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13-21 February: UN Rapporteur Quintana’s Visit to Burma

February 22, 2010

Dear Friends and Supporters,

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana, was in Burma this past week, the first international visit to the country since the US State Department delegation trip in November. On 17 February, Quintana visited Sittwe in Burma’s Arakan State and traveled another 3 hours by boat to reach Buthidaung prison, where he met with political prisoners Ko Htay Khwe, Ko Mrat Tun, Ko Kyaw Min, Miha Ahmad, and Ko Tun Nyo. Back in Rangoon, Quintana met with recently-released Vice Chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), U Tin Oo, and five other members of the executive, to discuss the importance of the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in the lead up to the elections. Ahead of the UN Rapporteur’s visit to Insein prison, a letter from prisoners there was leaked, demanding improved conditions, including access to reading materials and better food and health care.

The junta denied Quintana’s request to meet with Senior General Than Shwe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On leaving the country, he said that the participation of Daw Suu and the nearly 2,200 other political prisoners are necessary for this year’s elections to be credible.

Despite the presence of an international observer, the junta’s courts handed out sentences to four women who have led weekly prayer services at the Shwedagon pagoda for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as U Gaw Thita, a monk returning from a trip to Taiwan. These are the latest unjust sentences meted out in the lead up to the junta’s so-called “free and fair” elections.

The labour strikes that began last week in Rangoon’s outskirts expanded to another two factories. On 16 February, more than 200 workers went on strike demanding increased salary, decreased working hours and fair treatment by supervisors. And in the afternoon of 19 February we received news that as many as 800 workers at Yes Two candy factory in Shwepyithar township also went on strike with the same demands. These strikes show that discontent about the economic situation and lack of labour rights under the junta’s rule are widespread. One can recall that difficult economic circumstances and the junta’s overnight hike of fuel prices in 2007 led to the largest protests Burma had seen since 1988.

In Solidarity,

Burma Partnership Secretariat

News Highlights

Burma-born American citizen Nyi Nyi Aung transferred to Prome prison

Interview with U Tin Oo after his release

Inside Burma

Junta plans crackdown on monks to “discipline” them ahead of the elections

Junta moves to privatize key state enterprises

All Army divisions and battalions in Shan State and Kachin State are told to prepare for combat

Migrant from Burma killed by DKBA after being returned from Thailand

Wa leader refuses to meet with Burmese army’s security chief to discuss transforming the Wa army into border guard force

Regional

Thai authorities will go ahead with plans to deport migrant workers who fail to complete the national verification process by the end of the month

Bangladesh authorities crack down on Muslim refugees, arresting and deporting them back to Burma

International

International Organization for Migration reports that 500,000 people in Burma are still homeless after the Cyclone Nargis

Freedom Now petitions the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to investigate the case of the Burma-born American Nyi Nyi Aung

Opinion

World must not be misled by Burma’s sham elections
By Naw Zipporah Sein and Khu Oo Reh
The Nation

An American in Burma’s Gulag
By Wa Wa Kyaw
Wall Street Journal

Burma’s junta pulls the wool over the UN’s eyes
By Zin Linn
Asian Tribune

Action

56 groups issue open letter to ASEAN Secretary General demanding justice for workers on strike in Burma

Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar urged to end repression of ethnic minorities before elections
By Amnesty International

Demands for Prisoner’s rights (in English and Burmese)
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)

Tens of Thousands of Rohingyas from Burma at Risk of Starvation in an Unprecedented Crackdown in Bangladesh
By the Arakan Project

UK Government: Burma Global Arms Embargo ‘Remains A Priority’
By Burma Campaign UK

U Tin Oo Release Welcome, But Not A Sign of Change In Burma
By Burma Campaign UK

Solidarity with Burmese Strikers
By Congress of South African Trade Unions

UN envoy to Myanmar asked to table  ‘human rights protection’ on Burma polls
By Free Burma Coalition – Philippines

Stateless Rohingya victims of violent crackdown in Bangladesh
By Medecins Sans Frontiers

Goodwill Message to the Auspicious Occasion of the 62nd Chin National Day Ceremony
By the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma

Burma’s 2008 Constitution: An Obstacle to Free and Fair Elections in 2010?
By the National Council of the Union of Burma

Statement on Nyi Nyi Aung
By US Congressman Chirs Van Hollen

Reports

The repression of ethnic minority activists in Myanmar
By Amnesty International

Unregistered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: Crackdown, forced displacement and hunger
By the Arakan Project

Violent crackdown fuels humanitarian crisis for unrecognised Rohingya refugees Bangladesh
By Medecins Sans Frontiers

Weekly Political Events Regarding the SPDC’s Election (003/2010)
By Network for Democracy and Development

Weekly Political Events Regarding the SPDC’s Eleciton (004/2010)
By Network for Democracy and Development

This post is in: Weekly Highlights