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4-10 July: Defections Show Deep Dissatisfaction Within Burma’s Military Regime

July 11, 2011

On 4 July, the second highest-ranking diplomat at Burma’s Embassy in Washington, DC defected, claiming frustration at a lack of tangible change in the political system in his country.

Kyaw Win, a career diplomat, sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upon defecting that outlined his reasons for leaving the embassy and seeking asylum. He asserts that his suggestions of “actions to improve bilateral relations between Burma and the US,” have resulted in him being “deemed dangerous” by the regime. In his letter, Kyaw Win continued, “Because of this, I am also convinced and live in fear that I will be prosecuted for my actions, efforts and beliefs when I return to Naypyidaw after completing my tour of duty here.”

Most notably, the former diplomat wrote a scathing review of the now 3 month-old parliament in Burma, arguing that, “The truth is that senior military officials are consolidating their grip on power and seeking to stamp out the voices of those seeking democracy, human rights and individual liberties. Oppression is rising and war against our ethnic cousins is imminent.”

Kyaw Win also stated that threats on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s life “must be taken seriously,” and championed the importance of maintaining and strengthening financial sanctions as “these sanctions can play a critical role in denying the regime, and the businessmen who live off of them, access to the international financial system.”

Some of the strongest arguments against the military regime are from those who were inside the system and had the most to gain from complying with and supporting the regime despite its history of abuse. For a career diplomat to defect three months into a purportedly new political system indicates a deep seated dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in recent months, and moreover, the failure of the regime to fulfill their stated objective to implement a “disciplined democracy.”

Defection is certainly not new in Burma’s political environment, and particular high profile cases have often shed light on the inner workings of the military regime. Last year, Major Sai Thein Win defected, bringing with him knowledge and photos indicating the existence of a nuclear weapons program in Burma, to which the regime has failed to provide a convincing argument to the contrary. Sai Thein Win’s efforts have given political actors and nuclear scientists much to debate on the true nature of the regime’s nuclear project. Furthermore, desertions of troops from both the Burma Army and the Border Guard Forces (BGF) to ethnic armed groups clearly indicate a growing frustration within the rank and file soldiers and a widespread dissatisfaction in ethnic areas with the military regime’s efforts to incorporate ceasefire armed groups into a centralized BGF under the command of the Burma Army.

Whether one chooses to look at the heavily skewed composition of the new parliament, the documented electoral fraud, renewed instances of armed conflict, or the continued imprisonment of nearly 2,000 political prisoners, little has changed in Burma since the November 2010 elections.

To continue to place hope in the regime’s “disciplined democracy” is to naively place hope in the hands of authorities who, for decades, have abused their power to reap personal gains at the expense of the country’s citizens, and have even failed to maintain the loyalty of some of those firmly entrenched within the political system. As a first step to move towards any genuine change, the international community must support the efforts of Burma’s ethnic and political groups that truly strive towards democracy, peace and justice, and call for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

News Highlights

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi takes first trip to Bagan and Mandalay, met by emotional admirers; see Live Updates and photos here
US welcomes Daw Suu’s travel without interference as good news

Kachin Independence Organization orders troops to halt attacks, after a pending ceasefire agreement with the Burma Army

Inside Burma

Ethnic affairs ministers complain over lack of authority and unequal benefits offered by the regime

Naypyidaw’s War Office reshuffles the commanders of at least six Regional Military Commands; Major General Soe Shein takes over as head of Burma’s intelligence unit, Military Affairs Security

Former commander of the Rangoon Regional Military Command, Brig-Gen Tun Than, is fired for corruption

USDP MP and Arakan State Minister of Finance and Customs says that the party has an “outstanding plan” to rule the country for the next 50 years

Mon State holds 10-minute parliamentary session for re-election of state ministers (Burmese)

Burma begins to issue six-year temporary passports for migrant workers in Thailand, extending the previous 3-year passports for those who have completed the Nationality Verification process

Burma Army chief negotiator, Col Than Aung, sends a letter to Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) urging an end to warfare in Kachin State, while state-run media blames Kachin Independence Army (KIA) of bombings

KIA ambushes Burma Army convoy in Momauk Township, Kachin State, killing 30 Burma Army soldiers, despite pending ceasefire agreement

Burma’s military regime is applying intra-tribal clash tactics in offensive against KIA, deploying hundreds of Kachin soldiers from pro-regime militias and Border Guard Forces (BGF) in Kachin State

Local organizations in Kachin State form Relief Action Network for IDP and Refugees (RANIR) in response to the number of people fleeing from the recent conflict between KIA and Burma Army forces

Lt-Col Po Bi of a breakaway BGF faction (previously from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) rejects proposal from BGF leader Chit Thu for the 1,000 troops under his command to stay loyal to the regime

Authorities crack down on illegal border trade across the Moei River on the Thai-Burma border that has been growing since Burma closed the Mae Sot-Myawaddy Friendship Bridge in July 2010

Tea shop owner in Henzada, Irrawaddy Division, tortures 9 year-old orphan waiter; boy is discharged from hospital for being unable to pay medical fees, has yet to receive legal assistance

Publisher releases biography of Bogyoke Aung San, Burma’s independence leader and father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, without any censorship

Myanmar Airways International to launch Rangoon-Jakarta-Bali flights in November

Burma and Bangladesh are planning to re-establish direct flights between Rangoon and Dhaka

Anti-Chinese discontent grows in Mandalay because of Chinese immigrants’ monopoly on major businesses

Colleagues and family members wish for the immediate release of Sai Nyunt Lwin, General Secretary of defunct Shan Nationalities League for Democracy party, on his 60th birthday

Regime grants the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisons after six years, but only to carry out technical inspections


Thailand-based rights groups and activists express concern for Burma groups and migrants from the country after Thailand’s Pheu Thai party comes to power

Businessmen hope for a resumed Mae Sot-Myawaddy border trade

Thailand-based aid organization says victims of 24 March earthquake in Shan State are still in need of drinking of and construction materials

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario calls for the release of all remaining political prisoners

Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong will visit Burma soon

Days of heavy rain destroy huts and cause food shortages in Bangladesh’s Kutupalong camp that houses tens of thousands of refugees from Burma


Second highest Burma diplomat in US defects, seeks asylum and calls on the international community to implement tougher sanctions

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says Burma must guarantee Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s safety as she travels throughout the country and urges President Thein Sein to release all political prisoners

Burma’s police chief Brig-Gen Kyaw Kyaw Tun meets Chinese counterpart in Kunming, China, to discuss border security and transnational crimes, such as drugs and human trafficking

United Nations Development Programme survey names Chin State poorest among 14 regions and states in Burma

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Statements and Press Releases

The Cause of Cessation of Civil War and Realization of National Peace – The Cause of Entire People and Demand to the Chinese Government to Stop Dam Projects and Plea to the Chinese People
By All Burma Monks’ Alliance, 88 Generation Students, Arakan Ray, Democratic Students and Youths Force in Rangoon Division, All Burma Federation of Student Unions, 2007 Generation Students Union, Arakan Students Union, All Burma Youths Union and Basic Education Students Union

Burmese President accepts credentials of Canadian Ambassador to Burma
By Canadian Friends of Burma

Free the Democratic Voice of Burma’s Video Journalists
By Democratic Voice of Burma, Reporters Without Borders, Irrawaddy, Mizzima, Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Article 19, International Federation of Journalists, Burma Media Association, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and International Press Institute

Freedom House Calls for Economic Sanctions and UN Action in Burma
By Freedom House

Letter to President Obama: Banking Sanctions and Establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry
By 22 organizations


Thein Sein’s First 100 Days: Words Not Matches By Actions
By Altsean-Burma

Monthly Chronology of Political Prisoners – June 2011
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma

Weekly Political Events Regarding the Post Election (076/2011) (Burmese)
By Network for Democracy and Development

Monthly Chronology of Events – June 2011 (Burmese)
By Network for Democracy and Development

This post is in: Weekly Highlights