In disgust for the junta, Burmese are united

30 October 2007

Oct 29 2007

Yangon, Myanmar : By Burmese standards, life has been good for the three friends, buddies from the Defense Services Academy, the alma mater of many of the generals who ordered the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Myanmar last month. Two of them own factories; the third works for an airline, a coveted job in this country.

Still, when their late-afternoon chat in a Yangon office turned to Senior General Than Shwe, these veterans in their 50s could hardly conceal their loathing.

"When I was an army officer, my soldiers and I went out every day to fight Communists," said one of the men, who runs a factory in southern Myanmar. "What do they do now? They bring soldiers from the border, feed them with food, drugs and rum, and they run them like dogs, fighting their own people."

During a recent trip to Myanmar, it was hard to find anyone who liked the junta. Burmese journalists detested the government censors, who read their articles days or even weeks before they were allowed to be published. Farmers and taxi drivers alike commonly volunteered: "Our government no good!" Or, when asked their opinions, said with an uneasy face: "Better not to say."

But some of the harshest criticism came from relatively affluent people like the three veterans - an indication of how the junta has alienated not only the people its policies have condemned to poverty, but also some of Myanmar's better-off.

"My friends, their relatives, their sons and daughters - they all don't like the government," said the owner of the factory in the south.

"Because of our background, we know how the generals' minds work. They seize power and crush anyone who comes in their way. They don't care about the economy. They don't care about the people. They only know their military ways."

The three veterans left active service around 1988, when disillusion with the government's "Burmese way to socialism" culminated in a mass uprising that the government suppressed with bloodshed.

Since then, working in the private sector, they say they have seen how what some have called the "Burmese way to capitalism," led by Than Shwe's junta, has merely stuffed the pockets of ruling generals and businessmen close to them, who monopolize lucrative gas and timber deals while leaving most of the rest of the population mired in poverty.

"The junta will never change unless the generals and their families are hurt," said one of the veterans, who owns a factory in Yangon.

None of the three saw a solution. One said he would "wait out" the geriatric junta. Another, like many people in Yangon, hoped for an unlikely U.S. invasion.

"When American troops attacked Saddam Hussein in 2003, a lot of Burmese wished that American military planes would attack their country too," said another relatively well-off resident, the owner of a machine tool shop.

"This time, too, a lot of Burmese wish that the United States would launch a surgical strike at Naypyidaw," he said, referring to the isolated jungle capital the junta built in 2005, whose name means "abode of kings."

"This shows how desperate people are," said the shop owner, who said he himself would oppose such an attack. "They will welcome any change."

"Our country is turning into a crazy kingdom," said a young woman living in Yangon, a relative of a former government minister. "The generals think they are kings. I have relatives who are one-star or two-star generals. Even they don't like the senior generals."

Like an unpopular monarch, Than Shwe has become the subject of many unconfirmed rumors in Yangon. According to one such story, the senior general banned motorbikes in the city - where people who can afford the fare are packed into overcrowded buses - because he feared drive-by assassins.

The pervasive fear and hatred of the junta are evident to outsiders. "My driver once had a traffic accident with a general's car. It was clearly the general's driver's fault," said a foreign businessman in Yangon. "But my driver was so scared he pleaded to me to pay for the damage to the general's car and let him reimburse me from his salaries - even if it would cost years of his wages."

Decades of rule have left the military as Myanmar's only real elite. The Defense Services Academy, nestled in a remote alpine resort town called Pyin U Lwin, is the largest and best-funded institution of higher education in Myanmar, accepting thousands of cadets a year. With no strong alternative political force, the only viable chance for reform may come from young officers, said a foreign diplomat.

Indeed, in Yangon and other cities, there are signs of a new generation of affluent people enjoying contact with the outside world, and some people hope that young officers will share that outlook. These younger urbanites use Yahoo and Google e-mail accounts, despite the government's ban on access to those Web sites. They watch CNN and BBC on $40-a-month satellite TV service, despite the junta's frequent warnings to the population not to let foreign news "poison" their minds.

For the time being, however, the three veterans see little chance of a schism developing within the military.

Than Shwe, they said, buys his generals' allegiance but also breeds suspicion among them, sometimes playing generals from Defense Services Academy against those from the rival Office Training School when allocating posts.

Such factionalism was demonstrated in 2004, when Than Shwe and his cohorts ousted Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, then the regime's No. 3 figure, and disbanded entire military intelligence squads they suspected were loyal to him. (One consequence is that the regime is still rebuilding its secret police network, and people in Myanmar are actually less fearful of spies than they once were.)

But ultimately, the veterans and others say, the military is bound together by the fear of bloody retaliation should the regime be toppled.

"Than Shwe keeps not only the people but also the military in fear," one of the veterans said.


The Resurrection of Myanmar Yellow Blood Revolution

27 October 2007

By Aung Way (11-10-07)
Well-known Myanmar Poet
(From a bomb-shelter)

We, the Mass's Alliance for Democracy, try to resuscitate the idea for our “saffron solidarity – yellow blood” revolution 2007.

We will bring our pro-democracy movement in three ways. Those are following:

(1) Military way (way of mutiny)
(2) Diplomatic way (way of diplomacy)
(3) Propaganda way (way of counter-art)

(1) Military way (way of mutiny)

We want friendship between our army and our protesters.
We must know the soldiers. We must organize the soldiers. We must urge them to save the people and sanghas and students.

We understand that next “third and last” revolution is going to be led by the soldiers who love their country and their army. They will be revolutionary forces for democracy soon.
In our history, it'll be soldiers-led, 2007 (or) 2008 … and previous were students-led, 1988 and sanghas-led, 2007.

We hope there will be “three Ss” combination – soldiers, sanghas and students. “Three Ss” means, in myanmar language, “thar thone thar” (three kinds of son)

1. Kyaung thar – son of school = student
2. Phayar thar – son of Buddha = sangha
3. Sit thar (Tatmadaw thar) = soldier

We hope, in Myanmar army, a mutiny will be followed soon.

(2) Diplomatic way (way of diplomacy)

Why is the voice of Indian democracy silent about momentous struggle for liberty and rights in Myanmar? And also, why is the voice of Russians and Chinese?

We recognize, in China, Russia and India, their governments are different from their people.Those three governments are usual supporters of Myanmar military regime. Myanmar generals are backed by those three foreign governments. But those people of those countries are opposite of their governments.

We try, diplomatically, those people, to condemn their own governments, supporting for Myanmar government and persuade to halt it urgently.

(3) Propaganda way (way of counter-art)

We use some methods of – “Psycu-war to Psych-war”. (Psychological warfare)
We must criticize all their writings in the government mouth-piece newspapers.
We should requite all their policy media work and pro-junta art.
We will attack the enemy propaganda.
We drive them into trouble mud.
Their propaganda campaign in crisis must be broken down.

And then, most important thing we face is just to do record exactly and write down detail the lists (names and bio-datas) of Union Solidarity and Development Association's members and its villains those who, together with military bulldogs and security polices, cracked down on the pro-democracy protesters during August-September 2007 movement.

We believe, the revolutionary art which we use to counter-attack the regime is totally devastating counter-art.

Let freedom flows in the Irrawaddy River violently.


Ashin Kovida, a 24-year-old Buddhist monk - leader of September protest in Burma/Myanmar

26 October 2007

News Source : International Herald Tribune

By Thomas Fuller
Published: October 25, 2007

MAE SOT, Thailand: One of the main organizers of the September protest marches in Myanmar, Ashin Kovida, a 24-year-old Buddhist monk, escaped to Thailand last week by carrying a false identification card, dying his hair blond and wearing a crucifix.

On Thursday, Ashin Kovida offered details of his harrowing escape and insights into what has remained a central question about the September protests: Who organized the orderly lines of saffron-robed monks who marched through Yangon - and how.

Ashin Kovida crossed the border to Thailand illegally and said Thursday that he was planning to request refugee status. He is wanted by Myanmar's military government, which accuses him of storing explosives in his monastery in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. The monk called that accusation absurd.

In a six-hour interview in this border town, he painted a picture of a bare-bones organization, a group of 15 monks in their 20s who organized the September demonstrations. He said he had been elected leader of the group and had been inspired by videos of the popular uprisings in Yugoslavia against the government of Slobodan Milosevic. The group received financial help from three well-known Burmese dissidents - an actor, a comedian and a poet - but did not receive any foreign assistance during their protests, Ashin Kovida said.

Eight of the 15 monks in his organizing committee are missing, he said. The other six, he said, are hiding in Yangon. Known to have been arrested was Thin Thin Khaing, 42, whom he described as his adoptive mother. He said she was taken from her home in the early hours of Oct. 12. Her driver, Phoe Wa, was also detained, and their car impounded, he said.

Thin Thin Khaing has not formally adopted Ashin Kovida but served as his sponsor in the monkhood. Ashin Kovida said he believed that the authorities had detained her to put pressure on him to give himself up. Hlaing Moe Than, 37, a lead organizer of students in the September demonstrations who also fled to Thailand, was shown a picture of Ashin Kovida on Thursday and confirmed the more recent refugee's identity.
"He is one of the famous leaders among the Buddhist monks during the protests," Hlaing Moe Than said.

Ashin Kovida led daily protests through Yangon from Sept. 18 through Sept. 27, the day after the authorities began raiding monasteries. One of his main preoccupations, he said, was being able to feed the thousands of monks who had come to Yangon from other regions. He also worried about the presence of what he called "fake monks," who he suspected had been planted by the military government.

The spark for the demonstrations was warning shots fired by the police at monks on Sept. 5 in the central Burmese city of Pakokku. "The first time I heard the information, I was speechless," Ashin Kovida said. "It was an unbelievable thing."
His fellow monks were outraged and looked for ways to respond. They decided to disengage themselves completely from the government, refusing all alms, support and contacts.

Older monks and abbots urged the monks to carry out their protests inside the monasteries, but Ashin Kovida said younger monks had defied those directives thinking that protesting within their cloistered world would not do any good. Ashin Kovida reached out to students he had met during alms collections and began to plan the protest marches through Yangon. "We realized that there was no leadership," he said. "A train must have a locomotive." He said he had helped supervise the printing of pamphlets that would be distributed to monasteries, titled: "The monks will come out onto the streets."

"There were students and young people who were on our side," Ashin Kovida said. The students made up the pamphlets on their computers, printed them out and made photocopies. "We had to do hundreds of them," he said. "We delivered to all the monasteries in Rangoon. We tried to distribute to other regions as much as possible." Yangon is also known as Rangoon.

On Sept. 18, he said, he led the first line of monks through the streets in Yangon.
On Sept. 19, a crowd of about 2,000 protesters, including 500 monks, was sitting on the tiled floor inside the Sule Pagoda when Ashin Kovida stood up and addressed them.
"To continue demonstrations in a peaceful way we must have leadership," Ashin Kovida remembered saying. "I call on 10 monks to come join me in the front."

Fifteen monks came forward, he said, the crowd cheering them on.
They formed what they called the Sangga Kosahlal Apahwe, the Monks Representative Group. Ashin Kovida was elected chairman.
Ashin Kovida then addressed the crowd again with a short speech.
"In this country at present we are facing hardships," Ashin Kovida recalled saying. "People are starving, prices are rising. Under this military government there are so many human rights abuses. I call on people to come to join together with us. We will continue these protests peacefully every day until we win. If there are no human rights there is no value of a human."

Ashin Kovida said he had led a week of daily protests, meeting with his group of organizers in the mornings and beginning the marches at noon. He heard reports on the Burmese-language service of the BBC about other monks who had organized themselves but he never met those groups.

The demonstrations were peaceful and unhindered until Sept. 26, when the riot police blocked the monks' path, charged them and dispersed them. "The police pulled the monks' robes and beat them," Ashin Kovida remembered. "Nuns were stripped of their sarongs." Dozens of monks were taken into detention; Ashin Kovida escaped by climbing over a brick wall.

The next day, Sept. 27, as the crackdown intensified, Ashin Kovida said, he changed out of his robes and put on a sarong and short-sleeve shirt. He fled to a small village about 65 kilometers, or 40 miles, outside Yangon and with the help of relatives and friends hid in a small abandoned wooden hut.

He was so afraid of attracting the attention of neighbors that he suppressed his coughs and never left the house, which had no running water. For two weeks he lived in the dark hut, with no way of bathing. He relieved himself using a plastic bucket. Friends occasionally dropped off food.

On Oct. 12, when his adoptive mother was detained, the news was immediately relayed to him. He fled into the night, barefoot. "I ran down a large road," he said. "Whenever a car came I hid in the bushes." He reached a friend's house before dawn, borrowed some clothes and headed back to Yangon, wearing a light-blue baseball cap, reading glasses and a sarong. Friends in Yangon helped him dye his hair, which was growing in, blond. He bought a crucifix in a local market and several days later boarded a bus heading toward the Thai border.

He passed about eight checkpoints - he could not remember exactly how many - on the way to the border. He used a fake identity card, and reached the border town of Myawadi on Oct. 17. The next morning he crossed the Moei River to Thailand in a boat.

Ashin Kovida faces almost certain detention if he returns to Myanmar.
In the Oct. 18 edition of The New Light of Myanmar, the state-run newspaper, he was accused of hiding "48 yellowish high-explosive TNT cartridges" in his monastery.
"They just want to associate the monks with violence and terrorism," Ashin Kovida said.
"I have been in the monkhood since I was so young," he said. "My whole life I have been studying only Buddhism and peaceful things."

He said his father is a carpenter and his mother runs a small market stall selling onion and chilies. Both live in Rakhine State, in northwest Myanmar near the border with Bangladesh. Many in Myanmar will not be able to forgive the government for the crackdown on monks, he said.

"It's a stain on the history of Burma," Ashin Kovida said. "Inside Burma now, a lot of students and people are organizing the next step against the SPDC" - the acronym for the military government. "I think it will be the same time as the Olympics in China," he said, referring to the 2008 Games in Beijing. "That is my own opinion."

Pornnapa Wongakanit contributed reporting from Mae Sot.


State Terrorism, Agonies of Myanmar & Regional Stability (2-3)

24 October 2007

by Mg Yin


2. Regional Stability
2.1 Internal Affairs

According to the law of the jungle, only the strong will survive.

But, in the whole human society, how do we humanly define the meaning of the so-called internal affair if that is death-and-life for millions people?

Let’s simply and humanly imagine that if we encountered one of our family members suffered from abusive attacks by others, should we, as his family, tender to ignore him by irresponsibly claiming that ““Oh.. this is his personal affair only, nothing to do with our family.”?

One more instance is that when we saw a group of armed men attack or rob or attempt to murder our neighbour in front of our eyes, can we simply ignore this by saying that “Oh!...that homicides is only their internal affair and nothing to interfere”? In a worst case, if we support that armed men or robbers to succeed their attempts by providing the supportive aids and encouraging them - “keep on terrorist men, we will be on your side and we will not make any interference into your internal affairs”.

In the positive way, should we defend and save our neighbours who are in danger of being so? We should at least ring police or alarm the neighbourhoods. Otherwise, forcing our neighbour into such humanitarian crisis and situation will lead the future of our human society in danger.

Myanmar is a member of ASEAN family. Further, Myanmar is bordered by five neighbours - two giants (China and India), Thailand , Bangladesh and Laos. That means we are in a big family, but the agonies of our 52 millions people residing in Myanmar are neglected by such a big family.

Thus, Myanmar is calling for actions by those neighbours and the so-called ASEAN family to self-examination - not to side-step the heart and human issues, but to take action on brutal military regime.

Who is the real neighbour of our border countries? Who is a genuine family member of regional family, the so-called ASEAN - 52 millions of Myanmar people or a small group of abusive Myanmar military regime?

2.1 China

China firmly claims that Myanmar affair is just an internal affair. This policy is actually not to interfere into the Generals internal affair. By blocking UN Security Council’s proposed resolutions and actions, China firmly stand by the regime side and encouraging abusive government.

On the other hand, by supporting military regime China contributions are actually interferences into the internal affairs of 50 millions people as Myanmars are suffered from poverty, fear and lost of freedom and human rights under the junta’s oppressive ruling system for more than four decades.

Regarding the internal affair, I wonder if One-China policy is internal affair or a threat to the regional stability. Whatever the principles claimed by the PRC is, “One-China” or “Two-Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”, what will be happened at the present if president Jimmy Carter did not break off relations with Taiwan in 1979 in order to establish relations with the PRC.

I am curious how Beijing will respond if the other countries argue that diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and recognization of its independence is their internal affair only.

With my limited political knowledge, I also wonder whether One-China policy and HIV coupled with drug trade in borders are the internal affair or regional. Politicians and analysts may be able to answer this.

It will be more obvious if we look into the China’s foreign policy of supporting abusive governments for their oil trading businesses in Sudan, Latin Americas and Africa, now they added Myanmar.

2.2 India-Myanmar-China

With no doubt, Myanmar, a country which is geographically and strategically located between two opposite giants, needs a wise government who can mange and rule us wisely, peacefully and stably not only internally, but also regionally. However, Myanmars only got a power-mad military government and consequently the mismanagement of military regime created the economy decline, social instabilities and threat to the regional security.

For instance, as a part of China’s so-called “string of pearls” policy, China’s attempt to facilitate its access on the Bay of Bengal (see the Map in Figure) created worries among the Western and Indian analysts since China is believed to use Myanmar to build their naval and intelligence bases around the Indian Ocean. Recent evidences reported that China was delivering signals equipment for monitoring station on various coastal sites in Msyanmar. Further, China had a permanent presence on Great Coco Island which has fuelled Indian paranoia [Economist].

Under such brutal government who knows only how to use armed forces to crackdown on any uprisings, but not solving with wisdoms and wise management, It will never ever safe to presume that Myanmar affair is just an internal only.

2.3 Bangladesh-Myanmar

Looking into the other side of borders, Rohingya community in Arakan State 250, 000 muslim refugees fleeing to Bangladesh as a result of brutal offensive by military regime. For this issue, over a period of years there were lots of international pressures and numerous outspoken criticisms of the military regime from a number of Islamic nations.

Bangladesh and India always keep their eyes open on military junta’s policy and its closed relationship with PRC government, but their eyes are closed for 52 M of people suffering from poverty, fear and lost of human rights.

2.4 China - Myanmar Border

Another significant concern of the regional stability along the borderlines is that the border trade through the morally degraded town of Ruili which economy boomed in 1990s, since the military regime seized the power. This booming border trade included opium and heroin. The most threatening challenge for the whole human world also thus comes along with that border trade, AIDS. Of course, China’s first reported HIV epidemic was found due to the shared-needles and drug trade in these border regions.

Thus, for the sake of whole human society, China needs to learn how “the stability of its neighbour” importantly plays for itself and the whole region. [Ref: Econimist]

2.5 Thai-Myanmar border

In 1997 estimated 500, 000 illegal immigrants from Myanmar working in Thailand. In 2006, as a result of cease-fire agreements with two dozens armed forces in Myanmar, this number raised to 2 M.

In result, the relations with Thailand are being strained due to the swelling of refugee numbers, threats to border security and drug and human trafficking. All these sourced from the political and economical instabilities created by military juntas’ poor management.


Burma is the largest in the Indochina region, mainland South-East Asia and we are relatively rich in natural resources – petroleum, mining products (gems, jades, copper, gold), timber (including Teak), marine fisheries and natural gas. But we are the poorest in the SEA region.

Regionally, in ASEAN family, cancellations of the joint ASEAN-EU meeting demonstrated that Myanmar is a problem child making serious concerns for ASEAN.

Most importantly, the military regime has been engaged in one of the most ambitious arms programs in South-East Asia. Weapon and arms are mainly sourced from China and Russia. The juntas invested approximately 50% (up to 10% of GDP) of central government spending on strengthening the military force. For ASEAN making Myanmar, a buffer between China and India, as a partner is more secured rather than the outsider. And they can also secure the access of natural resources in Myanmar and finally constructive engagement which has been effectively working on paper only.

ASEAN’s constructive engagement finally ended with the death of Buddhist monks and people in their supported military regime’s crakdwons on protests, inpatient people deserved human rights and democracy, hundreds of lives fleeing from their homes and thousands of arrests.

With the evidences of massacres, now Myanmar hopes that the ASEAN will recon that the oppressive rule, violent crackdown, death and threatened lives of peaceful protestors, killing the Buddhist monks and forcing people to flee their home and loved ones are not the constructive engagement, but the destructive.

2.7 Internal or Regional?

Cease fired groups along the Myanmar borders can anytime return the border regions into the unpacific region. Influences of India and China on Myanmar is not only our internal affair, but the regional affairs, especially ASEAN as those two giants will get both political and economical benefits from the region via Myanmar in the future.

Further, development of humanitarian implication is not the internal issue, but the global security for all human-beings. Instead of supporting military regime, any civilized nations must stand by the side of million of people.

Up to this point, one may clearly conclude that whether the crises in Myanmar are internal affair or a threat to regional stability and human beings.

2.8 The UN & Junta

Military junta hosted the UN envoy Mr. Gambari with fake mass rallies and kept him away from genuine people’s voices on the streets. The junta’s spies and military forces continued their brutal missions of mid-night raids on the residential premises and monasteries and arrested thousands of people even during Gambari’s visit.

The UN last week issued a statement calling for a peaceful dialogue and genuine national reconciliation. The juntas rejected the UN statement and claimed that they are right to do anything with their blind reason of internal affair only. The arrests, harassments, non-stop mid-night raids at the residential and monasteries are still going on, Myanmars are still living insecurely under the junta’s oppressive ruling system and harsh crushes. Poor Myanmars are not sure for tomorrow.

With no surprised with junta’s response to the UN statement as this is the way they juntas work - never listen and pay attention to the world. As usual, the junta claimed that external pressures are the policy of neo-colonialists to interfere our independence and internal affairs.

The UN envoy and military junta should not be like a Tom & Jerry script in which the state terrorism keep quiet while Mr. Gambari was around them and there will be humanitarian crisis while the rats reached out of cat’s eyes. On the other hand, this is, in deed, a life-and-death play for 52 millions of Myanmar people.

But, “Who care? Killing or firing, this is our internal affair only”, the junta keep arguing the world.

Then we do not know how many of our lives and next generations need to be sacrificed?



Beijing is dramatically booming within past decades. Shanghai and Beijing become world cities and those cities' living standard is getting closer to the first world. Roars of the regional tigers like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia echoed loudly in the region. Their living standards are far ahead from one of their family members, Myanmar, a third world country. Shamefully, millions of poor Myanmars from a resource-rich country are not sure for tomorrow, even for a regular two meals.

Now is fair enough to knowing that the military junta dare to reject the UN Security Council statement, as thye used to pay no attention to the UN and the world. On –paper-statements and sympathetic concerns issued by the UN and ASEAN can not help our people.

Thus, whatever China, India and ASEAN claimed – internal affair or regime’s affair, we, Myanmar students, Buddhist monks and people, have decided to continue fighting against the brutal regime until such inhuman dictatorship and their Fascism of killing its people completely disappeared from our home ground. Myanmar will never forget about the monks and people sacrificed and the brutalities of regime. More revolutionary protests are coming again so.

Further, new generation of Student Union will continue leading this revolution, though the 88 generation student leaders and monks are now in the prisons. This is due to the fact that students and monks lead the way to against any unfair law and order whenever necessary and, in deed, future is in the hand of our new generation. So, the effective actions by the UN Security Council and pressures from ASEAN, China and India will assist our movements without anymore bloodsheds. This will also be a great contribution for our new generation, real owners of our country’s future.

We have no doubt that a resource-rich country like Myanmar is a genuine ground of nutrient-rich soil for growing strong and healthy plants with peaceful flowers leading to change from a third world country to first one which will also contribute our regional stability.

In summary, all the civilized nations, our neighbours and the ASEAN family must accept a very basic human concept -

“Every flower got a right to be blooming.”

Mg Yin

What do you say?Do you agree with the author or not?
Any supportive feedback and contribution for our movements and supports from the region?

4. J. Phillip, D. Mercer, Commodification of Buddhism in Contemporary Burma, Annl. of Tour. Res., Vol 26, No. 1, pg 21-54, 1999.
5. H. Beech, Burma’s Agony, TIME, Oct 8, 2007
6. G. Wehrfritz & J. Cochrane, The Monks’ Uprising, Newsweek, Oct 8, 2007
7. Myanmars and the world, Destructive Engagement, The Economist, Sept 29, 2007
8. Bernt Berger's "Why China has it wrong on Myanmar", Asia Time On-line.
9. Matthew E. Chen, Chinese National Oil Companies and Human Rights, Orbis, Volume 51, Issue 1, Winter 2007, Pages 41-54
10. China Uses Trade to Prop Myanmar Regime, Knight Rider Mar 6, 2006.
11. Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: Myanmar. Fourth Quarter. Kent: Redhouse Press 1997


How are you, Mr. Gambari?

21 October 2007

From September 28, there was a lot of happenings inside and outside Burma. There were intense crackdowns on democracy supporters or demonstrators since then. Mr. Gambari arrived Rangoon in Sep 30 and shuttled between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and General Than Shwe. He could only deliver the so-called stiff warning to the generals but failed to stop the crackdowns or fufil the calls for intervention in Myanmar.

He is supposedly in India by now gathering regional support for his future activities which is supposedly to station an office to monitor the progress of the national reconciliation. Thailand has proposed him the round table discussion inclusive of Burma to “talk” peace and national reconciliation push to Burma. I don’t know whether it can be achieved but it is quite a fanciful idea.

Yesterday, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo urged that “Genuine” dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime needs to happen. He said it must be genuine and not for “show”. He also stated that as a member of ASEAN family, the other members have moral authority to push this member. Well, and yes, we have to agree that this is what we have to achieve. Mr. Gambari must achieve to get “hold” of all the stakeholders and get together in the dialogue.

Currently in Burma, The generals are still stubborn and there is intense crackdown. According to reliable news sources, the Burmese nationals who return to Burma has been checked against with the photos or video recordings of overseas protests to calls against the violence sent by the respective Burmese embassies or spies. Some of the returning nationals have been detained or even arrested on the spot or while they are at home for the reason of participating in those overseas protests.

I would urge Mr. Gambari that his immediate mission to achieve is not the national reconciliation. It is the total stop of crackdowns against Burmese people. A recent quote in the New Light of Myanmar, a government publication, says it all: "National traitors will soon meet their tragic ends." I can forsee that the regime is like an unleashed angry dog who wants to bite whoever touches them or hid them hard, especially to their hearts. The regime never wanted to hear any single words against them and they have zero tolerance of people voices and concerns.

Although Mr. Gambari has a grey shadow of background working in the previous Nigerian Military regime, he has some track records of achievements as a problem solver. I have some beliefs on Mr. Ban Ki-Mun who once lived under South Korean then-military regime and understands the struggle under dictatorship. I hope he and Mrs. Laura Bush, who I believe has sympathy on Burma struggle, can push the UN to achieve “practical” results on Burma. Of those “practical” results, the following are major concerns.

  1. To stop the crackdowns against demonstrators and supporters.
  2. To establish an UN office to monitor the progress of National Reconciliation.
  3. If the junta refuses, there must be UN forces to send to Burma to force “Genuine” Dialogue to happen.
  4. UN must be there until there is people “elected” government of choice.
From my point of view, the regime has shunned the Security council’s decision and it vowed to continue its own “roadmap” of Nowhere. According to the roadmap, the national convention has taken 13 years to complete the “draft” constitution. It is the world’s longest constitution writing to be recorded in World “Guinness” record. Last week or so, the regime has gathered it’s own people either by forcing or luring with money, to attend the puppet mass gatherings to support the pro-military constitution. The people went to those gatherings in fear of the government reprisals. In Rangoon, they gathered 100,000 people in a stadium to shout pro-military slogans.

From this point, the military regime has calculated that they can go ahead with their own roadmap and ignored calls from the world. This is wrong, generals. I can tell you that all the Burmese people are silently protesting you all since 1962, the first military coup in our history. Those born after 1988, people revolutionary uprisings, are now involved deeply in this saffron revolution. They have said silent prayers and protests since they were born. If we miss the chance, we will waste another generation to improve the country.

Why are we desperately in need of National Reconciliation? There are many reasons of which I will represent the most important ones.
  1. Current military government has shown and proved their mismanagement of economy and the country for 19 years. It is enough for us to change to another government and improve.
  2. Current military mindset is that they can do whatever they want when they have weapons and killing mechanisms like prisons and detention camps. It is enough for us to suffer for 19 years under fear and reprisals and we, the people, want to change to new way of life.
  3. We are so tired of “elite” military class who tries to snatch whatever they want from the ordinary citizens. For example, they could force rent a taxi or car to transport the generals in the rural areas without paying any rental fee. We want equal values and opportunities of the citizens.
Current situation is that there are those people who get some little benefits from the regime to do chores for them. They would prosecute, arrest, or even beat the ordinary citizens who are their fellows for the sake of the regime. They would go to those mass gatherings or force other ordinary citizens to follow them and shout pro-military slogans. I believe they don’t think of too much things but only think of their current well-being. They may or may not have so called patriotic spirits but they are blind to see the future total collapse of the country if they continue to follow the regime.

How are you, Mr. Gambari? I think you are fine and well-paid. Please contribute for sake of Burmese people who are also world citizens who deserve to be paid attention by UN. If you ask who I am to talk all these issues directed to Mr. Gambari, I say;

“I am no one but one of the citizens who loves to see my country peaceful and prosperous.”


Heroine of Burma - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

20 October 2007

Author: Martin O'Malley & Owen Wood
(CBC News Online) - [SOURCE]

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of one of Burma's most cherished heroes, the martyred General Aung San, who led his country's fight for independence from Great Britain in the 1940s and was killed for his beliefs in 1947. Suu Kyi has equaled her father's heroics with her calm but passionate advocacy of freedom and democracy in the country now called Myanmar, a name chosen by one of the most insensitive and brutal military dictatorships in the world.

The ruling junta ? "political party" would be too generous a concession ? goes by the Orwellian name of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Burma, or Myanmar, has a population of 45 million and is Southeast Asia's second largest country (in area) after Indonesia.

Unplayed Piano by Damien rice and Lisa Hannigan (A song dedicated to DASSK)

The news event that brought Suu Kyi back into prominence in May 2002 was her release from 19 months of house arrest in her barricaded villa in Yangon, formerly Rangoon. The United Nations helped to negotiate her release this time.

There was outrage around the world in 2000 when Suu Kyi tried to leave Yangon, only to be thwarted by authorities. In August of that year Suu Kyi, her driver and 14 members of her pro-democracy party were confined in two cars on the side of the road outside of Yangon. She endured a similar roadside standoff for 13 days in 1998, during which time she suffered severe dehydration and had to be returned to her home by ambulance.

Suu Kyi (pronounced Soo Chee) was two years old when her father ? the de facto prime minister of newly independent Burma ? was assassinated. Though a Buddhist ? the predominant religion of Burma ? she was educated at Catholic schools and left for India in her mid-teens with her mother, who became the Burmese ambassador to India. Suu Kyi went to England where she studied at Oxford University. There she met Michael Aris, the Tibetan scholar whom she married. They had two sons, Alexander and Kim.

A watershed in her life was 1988, when Suu Kyi received a call from Burma that her mother had suffered a stroke and did not have long to live. Suu Kyi returned to Burma, leaving her husband and two children behind in England, having cautioned them years earlier that duty may one day call her back to her homeland.

She arrived back in Burma to nurse her mother at a time of a burgeoning pro-democracy movement, fueled by the energy and idealism among the country's young people. There were demonstrations against the repressive, one-party socialist government. Suu Kyi was drawn into the pro-democracy movement, which was snuffed out by SLORC, which seized power on September 18, 1988. Thousands of pro-democracy advocates were killed.

Next came a general election in 1990, which political parties were allowed to contest. Suu Kyi headed the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide victory, with 80 per cent support. This was not be tolerated by the SLORC leaders, who refused to recognize the election results. Worse, SLORC put the elected pro-democracy leaders under house arrest, including Suu Kyi.

Despite the restrictions of house arrest, Suu Kyi continued to campaign for democracy, and for this she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

One of Suu Kyi's most dramatic speeches was in 1995, soon after she was released from nearly six years of house arrest, when she spoke to a global women's conference in Beijing. She didn't appear at the conference, but spoke to the international gathering by means of a video smuggled out of Burma. Suu Kyi always expresses herself with calm conviction and calm passion, which reflects her Buddhist upbringing. She is Gandhian in her synergistic mixture of force and restraint.

In her speech, she said, "?to the best of my knowledge, no war was ever started by women. But it is women and children who have always suffered the most in situations of conflict." She mentioned "the war toys of grown men." Without specifically targeting her SLORC opponents, but her words dripping with gentle sarcasm, Suu Kyi went on to say:

"There is an outmoded Burmese proverb still recited by men, who wish to deny that women too can play a part in bringing necessary change and progress to their society: 'The dawn rises only when the rooster crows.' But Burmese people today are well aware of the scientific reason behind the rising of dawn and the falling of dusk. And the intelligent rooster surely realizes that it is because dawn comes that it crows and not the other way around.

"It crows to welcome the light that has come to relieve the darkness of night. It is not the prerogative of men alone to bring light to the world: women with their capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice, their courage and perseverance, have done much to dissipate the darkness of intolerance and hate, suffering and despair."

It was a powerful speech, subtly crafted for the targeted audience in her homeland.

In 1999, Michael Aris, was dying of prostate cancer in England, where he lived with their two sons. He had repeatedly requested permission to visit his wife one last time before he died, but the SLORC authorities denied him entry, arguing that there are no proper facilities in the country to tend to a dying man. They suggested instead that Suu Kyi visit him in England. She refused, fearing if she ever left the country she would never be allowed to return.

The day Aris died, on his 53rd birthday on March 27, 1999, Suu Kyi honoured the occasion at her home in Rangoon, with 1,000 friends and supporters, including high-ranking diplomats from Europe and the United States. As part of a ceremony, she offered food and saffron robes to 53 Buddhist monks, one for each year of her husband's life. The monks recited prayers and chanted sutras. Instead of wearing her usual bright flowers and wreathes of jasmine, Suu Kyi chose instead a traditional black lungi with a white jacket. She cried only when one of the monks reminded the audience that the essence of Buddhism is to treat suffering with equanimity.

The police did not stop the supporters from visiting Suu Kyi in her time of grief. But they took the names and addresses of all those who attended at the service to honour the husband from whom she had been separated since she left England to tend to her dying mother.


State Terrorism, Agonies of Myanmar & Regional Stability (1)

19 October 2007

by Mg Yin

1. State Terrorism & Agonies
1.1. Under the Military Dictator’s Repressive Shoes

With teary eyes, when we quietly looked at this photo, we could not even find any representative word to express our sorrows and sadness for a dead body of monk floating in a river of Yangon. For the country, that monk sacrificed himself during the juntas’ violent crackdown on peaceful protests.

Unbelievably, indeed unacceptably, on the ground of a gentle Buddhism country, a military regime and its army force has been killing its own people since 1962.

This time in Sept 2007 the juntas killed Buddhist monks and eventually the actor masks covering their true evil faces peeled off.

1.2 Agonies: Living with Fear

During the inhuman crushes on monks-led protests, workers from the cemetery incineration plant in Yangon had reported to DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma) that the military authorities forced them to burn all bodies of arrested people who got gunshot and deadly bashes in the violent crackdown. All the bodies brought to cemetery must be burnt regardless of dead or still-alive, (some are seriously injured and still alive, some are still conscious, but some not). Whatever the conditions were, “Burn it, this is the order from above, No excuse and No complaint!” military officers ordered the cemetery workers.

On-going mid-night raids on student leaders’ and protestors’ houses, monasteries, hunts for pro-democracy supporters, increasing numbers of mysteriously missing people and crimes committed by junta’s puppets are the current image of state terrorism and agonies of our people.

The juntas ignore the humanitarian affairs of its 52 million people and in their recent crushes they dumped the dead bodies of monks into the rivers and burnt both dead and the severely injured and still-alive people hit in the protests.

“Oh! Lord Buddha! Are they really human?”, people’s whispery cries echoed across the country and to the world.

Even after the UN envoy Mr. Gambari’s visit, the regime continues several arrests of monks. 88 generation student leaders’ houses are raided and if the military spies did not find the students at home, they arrested parents and relatives in stead. No excuse even for 6 year old child [ Ref: Mizzima and DVB News]. People actively participated in the recent protests are threaten and arrested.

The blood streams of our monks and innocent people flowing in the streets of Myanmar are not dried yet. These streams are rooted from the massacres and bloodsheds brutally driven by the military juntas within the past four decades.

These blood streams are not only from the recent monk uprising, but also from the 1974, and 1988. This home land is so-called Burma or Myanmar, a gentle Buddhist country where the Theravada Buddhism is developing well.

Unlike in 1974 and 1988 strikes, the world is watching the juntas this time around the clock with the effort of IT age and the people around the world are now witnessing how the military regime’s state terrorism of violently killed its people and Buddhist monks who are highly respectful for Buddhists.

1.3 Bloody Milestone of Dictatorship

Looking back in 1962, student demonstrations and protests against the regime were brutally put down. Former dictator General Ne Win ordered the army force to kill the hundreds of university students and dynamited the Student Union building into pieces.

Student-led demonstrations and protests against Ne Win's rule continued repeatedly in 1965, Dec 1969, Dec 1970, Dec 1974, Jun 1975 and Sept 1988 Sporadic and in all protests, Ne Win and his military troops crushed brutally and the worse was the several rounds of massacre across the country in 88 general strike. Hundreds of people and monks were believed to be killed in Yangon alone and thousands killed across the major cities in Myanmar.

Now again in the bloody September 2007, the military and security force killed hundreds of Buddhist monks, innocent people including international journalist.

Why the military dictators solved any uprisings and problems with violent crushes? The answer is that they never hesitate to maintaining their power in all possible means; easiest way is killing its own people to create fears among us. But the revolution atmosphere had redeveloped in the streets of Myanmar.

Can they, military juntas, think? Myanmars would say definitely “YES”. The junta can cleverly think for their own interests, but not for 52 millions people. They know how to play political games, though they shouted that they focus only on “the national politics”. For instance, the juntas used Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung Sun Su Kyi as a state hostage whenever they blocked in dead-ends under external pressures.

1.4 Military Dictator’s Policy

“To all the people and entire nation, I hereby remind you all to bear in your mind that if there are mob disturbances and protests on the streets in future, if my army shoots, it will not fire into the air just to scare you, but it exactly hits you.”

This is a ruling-policy of former dictator Ne Win declared to the people by looking straight at the TV cameras when he retired from politics in 1988. Although neo-military-dictator General Than Shwe and his followers kicked their former lord Ne Win completely out, they fully adapted Ne Win’s policy of killing people in any uprising against them.

However, after 1988 general strikes, despite the suspension of aids by the U. S, the U. K., Japan and Germany, Myanmar people got no response and effective reactions against the regime from international bodies. The United Nations did not take any actions which consequently allowed military regime to repeat violent crushes on its people and massacres.

1.5 Never Ending Story

"To prevent the disintegration of the Union, we, Tatmadaw (military force), inevitably take over the state power", former dictator Ne Win claimed in 1962.

"To save the country from the risk of falling into the abyss, we, Tatmadaw, inevitably controlled the state power as a historically-given-duty", dictators Gen. Saw Mg and Senior General Than Shwe claimed in 1988 when they seized the state power from former dictator Ne Win.

These are the claims military juntas used to be taken power. Every time they seized the state power, their one-way solution is either massacres or bloodsheds.

They never hesitate to kill their own people, but always hesitate to sit together in a peace table for a wisely dialogue to build the true national unity. Surest is that once they tasted the power, they will never give it up and attempt to hold it till the last minutes of their life in all means.

Military regime is not a legal government selected by its people. They dishonored the outcome of 1990 election organized by the junta themselves. They break their promise themselves to return the state power to the public once they successfully completed their duty of organizing the 1990 election.

Until after 19 years, thousands of people are still protesting against them and demanding the military junta to return to the barracks.

“We deserved democracy, human rights, freedom and justice” people peacefully demanded.

“May all beings getting well, happy and free from all sorts of dangers, worries and poverties” monks peacefully expressed their desire by chanting and praying on the streets.

In return, “You all are destructive elements. Go home, shut up your mouths. Or we fire!”, Buddhist monks and people received junta’s inhuman threats followed by open fire to the protestors on the streets. This is 45 years-long story repeatedly happened in our home.

In result, people are running for their life-and-death and shouting back to the security force - “ Military technology given by our Bo Gyoke (General Aung Sun) is not to kill us!”

Why the military junta gaining from strength to strength within 19 years?

Why their relatives getting richer and richer while we all, Myanmars, suffered from poverty, lack of standard education and health in a resource-rich country?

How can they, military regime, brutally abuse its people?
Is our affair really internal, or regional or global issue?
Who are supporting the survival of such abusive government for what sake?

Mg Yin

(to be continued PART II and III…………)



Firsthand accounts reveal terror of the crackdown in Myanmar

15 October 2007

By Seth Mydans
Published: October 14, 2007

BANGKOK: The world saw them flooding the streets in Myanmar in September, Burmese citizens emboldened by tens of thousands of red-robed monks to cast aside the fear that had held them down for two decades. For a few buoyant days, the streets of Yangon, the main city, belonged to them, and they were free.

But few outsiders have heard their individual voices. The ruling junta crushed the protests at the end of the month, and since then has carried out a campaign of nighttime arrests, cleansing monasteries and neighborhoods of people they say rose up against them. The fear has returned, people say, and is sharper than before.

And so it was an act of courage for a few Burmese to share their thoughts with a longtime foreign resident of Yangon who knows them well and is known to this reporter. The foreigner recorded and transcribed the words of a dozen people and translated the accounts of those who did not speak English. The texts were then sent out through a private channel, evading a government clampdown on the Internet.

The anonymity of these people is part of their story. Neither the foreigner nor the speakers can be identified for fear of retribution against those who speak out. Two teachers, a young man, a housewife, an abbot, a businessman - all tell the same story in their different ways. It is the story of a people ruled by terror, stripped of freedom, who do not know when their suffering will end.

A housewife recalled the brutality she saw while shopping for food Sept. 28:

I saw people in the street just beaten up for no reason - just walking along the road, not even part of the protests. There was this young boy, he was alone and not shouting with the crowd or clapping.This captain came up to him, just started beating him and the boy fell on the street. Then the police pushed him into one of those trucks that were lined up to take demonstrators.

As they pushed him, he fell again. Then the police took out a big stick and gave him a huge blow on the back. After that, the captain told everyone in the street that they had 10 minutes to clear off.

People were running for their lives. The vendors started to grab their things. There was one lady selling fritters and she had a big vat of hot oil - she had to walk with this oil and they came after her and beat her to make her move faster. I saw two boys at that moment walking up with cellphones. The captain grabbed the boys, took their cellphones and pushed them into the truck.

Someone who was with me at a previous job lost her son in these protests. He might have been on his way home, but we don't know. This mother had a friend in the army and she asked him for help. He told her to stay home and - no questions. The son, her only child, is still missing.

A young man described how the junta has clamped down on social exchange, destroying trust among people:
There is no more connection between people. It's been broken. In our own neighborhood, the security groups will arrest anyone who is heard talking about these events. Even at tea shops, we can't talk about these things. These thugs will remember who you are and come to arrest you later. We can only talk to people we know on the street and never to strangers now. No one says anything at the market and everything has to be in secret. The bars have emptied out, both because no one has any more money and what fun is it to get drunk when you can't talk?

Even now we don't dare take our transistor radios to listen to foreign broadcasts outside. Just in the last few days, we have been threatened with arrest by local authorities for doing this in our ward. Anyone with a cellphone or camera will have it confiscated.

This is not the end. This is just a stopping point and we are not satisfied. We don't know the future but we will keep our anger burning inside.

A teacher talked about the pain of seeing Buddhism desecrated and the fear of the military that spread among the monks:
It is almost coming on 50 years that we have clung to our culture by tolerating this military government. But something we revered was insulted.
I cannot continue to tolerate this. We only hope that bad karma will fall upon them but there's nothing else we can do now.

I know dozens of monks. One monk is very old. He is 78. It never occurred to him that in his lifetime he would have to hide. The day after the shootings started, I went to this monastery and the faces that I saw on those monks was something I had never seen. It is not fear. It was a sadness so unbelievable.

Now the young monks that I talked to - who weren't rounded up - they want to disrobe. They don't have the moral courage to go on.
"Better to be a layman," they said.

I told them that this would be a terrible loss for our Buddhism.
"No," they say. "What's the use of meditation? The power of meditation can't stop them from beating us."

The worst thing now is that no amount of persuasion from the abbots will stop the young monks from disrobing.

An abbot of a monastery where hundreds of children are taught said three-quarters of the monks had fled:

How difficult this is. They ran away for their security. We have students studying English but our English-teaching monks have left us. We are very unhappy now. I would like to invite guests to see this, but I am afraid.

A teacher who organizes the curriculum for the monks added:
When the soldiers raided the monastery, they came into the school and tore down pictures of some tourists with whom the monks had been practicing English at Shwedagon Pagoda. The soldiers would circle the monastery at night to see if these monks would come back so they could be arrested.

A businessman whose company lost an enormous amount of business during the upheaval lamented Myanmar's isolation:
I joined the peaceful demonstrations to show my support. I would do it again. I don't agree with sanctions on Myanmar. Of course, I may be biased because I'm a businessman. My own experience of traveling to other countries opened my mind and changed my life. I loved the freedom I found in the United States. It was something I had never experienced. If I hadn't spent time abroad, I would have ended up as a military man. Or else I could have been an informer exposing the conversation we're having right now.



The International Consequences of Military Rule in Myanmar

By Christopher Roberts – PhD Candidate, UNSW@ADFA

The killing of protestors, journalists, and monks in recent weeks by Myanmar’s armed forces has generated some of the strongest diplomatic responses yet from prominent countries in both Asia and the West. Already, Edward McMillen-Scott, vice-president of the European Parliament, has suggested threatening a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in an attempt to push China, a key military and economic partner of Myanmar, towards applying real pressure for political change. Because of recent events, prominent Western powers and organisations – such as the European Union – are likely to hold Myanmar’s strategic partners to higher standards of accountability. However, should the international community fail to get the leaders of the junta to relinquish their power in the near future, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in charge of Myanmar is likely to enter into a new phase of heightened international isolation and condemnation. A consequence of the likely withdrawal of Myanmar’s leaders from any attempt to engage with the broader international community will be a government that is likely to become more paranoid, less responsible, and highly desperate in their bid to maintain power and personal wealth. However, and as will be discussed below, recent trends regarding the proliferation of transnational crime suggest that Myanmar’s leadership had heading down this path well before Myanmar’s monks marched down the streets of Yangon.

Transnational Crime in Myanmar and the Culpability of the Junta

In recent years, the military dictatorship in Myanmar has received some credit for reducing the overall level of opium production from an estimated 1,676 metric tonnes in 1997 to 315 metric tonnes in 2006. However, an October 2007 report by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime revealed a disturbing new trend. During the past year, opium production in Myanmar was estimated to have increased by 46% to 460 metric tonnes. Consequently, Myanmar’s opium industry is now worth as much as US$120 million per annum and the only other criminal activity in the country with the potential to surpass this ‘value’ pertains to the production of methamphetamines (ya-ba). While highly problematic to trace, US intelligence organisations have estimated that by 2004 total production had reached as high as 800 million tablets – more than double the level of production for 2003. An equally worrying trend in Myanmar since 2002 has been the diversification of ATS production to include the more expensive varieties such as Ecstasy and Ice – crystallised methamphetamine – alternatively known as Shabu. Given these circumstances, Myanmar continues to rank as the world’s number one narco-state.

Meanwhile, arms smuggling is another problem in Myanmar (and continental Southeast Asia more generally) that is associated with illicit narcotics production and trafficking. For the insurgent groups in Myanmar, and the Hmong Rebel’s in Laos, the smuggling of guns is more important to sustain their respective insurgency movements than for being a profit generating exercise. Despite an abundance of small arms throughout the subregion, this is because the smuggling of weapons is both difficult and financially unrewarding. Nonetheless, the trafficking of small arms remains a major threat to the comprehensive security of Southeast Asia as the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a drug financed insurgent army in Myanmar, now maintain 21,000-armed soldiers. The problem of narcotics and armed smuggling has been compounded by the complicity of elements of the political elite in Myanmar. Since the implementation of ceasefire arrangements with around seventeen insurgent groups, some of the leading drug traffickers have enjoyed good relations with certain SPDC generals – including ousted Prime Minister Khin Nyunt. Various army (Tatmadaw) battalions (No.227 and no.330) have even conducted joint military exercises with the UWSA and Khin Nyunt presided over the opening ceremony on this occasion. The historical relationship and assistance provided to the former rebel leader and ailing drug lord Chang Chifu (Khun Sa) since his 1996 surrender has also been well documented. Meanwhile, and at the grassroots level, there have been reported cases of farmers being forcibly coerced by the Tatmadaw to cultivate opium. Also, and to avoid the complete collapse of its economy, during the 1990s the junta in Myanmar opened the doors to widespread ‘money laundering’ by formulating a no questions asked policy and inviting Wa businesspeople – many UWSA commanders – to invest in Myanmar’s mainstream economy.

Consequences of Transnational Crime for Myanmar’s Southeast Asian Neighbours.

The proliferation of illicit narcotics production in Myanmar, together with other criminal activities such as human trafficking, has had many consequences for the region. In Thailand, for example, it is now one of the principal destination countries in the region for illicit narcotics. By 2003, conservative estimates suggested that there were at least 250,000 drug addicts in Thailand and that eighty percent of methamphetamines consumed in Thailand are from Myanmar. As Ralph Emmers states, the social ills generated by illicit drugs are well documented and include increased levels of violent crime, the wastage of human potential, weakened family structures, the reduced health of consumers, and the spread of HIV/AIDS due to intravenous drug use. In Vietnam for example, drug addiction has already contributed to a significant increase in murder rates for the first half of 2005. Further, the same authorities recorded a forty percent increase in attacks against police officers between November 2004 and June 2005. Meanwhile, Jane’s intelligence alleges that, in March 2005, hundreds of youth fought a serious of bloody battles with two units of the local police force. Such events were unimaginable just a decade ago.

Challenges and Consequences for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

The nature of the military dictatorship in Myanmar presents many different and multifaceted challenges for ASEAN. At one level, the continued culpability of the junta challenges the ability of ASEAN to garner consensus on the implementation of meaningful activities and mechanisms to combat the causes behind, and consequences of, such issues as illicit narcotics production. At another level, Myanmar continues to threaten the international stature of ASEAN itself. For example, at a July 2004 ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting, the European Union threatened to boycott the October 2004 Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit unless the junta was ejected from ASEAN or it made political concession prior to its participation in the meeting. On several occasions, the United States has threatened the possibility that Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN would threaten ASEAN-US relations. Indicative of a possible attempt to provided added weight to the threat, and for the first time since the ARF was launched, the United States’ Secretary of State (in this instance Condoleezza Rice) was absent from the ARF meeting in 2005.

In November 2007, the ASEAN Summit will take place in Singapore. What was meant to be an occasion celebrating forty years of ASEAN and the finalisation of the ASEAN charter, has now been jeopardised by recent events in Myanmar. Moreover, the ASEAN leaders will be enacting a charter that will contain clauses with a commitment to such principles as democracy and democratic values along with agreement on a human rights commission. Following the violent crackdown by the Myanmar junta against peaceful monks and protestors, it is difficult to imagine how ASEAN will be able to implement the charter (or celebrate its 40th anniversary) without being lampooned by both the local and international media. One of the first steps to avoid the conundrum of Myanmar, at least as far as ASEAN’s international stature is concerned, will of necessity involve greater responsibility in the political, economic, and military relations between some of the original ASEAN member-states and Myanmar. Such change will also need to be supported by modifying the nature of diplomatic relations between the ASEAN states. A fundamental principle in these relations has been ‘non-interference in each other internal affairs’. Given the transnational consequences of instability, corruption, and crime in Myanmar, it is difficult to imagine how the ASEAN governments will continue to be able adhere to this outdated principle in the future. Moreover, such a transition maybe forced upon the ASEAN governments in the event of a non-cooperative (and even hostile) regime in Myanmar in the future. Such a regime might increasingly depend on illicit sources of funding (such as narcotics) and – under circumstances where the people of Southeast Asia become increasingly threatened by these activities – it would be difficult to imagine how the ASEAN governments can continue to defend the junta as ‘a fellow member of the ASEAN family’.


Myanmar Rejects UN Call for Negotiations

Copied from Associated Press

13 Oct 2007

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's military junta rejected a U.N. statement calling for negotiations with the opposition, insisting Friday that it would follow its own plan to bring democracy to the country.

The impoverished country's main opposition party, however, urged the ruling generals to comply with U.N. demands for negotiations with pro-democracy forces and ethnic minorities, and the release of political prisoners.

State-run TV and radio issued a statement Friday arguing that conditions inside Myanmar — a reference to the anti-government protests that were violently suppressed by troops on Sept. 26 and 27 — were not the concern of the outside world.

"Myanmar's current situation does not affect regional and international stability," said the statement, attributed to Col. Thant Shin. "However, we deeply regret that the U.N. Security Council has issued a statement contrary to the people's desires."

"The government of Myanmar will continue to implement the seven-step roadmap together with the people," the statement said, referring to the junta's plan that promises a new constitution and an eventual transition to democratic rule.

The process is supposed to culminate in a general election at an unspecified date in the future. But so far only the first stage — drawing up guidelines for a new constitution — has been completed, and critics say the convention that drafted them was stage-managed by the military.

Top opposition party the National League for Democracy — led by the detained activist Aung San Suu Kyi — endorsed the Security Council statement.

"Since Myanmar is a member country of the United Nations and as the government has declared it would work with the U.N., we earnestly underscore the need to urgently implement the demands made by the Security Council," the NLD said.

The 15-member Security Council issued its first statement on Myanmar on Thursday in an attempt to pressure the military rulers — in charge of the isolated country since 1988 — to negotiate with the opposition and move toward democracy.

The fourth-ranking member of the junta, Prime Minister Gen. Soe Win, 59, died Friday in a military hospital after a long illness, relatives and state media said. Soe Win reputedly oversaw a 2003 attack on Suu Kyi from which she escaped unscathed.

His death, however, was unlikely to cause a ripple in the regime's grip on power. Soe Win had little if any influence in policy-making as prime minister.

The U.N.'s special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, was due in the region this weekend "with a view to returning to Myanmar shortly thereafter," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. She gave no date for his trip to Yangon.

Gambari met with the junta's leaders earlier this month during a four-day trip to Myanmar after troops opened fire on peaceful protests in Yangon. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after Gambari's visit that he could not call the trip "a success."

Myanmar's military junta has said 10 people were killed and nearly 2,100 arrested in last month's demonstrations, with 700 later released. Diplomats and dissidents say the death toll is likely much higher and up to 6,000 people were seized, including thousands of monks who led the rallies.

At least a dozen freed prisoners described brutal treatment at detention centers, including one who said "dozens" of detainees were killed, the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based short-wave radio station and Web site run by dissident journalists, said in a report Thursday.

There was no way to independently confirm the reports attributed to freed prisoners.

In an interview with The Associated Press, another released prisoner, Zaw Myint, 45, said he was arrested Sept. 26 on a Yangon street after a soldier bashed his face with the butt of his gun, leaving a bloody gash across his cheek.

Zaw Myint said he was denied treatment for three days then stitched up by a doctor at Yangon's notorious Insein prison, after the physician had treated several other wounded prisoners.

"He used the same needle to treat all patients. And I saw him give injections to wounded people using the same syringe," said Zaw Myint, who was released after a week in custody. He said was "extremely worried" about having contracted HIV as a result of the treatment. Rights groups say Myanmar's prisons have soaring rates of HIV-AIDS.

Human rights groups have long accused the military government of abuse and torture of prisoners. The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, comprised of around 100 former inmates, has put out a report describing homosexual rape, electric shocks to the genitals, near drowning, burning with hot wax and other abuse.

Also Friday, Thai police said a bomb exploded in a guesthouse just across the border inside Myanmar, injuring two people. Col. Photsawat Tangchui, a police chief in the border district of Mae Sot in Tak province, said the blast hit the Shwebyisaya hotel, about 30 yards from the border.


Saving Burma the Right Way

14 October 2007

Creating a viable democracy requires a long-term global commitment than doesn't include 'regime change.'

By Thant Myint-U
October 14, 2007


I was 8 when I experienced my first protests in Burma. It was 1974, and thousands of students and Buddhist monks had taken to the streets, angered by the military government's handling of burial arrangements for my grandfather, U Thant, the former United Nations secretary-general.

I was born in New York, and it was my first trip to Rangoon. I remember well the flood-lit pagodas and crumbling colonial buildings, the faces of the young in the crowds as they pressed up against our car, and the scrawny soldiers slinging their automatic weapons, only days before they would fire them on unarmed civilians. Hundreds were eventually killed or arrested.

When the next, much bigger uprising took place in 1988, I was 22. These protests too were crushed, with even greater violence; hundreds, perhaps thousands, were left dead. I'm now 41, and as I watched the recent demonstrations by Buddhist monks on television, I couldn't help but feel a certain inevitability about the way things were going to turn out.

I have a nightmare scenario for Burma. It goes something like this: I'm about 60, and there is still a military regime. One day, students and monks again lead mass protests. This time they are successful. The army leadership caves in, and the regime falls to pieces. There is, however, almost nothing left to build on. Western sanctions, tightened over the years, have had no real effect on the government's politics, but they have frozen out Western influence and the potential benefits of globalization. The country is poorer than ever. The healthcare and education systems have disintegrated, and there is no alternative political leadership nor even an educated class of technocrats who can keep basic state institutions intact.

The long-running insurgencies in the hills have largely petered out, but there is no real peace, only simmering inter-ethnic grievances and armed gangs in place of the former rebel armies. India and China are powerful and prosperous, and Burma is a basket case, having traded the country's natural wealth for what few consumer goods it could afford. The uprising is successful, but it leads to chaos and anarchy. Burma becomes a failed state, a disaster zone in an otherwise rich and happy Asia.

Could such a scenario come to pass? It's not impossible. Indeed, as recent Burmese history shows, the country may already be on its way there.

When Burma (renamed Myanmar by the junta) achieved independence from Britain in 1948, the country was already at civil war. A widespread communist insurgency attempted to seize power, the army splintered along ethnic lines, and much of the countryside fell under the control of local militia. The then-democratic government barely survived. In the early 1950s, Chinese nationalist forces, supported by the CIA, marched in from the east (remnants of the armies of Chiang Kai-shek), and in the 1960s, Beijing backed a massive new communist rebellion.

To fight these different foes, a big military machine grew up, which soon outclassed and outgunned every other part of the nascent state. By 1962, the army took over entirely. At its head was Gen. Ne Win, tyrant, playboy, numerologist and onetime post office clerk, a tough-talking, Japanese-trained soldier who would wield absolute power for the next 30 years.

His "Burmese way to socialism" quickly ran the once-promising economy into the ground. He nationalized all industries, banned international trade and investment, expelled nearly half a million ethnic Indians and stopped accepting foreign aid. He shut off Burma from the rest of the world but made an exception for himself, hobnobbing with British aristocrats in London, shopping in Geneva and (for a while, perhaps not long enough), traveling regularly to Vienna to consult the well-known psychiatrist, Dr. Hans Hoff.

Burma is about the size of France and Britain combined, with a population of more than 50 million, stretching from the eastern Himalayas 1,000 miles south to sun-drenched beaches along the Andaman Sea. About two-thirds of the people are Burmese Buddhists; the rest belong to dozens of other ethnic and religious groups. Members of the army under Ne Win began to see themselves as Burma's saviors -- from foreign aggression and internal fragmentation -- looking backward to the glory days of Burmese warrior-kings and tapping into Burmese nationalism's more xenophobic strains.

The country only began to crawl out of its isolation in the early 1990s, when the regime finally began to welcome foreign trade and investment back to the country and asked for help in reforming the economy. As important, the army agreed to cease-fires with nearly all the various rebel armies. But all this came at the same time that Burma's new democracy movement -- headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of a revered hero of the Burmese independence movement who had been assassinated -- was pressing hard for political change. The West began to impose sanctions to support her position, pushing the generals back into their shell.

And so the stage is set for an even worse turn in the future. We have seen the anger and frustration on the streets of Rangoon (now called Yangon by the junta). The cease-fires remain fragile, but the international community has done little or nothing to encourage moves toward a just and sustainable peace. There is the dire poverty. And there is the fragility of the state itself. In Burma, the army has become the state -- there is little else. And yet the present officer corps, having grown up in international isolation, has little sense of the alternatives and remains deeply distrustful of the outside world.

There is still time to avoid the nightmare, but I'm afraid it will take a lot more than the international community is likely to give. Avoiding disaster will require high-level attention and commitment beyond the couple of weeks when Burma is on the newspaper front pages and television screens. It will require an acceptance that long-distance condemnation and Western economic sanctions don't mean much to the half-century-old military regime, a regime that has long been comfortable in isolation and needs only a modicum of money and trade from the outside world. It will require a realization that Burma sits right in the middle of Asia's economic miracle, that harnessing Burma to that rapid change is the surest way to raise up living standards, and that access to Western markets and Western ideas will make all the difference in determining whether the Burmese become equal partners of China and India or merely the providers of cheap labor and raw materials. And it's only when the Burmese ruling elite are exposed to the world that they will see a need to mend their ways.

Avoiding disaster in Burma will mean taking a long-term and pragmatic approach and understanding that democracy won't be created overnight. Cooperation among the United States, China and India will be essential, but it cannot be based on a policy of "regime change." We need to see the bigger picture in Burma -- not only the protests and the repression but also the ethnic conflicts, the pressing need to reform the economy and the urgency of delivering assistance to the most vulnerable people, especially the children. The war, poverty and repression are all interlinked; progress on all these fronts needs to happen together.

This is not an easy sell. After the images televised over the last few weeks, it's easy to reach for more sanctions and look for any possible way to clobber the Burmese junta. But with a new realism on the part of the international community and fresh, results-oriented policies, Burma may still be saved from the nightmare to come.

Thant Myint-U is the author of "River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma."


Tribute to 88-generation student leader, Min Ko Naing

One of the most prominent student leaders in Myanmar, Min Ko Naing, was among those who were arrested on 22 August 2007 when the Myanmar junta tried to clamp down the protests against soaring fuel prices and falling living standards.

Our Hero - Min Ko Naing
[Burmese blogger, 5th generation's poem for Min Ko Naing]

He is not zero;
But Myanmar's hero;

Throughout many years,
he has sacrificed his life for others
who live in fear;
Has a courage under fire;
That's why we all do admire;

He encourages us to walk along a path;
A path leading to a place where we can live out of fear;
We all shall WALK now or never;

Min Ko Naing's profile

Min Ko Naing : Student leader and prisoner of conscience [SOURCE]

''If we want to enjoy the same rights as people in other countries, we have to be disciplined, united and brave enough to stand up to the dictators. Let's express our sufferings and demands. Nothing is going to stop us from achieving peace and justice in our country....Our noble desires must be brought forth through peaceful means.''
Excerpts from Min Ko Naing's speeches, 1988

Paw U Tun alias Min Ko Naing, Chairman of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), was arrested on 24 March 1989. He was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment (later commuted to 10 years under a general amnesty) for his anti-government activities. The ABFSU was formed on 28 August 1988, at the height of the mass civil disobedience campaign against 26 years of one-party military rule in Myanmar. At the founding rally of the ABFSU, Min Ko Naing called on students throughout the country to struggle peacefully against military rule and for democracy and freedom of association. The ABFSU and Buddhist monks went on to lead non-violent anti-government protests.

Paw U Tun launched his 1988 appeal for peaceful political action in the name of ''Min Ko Naing'', a pseudonym he and at least 18 other students had adopted earlier to sign posters and leaflets criticizing military rule. It means ''Conqueror of Kings''.

In 1988 civil unrest erupted in Myanmar (then called Burma), after the demonetization of much of the Burmese currency in 1987 by the military government of General Ne Win. The same year Myanmar was accorded Least Developed Nation status by the UN -- a resource-rich country had became one of the world's poorest. In protest at government mismanagement of the economy, students in Yangon, the capital, began demonstrations in March 1988. Min Ko Naing soon emerged as a leader, encouraging people to use peaceful means to express their frustration.

Min Ko Naing's interest in politics began at Yangon University in the mid-1980's where he studied Zoology. Student Unions at that time, as now, were illegal; however he and other students formed secret study groups in anticipation of protests against the worsening economic conditions in Myanmar. According to people who knew him, Min Ko Naing was a member of a performance troupe which took part in the traditional Than Gyat competition during the annual Water Festival (Thingyan); his troupe was called "Goat-Mouth and Spirit-Eye" and apparently performed satirical plays and sketches about Myanmar's government and the lack of democracy and freedom.

In September 1988 after violently suppressing demonstrations and killing hundreds of people, the military reasserted power and formed a new government, called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Martial law decrees were issued, including a ban on any criticism of the military and of any public gathering of more than five people. At the same time the SLORC announced that political parties could be formed and that elections would take place in May 1990. Dozens of political parties were founded, including the National League for Democracy (NLD, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi).

In March 1989, the Myanmar Government began to issue warnings against possible memorial gatherings by students and others to mark the first anniversaries of the deaths of student demonstrators during the initial waves of civil unrest in March 1988. At a 24 March 1989 press conference a SLORC spokesperson said that the ABFSU and two other student union organizations were ''illegal organizations'' because they had refused to register with the authorities. The spokesperson went on to say:
''Min Ko Naing, alias Paw U Tun, chairman of the illegal ABFSU, has been arrested...because he and his associates instigated disturbances to the detriment of law and order, peace and tranquillity. At the same time, it had been ascertained that they have been carrying out organizational work and giving speeches...Furthermore, Min Ko Naing has been found to have repeatedly violated Order No 2/88 [forbidding gatherings of more than five people]...Action will be taken against him according to the law.''

The spokesperson stated that another reason for his arrest was that they had learnt that ''Min Ko Naing and his associates have been carrying out activities and plans to disturb and undermine the holding of Armed Forces Day'', an official event held annually on 27 March.

According to unofficial sources, before his arrest some of his fellow student leaders had tried to convince Min Ko Naing that he should leave Yangon and seek sanctuary with the All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) on the Thai border. The ABSDF coordinates armed activities against the regime by anti-government students. Min Ko Naing reportedly refused to join the ABSDF, saying that he would rather continue ABFSU activities such as distributing leaflets and organizing demonstrations than join the armed struggle. Other allegations made by the SLORC against him claim that he and other ABFSU leaders were ''recruited'' by the communist insurgent underground early in 1988. However, the stated position of Min Ko Naing and other leaders has been to pursue a course of political organization and demonstrations.

The Myanmar authorities have arrested hundreds of students for their political opposition activities. Although thousands of young activists fled to neighbouring countries after the military reasserted power in September 1988, others continued their struggle inside the country. Most recently students staged demonstrations in December 1996 when scores of them were arrested. In the runup to the 10th anniversary of the 1988 pro-democracy movement, scores of young activists were arrested in mid-1998. Arrests of students and other young people have continued into 2000 in pre-emptive moves by the authorities - now known as the State Peace and Development Council - to eradicate any opposition to their rule.

Min Ko Naing was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment under Section 5(j) of the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, vaguely-worded legislation which is frequently used to imprison political prisoners. His sentence was commuted to 10 years under a general amnesty in January 1993. Amnesty International believes that Min Ko Naing is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for his leadership of a student movement without having used or advocated violence. He should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Min Ko Naing was awarded the John Humphrey Freedom Award in Canada on 10 December 1999, which is Human Rights Day, the day which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN in 1948. In a videotaped message which was smuggled out of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made these comments about Min Ko Naing:
''[Min Ko Naing] is one of the student leaders who started the 1988 movement for democracy, and he has stood firm against all pressure from the authorities...[he] represents many others who are suffering from the injustices of the present military regime. That the prize has been awarded to him gives us all great hope, great pride, and great pleasure, because it shows that the world has not forgotten our cause....''.

His treatment in prison

Min Ko Naing was severely tortured and ill-treated during the early stages of his detention and his health suffered as a consequence. During his interrogation he was reportedly forced to stand in water for two weeks until he collapsed, and as a result, his left foot became totally numb. Such treatment is not uncommon. Political prisoners in Myanmar routinely face torture during the initial phases of detention when they are often interrogated for hours or even days at a time by rotating teams of Military Intelligence (MI) personnel. They are also vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment after sentencing, when they can be punished for breaking arbitrary prison rules such as possessing writing paper. In addition conditions in most prisons are harsh, due to lack of adequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care.

Torture and ill-treatment have become institutionalized in Myanmar. Patterns of torture have remained the same, although the time and place vary. Torture occurs throughout the country and has been reported for over four decades. Members of the security forces continue to use torture as a means of extracting information; to punish political prisoners and members of ethnic minorities; and as a means of instilling fear in anyone critical of the military government.

For most of his imprisonment Min Ko Naing has been held in complete solitary confinement. In 1993 he was visited in Insein Prison, Myanmar's main detention facility, by a United States Congressman. He was said to be in poor health and appeared disoriented. In November 1994 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar was also allowed to visit him briefly in prison, and described him as being nervous and thin. Subsequent reports on his health stated that, although it improved, he suffers from a nervous tremor and may have suffered emotionally as a result of his ill-treatment and prolonged solitary confinement. He is believed to suffer from a gastric ulcer.