Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Amnesty International Condemns Increasing Number of Arrests in Myanmar

Four Months after Violent Crackdown, Abuses Continue


Amnesty International condemns the Myanmar government's continued imprisonment of political activists, which new research reveals now stands at 96 arrests since
November 1, 2007.

"Four months on from the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators,
rather than stop its unlawful arrests the Myanmar government has actually
accelerated them. U.N. Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari was told in
early November by Prime Minister Thein Sein that arrests had stopped and
that no more would take place. Amnesty International's research contradicts
that assurance completely," said Catherine Baber, director of Amnesty
International's Asia-Pacific program.

"The new arrests in December and January target people who have
attempted to send evidence of the crackdown to the international community,
clearly showing that the government's chief priority is to silence its
citizens who would hold them accountable," continued Baber.

Amnesty International is also gravely concerned that since November 1,
2007, the Myanmar authorities have sentenced to prison at least 15
protesters and their supporters, and that torture and ill-treatment of
detainees has been reported.

"Such prosecutions are politically motivated, imposed after proceedings
that flagrantly abuse people's right to a free and fair trial and
contravene international human rights standards," said Baber.

Amnesty International confirms the following arrests since early

-- On November 4, National League for Democracy (NLD) member Zaw Zaw
was arrested at a coffee shop in Yangon's Kyeemyindaing Township.

-- On November 5, U Khaymarwuntha, a 20-year-old monk from Yangon's
Zantila Kamahtan monastery, was arrested for his involvement in the
September demonstrations.

-- On November 19, Ray Thein (alias Bu Maung), an NLD Secretary in
Rakhine State, was re-arrested after being briefly detained in September
for holding an anti-junta demonstration.

-- On November 24, eight members of the Kachin Independence
Organization (KIO) were arrested, likely due to KIO's refusal to accede to
the government's demand that they publicly renounce the November statement
by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

-- On November 28, U Tin Hla, member of the Federation of Trade
Unions-Burma (FTUB) and the Burma Railway Union, was arrested along with
his family for allegedly organizing railway workers and encouraging them to
join the rallies in September. His wife and two children were released
after five days.

-- On December 2, Hajee Amir Hakim, a 52-year-old man from Rakhine
State, was arrested for writing a letter to the BBC detailing human rights
abuses against the Rohingya minority. He was released the following day
after his relatives bribed a police officer. Aung Zaw Win, a lay person,
was also arrested the same day while inquiring about evicted monks.

-- On December 14, Khin Moe Aye, Kyaw Soe, Zaw Min, Min Min Soe, Htun
Htun Win and Myo Yan Naung Thein, all former political prisoners and
current members of the 88 Generation Students groups, were arrested for
being linked to the activists who filmed the September protests and spoke
to exiled media.

-- On January 2, NLD members Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, Htay Myint, Sein Win,
Than Htun, U Ko Oo, Nay Myo Kyaw were arrested in Magwe division,
reportedly to stop them from attending independence day celebrations in a
nearby township.

-- On January 15, Saw Wai, poet and leader of an organization
established by artists to care for orphans of AIDS victims, was arrested
after authorities deciphered part of his "February 14" poem that contained
a hidden message criticizing Senior General Than Shwe.

To date at least 700 people arrested during and since the September
protests remain behind bars, while 1,150 political prisoners held prior to
the protests have not been released. More than 80 persons remain
unaccounted for since the September demonstrations, and are likely the
victims of enforced disappearance.

Amnesty International urges the international community to ensure that
the U.N. Human Rights Council's Resolution of December 14, 2007, which
supported recommendations of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation
of Human Rights in Myanmar, Paulo Pinheiro, is respected.

"In view of the accelerating rate of arrests and other human rights
violations four months on, the international community should press the
government of Myanmar to immediately invite Prof. Pinheiro back to the
country to conduct the full-fledged fact-finding mission he has requested,"
said Baber.

For more information, please visit or call
202-544-0200 x302.

Burma cannot avert undesirable consequences over soaring fuel prices


By Myat Soe

The unabated crack down on protests against soaring fuel prices is evidence that the regime is unwilling to resolve the plight of Burmese citizens, under severe long-term economic mismanagement. In truth, the military junta showed its true colours in carrying out the attack on its own citizens. Its lackeys (members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association and Swan Arrshin) are no better than common criminals who are more than willing to resort to street violence against the practicing of democratic principles and basic rights. Without a doubt the ruling generals will continue to implement a rule of terror and coercion against its own citizens as they have done in the past.

Instead of looking towards rapid economic adjustment and finding a solution to the country's economic malaise, the regime is trying to escalate tension with opposition groups and civilian populations. If the regime is not held accountable on the failure of its own aggressive energy policy and the public's anxiety over fuel prices, there cannot avert possible undesirable consequences. Those consequences are: increasing fuel price will impact on the whole macro-economy, and the economic insecurity can rapidly lead to social and political instability.

Higher oil prices would undoubtedly drive up the prices of other fuels, magnifying the overall macroeconomic impact. Naturally, the higher the oil-price increase, and the longer higher prices are sustained, the bigger the macroeconomic impact. Definitely, higher oil prices will lead to inflation. It will increase input costs and reduce non-oil demand. Tax revenues fall and the budget deficit increases, due to rigidities in government expenditure. Also, higher oil price will increase typically leads to upward pressure on nominal wage levels. Wage pressures together with reduced demand tend to lead to higher unemployment, at least in the short term. The lower exchange rates and lower real output will also affect the overall impact on the economy over the longer term. In addition, a loss of confidence, lower consumer spending power and inappropriate policy responses could amplify the economic effects in the medium term. The energy price hike would therefore have a negative impact on the economic interests, and this economic weakness can make the economy more vulnerable to financial turmoil.

To make matters worse, the junta's recent announcement No. 1/2007, which blamed demonstrations against the fuel price hike and promised to take effective action in accordance with the existing laws to crack down on the dissidents, clearly stated that the citizens have no space to express their views openly and peacefully. This announcement evidently defied the international community by refusing to pursue democratization and national reconciliation. When the real representatives of the people, together with 1,500 other prisoners of conscience, are still under lock and key, there will be no progress in democratic transition. The whole world has recognized that. At the same time, economic prosperity can't take place in a country where the people are prisoners in their own country.

Finally, the higher prices are inflicting substantial damage on the country's economy. It is not a political issue; it is purely an economic issue where the ordinary citizen is peacefully and openly addressing the problems of their daily lives. The regime must release all those who were arrested in the protests against the recent sharp hike in fuel prices. The majority of the people in the country are suffering. Lip service to this issue, blaming the opposition, and attacking its own citizens will not take the place of substantial reforms and will not resolve the country's problems. The regime must clean up its own mess in a civilized manner, and must take responsibility for the brutal crack down on its own citizens.

(The writer Myat Soe is the Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma. He graduated from Indiana University, and is a MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University .)

Can the U.N. change the mindset of the generals?


Dr. Sein Myint
Mizzima News (
January 22, 2008

When asked why he does not protest more strongly against his father's role in the killing of civilians, Omar bin Laden said that it is up to religious clerics close to his father, Osama bin Laden, to tell him to change his tactics in the name of Islam. However, Omar added that even if that unlikely scenario were to occur, al-Qaeda still would not cease in operating as it does.

A similar question may be asked of the U.N.'s role in Burma. Can simply recommending to the generals that they alter their ways lead to any fundamental changes in how they govern Burma?

The Burmese junta thrives on fear tactics and intimidation directed against the Burmese people while rewarding civilian collaborators and cohorts with money and status for their thuggish work at local levels. At the national level, SPDC members, army commanders and cabinet ministers revel in a luxurious lifestyle made possible from wealth accumulated through the plunder of the national economy.

In a recent interview with Newsweek, U.N. Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari stressed that his job is not to change the regime but rather to change the behavior of the ruling generals and assist the country in achieving genuine national reconciliation, inclusive of all political stakeholders in Burma.

Do Mr. Gambari and the U.N. sincerely believe that these Generals will give up the golden opportunities they are enjoying now and share power with the democratic opposition which they detest so much? Do he and the U.N. truly believe that they can help change the rogue behavior and mindset of the hardline generals in Burma through mere suggestions?

The generals will, presumably, give up power in only two scenarios: either because they are forced to do so, or, if they are bought off with enough incentives. But Mr. Gambari and the U.N. have no power or leverage to present these options to the generals. Maybe, in order to accomplish the mission, it is time for Mr. Gambari and the U.N. to change tactics or replace their current Burmese advisors and experts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

BURMA: 'Downhill on all fronts'

Belgian clown Gauthier Jansen performs for Burmese children in Maesot, Thailand, on the border with Burma, on January 19, 2008. The children's parents provide for their families by collecting rubbish for recycling from a massive garbage dump nearby.
Photo: Aung Tin

Burma is going 'downhill on all fronts', according to a senior US diplomat who is on a visit to Vietnam.

A US deputy assistant secretary of state, Scot Marciel, says Burma is "absolutely refusing to take any positive steps at all, either in response to its own people or to the international community".

Speaking on the Hanoi stop of a regional tour, Mr Marciel, said the situation had gone beyond the issue of human rights.

He says the economy in Burma is 'going downhill', and 'the education system is getting ruined'.

Mr Marciel is urging the international community and regional neighbours to keep pressuring Burma's military junta.

Myat Soe
Malaysia, KL

MAI and Air Bagan flights resumed, but cancelled the flights almost everyday

MAI and Air Bagan said they have resumed their International flights in recent weeks. However, according to the sources from Bangkok Airport, MAI and Bagan Airway cancelled almost their flights due to lack of passengers.

The tourists and travellers to Burma also stopped buying the tickets from MAI and Bangan Airway as well.

Even Burmese travellers said , they boycott all businesses associated with the regime and stop buying the tickets from them.

Myat Soe