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KAOWAO NEWS NO. 127


KAOWAO NEWS NO. 127
Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
May 2-17, 2007



Villagers taxed by local police for working in Thailand

4 Mon migrants dead, 7 wounded in car accident

Thousands of poor migrants streaming across the Thai-Burma border

Mon people face hard labor in military development projects


NMSP President urges for the reestablishment of Monland

Thousands of Burma ’s children deprived of education

Fall of Honsawatoi unites Mon organizations around the world

The day before the fall of Hongsawatoi on 8 May 1757

Communists in Bhutan ? The contribution of the US, UNHCR, India

Burmese Media-in-Exile : Is it Biased, too?


Villagers taxed by local police for working in Thailand
Kaowao: May 17, 2007

Civilians in northern Mon State are taxed 10,000 kyats each for having worked in Thailand by the local police, Kaowao has learned.

A villager from Pangone of Paung Township said they could not refuse the district police officer because the policemen checked the people who pay taxes at their homes.

“The police officer Aung Min Lwin asks for money from those who have worked in Thailand . He (the police) does not care whether they have made any money or not or if they were arrested by Thai police and repatriated home without any,” he added.

Another villager of Kyaikpaw, in Bago Township also talked to the media about police extortion to the civilians who worked in Thailand .  After the news was released, the villagers were more restricted from working in Thailand according to local witnesses.

Burmese migrant workers contribute to the development of villages in Mon State , building schools, for example, and boosting the local economy with much needed cash.

The collection of tax by the police in the villages has occurred for over a year, but no one dares to speak out to the exile media groups, according to the villager.

The SPDC has restricted Burmese people from working in Thailand and issued a statement that perpetrators would be sentenced as human traffickers if caught transporting migrant labourers into neighbouring countries.

When not fighting against opposition groups, corruption and exploitation is standard practice among Burmese military personnel, officer’s salaries are not sufficient to pay for their daily needs.  Low ranked civil servants receive 15,000 kyats ($12) while the top-ranked officials take 200,000 kyats ($160) per month.

A Burmese migrant worker in Thailand earns about 120 Baht a day ($US 3.30). In contrast, if on the rare occasion that one lands a job in Burma , they would find it difficult to make ends meet.  And with inflation continuing to rise in hand with unemployment, human rights violations, and displacement, thousands decide to leave to search for jobs in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Japan and even in Europe where they take on low paid 4 D jobs: dirty, difficult, dangerous, and distant.


Kaowao News Report
Thousands of Burma’s children deprived of education
Reported by Lawiweng: May 9, 2007


A young girl selling drinking waterMudon: From dusk to dawn seven days a week people gather around local bars to drink beer and chat into the early morning hours in Mudon Townhip of Mon State, southern Burma. Fourteen-year-old Tun Oo works every night until the early morning serving the patrons of one such crowded beer garden in Kwan Hlar village. He works alone for over 12 hours a day and enjoys serving beer to his guests.

 

“I get 30,000 kyat per month and I feel satisfied with my stipend. Before I got 15,000 when I filled gasoline,” said the slim young boy. Poverty, however, is seen as the major reason why parents send their children to work. Tun Oo from Kyaik-Hto Township is the youngest son in his family. He has two sisters and his family has difficulties making ends meet. Having no other option, he went to work in Mudon Township where he could get a better salary.

 

He likes the cowboy style and wears a cowboy hat along with camouflage short pants. He is very familiar with the guests. There are many boys like Tun Oo who serve beer, coffee and tea at shops in Burma. The owners often do not hire adults, as they must pay them more than children.

 

According to coordinator Mrs. Jarai Non of the WCRP (Women and Child Rights Project), which is based on the Thai-Burma border in Sangkalaburi and who collects news reports regarding child labor, many children are involved in family businesses because their families are poor.

 

According to Save the Children, Burma’s children face some of the worst poverty in Asia. Due to economic decline and the political situation that affects aid allocation, rates of child mortality are high with over 27,000 children nationwide dying from preventable diseases while others suffer from malnutrition and endure long hours of labouring for their families. Other problems relate to lack of education, which has fallen in recent years from lack of public investment. Unskilled and without legal protection, children under the age of 18 make up approximately 40% of the population.

 

There are many children who work collecting bottles, plastic bags, and those who sell food and water at bus and train stations along the way from Mawlamyine to Rangoon. Some children sit at bus stations and ask passengers if they would like drinking water when the bus stops. These children are not able to study at school, as their families cannot afford to pay for their education.

 

Two boys collecting plastic bagsBurma became signatory to the UN Convention on the Right’s of the Child (1991) and enacted the Child Law prohibiting child labour (1993). The concept that children have rights is not widely known in the country. Unfortunately, for these poor children and their families, there are no real options to continue their education at present. At a UN Committee meeting in 2004, some Burma officials feel that these parents have no choice but to send their children to work and should be allowed to so.

 

A popular expression from taxi drivers in Burma is, “You don’t need to be educated, but you need to know how to find money.” Indeed, many people in Burma aren’t proud of their education and do not pursue it. Some people who graduate still cannot get a job and cannot provide for their families. Because of the high unemployment of those who are educated, many families encourage their children not to complete their education. The majority of children finish only to middle school.

 

“Children who work at coffee and tea shops have to live in small compounds in poor living and working conditions that affects their health,” confirmed Mrs. Jarai Non. “Many children get paid a small amount of money even though they have to work day and night. They have to wake up at 5 am and continue working till 10 pm leaving them exhausted. Some children don’t want to work and they would prefer to continue their studies,” she added.


4 Mon migrants dead, 7 wounded in car accident
Reported by Lawiweng, Kaowao: May 7, 2007


Sangkhlaburi -- Three women and one male Mon migrants died and seven were wounded in a car accident as they were driving to Kanchanaburi on 4 May, 2007.

The car crashed before arriving in Kanchanaburi, according to a migrant worker who lives in Three Pagodas Pass, Thai Burma border, while the migrants were trying to sneak into Thailand.

The truck left at 7:00 p.m from Palaine Japan village and the accident occurred around half past ten, according to the agent.

Seven wounded people were sent hospital in Kanchanaburi, she said.

The source couldn’t confirm yet where those people from in Mon state. According to the source, the people were afraid to say where they were from.

More than two thousand Burmese migrants arrived on the Thai-Burma border between 18 April and 6 May 2007.  Affected by inflation and unemployment in Burma, many Burmese workers are looking for jobs in their neighboring countries.  After the finish of Burma’s water festival every year, the border area is usually crowded with migrant workers.

 


Thousands of poor migrants streaming across the Thai-Burma border

Lawiweng, Kaowao: May 6, 2007

 

More than two thousand Burmese migrants arrived on the Thai-Burma border between 18 April and 6 May, according to a member of KPF (Karen Peace Force), who is in charge of the checkpoint in Chaung Zon, Three Pagodas Pass.

 

"The motor way is damaged as the rainy season has started and less people are coming. But a couple of hundred people are arriving everyday,” said the officer.

 

Affected by high inflation, poor employment opportunities, displacement, and human rights violations in Burma , many are heading to Thai factories and other industries in search of jobs in their neighboring countries.

 

There are Thai VIP buses for transporting people on the border and every day ten VIP buses are filled with Burmese workers, said a resident in Three Pagodas Pass.

 

There are a thousand Burmese workers without Thai legal travel documents and they are waiting to sneak into Thailand . Many face uncertainty and risk their lives while crossing over including being shot at by Thai authorities, drowning while crossing streams, illegal trafficking schemes, contracting diseases such as malaria, deportation, and punishment.

 

Migration is seasonal with high numbers crossing over during Burma ’s water festival, Songkran, and peaking again during the rainy season. However, this year there were many Burmese workers returning to Thailand , which offers better work opportunities than in Burma . Migrants make on average about 1,500 to 5,000 Baht ($40-140) per month with many remitting money home to their families.



NMSP President urges for the reestablishment of Monland
MUL: May 8, 2007

Sangkhlaburi -- Nai Htaw Mon in his opening speech urged the attendees that even though the Mon people regret the enormous loss of their nation, including men, women, children and Buddhist monks who died during a genocide campaign committed by Burman king U Aung Ze Ya (Alaungphaya) 250 years ago, they must keep the movement alive with a strong will until the Mons can re-establish their nation or achieve their rights to self determination again.

He recalled how the Mon first lost their nation when the Burman king, Anoratha annexed Thaton Mon Kingdom in the 11th century, AD, but the Mons were later to re-establish their kingdom through diligence. There are always opportunities for the Mons to re-establish their nation and we must struggle to keep unity and find better strategies, and most importantly, be consistent in our commitments.


He pointed out there has been domestic and international recognition of the Mons as a people ever since the Burman leadership refused us our national rights prior to when we gained independence in 1948 from Britain . Burman leaders constantly bring up this erroneous idea that, “The Mons and the Burmans are identical” a negative attitude embedded in their ‘Assimilation Policy.’ Today we are a people without a country and we must find a way to re-establish our nation with greater autonomy and hope.

Over the course of 250 years, when Burman King U Aung Ze Ya annexed Mon Kingdom in lower Burma , the king attempted and “collaborated in genocide” with fellow Burmans against the Mon people, especially targeting Buddhist monks, said Nai Kasauh Mon, the General Secretary of the Mon Unity League.

Based on historical records written in Mon palm leaves and verified by western historian books titled the “History of Rangoon and the Mon, the Civilization of South East Asia,” there is ample evidence of the event, namely, that the Burman king planned to kill all Mons and uproot the Mon culture. The president explained that the foreigners recorded eyewitness accounts in the executing of a large number of Mon monks in Rangoon in 1755 before U Aung Ze Ya overthrew Hongsawatoi. As the story goes in written accounts:

“His Majesty Aungzeya was of a very fierce and cruel disposition and make no account at all of life. He put to death many monks, and their iron alms bowls and silk robes were taken away, and the homespun robes were made into foot mats. Of some they made pillows, of some they made belts, and of some they made sails. The monks’ robes were scattered all over land and water.”


We must take a closer look at history, in that, successive Burman dominated governments never wrote the true history of their leaders but rather praised them as heroes. However, according to our accounts and other Asian texts, U Aung Ze Ya was a notorious and inhumane king in treating other non-Burman people.

Following his speech, Nai Htaw Mon combined the memorial with a candle lit prayer and vigil at Buddha Gaya Pagoda. In the evening at 7 pm, about 50 Mon people in Sangkhlaburi District attended the Buddha Gaya Pagoda in Wengka Mon village to honor their ancestors at Buddhist alters. A well-known Mon abbot Rev. Uttama built this lovely pagoda about 20 years ago.

Attendants, according to Buddhist tradition, pray for those who passed away during the Hongsawatoi Fallen Day. They prayed for Buddhist monks, royal families, leaders and ministers, children and women, soldiers and other innocent people who were executed in 1757.

An elderly Mon led prayers while attendants honored the dead. At the alter, they gave flowers to Lord Buddha, lit candles and incense for a brighter life, and prayed that the Mon people would never again face genocide.


Human Rights News Report
Mon people face hard labor in military development projects

(By Lawiweng)


More than one hundred Mon civilians have been forced to work for multiple development projects in southern Mon State . For three weeks of each month, civilians have been conscripted to work on bridge constructions.  The civilians are forced to labour on 46 bridges, which includes large and small bridges along the main road from Ye township to Kaw Zar sub town.


forced Alongside reports of forced labour there have also been reports of the military increasing the transportation of military equipment to their battalion in Kaw Zar.  The construction of bridges has now made it possible for the transportation of army supplies to their artillery battalion in Kaw Zar sub-town

 

The local Burmese army base IB No.31 commander had ordered the village headmen to provide one person from each household for the construction projects, reported a local civilian who was also a victim of forced labour.  A Mon Human rights worker interviewed a villager from Kaw Zar sub-town who had been forced more than three times in the last month to go to the bridge construction in Ye township. The amount of forced labor is more serious now than it was in January 2007, said the villager.

 

There are many civilians who would like to refuse to work, as they are too poor.  Forced labour means that they can't work in their gardens thus they can't provide for their families.  However, SPDC still calls forced labour Ko Htoo Ko Htta, which means that the civilians are working as volunteers.


The SPDC has not cooperated with the ILO to allow the investigation of ongoing forced labor in southern Mon State . They insist that the security situation is bad due to a Mon rebel group operating in the area. There was some international media that criticized the SPDC regarding its prohibition of the ILO traveling to these areas.


According to IMNA (Independent Mon News Agency), the forced labor order had come from the military officers based in those areas. The news report mentioned that the order came to the headman village. When the village headmen ordered the villagers to work, he told them that the army would pay them 2,500 kyat per day and that they had to bring their own food and equipment, however they received no payment.

 
Many civilians including women and children were forced to labour in the construction of the bridges.   Women and children were forced to pile sand and collect stones from the stream. Some constructions sites are far from where the civilians live. “We don’t want to go to the bridge between Han-Gan and Sin Kuu. It is about 15 miles from our village. But the leader of Kaw-Zar Township asks us to work for half a day,” said a 40-year-old mason from Kaw-Zar Township . Actually, the bridge was not finished even though they worked the whole day.  They had to sleep overnight at the construction site because of the long distance to their home, the next day they finished.


Meanwhile, the SPDC often broadcasts propaganda on its television network, Myanmar TV, the state run TV station.  The bridge projects are good, they report, they will provide transportation for the local Mon people. However, the NMSP said in their statement on Mon National Day that they were not happy that the SPDC was using forced labor.

 
The NMSP had peace talks with SPDC in 1995, but before the peace agreement, southern Ye belonged to the NMSP.  After the ceasefire agreement, the SPDC deployed many battalions to within the cease-fire areas. The SPDC didn’t want the NMSP to have influence or control within these areas again if the cease-fire failed.

 

(Lawiweng is a human rights reporter working for the Mon Forum which produces monthly reports on human rights in Mon State .)

 


Fall of Honsawatoi unites Mon organizations around the world

Kaowao: May 2, 2007

 

250 years after losing their sovereignty, Mons around the world have organized to commemorate this very important day for their nation.

 

This year will mark the 250th anniversary of the fall of Mon kingdom Honsawatoi. Worldwide, Mon communities are organizing to celebrate this event on a broader scale, back home in Burma, Thailand and overseas.

 

The Overseas Mon Coordinating Committee (OMCC) is working hard to motivate fellow Mon organizations to hold ceremonies in their respective locations.  Their efforts have included the issuing of a joint statement, publication of a memorial magazine, release of a Mon album, creation of T-shirts, presentation of Mon history to younger generations, and staging of a demonstration.

 

The OMCC is comprised of community leaders and individuals from Australia, Canada , Europe, the United States, Malaysia and Thailand (specifically Bangkok and the Thai-Burma border).  The OMCC has also drafted a letter to Mr. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, representing Mon organizations around the world.  

 

In Thailand , Hongsawatoi Memorial Day ceremonies will be held in Mahachai, Sangkhlaburi and Maesot.  According to Nai Monjean, an event organizer based in Bangkok , guest speakers will present in the morning, food will be offered to monks, seminars will be held in the afternoon, and there will be a candlelight dedication closing the day's events.


"The purpose of holding this Memorial Day ceremony is to remember the independent Mon kingdom, to devote merit to a large number of innocent ancestors who have been killed by Burman soldiers, and to strengthen unity among Mon people.   Discussions will be embedded into the agenda to provide community leaders the opportunity to share their experiences and adapt strategies to the unique circumstances of their society's development," said Monjean.

 

In the United States , the Monland Restoration Council (MRC) will hold demonstrations on May 7th in front of the Burmese Embassy and at UN Headquarters in New York . They will also meet with the representative of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues. 

 

"Since we lost our independence to the Burmans in 1757, we have lost not only our sovereignty but our inalienable rights, including the rights to preserve our culture and learn our language, the right to determine our political, social and economic status, and the right to determine our own future," said Nai Pon Nya Mon, Chairman of the MRC.

 

The Mon kingdom Hongsawatoi was invaded by Burman king Aungzeya in 1757. This led thousands of Mon people to flee cruelty and bloodshed in their motherland and seek refuge in Thailand.  Until recently, the fall of Honsawatoi was commemorated only modestly in liberated areas of the New Mon State Party. Now, since thousands of Mon have begun resettling in third countries, overseas Mon are joining in the commemoration of this important historical event. Mon people in the United States were the first to hold a major Hongsawatoi commemoration ceremony, thereby drawing attention to the general Mon public.


Sunthorn Sripanngern provides a fascinating historical account of events leading up to the Hongsawatoi invasion in 1757
The day before the fall of Hongsawatoi on 8 May 1757
By Sunthorn Sripanngern

Continue from: "weak points of Mon during war with Brumese"

Having defeated the Mons in Upper Burma , Alaungpaya pursued them southwards and in February 1755 entered Prome. By May of the same year he had entered Dagon. It would appear that Dagon escaped the worst of these disasters; no attempt was made by the Mons to hold the town and thus no fighting occurred, but there was as yet no general submission of the delta, and Dagon became the scene of a good deal of fighting. The Mons still held Pegu and Syriam, and Alaungpaya therefore made Dagon his headquarters from which an attack on Syriam across the water might be projected.

But for the time being it was rather Syriam, which attacked Dagon. The Mons were better equipped than the Burmans in arms and ammunition, and had the further advantage of enjoying the assistance of the French establishment there, which was under the command of the Sieur de Bruno. Alaungpaya's obvious course was to seek the assistance of the rivals of the French, the English who were now established at Negrais (at the mouth of Bassein River ). And as early as March he had approached the head of the factory at Negrais, but his proposal was without effect, for the policy of the East India Company was to maintain strict neutrality in the contest, since their commitments in India were too great to allow of further liabilities elsewhere.

After occupying Dagon Alaungpaya received a visit from Sieur de Bruno, who professed a desire to congratulate him on his conquests, but the king realized that no sincere assistance could be looked for from that quarter, and in June he dispatched a second mission to Negrais bearing various presents, and since then it seemed evident that the Burmans were the winning side, the English sent two officers to him with a present of, among other items, a twelve-pounder gun, three nine-pounders, eight shot, and four chests of powder.

Meanwhile, Alaungpaya had persuaded the English shipwright, who was almost the only Englishman still resident at Syriam, to come to Dagon, and with him came four English ships that happened to be in the port. The English had suffered much at Syriam from the Francophile propensities of the Mons, and were doubtless glad to place themselves under the protection of the Burmans; so much so, that Alaungpaya appears to have received over assistance from them, for when in May, a week or two after the king's arrival in Dagon, the Mons crossed the Pegu River and established a stockade at Tamwe to the northeast of the town, Alaungpaya had the aid of Indian soldiers from the four ships in expelling the Mon force. At the beginning of June another English snow "Arcot" (square-rigged vessel on which a large trysail is hoisted) appeared in the river in need of repairs, and the shipwright, "Stringfellow" by name, sent a message urging the captain, "Robert Jackson" to come to Dagon where the king would give every possible assistance. On the sixth June, "Arcot" anchored off Dagon. Alaungpaya was at once visited by a company's officer, John Whitehill, who happened to be on board, and, Whitehill, gave him a present of a fowling-gun and two bottles of rosewater, the king extended to him courteous reception, promised the needed assistance of carpenters and caulkers, and also agreed to send river-boats to Negrais with letters.

But Alaungpaya wanted a quid pro quo; the Mons had the aid of the French vessels that were in the port of Syriam , and under their protection might come up the river and attack Dagon; he therefore needed guns. So the following day he invited all the Englishmen of the various ships to come ashore, and in their absence sent men to demand all the guns, small arms, and ammunition that "Arcot" carried, as well as a statement of her cargo. Jackson, who had not gone ashore, replied that this demand was contrary to established usage and that rather than comply he would go to Syriam. The day after, the Burmans came and threatened to take the guns by force, but Jackson prepared to resist and made his ship ready to sail. Alaungpaya, having no desire to see his enemies strengthened by the accession of the English vessel, sent his son to explain that the demand was made under the apprehension that it was the custom at Syriam to land all arms, but that if it was not the custom the demand would not be persisted in. Nevertheless, the Burmans managed to get possession of all the arms and ammunition of the country vessel " Elizabeth " that had come up from Syriam before the arrival of "Arcot".

Alaungpaya was no doubt disappointed, but he could not afford to alienate the English at the moment, especially as the Negrais staff seemed well-disposed and sent him at this juncture a dozen muskets and some powder as a foretaste of the heavy guns which were to come later. Moreover, it was not possible for him to stay at Dagon any longer; a son of Mahadammayaza-Dipati had effected a rising in upper Burma , and Alaungpaya left Dagon towards the end of June to secure his authority in the north. The rains had begun, and perhaps those weather conditions would prevent much activity during his absence. He had taken measures for the safety of Dagon; a large force was left to hold the town under Zeyananda who had been appointed as Governor, and a moat and fortified gateways had been projected. He appointed about 15,000 men to maintain the post at Dagon. As he passed by every place, gave orders to call in the former inhabitants, and obliged them to build a number of fighting boats, in proportion to the number of the people.

Although Alaungpaya did expect that all would be quiet at Dagon in his absence, he was disappointed, the Mons took advantage of his departure to make several attacks. Like Alaungpaya, they realized the effect which the English ships might have on the fortunes of the day, and even before Alaungpaya departed, they had sent a letter to Jackson stating that an attack on Dagon was impending and asking the English not to fire on their boats, and at the same time offered Jackson a friendly welcome at Syriam. Jackson, who was disturbed at the difficulties he had got into with the Burmans and was disgusted because the help in repairing his ship which Alaungpaya had promised had not been forthcoming, was inclined to listen to such suggestions. So he replied that he would not oppose the Mon forces and that he would come down to Syriam at the first opportunity.

A few days afterwards the Mons attempted a surprise attack, their boats coming up the river with the night tide while another force crossed the Pegu River and advanced by land. The boats, however, were repulsed by the fire of the Burmans who lined the bank of the river, while the land force, finding that the Burmese post on the Pagoda Hill could be carried only by assault, and disheartened by the failure of the attack from the river, made only a feeble attempt.  And after sporadic firing had gone on through the night and most of the morning, the Mons withdrew. By noon the attack was over. During this affair the English remained strictly neutral, but the Burmans suspected them for that very reason of favoring the enemy since Alaungpaya seems to have extracted from them some sort of promise that they would aid his men in the event of an attack.

The Burmans were not far wrong in their surmise; a week later another message came from the Mons announcing a further attack, and to this Jackson and the other English officers replied that if the Mons would aid them to escape from Dagon they would give active assistance in the fight. They at the same time gave the Mons information about the strength of the Burmans, which consisted of eighty river-boats, of which nine were armed with guns, a Dutch Brigantine which they had commandeered and manned with their own men, and two guns mounted on shore. The Burmans, however, became aware of these conversations and demanded a definite assurance that if the Mons attacked the place the English would resist them. The English replied that without express orders from the Company they must remain neutral but that if the Mons attacked them they would assist the Burmans.

The Burmans were far from being satisfied with this, and kept a strong guard of boats around the "Arcot" for several days. Meanwhile the Mons , assured of the assistance of the English ships which, they hoped, would give certain victory, prepared for battle. And early one morning, the Mon flotilla of two hundred boats and one snow, headed by two French vessels, could be seen down the river. They had dropped down the Pegu River with the tide overnight, and lay at the junction of that river with Hlaing River , waiting for the turn of the tide to carry them up to Dagon. As soon as daylight enabled the enemy to be seen, the Burmese commander sent an urgent message to Jackson demanding his support, but, in the words of Jackson , very little notice was taken of this application. Owing to the time of the tide, it was two o'clock in the afternoon before the flotilla arrived off the town.

The French ships anchored and opened fire with their cannon while the Mon musketeers commenced firing at the Burmese boats. The Burmese had withdrawn their boats into a creek, probably the old creek running up to the Sule Pagoda, where they hoped to be protected by a small battery consisting no doubt of the two guns mounted on shore, the existence of which had been reported to the Mons that these guns had been placed behind hastily constructed works in a mango grove by the river bank. As soon as the firing commenced, the English ships also began bombarding the Burmese position, and unable to withstand the combined force of the enemy artillery, the Burmese were compelled to abandon their boats and took shelter among the mango trees. There they put up a determined resistance, and though their cannon were not well managed, nevertheless they managed to do some execution with their musketry that killed two Mons on board the "Arcot". It appeared to the French and English that if the Mons had gone in shore they could have taken all the Burmese boats, but they were afraid to face the Burmese musketry at close quarters, and despite the persuasions of the Europeans they remained out in the stream.

Firing went on until nightfall, and after dark the English ships moved farther out into the stream, to be out of range of the Burmese muskets. The bombardment went on for seven days, and then having exhausted their ammunition and achieved nothing. The attack had been ill managed, no diversion was made by any land force, and the Mons refused to engage in hand-to-hand fighting. Thus their seven days' attack left the Burmese still in possession of their fortification. When the Mons returned to Syriam, the English ships went with them. Jackson, who had apparently gone to Syriam after the first day's fighting, afterwards explained his conduct in preferring the Mons at Syriam to the Burmese at Dagon on the grounds that he was sick with dysentery and needed medical attention from the doctor attached to the French factory: there every thing was to be got for his assistance, at Dagon nothing nor had they seen a fowl since they had been there, and no water but what was very bad which had thrown him into a bloody flux and a strong fever. For the time being Dagon was safe, but its position was precarious, for now the Mons were reinforced by the English ships as well as the French.

The king was greatly angered by the conduct of the English in assisting his enemies. When the mission from Negrais bringing the canon reached him at Shwebo in September, he expressed his wrath: "Your ships that were at Dagon with Mr. Whitehill, I treated with kindness", he said, "and supplied them with what they wanted, and at my leaving that Place, to come here to keep our fast, desired him that in case it should be required in my absence, on an emergency, to assist my people; or at least not to join the Peguers against them; which though he promised to observe, yet was the first that fired on them". This episode implanted in his mind a suspicion of the English which was never eradicated and which led to the massacre of the English at Negrais when opportunity offered four years later.

Alaungpaya now sent a new commander, Minhla-Minkaungkyaw, to Dagon, who brought reinforcements with him and took energetic measures to improve the defenses. At Syriam, meanwhile, preparations were in hand for a further attack on Dagon, and the English were compelled to take part in this also, it being made clear to them that unless they rendered such assistance they would not be allowed to depart. The English had found the Mons if anything even less easy to deal with than the Burmans; the Mons also were suspicious of their good faith, and when the chief of the Negrais factory wrote demanding the surrender of four guns belonging to the English factory at Syriam, the Mon commander refused, saying that "he knew Mr. Brooke wanted to give them to the Burmans that he might get some Rubies from the Dagon Pagoda".

In December Dagon endured another onslaught of even greater magnitude than the last. Three English ships, one French ship, the snow belonging to the Mon King, and three hundred boats participated; while ten thousand men were landed to march against the fortifications on the Pagoda Hill and at the mango grove. The Burmans found it impossible to hold the town, and withdrew to their fort at the Pagoda. There they maintained themselves, and the Mons proved unable to dislodge them. When the Burmans sent down fireboats on the tide, the Mon flotilla and the European ships had to slip their cables and retreat; the land force, unsupported from the river, made an ineffectual attempt to storm the fort but was easily repulsed. So the attack was brought to an end. After this abortive effort the English ships were allowed to depart, though the Mons retained five of the Arcot's guns.

Here Sieur de Bruno proposed neutrality to Alaungpaya, which he did not respect; when the king marched on Syriam, where the fort was supposed to be impregnable, Bruno anchored his ship near the emporia and prepare to defend them against the Burmese. But soon Bruno proposed a new accommodation to Alaungpaya. The Mons intercepted the message and locked Bruno up in the fortress at Syriam. Alaungpaya took advantage of this and seized the emporia and the French ship.

Then in July 1756 the council at Pondicherry decided to send two ships to Pegu, the "Diligent" and the "Galathee" with troops, munitions and provisions.

Alaungpaya besieged the city and fort of Syriam and took them in July. The "Galathee" had already arrived at the Burmese coast but went up the Sittang instead of the Rangoon River . When this mistake was discovered and the ship was put back on the right course, it was too late; by the time that the vessel arrived at Syriam the city had already been fallen two days before. Alaungpaya forced Bruno to order the captain of the French ship to proceed to Rangoon . The captain's papers proved that his cargo was intended for Banya Dala. The Burmese king thereupon put Bruno, captain and the officers of the Galathee to death, and took the soldiers prisoner, whom he intended to use against the capital, Pegu, together with the weapons that had been recovered.

(The "Diligent" arrived six months later because adverse winds had blown her off course to the Nicobar Islands , and escaped in time.)

In the mean time the Burmese troops instituted a scorched earth policy around Syriam and soon in the entire province.  The villages were set on fire and all the Mons , who were easily recognized because of the way they wore their hair, were either killed or deported, depending on whether or not they were marketable. Once again nothing was left but smoking ruins, corpses, and harvests laid to waste. Only those settlements which gave themselves up before any of the troops arrived were spared by Alaungpaya and his men.

When the sides began to parley, Alaungpaya offered to show clemency to the Mons , declaring that he was a divine reincarnation destined to become a Buddha. The last chance for reconciliation? The Mon king offered him his daughter. But it was only a ruse on the part of the Burmese, who hope it would get them inside the walls.

The siege of Pegu was particularly bloody. The moats ran red with blood, and this was a fatal omen to the Mons who remembered what happened in 1538.

The Mons rallied, but the firearms taken from the French did the rest, and on 8 May 1757 the city fell. The customary carnage and pillaging followed. Nevertheless, Alaungpaya spared the lives of the royal family, whom he held as prisoners. Most of the city was destroyed and it never recovered from the tragedy.  If one is to believe Sayadaw Athwa, Alaungpaya took out his fury especially on the monks, three thousand of whom he ordered to be trampled to death by elephants and whose monasteries he pillaged. "The monks helped the city to resist," he said.  Even if this horror was exaggerated by the chronicle, by turning the monks over to wild beasts Alaungpaya made it clear that he wanted to destroy the culture of the Mon; from this date on the Mon language was vigorously discouraged in Burma .

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Dalrymple: Oriental Repertory

D.G.E. Hall: The Tragedy of Negrais (Journal of the Burma Research Society XXII)

R. Halliday: History of Kings (Journal of the Burma Research Society XIII)

Konbaungset Yazawin

Sonnerat: Voyage aux Indes Orientales (1782)

M. Symes: Embassy to Ava (1800)

H.H. Wilson: Documents Illustrative of the Burmese War (1827)

Emmanuel Guillon: The Mons , a Civilization of Southeast Asia (1999)


In the region

Communists in Bhutan ? The contribution of the US , UNHCR, India and et all
Weekly commentary from Asian Centre for Human Rights: 16 May 2007

From 28 May 2007, Bhutanese refugees will launch fresh movement demanding their right to return to Bhutan in the wake of programme for resettlement in third countries, offered mainly by the United States . All eyes of the diplomatic community in Nepal and neighbouring India would be on the role of the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist-Maoists), the CPB-MLM.

On 3 May 2007, the activists of the CPB-MLM prevented the representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from holding consultations with Bhutanese refugees at Beldangi camp regarding their resettlement in the United States . They demanded return to Bhutan . The UNHCR has undertaken the consultation programmes following the proposals from the United States to resettle over 60,000 Bhutanese refugees in the US over the next 4-5 years. The United States is reportedly setting up an overseas processing entity (OPE) in Kathmandu to start resettling the refugees from 1 July 2007.

The UNHCR is too eager to wash off its hands. On 7 March 2007, Representative of UNHCR in Nepal , Abraham Abraham stated that the proposal of third country resettlement was a "very important offer" and encouraged the refugees to accept it.

Since 1990s, over 100,000 refugees from Bhutan have been languishing in the camps in eastern Nepal . Because of the failure of the international community to censure Bhutan for its ethnic cleansing policies, no solution could be found on the vexed issue. Nepal often responded to the proposals from Bhutan, and in June 2003, it agreed to classify the refugees into four categories: Category 1- Bonafide Bhutanese who had been evicted forcefully; Category 2 - Bhutanese who migrated on their own; Category 3 - Non-Bhutanese; and Category 4 - Bhutanese who have committed criminal acts. The categorization of refugees has been reiterated as racist.

Out of the total refugee population of 12,183 at Khudunabari camp, the Joint Verification Team of Nepal and Bhutan found 293 persons of 74 families under Category 1;   8,595 persons of  2182 families under Category 2; 2,948 persons of 817 families under Category 3; and 347 persons of 85 families under Category 4.


I. The flawed US offer

The United States ' offer to accept as many as 60,000 refugees sounds sexy when the western countries turned into fortresses for the refugees and asylum seekers in the post cold war period. In the post September 11 th period, immigrants from the Muslim countries are no longer welcome, especially in the United States . Therefore, unless the United States adopts a comprehensive policy for resolving the Bhutanese refugee crisis, its offer might be mis-construed. After all, the Bhutanese refugees, who are mostly Hindus and Buddhists, fit the American requirements for immigration in the post September 11th period.

The determination of citizenship status of the all the refugees is indispensable for any solution to the crisis. Unless citizenship status is determined it is highly likely that those who are bonafide citizens of Bhutan even as per the discriminatory and illegal yardsticks of the Bhutanese government will be considered for resettlement and those refugees whose nationality is being questioned by the government of Bhutan will be left out.

If the United States is serious about the solution of the Bhutanese refugee crisis, it must give first priority to those refugees who are unabale to prove their nationality. But such a process might include those who are illiterate and cannot speak in English irrespective of their nationality and therefore do not meet the criteria for resettlement. One does not have to be a communist but the United States and its implementing agency, UNHCR, must clarify as to what will happen to the remaining 40,000 refugees if the United States accepts only about 60,000 refugees.

II. The internal crisis of the Bhutanese refugees

In 1990s the demand for democracy in Bhutan by southern Bhutanese to a large extent was influenced by the success of the Jana Andolan (Peoples' Movement) in neighboring Nepal . The government of Bhutan unleashed repression and expelled thousands of its citizens for simply being ethnic Nepalis.

As thousands of refugees fled, the government of India washed its hands off by sending them to Nepal . The government of India also repeatedly blocked the return of the refugees to Bhutan . Most western governments supported the virtual ethnic cleansing policy of Bhutan in the name of preserving the socalled Shangrila of Bhutan.

In 1990s, the donors rushed to assist the refugees. NGOs with active support from the donors mushroomed in the refugee camps and each NGO developed its own constituency in the camps. The movement of the Bhutanese refugees got lost; the refugees like all exiled communities became divided and disillusioned. As conflicts in other countries erupted, donors gradually withdrew. Only the NGOs with posters and postboxes remained.

The plight of the Bhutanese refugees became a lost cause.

The offer of resettlement in the United States of late has become the rallying point for all the Bhutanese refugees.

Enter the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxists-Leninists-Maoists) in this critical scenario. The activities of the CPB-MLM might have already raised alarmed bells. Questions are also being raised whether the success of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in Nepal have once again encouraged the Bhutanese of ethnic Nepali origin. And the government of Bhutan is once again having the last laugh.

It would be unfortunate if the genuine concerns of the Bhutanese refugees – determination of their nationality first – is to be overshadowed by the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxists-Leninists-Maoists).  If the United States is serious, it must evolve a policy involving the government of Nepal , government of Bhutan and representatives of the refugees. The government of Bhutan must undertake the responsibility to rehabilitate those who can prove their nationality under international supervision, and the United States will undertake to resettle those who cannot prove their nationality. The principle of own volition by an individual refugee and/or her family members must be the determinant factor to decide about resettlement.

Without such a solution, the United States and UNHCR might have just given necessary shot in the arms of the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxists-Leninists-Maoists). That is also precisely what the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) wants – extension of the moral and ideological influence. After all, the cold war was all about colonialism – expansion to bring under ideological fold. The Himalayas are slowly becoming the ground for a new kind of war between the US and the neo-Communists.

From the WEEKLY REVIEW of ACHR (Asian Centre for Human Rights), 16 May 2007

http://www.achrweb.org/Review/2007/167-07.htm


Readers' Front

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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.

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Kaowao News

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On the NMSP President urges for the reestablishment of Monland

Why no one is blaming Thailand for annexing Mon kingdoms!  Throughout history, it was not only Burmese kings who were villains, Thais monarchs were as aggressive and blood thirsty as Burmese. Why Burma was always picked and single out? Guilty of all ills? An easy target? A sitting duck?

AKS
(Via Democracy_forBurma@yahoogroups discussion)

_______________________________________________________

Burmese Media-in-Exile : Is it Biased, too?

We have not yet heard news of the 250th Hongsawatoi Mon Kingdom Fallen Day from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) based in Norway .  The DVB is known for being the center of the Burmese Democratic Movement.  This year, Hongsawatoi Fallen Day was celebrated by Mon people worldwide, including those who live near the DVB headquarters in Norway . People celebrated this event to encourage unity among Mon people and an understanding amongst other nationalities.  Despite comprehensive media coverage on the event from other sources, there has been no report from the DVB.

This raises an important question: how is the opposition media acting any differently from the SPDC?  When bad news comes for ethnic people (for instance, the split of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army from the Karen National Union) the DVB did not hesitate to report.   People inside Burma have a right to know about Hongsawatoi Fallen Day festivities, in addition to the recent split among the Karen.

On a separate occasion, the DVB was hesitant to release news that would assist Karen people in achieving unity. When they heard the news that Karen were fighting each other, they jumped to release the story. This further divided Karen people and caused confusion until some Karen leaders protested against the DVB's biased approach. The stories stopped only when the KNU declared that the fighting was between Burmese troops and the KNU, not between Karen.

Today, the central government in Burma , dominated by the Burman majority, insists upon a single united state.  However, conflict stems not only from the power struggle between democratic forces and a dictator. We must not forget that when seeking solutions to political problems in Burma , and striving for peace and stability, it is crucial to consider the role of ethnic nationalities.

The international community is finally beginning to recognize that the denial of ethnic rights is a central issue in Burma .  While the 1947 constitution aimed to build a federal union, it existed only in theory and was never actually realized.

Since becoming isolated, Burma has been recognized almost exclusively for the 1988 general uprising and 1990 election. In effect, the role of ethnic nationalities was placed on the back burner while the main political party was given precedence. The United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD), the second runner-up in the 1990 election led by ethnic nationalities, remained largely out of view of the public.  The modest attitudes of ethnic groups have always taken a back seat to Burman pro-democracy medias-in-exile. It's not surprising that the world believes Burma 's root problem to be a lack of democracy.

The failure of the 1988 uprising built some understanding between Burman and non-Burman groups, since many Burmese students went on to join the armed forces under the protection of Karen, Mon, Karenni and Kachin armed ethnic groups. There was no doubt, however, that the Burman majority was in control, and many campaigns were launched by their democratic forces. The Democratic Voice of Burma and Radio Free Asia (Burmese program) emerged after 1988. 

Unfortunately, the role of ethnic nationalities and their media have never been at center stage. Only a small amount of airtime is allotted for ethnic programs in Burma , and audiences are not well informed about the root of the country's problems. Foreign radio stations such as BBC and VOA offer comprehensive reports about Burma , and have given unbiased information to the general public, but sometimes they neglect to adequately cover minority issues. Perhaps the US and Britain are hesitant to report on topics that in many ways resemble their own history with minority rights and colonialism.

In recent years, ethnic nationalities in Burma led by the Ethnic National Council (ENC) have launched international campaigns across Europe, America , India , Japan and other countries. These efforts have introduced the struggle of nationalities to the rest of the world.

It is disheartening that we can still observe Burman chauvinists and writers dominating Burmese media-in-exile.  A good example is an article from the award-winning Mizzima news by Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein. The former student leader and the son of Burmese political leader, Bo Bo discredited the role of the ENC on their prominent web page by criticizing the state-based draft constitution of the ENC, which granted equal rights and self-determination in his Tyranny of the Minority (http://mizzima.com/MizzimaBurmese/Articles/2007/Jan/22-Jan-2006-07c.htm).

Modest ethnic nationalities have lost power to the dictator by force. Today, we are also losing control of the media, in a struggle that can only be called psychological warfare.

Banya Htaw Weang

New York, USA

(Via monnet discussion)

 


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