Monthly Archives: July 2009

UN Chief’s Visit Fails to Bend Junta’s Iron Will

Irrawaddy news, 4th July 2009

Hardliner generals in Naypyidaw have demonstrated once again how completely unyielding they can be to the demands of anybody who does not see Burma’s future exactly the same way they do.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has completed his second trip to Burma in little over a year without meeting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi or winning any concessions from Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the head of the ruling junta.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking with Snr-Gen Than Shwe on July 3. (Photo: Getty Images)

According to reports from Burma, Ban met with Than Shwe again on Saturday, only to have his request for a chance to speak with Suu Kyi shot down a second time.

“I pressed as hard as I could,” Ban told reporters after the meeting. “I had hoped that he would agree to my request, but it is regrettable that he did not,” he said, adding that he was “deeply disappointed” with the situation.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Saturday that the regime’s refusal to allow a meeting between Ban and Suu Kyi sent the signal that Than Shwe has no interest in genuine political reform or national reconciliation.

Before his trip, Ban said that he hoped to persuade the junta to meet three key demands: the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners; the resumption of dialogue between the junta and opposition as a necessary part of a national reconciliation process; and the creation of conditions conducive to credible elections in 2010.

A spokeswoman for Ban said that the UN chief had asked to meet with all of the major stakeholders in Burmese politics, including Suu Kyi. His failure to meet with Suu Kyi, who has been an international icon of democracy for more than two decades, underscored the futility of years of diplomatic efforts aimed at breaking the generals’ repressive grip on power.

“Mr Ban Ki-moon is leaving Burma empty-handed, without even meeting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, much less achieving his goal of securing the release all political prisoners and getting the regime to engage in a dialogue with the opposition,” said Aye Thar Aung, secretary of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament.

The outcome of this visit, he said, only spelled out the hopelessness of the situation. “We do not believe in hopeful diplomacy, and we are not hopeful of political change in our country,” he said.

For the regime, the visit was just another opportunity to showcase its “road map” to a form of democracy more to its liking—one that guarantees the military a key political role and the right to resume full control if it sees fit.

Burma’s state media reported on Saturday that the junta had acceded to Ban’s request to meet with other political stakeholders by arranging a meeting with representatives of 10 registered political parties, including the NLD, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and the pro-junta National Unity Party, in Naypyidaw on Friday afternoon.

However, NLD sources said that the selection of representatives was made by the regime, not by the parties themselves or by UN officials. They also said that the NLD was treated as one of the less important parties, despite being the overwhelming victors of Burma’s last elections in 1990.

Others also noted that Ban was not allowed to meet with the NLD representatives separately.

“When UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited Burma in January, he was allowed to hold a separate meeting with NLD leaders, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” said a senior NLD member, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But this time, the junta did not even allow Ban to meet the NLD members except as part of a group with the other parties.”

Despite all the setbacks, not everyone agreed that the visit was a complete failure.

“This is not the end of diplomatic efforts to bring about changes in Burma,” said Chan Tun, a former Burmese ambassador to China and North Korea. “The next step is talks with China and Russia about the Burma issue.”

Ban’s next move will be to report to the UN Security Council about his visit, giving him an opportunity to push for more active international engagement to address Burma’s political impasse.

“The junta’s reaction to Ban’s trip will send a strong message to the UN Security Council,” said Chan Tun.

N Korea Using Malaysian Bank for Burmese Weapons Deals: Yonhap

Irrawaddy news, 4th Junly 2009

North Korea sought payment through a bank in Malaysia for a suspected shipment of weapons to Burma being carried on a freighter tracked by the US Navy, according to a source quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Yonhap reported on Saturday that the source said a US envoy would visit Malaysia this weekend to focus on ways to cut off the payment to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

“Kim will have a hard time collecting his money,” said the high-level source.

The revelation comes as the North Korean freighter Kang Nam 1 is apparently returning home after being tracked by a US Navy destroyer that suspected it of carrying cargo banned under UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which toughened sanctions imposed after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.

Philip Goldberg, the US coordinator for the implementation of the resolution, which was passed on June 12 to punish North Korea for its May 25 nuclear test, is scheduled to arrive in Malaysia on Sunday. Goldberg is in China ahead of his visit to Malaysia.

The White House said that US President Barack Obama discussed North Korea and financial regulations with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razakon by phone late last month.

According to another source in Seoul, the Kang Nam 1 is believed to be carrying small Soviet-era arms such as AK-47 rifles and RPG-7 anti-tank launchers manufactured in North Korea.

Adm Gary Roughead, the chief of US Naval operations, told reporters on Saturday that the Kang Nam 1 was being closely watched and is now in the East China Sea.

“I believe we are seeing the effects of the UN Security Council resolution,” he said.

On Friday, South Korean news channel YTN quoted an unidentified diplomatic official as saying that Burma requested that the Kang Nam 1 turn around.

The US State Department announced on Tuesday that it had frozen the US assets of Namchongang Trading Corp and Iran-based Hong Kong Electronics to curtail North Korea’s ability to trade in missiles and nuclear materials. Namchongang Trading Corp is allegedly connected to the Burmese arms industry.




Bangladesh Removes Rohingyas from Nearby Refugee Camp

Irrawaddy news, 1st July 2009

About 400 crude dwellings belonging to ethic Rohingyas near the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh have been destroyed or relocated, according to officials of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) based in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh government claimed that the Rohingyas were not refugees and came to live near the refugee camp to receive benefits, said the UNHCR.

Burmese children wait for malaria test results at special clinic for malaria on May 4 in Sittwe, Arakan State, Burma. The majority of the patients treated belong to the Rohingya Muslim minority who live in Muslim neighborhoods in Sittwe. (Photo: Getty Images)

An estimated 1,000 people have been forcibly evicted from the camp by Bangladeshi police and camp management, said the UNHCR.

The Bangladesh government announced in May that people who lived within 100 feet of the camp must leave, according to the Arakan Project (AP).

Chris Lewa, the coordinator of AP, said, the authorities told the settlers to leave their homes or actions would be taken to remove their dwellings. She said that 853 Rohingyas were recently returned to Burma shortly after they enter Bangladesh territory, generally in small boats across the Naf River and in some cases across the land border. 

About 100 families from north Maungdaw Township in Arakan State settled recently on the outskirts of the camp, she said.

Tin Soe, an editor of Kaladan Press Network, based in Bangladesh, said that the people who were evicted have remained in the area, some using plastic bags to protect themselves from the rain. He said they have insufficient food and water and lack toilet facilities.

There are nearly 30,000 Rohingyas currently living in two makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar District. They are undocumented by the UNHCR.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR has provided the refugees. The UNHRC earlier called the Rohingyas issues a “protracted” humanitarian problem that began 30 years ago.

In June, the Burmese military government agreed with the Bangladesh government to repatriate Rohingya who live in Bangladesh. It was the first time Burma officially accepted Rohingya back from Bangladesh. However, the Bangladesh government said that unless there is political improvement in the country, Rohingya refugees will be sent back.

The Burmese government started building a border fence between Burma and Bangladesh to prevent Rohingya from Araka State from illegally entering Bangladesh to find work early this year. Burmese local authorities said that the fence was being built to deter smuggling and human trafficking. Illegal immigration has been a problem in this border region since colonial times.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who face severe discrimination in Burma. They are prohibited from traveling outside Arakan State and are further marginalized by other discriminatory regime laws. They allege widespread, systemic human rights abuses by Burmese authorities, saying the government deprives them of free movement, education and rightful employment.

According to official Thai figures, the number of Rohingyas arrested for illegally entering Thailand has increased steadily in recent years, from 1,225 in 2005-6 to 4,886 in 2007-8.

Rohingya participates in 45th standing committee meeting of UNHCR

source from kaladan press, 26th  June 2009
Dr. Kamal Hussein, representative of Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA), presented a statement (drafted)   on behalf of NGOs across the world at the 45th Standing Committee meeting of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 23 in Geneva, Switzerland, U Kyaw Maung, the President of BRCA from Australia said.

The grand opening speech of June 23 meeting was chaired by the Ambassador of Costa Rica who visited Malaysia and Thailand to visit refugees quite recently and gave a speech on the Burmese refugee situation in Asia  and then in other countries, according to Dr. Kamal  from  Geneva.
 “It is a great honor for me, for BRCA, the Rohingya community and also for the Australian team as I have been given the chance to present a statement (drafted) on behalf of NGOs across the world,” said Dr. Kamal.

After attending the meeting, Dr. Kamal told Kaladan News, “We need at least three steps of lobbying for Rohingyas or for any oppressed group in the world, such as meetings and explaining to the policy makers, politicians , NGOs and UN agencies, about what is happening in the community such as oppression, human rights violation etc; we need to go through media and researches to write about what is happening to the community and need to participate for taking action, practical decision and policy drafting: and pursue Governments and United Nations.

 “We sent our representative Dr. Kamal Hussein to participate in UNHCR’s Geneva meetings to raise awareness about the plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees across Asia,” according to U Kyaw Maung, the President of BRCA in Australia.

 “BRCA works tirelessly with the cooperation of Refugee Council of Australia and the Centre for Refugee Research UNSW and Amnesty international of Australia to provide stronger support from national and international levels for the Rohingya refugees,” U Kyaw Maung more said.

 “I would like to thank Caritas Australia for helping us,” he added.

 “We, at the BRCA worked hard with the concerned authorities from Australia for resettling Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh in 2008-2009 and are hoping more Rohingya refugees will be settled in future,” he more added.

 “I hope the participation and presentation will help Rohingyas and Burma not only in the NGO forum but also in the government forum.  Now here in the UN, the practical action of the Rohingyas’ plight is about to be decided for the next year and also for the next five years,” said Dr. Kamal.

 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is currently made up of 70 member States.  The Executive Committee (ExCom) meets in Geneva annually to review and approve UNHCR’s programs and the budget, offer advice on international protection, and discuss a wide range of other issues with UNHCR and its intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.

 NGOs are present at these meetings and offer statements on each of the agenda items.  RCUSA members are actively involved in the drafting of these statements. The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), founded in 1962, is a global network that brings together human rights, humanitarian, and development NGOs as an advocacy alliance for humanitarian action. Focusing on humanitarian and refugee policy issues, ICVA draws upon the work of its members at the field level and brings their experiences to international decision-making forums.

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