association , CYMA, has celebrated the Platinum over the entire length and breath of Mizoram besides all other parts of the country including Manipur in which the Manipur Group YMA leads in the organisation.

As regards to Lamka it was used as an occassion of constructive interaction through the conduct of Games and sport with other literary items

L Lakhera IAS Commissioner IPR/ YAS has attended todays function as chief guest at the YMA hall and gave away prizes .The day has bee observed as YMA Days by the ZO desscendants.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Junta woos people in Chin state with development work

June 14 : With the general elections in Burma round the corner, the Burmese military junta is going all out to woo the electorate. It is now increasingly getting involved in development work, which it has been ignoring for years. The regime is now constructing bridges, building drains and other public utility services in Hakha town, Chin state western Burma.

“The municipal body has constructed a bridge 20 feet long and 6 feet wide in Nazareth block in Hakha town in early June. The government spent Kyat 20 lakhs for the construction,” said an elder in the town.

Besides, the civic body is building roads and sewerage facilities and carrying out repairs on public utility facilities in the blocks of Kesik, Chin O Si, Pyitawta and Kyawpouh.

Though the public is happy with the work undertaken by the government, they believe that they are being wooed for votes for the forthcoming 2010 general elections.

“We cannot guarantee voting for the political parties backed by the regime though it is good the junta is into developmental works. However, we are afraid it can hinder our freedom later,” a local told Khonumthung News.

A person on condition of anonymity in Chin O Si block also said, “Though it is good for our block but we do not trust the junta. It will exploit us after such work.”

In connection with the development work some people believe that the Chin Tactical Commander Mr. Hung Ngai, who is a Buddhist and had contributed money to three churches in Chin state, is likely wooing people for votes.

The junta has already transformed the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) into a political party to contest the general election in Burma. – Khonumthung News.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

PM’s party appoints Chinese businessman

PM’s party appoints Chinese businessman thumbnail
Burmese PM Thein Sein [right] sits with Wen Jiaboa (Reuters)
Published: 10 June 2010
The party headed by Burma’s current prime minister, Thein Sein, has appointed a Chinese businessman with close ties to the ruling junta as an election candidate in the country’s northern Kachin state.
The man, known only as Yawmo, is from China’s southern Yunnan province and, according to a local in Kachin state’s Bhamo, is “business partners” with the Burmese government. He will run for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Momauk town, about 30 kilometres from the China border.
“He is Miao [ethnic Chinese minority group] from Yunnan province,” said the local. “He came and settled in Momauk in 1990 and later moved to Hpakant [a jade mining town] where his brothers-in-law already live.”
Election laws announced in February ban foreigners, and spouses of foreigners, from participating. This factor played a key role in forcing the party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was married to UK-born Michael Aris, to boycott the polls.
But numbers of influential Chinese businessmen close to the government are known to buy Burmese passports and ID cards. Burma has become heavily reliant on China as one of the junta’s principal economic allies; a visit to Naypyidaw by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao last week saw the two countries sign some 15 trade deals.
Burma’s economy has also undergone a significant revamp in recent months, with the government selling off swathes of previously state-owned industry to private businesses, many of whom have close ties to the Burmese junta. It is unclear to what extent Chinese businesses have benefitted from this, but analysts believe that Chinese investment in Burma, at both an entrepreneurial and state level, will continue to rise as Burma’s markets open up.
Many of Burma’s wealthy Chinese elites, including Yawmo, made their fortunes in the country’s lucrative jade mining industry, which is predominantly focused in the north, before moving to Mandalay in central Burma. Now Burma’s second city has an estimated Chinese population of up to 40 percent.
Another USDP candidate in Kachin state has been named as Htun Htun, a Burmese-born entrepreneur who also became rich through jade mining. The choice of candidates by the USDP, which is widely tipped to win what critics deride as a sham election, appears to validate suggestions that businessmen with close ties to the ruling junta will play key roles in the post-election government.
Moreover, the USDP has begun unofficially campaigning in several states and divisions around Burma while the 35 or so other registered parties must wait for official approval from the government before they can begin canvassing.
Ward officials in towns around Kachin and Chin state have reportedly been told by the USDP, which is believed to be an offshoot of the government-proxy organisation, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), to recruit at least 10 percent of voters as party members.
“They are persuading people that they will get privileges for businesses and travelling – they will be prioritised when buying train, buses and air tickets,” said the Kachin local. “They said that even if a party member breaks the law and gets into trouble, senior authorities can speak in his or her favour and soften [the punishment].”

Arakanese allege bias at UN Malaysia refugee office

New Delhi (Mizzima) – More than 50 Arakanese held a protest outside the UN refugee organisation’s office in the Malaysian capital on Monday, alleging its discrimination against the Burmese ethnic group. 

The demonstrators at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Kuala Lumpur called for the office to recognise the more than 10,000 Arakanese in Malaysia as legitimate refugees and supply aid to those in immigration detention camps. They also sought an Arakanese translator at the office.

A day after the protest, the UNHCR reported on its website’s news section that it had recently flown 38 ethnic Kachin Burmese refugees from Malaysia to Romania.

Meanwhile,  the New Straits Times reported on Monday that Saturday night’s three-hour riot at an immigration detention camp in Ajil, in the eastern peninsula state of Terengganu was sparked by a fight between two groups of Vietnamese and Burmese detainees, immigration officials told the newspaper on Sunday. 

But state police chief Shukri Dahlan reportedly said that almost 200 men from Vietnam and Burma “turned aggressive after what they claimed was mistreatment at the camp”, the paper reported, without details of the abuses.  

The 1951 Refugee Convention is “the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states”, according to the UN. 

Article 1 of the convention says a refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…”

Min Min Htun, one of the leaders of the protest outside the UNHCR offices,  told Mizzima: “The UNHCR office in Malaysia has recognised other ethnic people from Burma as refugees but the Arakanese people are being discriminated against … that’s why we are … [here today].

“Moreover, the Arakanese people who have been in detention camps have been ignored by the UNHCR,” he said. “And no Arakanese translator was appointed in the UNHCR office, so we [also] have language barriers to deal with.”

The protesters submitted a letter to the office and UN staff promised to consider their demands “as soon as possible”. 

Between 2004 and 2008, Arakanese people had been recognised as refugees but since that period their right to apply for refugee status had been denied, according to the demonstrators.

Just 1,700 of the 15,000 Arakanese in Malaysia have been registered as asylum-seekers (UN definition: a person who has left their country of origin, has applied for recognition as a refugee in another country, and is awaiting a decision on their application) by the UNHCR Malaysia office, and 250 have been resettled in safe third countries, the Arakan Refugee Relief Committee, based in Kuala Lumpur, said. Around 300 Arakanese are in detention camps around Malaysia.

Tun Win Nyunt, a Burmese human rights activist in Malaysia, also accused the UN of bias in dealing with the ethnic group. 

“We don’t have even the right to apply for refugee status, so we asked the office [why],” he said. “Their answer is … because we have Burmese passports and we can go back to Burma … Their answer is very general [vague].”

A Chin Refugee Committee (Malaysia) spokesman said: “We [too] have noticed that Burmese and Arakanese people are not being recognised as refugees, but I don’t know the reason.”

Mizzima phoned UNHCR Malaysia but its spokeswoman Yante Ismail was unable to provide answers, citing a lack of detailed knowledge of the situation. 

However, the UNHCR yesterday reported in its website’s news section that on May 31 and June 1 a group of 38 Burmese refugees, all ethnic Kachin, had been flown to Bucharest, Romania from Malaysia in a resettlement organised with the Romanian immigration department and Red Cross.

Romania had become one of the few countries in the world to accept refugees for resettlement, it said. 

“The refugees, including eight children, flew to Bucharest from Malaysia on May 31 and June 1 under legislation adopted by Romania in December 2008,” the report said. “This provides for Romania to accept up to 40 refugees for resettlement each year.”

In the report, UNHCR officer in Romania Machiel Salomons said it had been forced to enhance its resettlement efforts, adding that “Romania’s contribution in this regard is both timely and very much appreciated.”

The Kachin group were staying at the Regional Centre for Accommodation and Asylum Procedures in Galati, a city in eastern Romania, run by the Romanian Immigration Office, the UN said.

“Romania also hosts a landmark Emergency Transit Centre, which was opened in the city of Timisoara in late 2008 to provide a temporary haven for refugees in urgent need of evacuation from their first asylum countries due to life-threatening conditions,” the report said. “More than 600 refugees have transited the centre.” 

Of the 87,700 refugees or asylum-seekers registered with the UN in Malaysia, 81,200 are from Burma, comprising some 39,100 Chins, 18,800 Rohingya, 5,900 Burmese Muslims, 3,800 Mon, 3,600 Kachin, and the remaining are other ethnic minorities from Burma, according to the website of the UNHCR Malaysia.

Other refugees were from Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 70 per cent of refugees or asylum-seekers were men, while 30 per cent were women, the website said. There were some 19,000 children aged less than 18. 

Malaysia refused to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention. That refusal and the lack of legislation ratifying the convention of the kind adopted by Romania in 2008 means that the country arrests and jails refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people. Illegal migrant workers have also been detained.  

The junta’s confiscation of lands, recruitment of child soldiers, rape carried out by its army, forced labour, forced relocation, brutal repression of dissent and ethnic minority rights, unjust laws, inadequate infrastructure and abysmal health care are just some of the many reasons that thousands of Burmese people have fled to neighbouring or regional countries for asylum or just a livelihood.