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6-12 February: Union Day Highlights Opposition to the Junta’s Undemocratic Elections

February 12, 2010

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Today marks Union Day, the anniversary of the signature of the Panglong Agreement that was designed to bring together the ethnic groups into the federal Union of Burma. Sixty-three years later, ethnic groups throughout the country are still struggling for equality, federalism, and an end to human rights violations in their communities under the repressive military regime.

In a Union Day statement, the United Nationalities Alliance, an alliance of 1990 election-winning ethnic political parties, expressed the desire of many ethnic groups by calling on the SPDC to release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, 88 Generation, and ethnic leaders such as Khun Htun Oo; to end to the armed conflict and human rights violations in ethnic areas; and to engage in dialogue with opposition groups including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic groups. The NLD and democracy forces throughout the country stand with ethnic groups, declaring that without those benchmarks and a review of the 2008 Constitution, this year’s elections will be far from democratic. For elections based on the junta’s flawed constitution will not be a step towards a democratic, federal and peaceful Burma.

This common goal was highlighted in a recent Burmese-language discussion between NLD Central Executive Committee Member, U Win Tin, and Vice-Chairman of the Karen National Union, David Thakapaw. Both leaders recognized that democratic and ethnic alliances must work together to oppose the junta’s 2008 Constitution, which will further entrench the problems currently felt in Burma through this year’s undemocratic elections.

The calls from democratic and ethnic alliances have been echoed in a UN General Assembly Resolution on 23 December 2009. And most recently, the Philippines’ and Malaysian Foreign Ministers have reiterated that the elections will not be free, fair or credible if they are not inclusive and if Daw Suu is not released and allowed to participate. Burma’s movement for democracy and rights for ethnic nationalities welcomes these statements, however, it is now time for the international community to take concrete actions to show the SPDC that holding elections under these current conditions will not be accepted.

In Solidarity,

Burma Partnership Secretariat

News Highlights

Labour Strike in Rangoon

On 8 February, 3,800 factory workers went on strike in Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in Rangoon, demanding an increase to their wages, a decrease in working hours, and improvement of working conditions at the factories. The military threatened a violent crackdown if the factory workers did not disperse, so they were forced to accept a compromised wage increase of US$2 –US$5.

>> Click here to see photos of the workers on strike.

>> Click here to read a Statement of support from the Asian Migrant Centre, MAP Foundation and the Workers and Farmers Solidarity League of Burma Statement (WFSLB)

>> Click here to read WFSLB’s press release (Burmese)

US Responds to Nyi Nyi Aung’s Sentencing

On 10 February, Burma-born American Nyi Nyi Aung was unjustly sentenced to 3 years in prison with hard labour.

The US State Department quickly called for his release, saying the sentence was unjust and politically motivated. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, the representative from Nyi Nyi’s home state of Maryland, called the sentence a hindrance to the new US-Burma engagement. Chairman Howard L. Berman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations called on the US Departments of State and Treasury to consider tightening sanctions on the junta to encourage progress in human rights.

Update on the Repatriation of Karen refugees

The three Karen families who were sent back to Burma on 5 February have been allowed to return to the Nong Bua camp in Thailand. However, there is no word yet on whether the 26 families who were sent to Burma on 6 February will also be allowed to return to Thailand. Early this week, it was reported that the Karen refugees had been warned by the military not to speak to the media or the UNHCR. However, the situation in the temporary camps seems to be more stable now.

Inside Burma

Around 2,000 Karen villagers fled into the jungle because of SPDC army attacks on their villages, burning down over 70 houses and a clinic.

>> Click here for more

According to a junta official, the NLD’s Deputy U Tin Oo will be released tomorrow when his house arrest term expires.

>> Click here for more

Senior representatives of the NLD have begun to arrive in Rangoon from all over the country to participate in the expansion of the party’s leadership next week, when about 90 members will be chosen to form the reconstituted central committee.

>> Click here for more

A new Kachin political party backed by major Kachin organizations gathered together women and students in Myitkyina, Kachin State, to discuss the upcoming elections.

>> Click here for more

Preparations are underway for the relocation of 60 villages because of hydropower projects at the confluence of May Ka and May Likha Rivers in Kachin State.

>> Click here for more

Hundreds of ethnic Kachin Roman Catholics devotees gathered at the construction site of the Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State, to pray that the project would be stopped.

>> Click here for more

Regional

NLD-Liberated Area Malaysia has begun a campaign educating migrant workers from Burma about the 2008 constitutional referendum and this year’s elections.

>> Click here for more

International

On 11 February, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Burma, stating that under present conditions Burma’s planned elections cannot be free and fair.

>> Click here to read the resolution

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma called on the junta to let him meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during his third visit to the country next week, stating that it is important for him to meet with political party leaders in the context of this year’s elections.

>> Click here for more

Australia will increase humanitarian aid to Burma from US$26m this financial year to around US$44m next year, a rise of some 40%. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said that the increase was “not a reward for Burma’s military”, and that the country would maintain targeted financial sanctions against the junta.

>> Click here for more

Opinion

So much for US dialogue with Burma
By Jared Genser
Democratic Voice of Burma

Nelson Mandela’s Captive Audience: My Hero, Page by Page
By Ko Bo Kyi
The New York Times  

The Case for China’s Intervention in Burma
By Min Zin
The Irrawaddy

Thailand Must Not Repatriate Karen Refugees
The Irrawaddy

Statements, Reports and Press Releases

ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus: Statement on Asean MPs requesting the Thai government to halt plans to return Burma asylum seekers

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith: Ministerial Statement on Burma

Burma Campaign Australia: Press Release: Is Australia in breach of its arms embargo against Burma?

Burma Campaign UK: Press Release: European Parliament Rejects Burma Election – Calls For End To Systematic Displacement

Burma Campaign UK: Press Release: UK Government: ‘Tangible Progress’ Needed Before EU Eases Burma Sanctions

Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK: Press Release: BROUK Welcomes EU-Parliament resolution on Burma

Christian Solidarity Worldwide: Press Release: Burma army burns over 70 houses & intensifies offensive over Karen

Free Burma Campaign Singapore: Press Release: Statement on the 2010 Burma elections

Karen Women’s Organization: Update: Situation on repatriated families

National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma: Press Release: NCGUB condemns junta’s ‘blatant disregard for law’ in jailing Nyi Nyi Aung, political prisoners

Network for Democracy and Development: Weekly Political Events Regarding the SPDC’s Election (002-2010) (Burmese)

United Nations Development Programme: Report: Community Driven Recovery: Cyclone Nargis One Year On

US Campaign for Burma: Press Release: Burma’s Regime Escalates Attacks against Karen Villagers, Destroys Mobile Health Clinic, Schools, Villages, Forcing Thousands to Flee

US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations: Statement: Berman Urges Burmese Junta to Release Imprisoned American, Calls on U.S. Administration to Appoint Envoy and Consider More Sanctions

United Nationalities Alliance: Statement for 63rd Union Day

This post is in: Weekly Highlights