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Commemoration Calls Attention to Political Prisoners’ Struggle

Anti-Labor Protest Commemoration 1 Feb 2013 © The IrrawaddyOn 1 February, a group of former political prisoners held a public forum in Rangoon to commemorate their protest against forced prison labor in Tharawaddy Prison in 1989. The group was arrested and imprisoned after the 1988 popular uprising that was brutally crushed by the military regime. The “Anti-Labor Protest”, as they called it, was an act of resistance to the first time after the 1988 uprising that prison authorities imposed hard labor on political prisoners. It was also the first time after the uprising that prisoners stood up for their rights and the prison authorities’ first use of widespread and brutal torture against them.

On 17 November 1989, 250 political prisoners were transferred from Insein Prison to Tharawaddy Prison in Pegu Division. On 23 November, prison authorities began to force the political prisoners to perform hard labor, but 6 people refused to do so. Authorities separated them into two groups, severely beat each of the prisoners and placed them in solitary confinement. The following day, other political prisoners demanded to see the 6 who had been taken away. When their demand was rejected, they refused to perform hard labor as well. As with the 6 original protesters, they were also sent to solitary confinement and tortured terribly. Three of these protesters died shortly after they were released from prison […]

February 5, 2013  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: ,  •  Read more ➤

Aid and Development Plans Undermined by Sustained Military Offensive

Kachin Protest in Bangkok 11 Jan 2013 © ReutersIn the week that the Nay Pyi Taw Accord for Effective Development Cooperation was signed between the Burma government and international donors and NGOs outlining the big picture plans for aid and development, the full-blown offensive in Kachin State has reached a crisis point.

The document, as expected, is teeming with the current language and concepts of the development industry. Participatory approaches when engaging with civil society, increasing the transparency and effectiveness of government initiatives, pro-poor strategies, and accountability are all mentioned. Statements and announcements made by the government usually sound a lot better than how they are actually implemented. The promised joint review board for political prisoners has not yet materialised, various commissions set up to investigate acts of violence in Arakan State, the crackdown on peaceful protesters at Letpadaung copper mine, and nationwide land confiscations have not produced any tangible, progressive results. A few days after the signing of the accord, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank announced new loans to the Burma government, totalling around US$950 million. Annette Dixon, the World Bank’s Country Director for Burma praised the “unprecedented reforms to improve people’s lives, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

These discussions of progress, lofty ideals, and fashionable development concepts between the central government and international agencies in the expansive new capital of Naypyidaw are in stark contrast with the plight of Kachin people in the far north of the country. The Burma Army is continuing its advance toward the town of Laiza, the last outpost of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) controlled territory, as more and more civilians suffer from the ongoing assault in their homeland. It was reported that on Saturday a strategic mountain post was taken after a sustained, heavy Burma Army assault, and many fear that it is only a matter of time before Laiza is taken. Already, around half of its population has fled […]

January 28, 2013  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Join Kachin Community in Thailand’s Peaceful Rally in Chiang Mai

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Kachin Community in Thailand invites you to join the peace rally in Chinese Consulate-General in Chiangmai (Thailand) and Consulate General of the United States in Chiang mai in Thailand to raise awareness for armed conflict in Kachin State, Shan State, and other ethnic States in Burma (Myanmar).

  • Date: Friday, January 25th, 2013
  • Time: 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
  • Theme: To Stop War Crimes and Crime against Ethnic Minorities in Burma

Protest locations

  1. Chinese Consulate: 111 Changloh Road, Haiya District, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50100
  2. U.S Consulate: 387 Wichaynond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, THAILAND[…]
January 24, 2013  •  By Kachin Community in Thailand  •  Tags: , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Hastily Introduced World Bank Projects Threaten to Undermine Peace Process in Burma

By Khin Ohmar

In late 2012 the World Bank announced its first lending to Burma (also known as Myanmar) in over 20 years. The $80 million grant, to be implemented by the Ministry of Border Affairs, is for community driven development (CDD) projects that are aiming to provide tangible benefits to communities, including those affected by decades of conflict in Burma. The concern among many grassroots activists, however, is that the areas to which this money will be funnelled are still in the earliest stages of the peace process, and that huge influxes of money will undermine efforts for sustainable peace.

On 22 January the Bank’s board will consider its second round of loans to Burma, through a $440 million development policy loan called the ‘Reengagement and reform support programme’. Its objectives are: “to support Myanmar’s critical reforms for strengthening macroeconomic stability, improving public financial management, and improving the investment climate” and to “facilitate the clearance of Myanmar’s arrears to IDA”. This money will flow through the ministry of finance […]

January 22, 2013  •  Tags: , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Burma Continues to Repress Critical Voices

According to Freedom House’s annual global survey on political rights and civil liberties released this week, Burma is still rated as “Not Free.” A “Not Free” country is one where basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied.

This could come as a surprise after the reforms that President Thein Sein and his government have started implementing but as Freedom House explains freedoms of expression and association improved in the last two years “but they depend more on current government policy than on deep institutional changes.”

One of the noticeable areas of reform is freedom of information. Thein Sein released bloggers and journalists, ended pre-publication censorship, and authorized the publication of privately-owned dailies. Regrettably, as explained in a report released this week by Reporters Without Borders, “as things stand, the possibility of the reforms being perverted cannot be ruled out.” The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division is still in place and can suspend any weekly that publishes “forbidden” content, there is no law providing protection to media and journalists, the old oppressive laws remain unamended and privately owned weeklies have been facing legal proceedings […]

January 21, 2013  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Burma Must End Offensives and Dialogue with Ethnic Armed Groups for a National Political Settlement

We have entered a new year after a year and a half of fighting between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Since the war started, it is estimated that up to 100,000 people have been displaced. These refugees are living in Burma’s coldest area and receive very little humanitarian assistance as aid workers, including those from the United Nations, are often denied access to them.

The intensity of war against the KIA has reached a crisis point after the Burma Army launched a series of air strikes in late December. After exposure of footage on the internet of the air strikes the government had no choice but to admit the use of military jets and attack helicopters in carrying out targeted attacks. Today, the Burma Army injured and killed civilians in its attack on Laiza, the KIA headquarters. Yet the government still insists that it is not launching offensives but acting in self-defence. It is now unthinkable how far the Burma Army might go to win this war […]

January 14, 2013  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Join Peace Rally at Burmese Embassy in Bangkok with the Kachins

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Kachin Community in Thailand invites you to join the peace rally in Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Bangkok in Thailand to raise awareness for armed conflict in Kachin State, Shan State, and other ethnic States.

  • Date: Friday, January 11th, 2013
  • Time: 10:00 AM
  • Theme: To Stop War Crimes and Crime against Ethnic Minorities in Burma
  • Protest locations: Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
  • Address: 132, SATHORN NUA ROAD, BANGKOK 10500, THAILAND

It has been more than a year since the outbreak of armed conflict in Northern Burma, June 9th, 2011. The civil war being fought between the Burmese government forces and Kachin Independence Army has displaced over 100,000 internally displaced personals (IDPs), to date.

The ongoing fierce aerial assaults, the use of combat helicopters, fighter jets, and shelling on unarmed innocent civilians by our own government’s forces have killed civilians, hence putting the lives of thousands of Burmese citizens in grave danger […]

January 10, 2013  •  By Kachin Community in Thailand  •  Tags: , , , ,  •  Read more ➤

A Year of Nascent Reforms to Build Upon

2012 has been an eventful year for Burma – a year of initial steps hopefully in the right direction as well as several hurdles that pose serious challenges to the reform process.

In April, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and 42 other members of the National League for Democracy won their parliamentary seats in a landslide victory for the party. However, parliamentary procedures are obscure and NLD and other progressive MPs are outnumbered by those from the Union Solidarity and Development Party and the military, making it difficult to raise important issues, repeal oppressive laws or push for amendments to draft legislations.

This year, we have seen the release of a significant number of political prisoners. While the freedom of these crucial players in the democratic process was welcomed, the opportunistic nature of the releases and the existing charges against those released cast a dark shadow. Hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail and authorities continue to arrest outspoken activists, including most recently those who have protested against the Letpadaung copper mine, one of many cases of land confiscation throughout the country […]

December 22, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Protest and Persecution Under the Guise of Reformist Laws

Monks Protest Letpadaung 8 Dec 2012Last week saw protests spread across Burma against the deplorable treatment by the authorities against those who dared to oppose the Letpadaung copper mine. The reaction of the government was all too familiar, with more monks arrested for their participation in peaceful demonstrations.

The incident at the Letpadaung copper mine near Monywa, Sagaing Region, saw riot police brutally break up an 11-day protest by activists and monks against the mine that is forcing people off their land and causing major environmental damage. The police stormed the protest camp in the middle of the night, used tear gas and incendiary devices to break up the rally and injured at least 65 monks, while arrests of activists were made in Rangoon.

Since the crackdown, in scenes reminiscent of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, thousands of monks marched peacefully down main streets of Rangoon, Mandalay, Myingyan, Monywa and other towns and cities. They demanded an apology for the violence from President Thein Sein, the unconditional release of those arrested, and legal action against the perpetrators of the violence. Their courage in the context of the threat of serious violence is typified by Abbot Thawbita, one of the monks demonstrating in Mandalay, who said, “We believe that if we accept this violence now, we will have to face more serious suppression.” Union Minister Hla Tun has apologized to some of the injured monks in a ceremony in Mandalay on 15 December, but this falls short of the monks’ demand that the President himself apologize. Meanwhile, those protesters arrested in Rangoon on 26 November and 2 December have been released on bail,but still face charges of inciting public unrest […]

December 17, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Participation and Inclusion in Burma, Empty Words

Aung Soe Arrest 2 December 2012 © AFPToday, 10 December marks the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is inclusion and the right to participate in public life, but these concepts are conspicuously absent in Burma today, as recent events have proved.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) identifies inclusion and the right to participate in public life as “essential elements in achieving the full range of human rights for all of us… the fulfillment of the right to participate is fundamental to the functioning of a democracy and an effective human rights protection system. When the right to participate and inclusion are respected, each and every one of us is offered the opportunity to join in the debate, to offer ideas and to campaign for change.”

To commemorate this day, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi joined the OHCHR’s event in Geneva as the keynote speaker via satellite, serving as both an advocate for participation in public life and an example of a person and a place where this right to participation was, and in many cases still is, absent. One of the largest challenges facing Burma today and in the future is whether the government is willing and able to provide this basic human right of inclusion and participation to all of its citizens […]

December 10, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , , ,  •  Read more ➤