KAO WAO NEWS No. 68

An electronic newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma

May 16 –June 1, 2004

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CEASE FIRE GROUPS MUZZLED AT THE NATIONAL CONVENTION

MON LEADERSHIP MEETING BOYCOTTS CONVENTION

SPDC’S HAND OF CORRUPTION

MON NATIONAL SCHOOLS COME UNDER FIRE

HIGH PRICE FOR MOTORBIKE LICENCE

HISTORY ATTRACTS MON STUDENTS

AUNG SAN SUU KYI MARKS YEAR IN DETENTION

BURMESE JOB HUNTERS AWAIT BORDER RUN

FLOODING RAINS CLAIM LIVES AT THREE PAGODAS

READERS’ FRONT

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CEASE FIRE GROUPS MUZZLED AT THE NATIONAL CONVENTION

(Kao Wao: May 31, 2004)

SANGKHLABURI – The New Mon State Party (NMSP)is under pressure by Burma's military junta, while its delegates are attending the state sponsored National Convention (NC) near Rangoon.

A senior leader of the cease-fire party said the regime is not happy with the NMSP and other cease-fire groups who demanded changes in the basic principles set out for the Constitution which the NC is supposed to approve.

“Our delegates and other cease-fire groups have been meeting together during the Convention. The Mon delegation proposed things they wanted discussed, the group chairman, but he said he wouldn't dare to submit the proposals to the Head of the Convention,” said a Mon politician who spoke under condition of anonymity.

The NMSP’s phone line has been intercepted and all the ceasefire groups have been restricted to the convention site and unable to gain access to other groups and their organizations for consultation.

There is no debate at the Convention, a confidential source in Moulmein said. At the beginning, Mon delegates were hopeful that they would be able to resolve political deadlock by putting issues on the table, but they have been stymied by the SPDC’s 5/ 96 act which bars participants from speaking freely, the source added.

“Unless the NLD (National League for Democracy) participates, we have no confidence in the SPDC’s National Convention,” said Nai Sorn, a youth leader of the Mon National Democratic Front. The MNDF was disbanded by the SPDC and its leaders were arrested.

Mon politicians and the public are quite alert to what is going on from listening to international radio stations like the BBC, VOA and RFA. Sorn said the public expects something new to happen after the NC meeting and that new election will be held.

Before the Convention opened on May 11, five other groups attending the Convention joined with the NMSP in demanding a review of the Convention principle which states that the military would have a leading role in national politics. The other groups pushing for the change include the KIO (Kachin Independence Organization), the Shan State Army "North", the Shan State National Army, the PSLO (Palaung State Liberation Organization) and the Kayan New Land Party.

Meanwhile, Mon national schools have been ordered under government control in southern Ye in Mon state, a tactic which many believe is being used to pressure the Mon to keep quiet at the NC, said the Mon leader from Moulmein.

For the moment, five representatives from NMSP, two from Mon Army Mergui District (MAMD) and other Mon delegates selected by the junta are attending the Convention.

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MON LEADERSHIP MEETING BOYCOTTS CONVENTION

(By Taramon: May 22, 2004)

Sangkhlaburi -- Mon leaders from overseas and Mon State met at the border and opposed the government sponsored national convention.

20 delegates from the Mon Unity League, EU Mon Organization, Monland Restoration Council (USA), Mon Canadian Society and Mon National Democratic Front (Liberated Area) gathered at Thai-Burma border town for a Leadership Dialogue Meeting and discussed about the present political situation from May 16-18. The participants viewed that the SPDC’s national convention cannot solve the political crisis of Burma because it lacked delegates from the political parties.

“The SPDC’s 104 principles are based on a unitary state and not a federal system which we are seeking. Mon delegations were dominated by the SPDC and were not able to communicate with outsiders,” said Nai Sunthorn, General Secretary of Mon Unity League, an umbrella organization based at the Thai-Burma border.

“We observed some points in the draft gave top priority to the military to seize State power whenever it deems it necessary. According to their new constitution, which has a militarist strategy, the President of Burma must have ten years’ of military experience, which effectively blocks Ms Suu Kyi and other ethnic leaders to ever become leaders in our own country,” he added.

The dialogue meeting agreed to set up an International Campaign for Mon Affairs or ICMA to bring awareness of the Mon people abroad, to plan for a Mon National Fund raising and to form a Mon Women Global Network. However, the gathering mainly focused on the SPDC’s National Convention.

“There is no freedom of _expression and the representatives are put in a concentration camp. The New Mon State Party delegates represent only their Party and not the entire Mon people”, said Nai Banya Dean a leader from the Monland Restoration Council (USA).

The meeting was organized by the MUL and financially supported by the Mon community in exile. The delegates also set up work plans, which were formerly agreed by the Mon National Affairs Seminar held in Mon State in March 14-18.

According to a spokesperson from the NMSP, the Party expects the NC as a place for a political settlement and the NMSP and other 5 ceasefire groups have asked for changes to the six objectives and 104 principles presented at the convention.

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The Immigration office at the border town makes extra cash by collecting under the table from travelers who sneak into Thailand as migrant laborers.

SPDC’S HAND OF CORRUPTION

(By Taramon: May 31, 2004)

Burmese Immigration Department at the Three Pagodas Pass border town charges 500 Baht per head from inside Burma, most bribes comes from deportees from Thailand.

“We paid 500 Baht to the immigration office,” said Nai Win Mon who is waiting at the border inside Thailand to enter the Kingdom.

After paying the cash, they can pass to other places along the border such as Palaine Japan and Guu Bao villages, but sometimes are fined for leaving their hiding places and going out openly in public areas”, said a Three Pagodas Pass resident.

The targeted deportees have to pay more bribes to the policemen and township authorities compared to other migrant workers who are planning to enter Thailand, reported Nai Blai (not his real name) who has good contact with the Burmese officers.

“The salaried officers, who normally fill out forms, use bribery as a quick way to get rich because they have access to outside currency, most buy expensive cars,” said a businessman from the border town. “The MI (Military Intelligence) and police officers buy cars at the border and send them back to their families. Most are in the vehicle smuggling business.”

In a country where the majority of households spend more than 70% on food (cited from http://www.dfid.gov.uk on Burma) the local source reported some officers such as motor vehicle policemen bribe their senior officers in order to stay longer in their positions to get more outside income (bribes) from the black market or smuggling business.

About one hundred people arrive daily to the Three Pagodas Pass to migrate to Thailand, all in the hands of human traffickers who are turned over to corrupt officers.

“The traffickers charge 25,000 Kyats for a passenger on the way to the border and 20,000 for those returning to Thanbyu Zayat in Mon State,” said a migrant worker who just arrived to the town.

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Assimilation Policy

MON NATIONAL SCHOOLS COME UNDER FIRE

(By Kao Wao: May 23, 2004)

Local commander of State Peace and Development Council ordered Mon national schools in southern Ye to work under government control.

A source from Mon State reported Captain Htay Aung of Infantry Battalion No. 61 warned Mon teachers on May 16 at Yan Rae village that they must immediately stop teaching Mon education.

Captain Htay Aung, said the Mon national schools must be under government control starting from this year and follow all curriculum and instructions issued by the SPDC’s administration.

Last month, Colonel Myo Winn warned the teachers at Kao Jaer village that they must stop teaching Mon; otherwise their schools will be shut down indefinitely.

Even though the New Mon State Party reached a cease-fire agreement with the military junta with Mon schools being allowed to operate, the military junta occasionally disturbs Mon literature and culture movements.

A spokesperson from the NMSP’s Sangkhalaburi office said the Mon leaders and civilians are very upset with the junta’s suppression policy, which could sour relationships between the NMSP and the SPDC in the future.

A local source reported the military junta threatens national teachers whenever they want to pressure the Mon political movement. Many teachers have been arrested, tortured, forced to resign, and physically or sexually harassed by the authorities, accused of being involved in politics or supporting the anti-government groups in the past.

In southern Ye township, about 100 Mon teachers are teaching over 7,000 children at 30 schools. For several years, the Mon national schools in the rural areas are well organized and self-supported by the Mon National Education Committee of NMSP.

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Life in Mon State

HIGH PRICE FOR MOTORBIKE LICENCE

(Based on IMNA report: May 25, 2004)

Bikers are paying exorbitant fees to get a licence plates in Moulmein, according to informants in the Mon State capital. .

“Now we have to pay K 30,000 more to get a "Ma La Ma" (Moulmein) licence,” said Nai Kong, a motorbike trader. “We used to pay K 120, 000 in the past, but corrupt officers are using some brokers to make us pay up to K 150,000 (US$ 180) now," he added.

Motorbike dealer U Toung from Ye township said the brokers also make it difficult to apply for the plate, forcing the public to look for brokers who have close contact with SPDC officers and to pay extra money to the brokers for their services. Unless the bikers go through these brokers who work in cahoots with the corrupt officers, they cannot get a license.

Moreover, the SPDC has now ordered all previously licensed bikes in Mon State to get a "Ma La Ma" plate. The government has cancelled the “Ma” plates formerly used on bikes illegally imported from Thailand and China.

A rumour is also circulating that the government will issue new plates for illegally imported cars, according to Nai Oo, a car dealer in the area. The military government has been arresting traders who imported smuggling cars and seizing vehicles brought into the country from Japan via Thailand.

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HISTORY ATTRACTS MON STUDENTS

(IMNA: May 19, 2004)

Summer Mon literacy classes will soon celebrate their graduation ceremony, with over four hundred youths finishing a Mon history exam sponsored by a well-respected monk Ajar Par Lita yesterday in Mon State.

According to Mon community source, youth from two states and a division finished the “Mon History” exam which aims to educate teenagers and young adults about Mon literature and history.

It was organized by the Summer Mon Class leader Ajar Par Lita at the Kyaik Lador Sasana in Mawlamyine, capital city of Mon State.

The 3 hour exam had four parts: history of the Muttama Dynasty, Suwunabhumi, Hongsawatoi, and history of Mon Literature,” said Nai Nyan Sike, a Mon teacher in Moulmein.

“Results will be announced soon and the graduation ceremony will be held in Thanpyu Zayart at the famous Public House,” Ajar Par Li Ta announced to the enthusiastic students who had written the exam.

This is the fifth exam started four years ago by the well-respected Buddhist monk who specialized in Mon History.

“Noteworthy is that Mon youths from Karen State and Tenasserim Division also joined in this year. Ajar Par Lita is quite happy that his work is expanding,” said Nai Nyan Sike.

Mon History was also taught at the Summer Mon Literature Classes, Mawlamyaine, Ye, and Thanpyu Zayart townships and last month, more than ten thousand students finished their summer Mon literacy classes in Mudon Township.

According to the source, local communities in Karen state will open Summer Mon Literature schools soon.

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AUNG SAN SUU KYI MARKS YEAR IN DETENTION

(Cited from AFP: May 30, 2004)

YANGON - Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi marked one year in detention after a bloody crackdown on Myanmar's opposition, with supporters and diplomats fearing there was little hope she would be released soon.

The 58-year-old Nobel peace laureate as arrested on May 30 last year after a pro-junta mob attacked her convoy as she was touring the military-ruled nation's north.

A year later Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent nearly nine of the past 15 years under some form of detention, is still confined to her Yangon home on her third stint of house arrest.

Her deputy Tin Oo is also under house arrest and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party has been sidelined by the military junta, which has embarked on a "democratisation" process without her.

Prospects for an easing of the restrictions and the release of the NLD leaders are "bleak", one Yangon-based Western diplomat said.

"For all its rhetoric to the contrary, there is no progress or dialogue which the government can point to say things have advanced since the May 30 incident," the diplomat told AFP.

"There actually has been no progress towards democracy and general reconciliation whatsoever."

"Ultimately it's depressing, because when you really look at things, the junta haven't gone ahead at all," the diplomat said.

Yangon has embarked on a "roadmap to democracy", the first step being a national convention to help draft a new constitution, without participation of the NLD.

The party boycotted the convention, which started this month, in part because its leaders were not freed.

Western governments and international rights groups have derided the process as a sham.

NLD secretary U Lwin admitted the prospects for Aung San Suu Kyi's release had dimmed since earlier this year when observers and diplomats said they had detected a thaw in relations between the generals and the opposition.

"This (the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo) is the first step, they should do this right away," U Lwin told AFP.

"It depends on the authorities," he said. "I think things still can develop ... but it's taking too much time."

The deadly attack on Aung San Suu Kyi's convoy a year ago marked a dramatic deterioration in an already gloomy political scene.

Within days every top member of the NLD was in custody and its offices were slammed shut nationwide -- crippling the party which won 1990 elections in a landslide but was never allowed to rule.

One year later details of the attack, in which hundreds of assailants armed with iron bars and bamboo staves confronted Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters outside the town of Depayin, remain unclear.

A formal investigation has yet to be made and the government has not come clean on the number of casualties, U Lwin stressed.

Dissidents who escaped said as many as 100 people were killed. The government claims four people were killed and 50 injured.

As Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest, the ruling generals were hit with international outrage and tighter economic sanctions ordered by the United States and the European Union (news - web sites).

Japan suspended all new economic aid and Myanmar's neighbours in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations made the unprecedented move -- under pressure from the United States -- of calling for the opposition leader's release.

The US government marked the anniversary of the crackdown by urging the junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and take immediate steps to form a broad-based democratic government.

"We urge the government to release Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo and the other political prisoners in Burma, and to undertake a substantive dialogue with democratic opposition and ethnic groups and begin a path toward genuine reconciliation," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Friday, using Myanmar's former name.

The streets around Aung San Suu Kyi's residence were quiet Sunday. Security levels appeared normal, and no demonstrations or special prayer gatherings were observed at city temples.

The NLD offices were closed, and a party News on the anniversary was to be released Monday.

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Migrant Watch

BURMESE JOB HUNTERS AWAIT BORDER RUN

(Cited from Bangkok Post: June 1, 2004)

Brokers prepare for July 1 registration Thousands of Burmese are heading for Burma's Kawthaung province, waiting to be smuggled across the border into Ranong in search of jobs once the one-month registration period for alien workers in Thailand begins on July 1, and more are apparently on the way.

Deputy Ranong governor Paiboon Kiatsukkasem said he had ordered border patrol, marine and local police, soldiers and local officials in Ranong to step up patrols along the 169km border to prevent the smuggling in of workers.

A source in Kawthaung said several hotels in Kawthaung were now full of Burmese waiting to be illegally brought into Ranong and sent by Thai and Burmese job brokers to workplaces in Thai provinces.

Most had paid 15,000 baht each for job brokers to bring them from Moh Lamyai province to Kawthaung where other Burmese brokers would take them to some of Ranong's islands such as Koh Khome and Koh Chang. There, Thai brokers from Kapoe district would pick them up and send them to other provinces, the source added.

They must pay 3,000-4,000 baht more each for jobs in nearby provinces and 10,000-12,000 baht more for jobs field such as in Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon.

Many more are apparently on their way following news that Bangkok will provide quotas for Thai employers to hire alien workers in several more provinces.

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FLOODING RAINS CLAIM LIVES AT THREE PAGODAS

(By Taramon: May 22, 2004)

Four people are missing after a flood hit bamboo houses on the river bank last night near Three Pagodas Pass Thai Burma border town.

“It was inundated last night as a result of the rain since last week. The flash flood destroyed seven huts on Zami river bank; and a teenage girl and three children were still missing. While the victims were sleeping, the flood wiped out their huts about 4 a.m (local time) in the morning”, said Nai Doung, from Three Pagodas Pass.

Witnesses said some houses at the border town and the brick wall of Buddhist Temples were also damaged by the strong current from the rain.

As the monsoon rain arrives in May, it is the most difficult time to travel while the river route by boat is not yet ready to traverse. Heavy rain continued to fall last week and elephants were used to pull out vehicles on the motor roads of Three Pagodas Pass - Thanbyu Zayat which have become stuck in the mud.

Passengers who just arrived from Mon State said they can travel by boat from KyaIn-Seik Kyi to Krein Htow near the border town instead of taking motor vehicles.

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READERS' FRONT

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KAO WAO NEWS GROUP

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Kao-Woo Newsgroup is committed to social justice, peace, and democracy in Burma. We hope to be able to provide more of an in-depth analysis that will help to promote lasting peace and change within Burma. Editors, reporters, writers, and overseas volunteers are dedicated members of the Mon activist community based in Thailand.

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