KAOWAO NEWS NO. 122
Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
December 25, 2006, January 13, 2007
Mon woman leader almost loses job over slow mail service
Long wait in store for new refugees
Ethnic leader awarded Martin Luther King Prize
Rising fuel price after border tension
China, Russia Veto Myanmar Resolution
Murder of new abbot shocks Mon refugee community
Burma Army confiscates land, farmers pay to work it
New Year's Eve Bombs Kill 2 in Bangkok
A New Year and an old system: By Banya Hongsar
The people of Burma: By Roland Watson
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Mon woman leader almost loses job over slow mail service
Kaowao: January 13, 2007
Ms. Mi Sardar is back on the political stage after being suspended from her post as head of the Mon National Education Department.
The woman leader was suspended from her post for not having sought approval from senior members of the New Mon State Party to buy land for a Mon national school. The land is located near Beeree camp and cost 20 million Kyats.
However, according to the local source, Ms Sardar had indeed sought approval in a letter she mailed to the head office, but the letter failed to reach the office in time before her purchase of the land. When NMSP heard she bought the land, they suspended her. But upon arrival of the letter the incident was sorted out and Ms. Sardar was reinstated.
Mi Sardar graduated from Moulmein University and joined the NMSP in 1992. She is the Head of Mon National Education Department (MNED) and Chairperson of Mon Women Organization (MWO).
She was elected as a Central Committee member in January 2006, the first woman to be elected to the post of the NMSP.
The Mon Education under the MNEC is well established and supervises a massive school administration system in the strong hold areas with a staff of about a thousand teachers and a student body of over 50,000 students. The schools are self-supported by the local Mon communities and teachers are appointed on a voluntary basis.
The MNEC provides basic stipends to over one hundred schools in Mon State , Karen State and Tenasserim Division as well.
Long wait in store for new refugees
Kaowao: January 8, 2007
Sangkhalaburi -- Burmese refugees at Ban Don Yang bound for resettlement in third countries are still in limbo and may have to wait up to a year to be resettled, according to local sources.
According to Nai Thow, about 400 refugees entered the camp and over 200 were resettled in the third countries. Now there are over 600 refugees waiting to resettle in the third countries. They are categorized as persons of concerned (POC) recognized by the UNHCR and those recognized by Thai Provincial Administration Board (PAB). Most of the 400 asylum seekers recognized by the PAB are Karen. The remaining PAB are composed of about 150 Mon, Tavoyan, and Burman who fled from forced voluntary labour and other human rights abuses imposed by the Burmese government over the past years. They were relocated by the Thai government at Ban Don Yang refugee camp with another 4000 Karen refugees from Burma .
Nai Pagoh, a Mon refugee with his spouse and two children have been waiting for 2 years; they were interviewed after being promised a slot to be resettled in the USA . But after 9-11, the United States clamped down on immigration that had previously accepted a steady flow of refugees. He is worried now that his family may need to go for another medical check up since the waiting time is too long. Recently, they were given the green light to resettle in the Netherlands with other refugee families by March.
The refugees recognized by the UNHCR will be leaving for third countries, mostly to the Netherlands and the new refugees recognized by the Thai Provincial Administration Board (PAB) will be stuck in limbo.
Nai Chit, another UNHCR recognized refugee with his family, said he had no idea when he would have an interview. His previous application to England was rejected and is now waiting to apply to Australia or another country.
The Thai government is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and hundreds of thousands of refugees from Burma who fled to neighbouring countries in search of asylum must endure a long waiting process. Most refugees in Thailand are living outside the camps, without access to any formal assistance and protection while over 150,000 refugees are staying in nine camps along the border. In contravention of the international obligation of non-refoulement, thousands are arrested, deported against their will or face harassment by Thai authorities.
Ethnic leader awarded Martin Luther King Prize
(Kaowao: January 10, 2007)
The General Secretary of Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong has been awarded the Martin Luther King Prize for 2007 in Sweden.
“I am extremely happy to have this award not only for myself but also for the movement”, said Dr. Sakhong over the phone. The prize awarding ceremony will be held in the Swedish parliament on January 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King.
According to the Awards committee, Dr. Sakhong is the third recipient of the Martin Luther King-Prize; the first King Prize was handed out on 15th January 2005. He will give a peace lecture entitled “A STRUGGLE TO BE AN AUTHENTIC HUMAN BEING AGAIN” at the official ceremony.
The Martin Luther King Prize was established in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his contribution for peace and harmony among humanity regardless of race by the Swedish based global peace groups including the Baptist Union of Sweden, Christian Initiative for Peace (Peace Initiative), Christian Association for Combat to Racism, and Afro-Swedish Association in 2003.
Dr. Sakhong is General Secretary of United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD), a coalition of political parties formed by the ethnic nationalities of Burma . Following the students led uprising in 1988, he then fled from Burma and resettled in Sweden in 1991.
Dr. Sakhong, along with the ethnic leaders, the late Dr. Chao Tzang Yawnghwe and Harn Yawnghwe founded the National Reconciliation Program (NRP), and initiated the drafting of the State Constitution for a future Federal Union of Burma. Dr. Sakhong published numerous articles on Chin history, traditions, and politics of Burma, including his Ph.D. dissertation: Religion and Politics among the Chin People in Burma (Uppsala University, 2000) and his book, In Search of Chin Identity: A Study in Religion, Politics and Ethnic Identity in Burma (Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2003).
Mon representatives of the Forum for Ethnic Nationalities of the Union of Burma, North America also sent a congratulation letter to Dr. Lian H Sakhong for his winning the 2007 Martin Luther King prize in Sweden.
“We, Mon representatives, are very proud of Dr. Sakhong and of the great honor he has brought to the ENC and to all ethnic nationalities. We also honor his struggle to bring peace, justice, and liberty to all of us and to establish a genuine Federal Union of Burma,” said Nanda Suraman of Monland Restoration Council leader based in the USA.
Rising fuel price after border tension
(Kaowao: January 9, 2007)
The price of gasoline has gone up due to tension between the Burmese and Thai authorities on the Thai Burma border town according to the business community.
The Thai and Burmese relations soured after the Burma Army sent bulldozer trucks to repair a road claimed by Burma that the Thai Army disputes and are now seeking clarification from their senior officers according to a local businessman.
Nai Pan Ong reported that the relationship between the two sides has been tense after a Thai soldier shot a Burmese villager near to Three Pagodas Pass. The victim from the Burma side was cutting trees along the border area.
“Even though a formal border closure announcement has not been made, the people and their goods at the gates are thoroughly checked and the Thai in retaliation of the claimed road put a prohibition on the export of diesel into Burma four days ago. As a result, the price of gasoline has gone up causing a problem for local motorcyclists and vehicle owners,” said Nai Mya a town resident.
"It is very difficult for us to do business. Vehicle owners have to raise their prices on all goods and merchandise is getting expensive,” said a villager from Palaing Japan.
The business communities on the Thai-Burma border area have been negatively affected in previous years due to unstable relations between the two governments.
China, Russia Veto Myanmar Resolution
By EDITH M. LEDERER, AP: January 12, 2007
UNITED NATIONS - China and Russia blocked the Security Council from demanding an end to political repression and human rights violations in military-ruled Myanmar , rejecting a resolution proposed by the United States.
The vote was 9-3 in favor of the resolution, with South Africa joining China and Russia in the opposition. Indonesia , Qatar and the Republic of Congo abstained. While they were in the minority, China and Russia were able to kill the resolution because they have veto power as permanent members of the council.
The two argued that the U.N.'s most powerful body was not the proper forum for discussing the Southeast Asian nation because the country doesn't threaten international peace. China and Russia both have human rights records that have frequently been criticized.
Myanmar 's U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe thanked China and Russia and the countries that abstained. Had the resolution been adopted "it would have created a dangerous precedent," he said.
Multiple vetoes in the Security Council are rare, raising questions about unity in the months ahead when the council will have to deal with difficult issues including Sudan 's conflict-wracked Darfur region and the follow-up to sanctions against North Korea and Iran.
Myanmar 's junta took power in 1988 after crushing the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for much of the last 18 years. Hundreds of her supporters remain in prison.
"This resolution would have been a strong and urgently needed statement by the Security Council about the need for change in Burma ," said Acting U.S. ambassador Alejandro Wolff, using Myanmar 's former name.
Still, he said, "the people of Burma should not be disheartened" because the vote reflected differences over the Security Council's jurisdiction, not about their plight.
All 15 council members "recognize that there are problems in the areas of human rights, social issues, political freedom," he said.
The last multiple veto was in 1989 by the U.S. , Britain and France on a Panama resolution and the last double veto by China and the former Soviet Union was on a 1972 Mideast resolution.
"We find that attempts aimed at using the Security Council to discuss issues outside its view are unacceptable," Russia 's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, noting that problems in Myanmar were being addressed by other U.N. bodies.
China 's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he voted against the resolution for the same reason. The veto was only China 's fourth, and Wang expressed regret, saying it was clear Myanmar was not moving quickly enough to promote stability.
He urged the military regime to move toward "inclusive democracy" and "speed up the process of dialogue and reform."
Though he abstained, Indonesia 's ambassador, Rezlan Jenie, was highly critical of Myanmar , a fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN has tried to restore democracy in Myanmar , he said, but there has been no progress on the ground.
" Myanmar must respond to the imperative of restoring democracy and improving human rights," Jenie said. "We will do everything in our power ... to bring about positive change in Myanmar ."
Wolff said the U.S. aim was to put the situation in Myanmar in the global spotlight and to support its people.
He accused Myanmar 's military regime of carrying out arbitrary arrests, torture, rapes and executions, of waging war on minorities and building news cities while refugees flee the country, "narcotics and human trafficking grow, and communicable diseases remain untreated."
The United States views these actions as "contemporary threats that the council and the international community needs to address before they become imminent ... threats to international peace and security," he said.
Along with the U.S. , Britain , France , Slovakia , Peru , Ghana , Belgium , Italy and Panama all supported the resolution.
Britain 's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who co-sponsored the resolution, said his government wants to see a strengthened relationship between the United Nations and Myanmar to reduce poverty and promote development, and to establish democratic institutions, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Murder of new abbot shocks Mon refugee community
Kaowao: January 7, 2007
Sangkhalaburi -- Waengka Mon community on the Thai Burma border, once known as a peaceful haven, is shocked after the murder of its new abbot who succeeded Rev. Ajar Uttama.
The new abbot, Rev. Sandimar aged 69 was shot buy a gunman in Wat Viwaekaram Temple at about 5:30 p.m local time on December 29 and pronounced dead on arrival at the Sangkhalaburi Hospital of Karnchanaburi Province, Thailand. He was a long time follower of Rev Uttama and in charge of the temple since the sickness of Ajar Uttama. The local source believes that the assassination plot is a result of conflict among devotees of Rev. Uttama.
Authorities of the New Mon State Party later arrested Nai Parnee (age 41), a native of Wae Janok village of Ye, at the Three Pagodas Pass border town on December 31 while the fugitive was on the run to Burma.
According to Nai Tun Lwin, officer of the NMSP, the fugitive said Nai Aung Nyein, Nai Win Mon, Nai Nit, Ah Bae and a monk are involved in the assassination of new abbot Rev. Sandimar. All suspects are Waengka villagers and the native of the late Rev. Uttama, Mawkanin Village.
Hong Mon of Waengka village said the whole village is shocked about the tragic news and it is a shame for devotees still mourning the death of Ajar Tala Uttama who passed away in October. The villagers are now also concerned about their security and their status living on the Thai-Burma border.
The Waengka Mon village was crowded with devotees from Thailand and Burma who came to pay their respects in a final tribute recently in early December. However, the murder of the new abbot has the local Mon community on edge, most of whom are refugees, and wonder whether they may have a peaceful life ahead of them or not after the loss of their protector, Rev. Uttama.
The Thai and Mon authorities are investigating Nai Parnee and searching for the prime suspects who escaped from the village.
New Year's Eve Bombs Kill 2 in Bangkok
By DENIS D. GRAY, AP: January 1, 2007
BANGKOK, Thailand - Nine bombs exploded across Bangkok as the Thai capital celebrated the New Year, killing two people and driving thousands of revelers home as the city canceled its countdown festivities.
The bombings late Sunday and early Monday capped a year of unrest in Thailand , including a military coup three months ago and an increasingly violent Muslim insurgency in the south.
Six near-simultaneous explosions Sunday night killed two people and injured 26.
Hours later, near the same shopping complex where thousands of people had planned to count down the New Year, three blasts minutes after midnight wounded eight people, including a foreigner who was rushed to the hospital after her legs were blown off, the iTV television station reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
National police chief Gen. Ajirawit Suphanaphesat said he did not believe insurgents were behind the attacks in Bangkok , a major international banking and technology hub for Asia.
Bangkok Mayor Apirak Kosayothin ordered the cancellation of the two major public New Year's Eve countdown celebrations and other smaller ones.
"Due to several bomb explosions in Bangkok and for the sake of peace and security, I would ask all of you to return to your homes now," Apirak told some 5,000 revelers at the downtown Central World Plaza shopping mall, hours before the second set of explosions went off in the area. The crowd dispersed quickly but calmly.
Police and soldiers fanned out across Bangkok to guard entertainment venues and important sites. Roadblocks went up in some places.
Several embassies issued warnings on their Web sites to avoid Bangkok 's city center. The British Embassy urged its citizens "not to travel into the city until further notice."
Bomb attacks are rare in the Thai capital. Several small bombs exploded during the recent political turmoil but they were apparently set to create unrest rather than cause casualties.
"No, I'm not scared. I'm from England . There are bomb scares all the time," said Keith Waters, who had hoped to celebrate the first New Year's with his Thai bride.
In Bangkok , some fast food outlets closed early. Hotels stepped up security, searching cars on their premises, and some canceled their expensive New Year's Eve dinners. Major public celebrations were also canceled in the northern city of Chiang Mai.
"I heard a loud explosion and I thought it was fireworks. I ran there and saw a bleeding woman at the bus stop," Somrak Manphothong, a receptionist at the Saxophone bar along a busy traffic circle near the Victory Monument, where one of the initial six bombs went off. "Another guy was lying on the floor, covered with blood, and his wife was shaking his body."
At a vegetable market in the Klong Toey slum, where another bomb went off, a pool of blood and egg yolks covered the roadside next to an overturned motorcycle.
But festivities continued in some areas of Bangkok , including the city's most famous red light district, Patpong Road , where hundreds of foreign tourists carried on celebrating. And at midnight, fireworks lit up the sky in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with many residents still gathered in the streets of both cities.
In September, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a bloodless coup by Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin. The military installed Surayud as the interim prime minister until elections in October 2007.
But Thaksin still enjoys widespread support and a number of arson attacks in provincial areas have been blamed on his followers.
"There are two potential suspects, Muslim insurgents and Thaksin's residual power. I tend to think it's residual power. I suspect the previous regime," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.
Bombings and shootings occur almost daily in Thailand 's three southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, where an Islamic insurgency that flared in January 2004 has killed more than 1,900 people.
Muslims make up the majority in overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand's deep south, where they have long complained of discrimination.
The insurgents have carried out numerous attacks in the south, but are not known to have launched any in Bangkok.
A New Year and An Old System: Opinion on Burma’s Political Change
(By Banya Hongsar, Canberra)
A 13-year-long business on drafting a new constitution is an ongoing game in moving toward democracy in Burma . It was a promise made by the Burma ’s military leaders after the nullification of Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party when they were voted to lead the country. The old military leaders have been replaced by the new, but the structure of the old boy power system remains, unchanging and unyielding to the opposition forces both inside and outside the country.
Much like army ants on the move in relocating their nest, in 2006 the Burmese junta moved a new capital and a new authority came into being. The National League for Democracy, plus 17 cease-fire organizations, banned political parties, and the exile based politicians have attempted to solve the political deadlock by all means possible, but the senior military authority have not accepted any democratic proposals.
The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) have been on target in signing ceasefire agreements. The military government persuaded the remaining armed organizations like the Karen National Union and its arms wing, the Karen National Liberation Army to an informal cease-fire agreement in line with the other organizations like the New Mon State Party and the Kachin Independent Organization. On January 3, a delegate of the 7th Brigades Commander led by Brig-Gen Htain Maung called a meeting with the delegates of the military authority led by Col. Myat Tun Oo. The remaining KNU leaders distanced themselves from this meeting and a new political challenger has emerged within the organization.
Has there been any change of Burma ’s political system since the cease-fire talks with the armed organizations?
The smaller armed organizations have agreed since 1994 to a cease-fire but the opposition party led by National League for Democracy has been denied political or even social activities including visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda for religious purposes. The General Secretary Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and its nation wide members are blocked to hold any kind of informal meetings or any public gatherings. The leaders of the 17 plus cease-fire organizations have not made any public statement on the arrest of students’ leaders during the New Year.
The students and local civilian politicians are jailed from time to time but no single leader from the cease-fire organizations have been arrested for political activities. Furthermore, over the past ten years, no genuine political talks or meetings of any kind by the cease-fire leaders and civilian political leaders have taken place in the public to discuss the political issues of the country. The people who are supposed to lead our country into the 21st century have grown mute, while others have taken up the challenge. Everything community oriented to solve problems is done away from the public eye, behind closed doors. The behaviour of the army ants is a good analogy; a new generation of political forces are on the march.
A promising development is the nationwide ‘White Expression’ campaign for the release of political prisoners. Protestors wore white in solidarity and gathered over 100,000 signatures with that much more in so many days. Other peaceful solo protests are on the rise and it clearly demonstrates that the spirit of fighting for democracy and human rights by civilians is very much alive and shows the world that Burma’s people are clearly on the right path and motivated to take part in changing their political system, contrary to what Asian political analysts’ have been saying that the country is devoid of a political will.
Over the past 18 years, after the 1988 national uprising, the non-Burman ethnic armed leaders played an insignificant role in pressuring the SPDC for further political change. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s famous speech comes to mind when I think of the actions of the ethnic armed leaders: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” And within a climate of unregulation and fear, the cease-fire groups are weakening due to its corrupt business practices and trade along the common Burma border.
In the case of the Mon, the cease-fire agreement in 1995 took place with nothing seen on the political horizon by the New Mon State Party. All Mon living in the major cities that have been pushed off their land or denied jobs by the Burman majority and especially those living in the remote areas who endure a much greater hardship at the hands of the Burmese military all have been waiting for decades for some substantial change to take place by their political leaders.
The pressure by the western countries in particular the US is seen as a victory for freedom for the hopeless political forces including the cease-fire organizations. However, on the other side, the ongoing disunity among the local and national political ethnic leaders is a silent victory for the SPDC in controlling the emerging political forces.
The 17 plus cease-fire organizations, the remaining ethnic armed groups, the National League for Democracy and the SPDC top leaders have to come up with an affirmative statement to the 50 million people of Burma that a transition government will be formed with equal representation of all stakeholders within 3 years. An equal representation in the new transitional authority will oversee the steps for a democracy proposed by all stakeholders in 2 years after it legally takes over the government.
For the interests of the people, Burma has to end its civil war and engage all levels of society. A legal team is required to support the role of a transitional government in conducting national reconciliation and to preside over a hearing on past injustices. This of course will gain momentum if the international community continues to pressure the Burmese military to change its ways of doing politics. Both forces on the outside and inside have to act in unison to force positive change in the country.
The cease-fire agreement tactic was a move forward to build trust among enemies but the role of civilian participation is a far more crucial factor in introducing the concept of democracy and human rights. The system of the government will not change overnight but the participation of the local community in social and political dialogue is a step in the right direction that guarantees equality and fairness, not just for individual human rights, but also for the groups’ rights of the ethnic nationalities. This was the aspiration of the Panglong agreement signed many decades ago by the founders of democracy in our country lead by General Aung San.
Burma will change if all leaders, both from the SPDC and non-SPDC political forces including the ethnic armed organizations are sincere to the nation.
If Burma continues to live like a nation frozen in time for the next 10 years, millions of children, women, and men will continue to suffer from poor health and education. Massive displacement, forced labour, and low intensity war will to take its toll on the people and refugees will continue to fill up camps along the border area.
Let this be a liberation century for the downtrodden. The people elected the government of Burma and the army has no legal power to topple the government. The Federal Union will be established after a proper referendum supported by the unity of all 17 plus ethnic groups and all the people of Burma.
Hongsar is a freelance writer in Mon politics and he is a member of Kaowao Team.
THE PEOPLE OF BURMA
Roland Watson: January 2007
2006 was not the year for freedom in Burma. There were significant opportunities, but they were not realized. There was momentum for change, but it wasn't enough. The tipping point remains beyond our grasp.
There was positive action both inside and outside the country. However, there is still a disproportionate focus on international assistance.
Freedom will come from – it will be won by – the people of Burma. International support will help, the pro-democracy movement actually deserves far greater assistance that it receives, but the real agent for change will be the Burmese public.
In every society on earth, power lies with the people. In many, it has been delegated via democratic systems to elected leaders. In others, though, the people have allowed their power to be expropriated by individuals or small groups and then turned against them. The public still has the power, but it has been deceived to believe that it does not.
If you are the subject of a dictatorship, freedom is first and foremost your responsibility. Then, when it is won, the credit is yours. You are not in a position where you have to accept that you have been saved; where you have to concede that you couldn't do it on your own and that you needed someone more able and more powerful to intervene. You are therefore also not in a position where you have residual doubt and insecurity, and obligations, as you confront the next big step, that of fashioning a workable democratic system.
As this suggests, Iraq is an example of what the people of Burma want to avoid.
The question, then, is what will it take to get the people of the country moving, so that they demand their freedom and do not relent until it is achieved? Said another way, why aren't they making this demand right now?
Many theories have been proposed, including inadequate leadership, and also a messiah complex. But this raises the question, how can any leader live up to the role of messiah?
Another explanation is that the conditions in Burma simply aren't bad enough. People rise up when their survival is at stake, when they will die if they do not fight back. In the ethnic minority areas of the country, conditions are this bad, so the people there do fight back. They are just not strong enough to win.
In the cities and towns in Burma's center, however, one's life is generally not on the line. Certainly, everyone – except the select few, those people connected to the SPDC and also Chinese merchants – hates things as they are, but since they are not actually starving to death, or being shot at by Burma Army soldiers, they do not rise up. (I do not mean to imply that I want things to get worse.)
For example, the signature/White Expression campaign and now the Open Heart initiative are fantastic projects, but in a way they also illustrate my point. You sign petitions and write letters when you are unhappy. You fight back – you launch a revolution – when your conditions are unbearable. These campaigns are a good start, but they are not revolutionary acts. The question is, when, and how, will the new Burmese popular revolution begin?
(The huge number of migrant workers from the country, many of whom send money home, also relieves pressure.)
All of this reflects a careful strategy on the part of Than Shwe, and Ne Win before him. Moreover, it is a continuation of the nine hundred year old policy of the Burmese kings. Slaughter the ethnic groups, the Karen and the Karenni and the Shan now, and the Mon and the Arakan before them, but for your own people, oppress them, even brutalize them, but don't quite push them over the edge into open revolt. However, if some of your own people do object, then imprison, torture and kill them as well.
Some people romanticize the kings of Burma, and talk of glories past. I doubt, though, that they would prefer to live during those times. Conquest and oppression is the same in any age; it is armed robbery and mass murder and dictatorship. It is unacceptable now, and it was unacceptable then.
When the Burmese kings raised an army they would forcibly recruit soldiers, just as the SPDC does now. And they would keep the soldiers' wives hostage, and then kill them if the soldiers deserted.
The psychologist Carl Jung explored the idea of a culture's collective unconscious. This is composed of the beliefs and traditions that are so ingrained that they go unrecognized. In recent years people subject to political dictatorship in many countries around the world have revolted and won their freedom. My theory is that the people of Burma are being held back by a nine hundred year old collective unconscious belief that they are and always will be imperial subjects: that they are powerless to change this and that their only option therefore is to try to make the best of it.
I of course could be wrong, but if I am what's the alternative?
Than Shwe and his gang also benefit from the financial, military and diplomatic support of China, Russia, Japan , India, Asean, and multinational corporations.
It is here that the International Community can be of most use, by ending this support.
Even with such backing, though, the people of Burma are still strong enough to win their freedom. They need only wake up to this fact, that they do have the power.
Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Burma Army confiscates land, farmers pay to work it
Kaowao: December 25, 2006
Ye -- The Burma Army demands money from farmers who want to work on confiscated land once belonging to them.
According to a local farmer from Sonnathar (Jomsai) of Ye Township, Burma Army’s Light Infantry Battalion No. 586 demands money from farmers who want to harvest rubber plants that once belonged to them. Farmers are normally ordered to provide up to 25% of their harvest to the BA. For 2007, they are required to pay 650 Kyats per plant and the price will go up in the coming year.
The LIB No. 586 confiscated over 300 acres of lands belonging to Thu-myaing and Sonnathar villagers of Ye to build military battalions and for the expansion of troop deployments in 2002. According to the Burmese Army they have the right to confiscate land for national security purposes under the national security act and the farmers as a result are not compensated. “This land is for troop deployment now,” said one military commander after he confiscated hundreds of acres in 2001 according to said purpose.
However, the reasons for the confiscation not only include the building of battalions, but also for settlement expansion of the Burman population, to push back rebels to the border, and to keep the NMSP to at bay if they wish to resume fighting again.
According to Human Rights Foundation of Monland based in Sangkhalaburi , Thailand Burma border, land confiscation in Mon State began in 1997 under the direction of township authorities and military battalions. Since the beginning of 1998, the Burmese army has confiscated up to 8,000 acres of prime agriculture land, which also includes orchards, rubber plantations, salt productions fields, and pasture lands. The army, police, and township authorities also confiscate land from farmers who cannot afford to pay heavy taxes imposed by the Burmese government.
Land confiscation has a devastating impact on the lives of Mon farmers, who suffer from economic depravation and human rights abuses with the presence of soldiers. Farmers must apply for permission to work on their own land in the form of recommendation letters acquired through bribery from the village headman. Once land is confiscated the BA removes all fruits and vegetables for themselves and their families. At the present time, rubber latex is being tapped en masse by the army which is fetching a good price on the market, and now thousands of farmers without land, in addition to their hired labourers, will face devastating consequences and their ability to survive through the dry season, when they have little or no other income.
Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 586 led by Colonel Ngwe Soe was infamous in the southern Ye area for his brutality. In 2004, he executed over ten villagers suspected of being connected to Mon rebel-supporters, with many being tortured or either restricted in their daily movements or forcibly displaced during Burmese military operations against Mon guerrillas led by the Hongsawatoi Restoration Party.
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