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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

KAOWAO NEWS NO. 112

Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
June 16 - July 3, 2006

Readers’ Front

World Cup gambling enthusiasts undaunted by threats of arrest 

Malaria on the rise in Three Pagodas Pass

Barriers to education for poor families in Southern Burma

Villagers forced to guard MOGE gas pipeline

Canadian lawmakers call for UNSC action on Burma

World Cup 2006: Burma under their feet

Open and close door policy on a Free Market Economy

Are the Asians morally inferior than the West?

Population transfer threatens Mon community

Discussion on Population Transfer


Readers’ front

Dear readers,

We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kaowao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kaowao News will continue to grow to serve better the needs of those seeking social justice in Burma. And we hope that it will become an important forum for discussion and debate and help readers to keep abreast of issues and news.  We reserve the right to edit and reject articles without prior notification. You can use a pseudonym but we encourage you to include your full name and address.

Regards,

Editor

Kaowao News

kaowao@hotmail.com, www.kaowao.org


World Cup gambling enthusiasts undaunted by threats of arrest 

(Kaowao, July 3, 2006)

People betting on the World Cup Soccer matches in Mon State can do so only if they are university students or successful at paying bribes to the local police, according to residents.

Police Major Hla Than of Thanbyu Zayut Town raided the houses which hosted the soccer gambling at the beginning of the World Cup, but ended up accepting bribes for 50,000 Kyats from the small dealers and 100,000 Kyats from the big dealers, reported Nai Ban from the town.

In Moulmein, the capital city of Mon State, there is no report on betting since the local authority warned the gamblers will be arrested, with satellite owners serving up to three years in jail and having their satellite dish confiscated.  However, the Moulmein University students can watch and bet on the games because authorities do not want to provoke a student riot, said a second year university student.

Million of Kyats were bet in Thanbyu Zayat and Ye Townships. Most gambling enthusiasts are male from 16 to 50 years old. 

As Thailand prohibits gambling, people from the Thai side cross the Three Pagodas Pass border to bet on the game inside Burma.  The main gambling venue at the Thai Burma border town is hosted by a member of the cease-fire group, the DKBA, a huge amount of money is betted during the World Cup with many losing their life’s savings.


Malaria on the rise in Three Pagodas Pass

(Kaowao: July 3, 2006)

Two third of patients along the Sangkhalaburi Thai Burma border are suffering from malaria during this raining season, according to medical workers.

Many refugees and internally displaced persons including New Mon State Party leaders have contracted malaria," said a medic from the Halockhanee Mon resettlement camp.

“About 65 per cent of 700 patients in the Arrowjan Hospital, Wine and Jaytanar Clinics have malaria.  The PF and PV malaria diseases are common in this area.  The PF is the most dangerous and is difficult to recover from.  Patients who suffer from malaria are mostly children and women,” he added.

“Because of mosquitoes that thrive in this region during the rainy season, a high number of people crossing the border, the lack of mosquito nets and proper anti-malarial drugs, there have been more patients than in previous years.  When Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was in this area, malaria treatment was much better,” commented a social worker from Waeng Ka Mon village. They could get access to people inside Burma heading to the border.

Following the withdrawal of the MSF, Mon medical workers working in refugee camps and rural areas in Tavoy, Yebyu, Ye and Three Pagoda Townships face difficulties due to lack of support and technical assistance.  They are worried that they will not have enough medicine to treat the high number of patients and the incidence of malaria will increase as a result. The MSF provided treatment for the Mon refugees in southern Burma, but stopped its operation in March of this year due to restrictions imposed by the Burmese authorities. MSF had been working on the Thai Burma border since 2001.

The malaria warning was issued to tourists planning to visit the Burmese-Thai border area near Mae Sot in Thailand’s Tak province.


Barriers to education for poor families in Southern Burma

(Kaowao: June 26, 2006)

Even with the support of the Total Oil Company, school tuition fees around the Yadana gas pipeline have increased with families having difficulties paying for their children’s education.

Nai Ong from northern Yebyu reported that higher tuition fees were introduced for the school year 2006-7 at 13 villages around the Yadana pipeline area in Kanbauk, Klein Aung and Yebyu Townships. 

The financial burden of paying for school repairs and additional building falls upon children and their families. The principal of Paung Taw Joint High School, Ms. Cho Cho, collected 15,000 Kyats from each middle school student and 17,000 kyat (US$17-20.00) from high school students. The fees will go toward a bag of cement 6,000 Kyats, 200 bricks 2,000, chairs 4,500, and a bookshelf 10,000 Kyats.

The principal reasoned that the school had not received enough funds from the government for school repairs and the construction of new buildings. The local community is faced with extremely expensive costs in maintaining the running of the schools.

Many poor Tavoyans and Mon families are not able to pay for these costs and schools have turned these children away who are unable to pay. In addition to informal costs, other additional fees of keeping their children out of school are books, uniforms, supplies, food and transportation.  According to the local villagers, they are happy due to additional support for community development provided by the Total Company.  Special teachers from the YMCA and medical doctors are hired from Rangoon and the living standard in these villages is reportedly higher than other rural villages.  It also attracts other villagers to the area who bring their children to attend the school there. However, the government teachers take full advantage and open private tutoring to collect money on the side, charging 300,000 Kyats per year.

There are 2 government run high schools and 2 joint-high schools (government recognized self-supported school) in the gas pipeline area. 

At the Three Pagodas Pass border town of the Thai Burma border, the tuition fee has also increased from 200 to 320 baht for elementary school and from 330 to 550 Baht for middle school.

In the rural areas, Mon children are learning their basic education in self-supported Mon national schools run by MNEC (Mon National Education Committee).  These Mon national schools are regarded as illegal institutions and are shut down often due to threats from the Burmese authorities.

Although the Burmese authorities claim 90 per cent enrollment for education in the country, UNICEF says it’s more likely 55 per cent enrollment. 


Villagers forced to guard MOGE gas pipeline

(Kaowao: June 20, 2006)

The Burmese Army in Mudon Township have continued to conscript local villagers to guard the Kan Bauk - Myaingkalay gas pipeline which passes through their area.

According to the local sources, every village adjacent to the pipeline has to provide five persons each to guard the pipeline and those who fail to do so must pay the guard 3,000 Kyats in fines to the Burmese army.

A farmer from Klot Sort village, who does not want to be named, said some children and women have to go on duty if their household fails to provide the people.  They have to remain at the guard hut and wait until the Burmese troops arrive to check their patrol.  The BA also punishes the local militia if they cannot find the quota from their village.

An explosion close to the Kan Bauk - Myaingkalay gas pipeline occurred near Kwan Hlar village central Mon State in February 2006.  About a hundred people including village headmen from the village were rounded up and subsequently questioned after the explosion and the SPDC authorities forced the villagers to guard the pipeline.

The pipeline transports gas from the Yadana Gas offshore field in Tenasserim to a cement factory in Myaingkalay village in Karen State.  A series of explosions have occurred in Mon State starting in 2002, three times in Mudon, one time in Thanbyu Zayat and one time in Ye townships, 2 of which were ruptures that released gas throughout the local area causing fires and environmental damage.


Canadian lawmakers call for UNSC action on Burma

(Kaowao: June 28, 2006)

Fifty Members of Parliament call for United Nations Security Council action on Burma, addressing to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and 15 members of UN Security Council yesterday.

The Canadian MPs urged UN chief and members of Security Council, by signing and adding their names on a letter, to put the situation in Burma on the formal agenda of the UNSC and to pass a binding resolution requiring the restoration of democracy to Burma.

According to a statement from the CFOB (Canadian Friends of Burma) based in Ottawa, the Parliamentarians noted that the UNSC briefings were only a first step and increasingly unstable situation in Burma represents a threat not only to the people of Burma, but also to international peace and security. The UNSC has rendered two briefings on Burma in December 2005 and in May 2006. 

“Canada’s support in this effort is very significant, given enlisting of 50 MPs which we haven’t seen in Canada,” said Tin Maung Htoo, Coordinator of CFOB. “This parliamentarians’ support strengthens the position of the Government of Canada that has already expressed the need to have an UNSC action on Burma,” he added.

Recently, Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay issued a statement calling on UN Security Council to tackle Burma issue, an explicit call made after the United States.

Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) lobbied MPs to support this letter in Canada, as part of international effort that drew more than 562 parliamentarians support from 35 countries including Burma’s neighbors and member countries of UN Security Council.


World Cup 2006: Burma under their feet

(Kaowao, June 20, 2006)

Even though the SPDC authorities ban the World Cup 2006 from betting, people in Mon State enjoy watching the game at a risk of losing their life savings.

Kaowao has learned that millions of Kyat (Burmese currency) was placed in bets on World Cup Soccer matches in Germany 2006 in Ye township. Gambling enthusiasts are mostly male from 16 to 30 years old hoping to win big.  Children, women and Buddhist monks, give full intention and gather in homes with a TV satellite by paying entrance fees that varies on whether it is a private video house or a theatre.  In some privately own theatre, the audience can watch the game with a glass of beer or soft drink. 

The price of satellites has jumped to 150-175% prior to the world cup season, from its normal price.  “A 200,000 satellite dish was 300,000 or 350,000 in early June.  My children know all the soccer stars such as Rooney, Ronaldhino and Beckham,” said Nai Phu from Durae.

Mr. Shwe Nan Tin, a member of the cease-fire DKBA, hosts the main gambling venue of the Three Pagodas Pass Thai Burma border town. Gamblers from around the region come to place a huge amount of money on their winning teams.

A Mon community leader from Moulmein said, “People have no other entertainment and job opportunities. Having the authorities threatening people with arrest and satellite owners getting up to three years in jail plus having their satellite confiscated, does not stop the heavy gamblers.”

The Burma soccer team was once famous in Southeast Asia, but military rule has stifled growth of the much-loved sport that needs strong community involvement and money. Burma back in the 1960s and early 1970s was part of a professional league winning two Asian Games championships in 1966 and 1970, four Southeast Asian Peninsular Games titles and numerous other soccer awards.


Local Perspective on ASEAN

Open and close door policy on a Free Market Economy

(By Banya Hongsar and Lita Davidson)  

The Union of Myanmar needs the protection of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations to cover up its deplorable treatment of human beings, while ASEAN needs the United Nations to shirk its duty to provide the Southeast Asian region with a secure working environment based on human development, the foundation for a thriving economy.  Since 1967, ASEAN has opened its borders to economic integration, but has a hands off policy to develop tolerance and freedom to address human suffering within its regions. The stage is set, but there are no actors to promote a free market economy in Myanmar. 

While having set up a Security Community to be established by 2020, there has been little incentive to develop protocols to deal with human security given its stance on its so-called non-interference policy. In particular, it does not acknowledge the rights of people, address international reports on human rights violations, such as rape as a weapon of war, and turns it back away from thousands of refugees and the rights of migrant workers residing within their borders.

The Joint Communiquof the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held in New York on the 13 September 2005 states that ASEAN Socio-cultural Community is a community of caring societies, diverse in culture yet with a distinctive regional identity.  But the regional body turns away from the rights of domestic workers rights in Singapore and Burmese migrant workers in Malaysia who have fled wide-spread and a well publicized international humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, with thousands of refugees flooding across their borders and thousands more displaced within the jungles of Myanmar, one of its member nations.

Socio-economic integration is at the core of ASEAN policy. But does ASEAN have the wherewithal to develop Myanmar according to its policy of trade and investment? The very people who are needed to promote a free market economy are thwarted from doing so due to abuses from its members’ governments. How can it carry out its policies on peace and stability when it comes to Myanmar? Will Thailand and Malaysia develop a more humane and socially integrated approach in dealing with illegal migrants, the Burmese pro-democratic forces, and the many-armed ethnic groups based along the Thai Burma border and the ever-growing menace of the drug trade that now threatens its stability? The Security Community was formed to address these very problems of peace when it admitted to the fact that social development is at the core of economic success. But many observers say that reaching a consensus will be difficult given its position on non-interference and non-intervention.

ASEAN Protocols should be encouraged to acknowledge these people’s rights from Myanmar and the western governments must make a stronger case for championing human rights in this part of the world. Burmese workers must share social and cultural rights equally with local residents. Whose responsibility is it to promote these peoples’ rights? Will it be up to the United Nations? Are the religious groups responsible for their people? After all, ASEAN extols the diversity of the many religious groups within its grouping, should then the religious groups promote their followers’ rights within the framework of ASEAN?

According to a media release (6 March 2006) of the Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform of ACT, Australia, the production of opium in Myanmar in metric tons in 2004 was between 300-400 tons. This press release showed that Myanmar had produced up to 1,800 in 1993-1995. ASEAN did not raise these important stability issues publicly in its ministerial forum for some years. It only recognizes the avian bird flu or rising oil prices and expresses outrage at terrorists’ attacks, while many thousands have been killed, face starvation, and are subject to a range of human rights abuse within their borders. By doing so, one has to question whether this would threaten its image of harmony, stability and strength. These inherent social problems are never formally recognized or considered important enough to correct in achieving economic success it so often proclaims it wants to achieve.

ASEAN members who want to lead their nations into a globalized world economy need to start promoting freedom and liberty if they want economic development on a much broader scale. But there is a tendency for Asian leaders, for example, Lee Kwan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore, to argue that authoritarian governments are much better at leading their people to economic success. With Thailand and the Philippines now struggling to develop a democratic system, one may conclude that this view is once again gaining ground. But if anything, these countries have shown, especially with respect to India, that having an open environment based on freedom of _expression, political and civil rights are more conducive to economic growth.  During and after the 1988 uprising that demonstrated a nationwide protest against authoritarian rule by a strong civil society, no measurable assistance toward Myanmar was ever provided by ASEAN. It accepted Union of Myanmar as its member in 1997 and at once started to exploit the country for its gas and oil.

ASEAN neglects its core values by sticking to its non-interference policy. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand implicitly condone the uneconomic behavior of Myanmar, while benefiting enormously from cheap and illegal labour for the last 30-40 years. Currently, there are over 100,000 illegal Burmese migrants in Malaysia, 20,000 in Singapore, and over a million in Thailand.

Without cheap labour from Myanmar, many construction projects, food processing factories, tourist industries in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea would not have been completed, saving these governments billions of dollars on their march to economic success.  A Burmese illegal worker, depending on the country, earns anywhere from $10-35 per day and often undergoes a range of abuse to get those earnings. Migrant workers have contributed significantly to the economies of these countries, but governments are loathe to recognize that cheap labour has built their countries from the bottom, just as many western countries did during the first decades of industrialization. ASEAN leaders should take a few lessons from the western governments in promoting equal rights for their workers, after all it took many decades for the western government to recognize their Asian workers and now many governments have apologized for their inhumane treatment of Chinese labourers. 

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the current government of the Union of Myanmar does not represent the welfare of its citizens that number over a million migrant workers. But only seeks ways to benefit from the labour of these people, as demonstrated recently in arguing for migrant worker processing centres to be set up in Myanmar and not in Thailand.

Former Czech President Vaclav Harvel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for the UN Security Council to take immediate action against Myanmar for failing to protect human rights committed by its troops in September 2005. ASEAN however had little to say to these international condemnations. Most of the governments in ASEAN are autocratic and its business partners, even for example South Korea, one of ASEAN biggest business partners, censors the press to refrain from printing anything negative about social problems. How can we expect them criticize others when they refuse to admit their own problems, as so often is the case in Asia?

ASEAN has provided aid to these countries as part of their lip service, but alleviating poverty alone will not eradicate the many social problems Southeast Asia faces in its mandate to accelerate the economies in the region. It has yet to fully realize that investing in free speech and building a stronger civil society that is able to demand appropriate public action is the key to economic success. Within Myanmar, only a number of people have access to the Internet where there is no freedom of _expression. How can people operate in such a restrictive environment? When China and South Korea invests millions of dollars in Information Technology in Myanmar does it ever cross their minds that most Burmese don’t have a computer, let alone electricity to start it with and if they did would be arrested for using the Internet.

Furthermore, there is no support from ASEAN allowing people to have access to instruments of expressions in a modern economy. For example, radio and TV programs are offered by the west, such as BBC world services and ABC. Over 80% of the population has to rely on BBC and RFA radio to listen to daily news on local and international issues. Where is ASEAN? If it is committed to peace and stability, why doesn’t it provide people with better access to exercise their economic and political rights to achieve peace?  The ASEAN leaders have to think again what is an open market economy, so the people have accurate information about their government’s daily business at home. Reading newspaper published by a democratic group from Bangkok can be jailed for seven years in Myanmar.

ASEAN is now in a position to tackle these social problems, but the regional body lacks the commitment and the teeth to defend human development or human rights in its own countries.

Marwaan Macan-Markar reported on IPS September 2005 that Myanmar’s economy had grown in the light of the fact that the country has the second highest prevalence rate of HIV in South-east Asia with an estimated 170,000-620,000 people living with the killer disease, according to a UN agency.

The regional body’s only objective is to engage with Myanmar on issues that have an impact on investment and trading in the region. A much greater role must be promoted for civil society and local development groups if it ever wants compete globally. However, regarding Myanmar, no development can be achieved in armed conflict zones. No projects can be implemented when domestic politics is in chaos. No one with civil and political rights can speak freely against the wrongdoings of the military or the socialist or communist political systems.

The ASEAN Secretary-General Mr Ong keng Young told, ACB Asia Pacific program on 2 June “we are trying our best to work with the Myanmar people on what we call capacity building and bringing them more and more into the open market”.  Myanmar was ranked third from the bottom in a new survey monitoring global economic freedom, with researchers reporting a small improvement in the country’s business environment over the past 12 months. Local farmers and general workers earn roughly Kyat 200-300 per day ($5-7), the price of an egg is Kyat Kyat 60-70 in local market. So an individual must work for one day just to buy a meal for the whole family.

The political elite of the ASEAN sends their children overseas to study new technology and advanced education. The SPDC sends their children to Thailand and Singapore for Information Technology degrees and other Business Degree studies. Locally, the Mon children have no access to public schools, while the Burmese government shuts down locally run schools paid for by the local community groups. In this respect, competition from the ethnic groups is suppressed, as the Burmans want complete access to land, people, and resources.

An open economy is anathema to the Burmese government, as it will not tolerate any competition from the ethnic groups. Over 2000 Mon teachers and 40,000 children were eligible for aid from Thailand from local charity groups to support the Mon language.  This is an example of what ASEAN has to think about to promote its policy initiative on Myanmar and economic security.

Lack of political progress at the national or state levels has resulted in frustration within the nationalist communities.  Since signing truces with Rangoon, the KIO and NMSP in particular have made repeated calls for political engagement with the military government, according to Ashley South who wrote in September 2004 in Irrawaddy magazine. After 10 years of cease-fire talks, over 3 million Mon people have not received social and cultural rights from the government.

For example, over 1,000 Mon nurses, 2,000 Mon national teachers and 40,000 Mon children are not protected by the Government of Union of Myanmar, this is a question for the regional leaders to clarify within SPDC administration. If 6-7 million people of the Karen and Mon populations in southern of Burma have no educational access, how is it possible to promote a free market economy with an illiterate population?  Having an educated population is the main pillar of a successful market economy in the modern world.

ASEAN plans to move towards greater economic integration, emphasizing sustainable and equitable growth, according to its policy papers. If this is the case, corruption would be targeted and the private sector would be developed in Myanmar. Farmers, workers and labourers would be allowed to form unions.

The ICRC, Rangoon based report in 2004, stated that 57,109 detainees were held in 64 detentions centres around the country.  These detainees are registered prisoners, but there are more detained in armed conflict zones in the other seven ethnic states, demonstrating that the political dominance of the Burman government is so strong that a free market economy would be difficult if not impossible to be established by civil society groups, a prerequisite for economic growth.

The H.E. Secretary-General Ong Keng Young addresses to ASEAN-EC Symposium in November 2005 said that the state creates a conducive political and legal environment for a market economy.  The private sector generates jobs and income and civil society is mobilized and political and social interactions are allowed.  The SPDC itself and the Myanmar government have little courage to apply this norm. The SPDC itself is unable to manage its public education and health sectors.

In July 2004, the 13 cease-fire groups submitted proposals at the National Convention, which has been in recess while demanding self-determination for their own territories, but the military authorities of Burma have rejected all of them, the BBC reported. Over the last two years, these leaders were pressured to lay down their arms and surrender to the government. The National Convention produced no popular constitution to complete its 7-point road map to democracy in Burma. 

Human Rights Foundation of Monland reported from 1998-2006, that over 40 local civilian were killed by the government troops, in which there was no legal action allowed to be taken by the victims family against the SPDC authority. Instead, they were all accused of supporting anti-SDPC troops in Ye township in Mon State.

ASEAN lacks the political will to develop its regions. The majority of its members are ruled by a one party system in which military personnel are above the law. Myanmar can never hope to achieve ASEAN’s goal of socio-economic integration policy unless they grant autonomy to its non-Burma seven States and a democratic government is restored with the National League for Democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi governing the country based on freedom and equality.  


Asian Values in the Burmese Context

Are the Asians Morally Inferior Than the West?

(By Kanbawza Win)

"There would be a euphoria in the Japanese leadership with the news that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is hospitalized," commented the man in the street. I enquire why, and he replied that Daw Suu, is not only a thorn to the Junta but also to the Asians and he reasoned that the Burmese army was founded in Japan and the Japanese leaders has all the time supported them, as even now they prevented Burma from putting in the UNSC agenda, lest the former would take action and the Burmese army would be no where. He sadly added that the inhuman cruel ways, which the Japanese Kampeti had taught to the Burmese army during the Second World War was being brush up and augmented by the Burmese tatmadaw (armed forces) up to this day. He lamented that these sons of the Sun would not be able to comprehend of how the tatmadaw can mechanize an assassination that look like an accident, such as putting lead water (which can lead to slow death, that has been practices so much on the political prisoners inside jails) in the water pipe line that flows into Daw Suu's residence.

As an average man his hypothesis seems to be strong and I dared not defend the Asian morality now that both giant neighbors like China and India, not to mention ASEAN countries, have come out strongly on the side of the Burmese Junta vis a vis the Burmese Democracy Movement. The last nail in the coffin being what the Indian leaders (the biggest democratic country in the world) said, that they could not export democracy to Burma. Knowing full well that the world would be a far better place if democracy spreads, the Indian leaders seems to shudder at the thought that they would not be able to sell arms to Burma, if democracy flourish in that country. May be one version of Asian values similar to the Constructive Engagement.

There are more intriguing issues to explore within this context of Asian values. How can the region of Asia, comprising of some many different cultures and customs be grouped together to form the “Asian values”, to represent the combine image of Asian society? Do “Asian values” exist as something definably different from the hegemonic culture of “Western values”?  Can we explain this phenomenon in the concepts of the clash of civilizations? What is the significance of the concepts of social structure in explaining human behavior that varies within the societies, over time and according to circumstances? Asia is a region with a kaleidoscopic panorama of racial, languages, religions, cultures, history and political systems. In the early 1990s, the concept of Asian values was created by the elites to advocate stability and enforce social cohesion in a heterogeneous society, and it later becomes internationalized as a fundamental core by the leading exponent of the concept.

Former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir pointed that Asian nations have highly varying historical and religious backgrounds; Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, Japan is somewhat Confucian (as is South Korea) with Shintoism and Buddhist playing a role too, and Thailand is Hinayana Buddhist, while Philippine is a Christian country. However, there exist a stratum of common values and beliefs that most Asians follow as a guide through the world; these formed the concept of Asian Values. But how did it reflect in the Burmese dictatorial concepts? Asian value system emphasizes the importance of the community and family. Fulfilling individual responsibility towards family and community is prioritized over the consideration for individual interest and privileges. Asian values also include respect for authority, which are seen to guarantee stability for the entire society; and placed importance on hardworking attitude in pursuing progress and harmony in the global economic world.

From the Burmese scene, we can see that disparity exists in the priority of social values given by the Asian and Western groups. Even though both the Asians and Western emphasized the importance of new ideas and public accountability, Asian prioritized order, harmony and respect for authority while the Western placed more value on the rights of the individual and the need for open debate. In short the long custody of Daw Suu, supported by the great Asian countries of China, India and Japan has become a mockery of the Asian values in the world. Questioning the universality of basic civil and political rights, the idea of the clash of values between the “East” and “West” enjoys influence amongst academics, politicians, journalists and others interested in the implications of Asia’s changing position in the global political economy. The false monoliths that are being depicted in the notion of “Asian Values” versus “Western Liberalism” conceal major and unresolved political and ideological disputes within Asia and the West as Daw Suu's case. Indeed, it is the universality of these disputes that accounts for the extensive interest outside Asia in the idea of “Asian values” with conservative ideology and philosophy.

Leaders of some of the Asia countries criticized the West for refusing to accept the legitimacy of Asian values because it cannot accept that East Asia is becoming a centre of World power and that a psychological revolution is taking place in East Asia as Asians recover from their colonial past and are discovering that they can do things as good as, or even better than the West. However, they refuse to sees that the Asian region as benefiting from and strengthened by the fusion of the best practices and values from many rich civilizations, Asian and Western; that many Asian values should obviously be destroyed, including feudalism, excessive anti-materialism and excessive deference to authority; that no one should be allowed to hide behind the cloak of cultural relativism or dictatorial.

Dr Mahathir called for “mutual respect” among nations; as many in the West deemed that their values and beliefs were universal while the advocates and champions of Asian values were condemned as merely there to justify oppression, dictatorship and uncivilized behavior as what the Burmese Junta is doing on its own ethnic nationality. Perhaps, Asian Values is a concept to encourage Asian people to free themselves from their own low esteem, the legacy of years of Western colonization. The perception that "West is the Best and Superior" still pervades in the culture of many ex colonial countries, in the name of globalization and the entire Burmese believe in it due to the attitude of the great Asian nations of China, India and Japan. The expansion of the right of the individual to behave or misbehave as he pleases has come to the expense of orderly society as in the case of Senior General Than Shwe of Burma, to have a well-orderly society, so that everybody can have maximum enjoyment of his freedoms can only exist in an ordered state and not in natural state of contention and anarchy. 

Notions of rationality and progress are defined in the West; while the East was mired in religion and despotic, patrimonial political systems susceptible to constant internecine struggles and incapable of progress. Inversely, the people accused that the Asian values is being used to justify the undemocratic and hypocrisy of the authority to confine the human rights.  Western leader, scholars and media always claimed that Asian's authority is ignoring the human rights, particularly in China and Burma.  Samuel Huttington's " The clash of Civilizations and the remaking of world order"  argued that the world appeared to be heading towards conflicts, not between countries, but between whole civilizations as Osama bin laden has proved to be true. Asian values have become the ideology of a range of regimes, which combine an organic statist variant of political conservatism with market economies. It is in the context of a fundamental, although ongoing, contest between organic statist, liberal and social democratic variants of capitalism. Inevitably the current Burmese regime is a classic example of the bad Asian values to justify their abuses of power and the inequities of their societies.

Daw Suu's argument that development can and must occur in a democratic "culture of peace" has not moved Burma's Asian neighbours beyond the mentality of domestic jurisdiction and non-interference, which characterizes the region. In a developmental context it has been possible to argue that stability and basic welfare are the priorities; strong government and a curtailment of some political rights are thus necessary in the interests of society. The collective goals are clear so the government's responsibility of upholding these should not be unduly hampered by democratic checks and balances seems to be the rationale of the Chinese, Japanese and Indian leaders.

It is populism, rather than democratic theory, which explains the nature of the new Asian politics.

Most Burmese view the US and the West as the "land of opportunity" and liberty, of friendly and generous people, of volunteerism, a country on the cutting edge of innovation and creativity in the arts, sciences and commerce are also part of the picture. while the "dark" side of America may not be far "off-screen" in many Asian homes, respondents reported that there is still a deep admiration, especially among the better read and travel, for American ideals and openness; and a sense that despite its serious problems, the United States remains enormously resourceful, resilient and wealthy, still at the pinnacle of both "hard" and "soft" power in the world. Masakazu Yamazaki asserts that "the only thing Asian countries share together is modernity" "Asian values" and "Asian democracy", found considerable skepticism in the region. to see if one can separate human rights from democracy. Democracy, that is rule by the people, can - and has - trampled on the rights of some citizens in history. And some rather authoritarian leaders have been successful at advancing important economic human rights. Rulers, however they may be chosen, believe they are promoting the common good. But who defines that common good? Is it General Than Shwe for the people of Burma?

Human rights questions have been on and off the agenda of world politics since the end of the Second World War. The holocaust in Europe and Japanese atrocities in Asia generated political momentum in the immediate post-war years for the establishment of an international human rights protection system. The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 was a testimony to the international commitment to human rights protection. International pressure on East Asian states over human rights has been interpreted as an attempt to undermine their political position and therefore a threat to regime survival. Human rights differences between the Western world and East Asian countries can therefore be a major source of friction, creating problems for the Asia-Pacific region's search for a post-Cold War regional security structure and better regional economic co- operation.

The post-Cold War international debates on human rights have been referred to as a clash between the post-colonial approach and the neo-colonial approach. The post-colonial approach, developing from the liberal tradition, emphasizes the interdependence of states and the triumph of the liberal democracies over authoritarianism. remarkable economic success of a number of East Asian countries since the mid-1960s The East Asian challenge can be seen in cultural, economic and political terms. Culturally, they assert that the Western approach ignores the specific cultural traditions and historical circumstances of Asian societies, whose interpretations of human rights are different from the Western tradition. Economically, they maintain that the priority of developing Asian societies has to be the eradication of poverty: the right to survival must come first. Therefore, political stability under the capable leadership of good government is essential. They also question the motives of the West by accusing the Western countries of having double standards and using human rights merely as an instrument for advancing Western economic or security interests. In some ways the East Asian reaction to Western pressure on the human rights question can be characterized as a realist response: Western human rights policy has been seen as "power politics in disguise" - an instrument for advancing Western political and economic interests. As human rights issues return to the international agenda, the records of East Asian countries has been subjected to critical scrutiny by the international community. While there may be some scope for interpreting human rights differently and perhaps even assigning different priorities to specific human rights according to the region's special circumstances, East Asian states are on the defensive, e.g. China, Japan and South Korea's Daewoo in Arakan state.

The importance of economic and social developments in measuring human rights conditions is widely accepted throughout the human rights community. A study commissioned by the United Nations Centre for Human Rights identified poverty as a key obstacle to the advancement of human rights. As the report suggests, worldwide poverty and increasing disparity between the North and the South "is endangering the ethical foundation of our Planet". But in the case of Burma, the military regime is deliberately making the country poor so that it could be in power forever. While Asian governments' emphasis on development needs and cultural differences are not entirely groundless, they have failed to justify their policies in the suppression of human rights or in claiming that they are the only representatives of their societies and thereby the only adjudicators of human rights standards. As many human rights activists have observed, while development is a legitimate human rights concern in the developing world, all too often state development policies in such countries become a source of human rights violations when people are forced to leave their homes for development projects or are deprived of their means of livelihood as the case of the oil pipe lines and the up coming Salween dam.

In spite of the growing importance of human rights issues in world politics, Asian states prefer to deal with human rights within their own domestic jurisdiction, resisting international monitoring. They are reluctant to sign major instruments of international human rights protection. Countries such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are not signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Since the end of the Cold War many East Asian states have continued to adopt an uncompromising attitude towards human rights differences with the West, and deny human rights NGO activities at home. They are often ruthless in dealing with political dissidents, considering them as a threat to regime stability. But external pressure has clearly played a part in shaping government policies and the human rights agenda in the region. The Japanese government, for example, clearly found it necessary to adopt a tougher posture towards China after the Tiananmen tragedy in 1989 as a result of Western pressure, despite its intuitive tendency for a friendly political relationship with its giant neighbour. Even hard line states like China find it difficult to ignore human rights issues, making a significant policy shift in encouraging scholarly research on human rights. The state sponsorship of scholarly human rights study in the PRC was largely a direct response to Western condemnation of the human rights conditions in China following the Tiananmen incident in 1989.The role of international intervention in human rights problems is controversial. The international community clearly has a role to play in assisting countries, which suffer in conditions of natural disasters or war when individual rights are transgressed by warring groups or governments. The need for humanitarian assistance clearly supports the argument that a more flexible view of sovereignty should be accepted. In fact states which respect human rights and promote human welfare are more likely to be stable members of the international community. Asian states, which highlight Asian values, are reluctant to tolerate international involvement in human rights protection in the region, rejecting it as a Western attempt to impose a set of standards which are not consistent with Asian traditions and realities. Yet they have not produced a convincing alternative approach. International relations in the Asia-Pacific region are not as institutionalized as in Europe, and region-wide fora for discussing human rights issues are therefore limited.  

It was shocking to the Burmese people when Japanese apposed the Burmese case in the agenda of the UN Security Council, although it is understandable that China and Russia objected being themselves dictatorial regimes, but Japan is supposed to encourage democracy. One can judge Japan by reading their school text books. It tells us that the Japanese manage but cannot lead. Their leaders avoid conflict, favoring consensus and cooperation. They conspire, but do not inspire. And, while there have been many powerful Shoguns, it has been ages since Japan produced the equivalent of a Churchill or a de Gaulle.  But Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was hardly a major force in Japanese politics when he became prime minister in 2001. Once in office, moreover, he never received lavish praise from the news media, which commonly referred to him as selfish, single- minded and bull-headed. Even former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori muttered that his protgwas "a weirdo."

But In the post war period he is the only Japanese Prime Minister that sent Japanese naval tankers to the Indian Ocean to support US and British forces operating in Afghanistan. Soon thereafter he went even further, putting Japanese boots on Iraqi soil during wartime. In so doing, Koizumi transformed the U.S.-Japan alliance into one with global reach - without generating any of the opposition that earlier would have paralyzed Japanese political life. But how does he handle the Burmese case?

Last week, in a brilliant parting shot, Koizumi announced the withdrawal of Japanese troops from Iraq and introduced legislation to elevate the Japan Defense Agency to full ministry status. Koizumi had created a more muscular Japan with more security options than at any time since the 1940s. Even great leaders make strategic mistakes, however. Koizumi's biggest error has been his unnecessary provocation of Japan's Asian neighbors, especially China, now Japan's largest trading partner. Again with the objection of putting Burma on the UNSC he had earned the wrath of the Burmese people.

He had poked a sharp stick in his neighbors' eyes by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Class A war criminals and a revisionist version of the Pacific War are enshrined. Japan has been an extraordinarily good to the Burmese military regimes for more than half a century. Its economic aid and foreign investment helped much. But it takes a very long period of good behavior and insistent effort to overcome the distrust of other states.

Japan's unwillingness or inability to confront its history squarely - and to demand that its Asian do the same - is undoubtedly the largest single constraint on its diplomacy. For all his other very considerable accomplishments, Koizumi's unnecessary (even if tacit) endorsement of revisionist history will be a blot on his otherwise extraordinary legacy. By the Japanese action it proves beyond doubt that we Asian need to catch up with the West as far as democracy, human rights, morality and responsibility is concerned.

Vancouver


Population transfer threatens Mon community

(By Cham Toik)

Palean is a Mon village community of extended families located in western Ye of Mon State and was a good representation of Mon culture. This way of life formed the basis of Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia that delivered a message of peace transmitted from generation to generation in not only the Mon culture but also was adopted by the Burman and Thai cultures.

The Palean community is a perfect example of how people can live within self-sustained communities on fertile and productive land according to a traditional life style. The people enjoyed a peaceful life and felt no fear and left their doors unlocked at night, their farms were un-fenced, and the women hung their day’s laundry outside. Following Mon rural culture, a visitor dropping by is always offered fruit or vegetables, fresh water to drink or betel nut to chew and a wholesome dessert. 

The whole village helps to ensure that a ‘Haeng’ is built behind their homes for the long-term storage of rice paddy for the coming year, enough to feed family members and visitors. The women go to the Haeng only when paddy is needed where it is pounded by hand to remove the rice husks, a long and labour intensive process that makes the most delicious and nutritious rice. This has been their way of life since Mon language was first recorded in 500 A.D. and which verifies Mon’s existence as a people. Mon culture was born from the village community and is the foundation of a unique language and has been since the advent of sedentary rice agriculture in Southeast Asia for at least two thousand years.

Today throughout the area, the Palean community faces the loss of their traditional way of life brought on not only by the demands of the global economy in which Mon leave to Thailand, but to the ever increasing threat of Burman domination.

Day after day, villagers have reported their rice and their clothing being stolen and indiscriminate attacks by Burmese migrants. Human rights violations such as murder, loss of land and disruption of agriculture practices, cultural repression and the continued migration of young Mon to neighboring countries add to the growing threats of the Mon culture.  However it may be regarded elsewhere, the political crisis in Burma, it is fair to say, has been devastating for the ethnic peoples.

Increased crime

On May 6, 2006, a passenger on his way from Azin to Ye stabbed and killed a Mon taxi motorcyclist from behind and along with his gang stole the victim’s motorcycle. In another similar incident, a motorcyclist on his way to Zobbu town from northern Ye was beaten by a passenger.  The passenger, a Burman worker with his gang, thought the owner of the motorcycle was dead and took the motorcycle.

Burman robbers attacked, robbed, and beat Ms. Mi Hla, aged 43, on her way back from her farm in Durae. Another lady from Lamine sub-town said she is scared of the Burmese migrants who come around as a gang intruding her farm at night stealing anything they can get their hands on leaving scattered debris in their wake.  “They don’t respect local laws and our way of life, we don’t dare complain because they will destroy our garden plots.  Some of our gardens were burned down after we complained,” said the villager.

A border trader says more migrants have moved into her community and comments on the loss of peace in the village, “In the past we could leave our belongings outside, now everything is stolen.”

The village headman of Andaeng who organizes festivals said petty crimes such as pick pocketing and looting often occur and children have their jewelry stolen when they walk around in public gatherings.  Most of the criminals are Burmese speaking men and women and no efforts on part of the Burmese government to address these crimes and its threat to Mon culture have been made.

New settlers and migrants to the Ye area have committed several crimes these days. Many believe the main cause for these crimes is due to poverty and lawlessness, but Mon political leaders, as well as local people, say that the population transfer from the north is the main factor behind the high crime rate. 

In need of a labour force

Faced with a rapid loss of labourers after thousands of Mon left to Thailand to escape human rights violations and economic poverty by the Burmese military, the local communities rely on internal migrant workers from upper Burma and Kyaik Hto of northern Mon State to come to southern Mon State to work on farms, rice fields, and rubber plantations.

Nai Khin, a local businessman from Durae told Kaowao that he was quite happy about having a migrant housemaid in his house to do the work.  Young people including boys and girls from his village have left to Thailand where they can earn more money than they do in Mon State.

The daily wages for a farm laborer are about 3000 Kyat a day (about 2.5 US dollars) in Ye Township, while wages in the north are considerably lower at 1000 Kyat per day in upper Burma.  With such economic disparity as well as milder weather in Mon State, many adults and young people from other areas flock down south to work in the fishing and agriculture industries. 

“They are hard working people and much easier to deal with.  Even though I was advised by a monk to hire local workers, it is impossible to find anyone nowadays,” said Nai Dut from Mawkanin.

Tighter government control

While the military regime regularly checks the household registration in the remote areas, its sole purpose is to monitor the movement of opposition groups. No information related to the internal immigration has been released to the general public in Mon State and no consultation with the local people has ever been put on the table.

The Burmese Army classifies the remote areas as black, brown and white in its war on controlling the ethnic population.  The black area is where most of the non-Burman people live and is under the opposition-armed group’s control. The brown area falls within both government and rebel control depending upon influence, while white is under the government control.  The black and brown areas have seen the worst human rights violations including forced labour, execution, rape and extortion.

Particularly in southern Mon State, the brown area has become the major goal for the SPDC government. If it controls the rural area, through displacement and land confiscation, it can undermine the political leadership of the ethnic peoples and hence be well on its way to control the whole country.

The ceasefire between the military government and the New Mon State Party was to produce political stability and a future of peace, but all it did was open the doors to more abuse of power including land confiscation and the relocation of civilians from the north. The ceasefire agreement proved to be a hidden motive of assimilation policy by the ruling Burmese junta to exercise complete control over land previously held by the Mon and other ethnic nationalities, aptly referred to as the “Population Transfer Policy.”

“There is no fighting and we don’t have to flee but slowly many outsiders have arrived, this is different from the past,” said Nai Zin, a betel nut gardener from Andaeng, northern Ye.

The Burmese Army confiscated thousands of acres of land in Mon State without paying compensation.  In total about 10,000 acres of land had been taken out of farming production and turned into land used to develop for the government projects, and as claimed by the authorities, to promote economic prosperity.  Forcing to give up their land, thousands of farmers have been made destitute or migrated to Thailand. In the mean time, the Burmese government has launched an undeclared population transfer policy, moving in its own people, for example, retired military officers, their families and friends into the black areas of southern Mon State to live and work in the projects run by the Burmese Army on confiscated land.

Nyan Saik, of Mon Environmental Group, reported that the Burma Army operates 3 brick factories on confiscated land in Ye Township and about 300 Burmans are employed with a wage paying 2000 Kyats per day.  According to a local source from Zobbu, “the BA is coloring it white and needs Burmans to speak the same language or who understand Burmese for military instruction during security patrol.” 

The source from the New Mon State Party said a military base in Mokanin village, northern Ye, was built for the sole purpose of relocating retired military personnel and disabled war veterans.  The military camp is near local Mon villages where the Burman soldiers are free to engage in social activities and mix with the local girls and women in the community, while many Mon farmers have left their homes to escape human rights violations perpetuated by these people and economic impoverishment brought on through land confiscation.

“We are powerless and will soon become the minority in our land.  The Burmese authorities favor those (Burmese migrants) for the well paying jobs and use them in their divide and rule tactics.  Many strangers are appointed as militia and some have become the village headmen and interfere in our daily affairs,” said a leader of Mon Youth Association.

Community concern

Nine years ago at the 50th Golden Anniversary of Mon National Day sponsored by the Palean community in 1997, a Mon community leader Nai Sadao Htow said that villagers should stay close to their homeland to live a traditional way of life rather than leaving their homes to seek jobs in Thailand.  He delivered a speech in front of 10,000 participants on the auspicious occasion.  Not many people were worried about population transfer at that time since only a handful of outsiders were working in their community and were warmly welcomed.

The situation rapidly changed within nine years with a significant increase of Burman settlers into the area.  Most villages in southern Mon State are now filled with Burmese migrant workers or strangers due to lack of human resources in their community.

In local teashops, their morning gathering place, Burmese conversation controls the crowd.  Some villages have a Burmese abbot in their monastery.  This situation has alarmed Mon nationalists and Rehmonya Nikaya Buddhist monks in examining the increase of non-native people mixing in their villages.  They say the concern now is not only with increasing crime, but also the threat of loosing their traditional way of life, an issue that may take on negative consequences and which is a matter of concern for all.  They share the general feeling that the ceasefire agreement between the NMSP and the Burmese military government, land confiscation and population transfer are connected to each other and that it may create problems with Mon and Burman alike.

The serious threat for the Mon led to disturbances between the Mon and Burmese and, unfortunately, resulted in a negative aspect in the community.  Being accused as robbers, some Burman migrants were killed by a Mon armed group last year.  As a result, the Burman are often looked down upon by the local community.

During the 3rd Mon National Conference held in Nyisar hosted by the New Mon State Party (NMSP) in April this year, the delegates discussed a policy paper prepared by overseas Mon organization regarding the population transfer into Mon State.  Nevertheless, there is as yet no clear resolution on how to deal with this issue and many feel that instability and crime are likely to get worse unless some action plans by the government and local people are drawn up to establish a political dialogue to work together in mutual respect. 

Population transfer as a global issue

Population transfer for the Mon community is a case for international human right’s law. While travelling around the world during the past ten years raising awareness about the plight of the Mon, this writer was extremely shocked to learn about the obstacles faced by other indigenous peoples in their struggles for peace and justice.  I was able to participate in several meetings related to the rights of minority people and indigenous populations including the United Nations Draft Declaration on Indigenous Peoples and Working Group on Indigenous Populations.  During these occasions, indigenous friends raised the issue of the population transfer and reports were sent to the High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, which serves the interests of unrepresented indigenous peoples and minorities (UNPO) in which the Mon people are members, held a Conference on Human Rights of Population Dimension of Population Transfer in Tallinn, Estonia in 1992 that sought to raise concern on the problems of population transfer faced by its members around the world. 

The population transfer is defined as the movement of people as a consequence of political or economic processes in which the State government or State authorized agencies participate.  The International Law, in Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 states, “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” and Article 85, paragraph 4 of the Additional Protocol 1 80 states, “... the following shall be regarded as grave breaches of this protocol, when committed willfully and in violation of the Convention or Protocol: (a) the transfer by the occupying power of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies... in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Convention”.

While the state organizes the population transfer policy, the local people fall under the hand of the majority people in all spheres of economic, social and political life that will undermine and displace our way of life. 

Interestingly, the British colonial rule had at least some degree of protection for the minority people or the population transfer.  Article 52 of the Chittagong Hill Tracts protected the Jumma people in Bangladesh and 1900 Regulation prohibits settlement of “non-hill men” or outsiders. 

However, the situation changed under independent Bangladesh rule, the military administrators transferred an estimated half a million plain settlers by providing inducements between 1979 and 1983.  In the first week of June 2005, the government of Bangladesh placed a proposal to continue to provide “free food rations” to Muslim plain settler families. These settler families were brought under the government sponsored transmigration programmes and the government has been providing free food rations to these plain settlers.  In five years, the military governments settled an estimated 500,000 plain settlers by providing inducements in order to make indigenous Jumma people a minority in their own land. 

According to Mr. Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights, if the present population transfer programmes are carried out, the populations in the CHTs will increase by over 25% the total population of the CHTs and all of them are mainstream plains people. This will destroy the distinct identity of indigenous peoples.  Similarly, the issue on transmigration of Indonesia’s Javanese people to West Papua, Moluccas and Aceh is raised by indigenous peoples on its threat to their way of life.

In the case of Tibet, China has transferred its population into Tibet since the invasion in 1949.  According to the report of the Tibet Government in Exile, there are over 7.5 million non-Tibetan settlers of Chinese and Hui Muslims while Tibetans inside Tibet comprise only 6 million. The increasing Chinese population transfer into Tibet has also reduced the Tibetan people to a minority group in their own land.

A new era of Burman domination

The new global economy has been the other driver behind diverse populations moving across borders to seek secure employment and the Mon have constituted the biggest population to journey across the southern Thai Burma border.  However, Burmese settlers and the military government have again challenged the Mon’s existence as a people.

For over two hundred years, the Mon people have migrated from and into Thailand to escape famine, disease, war and Burman domination from the north and have survived. Some of the inhabitants, of the Thai Mon villages in central Thailand and Sangkhlaburi on the Thai Burma border, are the descendents of Mon who sought exile, refuge and economic security in Thailand.

Since Burma gained independence from Britain, the centralization of the Burmese government has continually threatened the lives and cultures of all peoples.  The non-Burman communities are systematically targeted and have been deprived of their birthright to teach in their own languages and prevented from producing creative literature to preserve their cultural heritage.

The military repression of the entire population has taken a heavy toll on the people who suffer continually from economic poverty, from forced labour and armed conflict.  The Burmese Army has intensified its military offensive over the past decade in the ethnic nationalities areas forcing thousands to flee to neighbouring countries to maintain its grip on power.  As a consequence, Arakanese, Karen, Shan, Mon and others have left their villages.  Sooner or later, the Burmese Army with its administrative staff and their families will relocate to these areas and Burmese settlers from central Burma will fill the vacuum in these areas.

The relocation of the Burmese population to the ethnic areas today is done with little thought to the consequences and is carried out within the context of greed, ignorance, mismanagement and lack of a political will.  Unless the SPDC makes an effort to work with the ethnic nationalities and democratic forces to solve the country’s political crisis, the cultures of the ethnic nationalities will disintegrate and the diversity of Burma’s peoples will be lost forever.


Discussion on Population transfer threatens Mon community: By Cham Toik

Thank you for this article. It reports details about what's going on in Mon State.  It is a part of systematic invasion and part of the strategy of SPDC regime.

mks (Canada)


Thanks for pointing out a very important issue, population transfer of Burmese migrants into Mon areas and threatening our Mon communities.  The writer closed the well written article with "Unless the SPDC makes an effort to work with the ethnic nationalities and democratic forces to solve the country’s political crisis, the cultures of the ethnic nationalities will disintegrate and the diversity of Burma’s peoples will be lost forever." I afraid that this is the only thing SPDC really want it to happen, to kick all non-Burman people out of the country and reserve the vacant land for Burman, if not to assimilate them all. And I don't believe that SPDC will do anything to stop population transfer, because it intends to do so.

What we can do about it? Let's put it into few practical steps;

1. Stop complaining about it and do something. You and I know very well that there is strength in unity, it is high time that the Mon get together and unite, but we have got to have a clear plan on how we can build unity among us and really implement the plans.

2. Ask NMSP to reconsider its unsigned ceasefire agreement. You and I also know very well that the ceasefire agreement was never signed, it is just a trick of Burmese Junta to fool NMSP and Mon people, why the hell do we have to keep it?

3. Form a Mon National Government, because the Burmese Junta will never protect our population, why don't we form our own government to protect our own people instead?

4. Get the UN Security Council to really act. Why don't we put our heart and soul into getting the UNSC to solve the problems in Burma? You and I also know very well that one of the reasons for Burmese Junta to move its capital from Yangon to Pyinmana was to avoid the risks of being attack by US-led UN forces. UNSC is our only hope, but Burmese Junta's only fear.

5. Talk to our Burmese friends that they are not our enemy and that they can help us for the benefit of all people in Burma. They have to pay the debts of their ancestors' bad deeds. The Burmese have got to take the responsibility if Burman is to survive as a race.

With these 5 simple steps, I believe that the situation will positively change. These ideas are just basic strategies; we can work together to have a more effective one.

In unity and solidarity,

Sumit

Thailand


I am very impressed with Cham Toik's well written article "Population Transfer Threatens Mon Community" itself, and with responses and comments made by Mon patriots around the globe. It is very encouraging to see that everyone is aware and concerned about the issues that could threaten the survival and the very existence of our Mon even though there are differing views on this issue.

Yes, as the author mentioned in his article, population transfer is an important issue and, frequently used by many governments as a strategy to dominate ethnic minorities areas and territories. As a consequence, an article on this issue has been drafted and ratified in the Internal Law. The article 49 of International law prevents a large scale and systematic transfer of civilian population by the states and governments. If this happened to any ethnic nationalities inclusive of our Mon, all measures have to be taken in order to stop it. However, regarding population transfer to our Mon state, there is still differing views whether it is a "Population Transfer" or, "Population Movement". In its very definition, population transfer is the large scale transfer of civilian population conducted by the governments in order to dominate politically, economically and socially.

With regard to our Mon State, my personal view is that of "population movement" not in a state of "population transfer" yet. Even though increasing numbers of battalion and infantry are sent to our Mon states, it is hard to say that there is a large scale transfer of civilian population into our Mon areas. In addition, in making a large scale population transfer into our Mon state in order to dominate us, the Burmese military government has to have a stronger support, control and cooperation from its own Burmese people. In current political situation, even Burmese people themselves are against Burmese military government and it has no control and cooperation whatsoever from its own people.

Even the Burmese military government has to move and try to secure its power base from Rangoon to Pyinmanar for afraid of revolt by its own people. So, I would rather put that it is an economic migration and a population movement based on economic conditions. In this age of globalization and global economy, there is a population movement across territories and borders of nation states. For instance, Mon from Mon states move to Thailand, Thai people move to Singapore, and Singaporean move to more developed nations in search of a better pays and working conditions. At the same time, people from upper Burma and other states and divisions move to our Mon state in search of works.

These movements are temporary and cannot be categorized as permanent population transfer as Mon will come back to Mon State, Thais will come back to Thailand and Singaporean will come back to Singapore after the termination of employments. However, it will affect, one way or another, our ways of life in our Mon states or else by the presence of people from different cultures and people from other states and countries. We used to hear complaints frequently made by Thais local peoples and Thai authority by the presence of our Mon economic migrants in Thailand. However, as the Thai cannot prevent and stop our Mon economic migrants, they have alternatively to find a solution to register and control it.

So, in our Mon case too, we better find a realistic and a practical solution to tackle the issue of population movement in our Mon state. It does not necessarily mean that it is not an important issue and we do not need to worry and be concerned about a threat to our Mon national identity as a result of the presence of other nationalities in our land. As Mon, we all have to constantly keep it in mind and prepare how to deal with it if it happen to us. However, we should separate our worry from the reality. Worry is based on subjective analysis, our assumption and our feeling. The reality is based on the unbiased situation analysis and then make an informed decision. It should be realistic and practical. The major concern among us are about the domination on our Mon by Burmese or others culturally, socially, economically and politically. So in order to prevent the domination of other people on our Mon, we better build a stronger Mon civil society and encourage the awareness of, and attachment to our Mon culture and Mon identity. We all are well aware that national identity cannot be overwhelmed by the other nationalities as long as we are aware and strongly attached to our national identity. National identity and national culture are not confined to a geographic location or a territory.

Population movement across borders of nation states is very common in this age of globalization. So we have to strengthen our national unity, national awareness and attachment to our national identity wherever we are. As long as we can manage to strengthen the awareness and attachments to our Mon national culture and identity no matter whether we are in our Mon state, in Karen state, Rangoon division or abroad we can maintain our Mon national identity and can survive as Mon in the world.

Siri Mon Chan

(Canberra, Australia)


Dear Editor,

I really enjoy reading your article and agree that the SPDC’s population transfer is a threat for the Mons and other ethnic.  Burma is a diverse and complex state, population transfer is not only between the Burman and non-Burman; as I have heard Wa people in northern Shan State are brought to the south.  Even though the SPDC may not directly involve in the larger scales, all of these chaos are due to the SPDC’s centralization policy.

Min Min (UK)


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