Daily Archives: October 19, 2012

Arakan Crises Update

Source NDPHR(exile),

On the Wednesday morning of 17 Oct, the Rohingya villagers of Anauk Pran (Anakpran), Rathedaung township were invited to the Town Peace and Development Council-TPDC office for food distribution that was came after the British Ambassador Andrew Heyn who is the first diplomat visited this region.
On their arrival at the office, all of the villagers involving women and children were humiliated and beaten-up. 11 of them were harshly wounded and all of them were finally drove away from the office except some women and girls have been selectively kept in the office and taken to authorities’ homes. They still face molestation plus sexual abuses by authorities.

Buddhist monks hold a banner as they protest against the opening of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) offices in Myanmar, in front of the city hall in Yangon. -Reuters Photo

 Moreover, the Rakhines and its monks have begun aggressively blocking and checking all suspected vehicles and then took away the foods that are carrying for Rohingyas. This kind of actions are taking place mostly in Sittwe town since the government has announced its official rejection of the OIC office opening on 15 Oct in regard to maintain the military guide democracy placates the extremist Rakhines and radical monks striking began across Yagoon, Mandalay and Arakan.

It is a draconian plan to eliminate the entire Rohingya, Kaman and Rakhine muslims from starvation. The displaced numbered about 150,000 people across eight different towns- Sittwe, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Pauktaw, Rambre, Myebon, Ponnagyuan- and the rest of the people who are also trapped, have been passing in critical condition.

UN and its member countries have ever failed to enhance the military government to abide by intl or domestic norms and to ease all forms of arbitrary abuses. They have strong tie for new investments, domination of marines and development of military power that neglect the decades old ongoing crimes against minorities. The disunited famous Rohingya leaders are just rushed with delegations and in meetings from Europe to Asia but they are being pointless and the crises become more and more deteriorating.


A snap shot of President Thein Sein’s Race Riot Inquiry Commission

Extract from Dr Zarni’s FB comment,

Here is a snap shot of President Thein Sein’s Race Riot Inquiry Commission.

Zarganar, the only certifiable anti-racist member, is being too polite and diplomatic when he said locals were not cooperating with the inquiry. It is Naypyidaw who set it up to take the mounting pressure off OIC and UN for independent UN inquiry.

Remember it took 2 months for the British Government to open its official mouth about the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. And Washington sat on its hand – and still does – and Ambassador Derek Mitchell finally had to say something about the plight of the Rohingya.

As with the Lady, it’s not even worth mentioning her world-infamous silence and lack of any internalized humanistic and human rights principles.

Now take a look at the snapshot of the Commission:

1). 88-generation former student leader Ko Ko Gyi, who spent nearly 20 years behind bars barking Human Rights and Democracy is unabashed advocate of no-human-rights-for-the-Bengali.

2). The Chair of the Commission, Dr Myo Myint, a Monash and Cornell-trained historian of Mindon Era Burmese history, served both Ne Win and Than Shwe governments all his grown-up lives (first as a compiler in the Burma Socialist Program Party publications department and before his retirement was Director General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs).

3). The Commission’s Secretary, another Cornell-trained political scientist Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, is too busy serving as Presidential interpreter and Marketer of Thein Sein as "Arch-Reformist" to pay any attention to the Commission’s work. He was known to have cancelled Commission’s meetings because he was too busy advising Thein Sein).

4). Then Dr Yin Yin Nwe, Cambridge-trained retired geology lecturer and former UN staff, is Ne Win’s ex-daughter-in-law. She didn’t bother even showing up for a single meeting.

5). Khun Tun Oo, the Shan leader, holds the view that "Rohingya do not exist because ‘they’ don’t want to be called Rohingya". (What this otherwise respectable Shan obviously does NOT know or seem to care to know is that the agents of "law enforcement" in Arakan State would beat the shit out of any Rohingya who say they are Rohingya.

6). Kyaw Thu, Free Funeral Services, was also no-show – despite President Thein Sein’s characteristically strategic charm of "telling how much he would love and appreciate the presence of such respectable son on his Truth Commission about ‘sectarian violence".

7). The Myanmar Muslim leaders on the Commission are known for being pliant when it comes to Burmese generals’ desire on many matters, including those "illegal Bengali Muslims". The most they would do was to engage in a heated exchange once on the Commission with the certified racist Rakhine leaders such as Aye Thar Aung and Aye Maung (incidentally, Aye Thar Aung’s views towards "sectarian violence" and the "Bengali" are said to be an important source of influence in terms of the Lady’s political calculations as to speak or not to speak).

8). Rakhine Commissioners Aye Thar Aung and Aye Maung? Aye Maung openly advocated the idea of an official apartheid – Israeli style for those "Bengali".

President Thein Sein might as well have resurrected Heinrich Himmler and cloned them as commissioners here.

9). What about Thein Sein himself?

While stressing how important his Race Riot Commission’s work is and how well-respected those individuals whom he had stacked the commission with during his historic UN General Assembly speech, the Commission has absolutely NO BUDGET, no office, no transport. Only 4 mobile phones have been granted by Thein Sein’s government for the 27 commissioners. Former Pepsi rep Thein Tun was asked to patronize/fund the Commission – so the man kicked in 28 Lakhs as the Commission’s fund.

Lt-General Thein Htay, in charge of Border Affairs, a Danu from Shan State, would shrug off any request from the Commission for access to heads of security units in Arakan.

In fact, many of them have been transferred across the country – to remote places – just prior to the setting up of the Commission.

So, do you still rely on – the opposition and the regime – to get to the bottom of anything in Burma?

US – Myanmar: human rights vs. military interests

Source, english.ruvr, 18 Oct

Myanmar military delegates attend a parliament session in Naypyidaw on October 18, 2012. Parliament resumed on October 18 with a session scheduled to focus on a stalled foreign investment law.

Myanmar military delegates attend a parliament session in Naypyidaw on October 18, 2012. Parliament resumed on October 18 with a session scheduled to focus on a stalled foreign investment law. Photo: AFP

As reported by London’s The Guardian, a delegation of more than 20 senior US defense officials has arrived in Myanmar (or, as it is still called in British and American media, Burma) to meet senior government ministers and members of the military, marking Washington’s strongest overtures to the Myanman army in nearly a quarter of a century.

The weird thing in the report is that the US military delegation headed by, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and South East Asia Vikram Singh, and head of the US army’s Pacific command Lieutenant General Francis Wiercinski are taking part in the first US-Burma Human Rights Dialogue.

Even before the US delegation left for Myanmar, the Defense Department spokeswoman for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Major Cathy Wilkinson said that Pentagon rules out resumption of a defense relationship with Burma until the US’ concerns on human rights issues with the Burmese military are addressed.

"The official US Government policy regarding defense activities with Burma remains one of disengagement, except in limited humanitarian and diplomatic instances," said Ms. Wilkinson.

If that is true, the question arises why the human rights issue is tackled by the military.

For the explanation, one should look at the issue of US – Myanmar military ties in a broader context.

In recent months, the US has shown all kinds of bows in respect of the Myanman leadership which has shown some minor sign of its readiness to soften the decades-old authoritarian military rule. While the true nature of the reforms – whether it is going to result in radical reforms or end up in a failure like Gorbachev’s perestroika – remains unclear, major human rights violations are still taking place in Myanmar. They include ethnic and communal clashes that has displaces dozens of thousands people and a military offensive against ethnic minority groups in northern Myanmar. Human Rights Watch has accused the army of burning homes, raping women and torturing and killing civilians during interrogation.

The true nature of the relationship between Myanmar’s leadership and the top military also remains unclear. While Myanmar’s President Thein Sein is trying hard to maintain his image of a reformist, the military more often than not ignore his orders, like in the case of the above offensive against ethnic minorities.

But this does not seem to bother the US. During last several months, President Barack Obama has been consistently lifting economic sanctions on Myanmar – the step aimed at easing the way for US companies into all spheres of Myanmar’s economy. The leader of Myaman opposition and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, often dubbed as Myanmar’s next president, last month receiveda state-level reception in the US, during which she welcomed the change of US attitudes towards her country.

The core of the issue is simple. For decades, while Burma/Myanmar was ruled by the military the only country that had unlimited access to its resources and maintained control over a strategically crucial area in north-east Indian Ocean was China. Myanmar plays an important role in China’s "string of pearls" policy of establishing its strategic presence in the Indian Ocean, and is in fact the shortest route connecting the ocean with China’s southern regions.

China – Myanmar cooperation is not limited to economy – Myanmar has provided China with a number of military facilities including listening stations on Coco Islands and a deepwater port in Khyaukpyu. When completed the China-controlled infrastructure projects in Myanmar will give China an easy way to bypass the Malacca Strait which is presently swarms with pirates, and in the nearest future (with the US expanding its military ties with Singapore) is going to be totally controlled by the US Seventh Fleet.

Definitely, by courting Myanmar the US is aiming at a two-fold objective. One – cutting China’s supply routes, the other – establishing its own presence in China’s soft belly.

And with these objectives in mind, it is easy to forget about minor things like human rights, or even consigning the task to carry out the human rights dialogue to the military, which is hardly their business.

Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

Myanmar political reforms elude ethnic groups

Source dw.de, 18 Oct

A demonstration by the Kachin in Bangkok(Photo: Nicola Glass)

Certain groups have been left out of the apparently impressive transformation taking place in Myanmar – the country’s ethnic minorities. In their regions, the military remains in control.

Many people in Myanmar have not benefited at all from the reforms initiated by President Thein Sein.

In many of the regions inhabited by minority ethnic groups, life has actually become worse.

Perhaps the most extreme example of this is Kachin state, a resource-rich region in the far north of the country. In June 2011, a 17-year cease fire collapsed after government troops began an offensive against the rebels of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Since then, war has prevailed.

Activists and human rights campaigners complain that the world has taken a blinkered view of the situation in Myanmar. "For us it is very difficult to gain the attention of the international community because all that people see from the outside is Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy movement," said Hkawng Seng Pan, spokeswoman for the Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand.

Calls for a political solution

There has been no break in the fighting since the cease fire collapsed. Human rights campaigners accuse the regime of murder, torture, rape and other atrocities against civilians. Up to 100,000 people have fled from the violence. So far, all talks to establish a truce have failed.

Hkawng Seng Pan (Photo: Nicola Glass)Hkawng Seng Pan says the West has a blinkered view of the situation

In the coming weeks, according to media reports, fresh talks were set to take place between the government and Kachin rebels. It is not only the Kachin who insist on a political solution to end conflict and guarantee minority ethnic groups equal rights within the Union of Myanmar. Other ethnic groups with which Thein Sein’s government has already signed cease fire agreements are also asking for the same thing.

Among them are the Karen in the east of the country, who in January 2012 entered into a truce agreement with the government. Because of the conflict, which has been going on for decades, several hundred thousand people have become refugees in their own country or fled across the border into neighboring Thailand.

Steps to build confidence

The entire process of armistice negotiations is fragile because the government has the upper hand, according to Khin Ohmar, coordinator of the Burma Partnership, a network of organizations in the Asia-Pacific regions that campaign for a democratic Myanmar.

"In dealing with the rebel groups, the government is not flexible enough to compromise. A situation in which both sides emerge as winners must be marked by compromise and not, therefore, one in which the rebels simply give in."

Myanmar's President Thein Sein shakes hands with members of the peace group Karen National Union (Photo: Reuters)Negotiations with groups like the Karen have been decribed as "fragile"

To what extent to government will be in a position to solve the Kachin question, observers say, is extremely important for the peace negotiations with the other ethnic minorities. If there were to be no progress in Kachin state, the question would arise about how credible the government’s efforts were, according to activist and author Benedict Roger, who is East Asia team leader for the organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Among the first steps necessary would be a reduction in troop number deployed and an end to human rights violations. Only that way could trust be a built, said Roger.

Mistrust of parliament

In addition, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) – comprised of some dozen rebel groups – has called for Thein Sein’s chief negotiator Minister Aung Min to meet with all rebels at one table rather than negotiate with individual groups.

It also wants the initial debate about a political solution, and any constitutional changes, to take place outside parliament, which is dominated by representatives who are close to the former military government or who are themselves members of the military.

Debating the matter in parliament would be tantamount to recognizing the controversial constitution of 2008, which restricts the rights of ethnic minorities and guarantees supremacy to the military.

The Kachin and Karen regions are not the only flashpoints in Myanmar. In June 2012, ethnic and religious violence broke out between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh.

The Myanmar parliament (Photo: Michael Wetzel, DW)Allied ethnic groups want to keep parliament out of the process of finding a political solution

A subsequent racist smear campaign against the Rohingya, not recognized as a minority in Myanmar, was in stark contrast to the image of the new Myanmar that Thein Sein aims to present to the international community.

Ignored plight of the Rohingya

While the reform process in Myanmar has received high praise from abroad, it has not translated into legal reforms that would see all citizens treated equally. This was the criticism voiced recently by Debbie Stothard of the Altsean Burma network, which campaigns for human rights and reform.

"In contrast with the overly optimistic comments from the West, from Europe and also from Asia, the plight of the Rohingya minority shows what really has to be done in the country other than take advantages of photo opportunities with Thein Sein," said Stothard.

Many observers have questioned whether Thein Sein really has the will to change the country. However, activist Brendan Rogers pointed out that there were signs that he was in the process of promoting a reformist agenda, including a recent cabinet reshuffle in which some hardliners were replaced or demoted.

Hovering above all of this is the question of whether the reforms are, in fact, genuine and irreversible. "Nobody knows how strong the hardliners really are and how much of a position they are in to hinder this process or possibly even start a coup."

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