KAO WAO NEWS No. 69

An electronic newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma

June 2-16, 2004

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READER’S FRONT

POOR FORCED TO PAY FOR BASIC EDUCATION

CONSCRIPTED VOLUNTEER FOR SCHOOL

WAITING MIGRANTS SUFFER FROM MALARIA

FORCED LABOUR FOR ROAD CONSTRUCTION

ARMY CONFISCATED 800 ACRES FROM VILLAGERS

VILLAGERS ABDUCTED AND KILLED BY BURMA ARMY

TV LICENSE IN MON STATE

CIVILIANS WELCOME IMPRISONED LEADERS

KAREN UNITY SEMINAR HELD AT THE BORDER

VIETNAM SEEKS TO MEND EU ASIA RIFT OVER MYANMAR

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READERS' FRONT

Dear Readers,

We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kao-Wao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kao-Wao News will continue to grow to serve better the needs of those seeking social justice in Burma. And we hope that it will become an important forum for discussion and debate and help readers to keep abreast of issues and news. Above all, we hope the newsletter will be used as a vehicle for those who want to share their views and experiences. We reserve the right to edit and reject articles without prior notification. You can use a pseudonym but we encourage you to include your full name and address.

Regards,

Editor

kaowao@hotmail.com , kaowao@shaw.ca

www.kaowao.org

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On civilians welcome imprisoned leaders by Taramon, Kao Wao

The news on the release of our Mon leaders will surely receive a strong and immensely warm welcome by all Mon communities within the homeland as well as overseas.

I had a chance to welcome General Htaw Mon and other leaders from the New Mon State Party in front of Thailand's prison door upon their release. If I have the opportunity to go to Moulmein, I will certainly visit those Mon National Democratic Front leaders' homes, give them a warm hug, and offer some flowers.

I thank you all who are employed at the IMNA and Kao Wao for their news postings. I believe strongly that families and friends of our MNDF leaders greeted them with open arms and with tears of joy.

Without involvement from the MNDF and NMSP, there is no productivity or advancement both in social, economic, and political reform, as well as in the national coalition of Burma. In the struggle and fight against the Burmese military regime to obtain a Nation as well as Human Rights for the Mon people, the NMSP is a party which we can always rely on. Leaders of the MNDF should always collaborate with the NMSP so that our Mon Nation Voices become ONE and are heard as ONE.

I strongly believe that the Mon people who have to live under Burmese domination and regime, who have lived our lives in utter fear for two and half centuries, are sooner or later going to reach our goal of regaining self determination for the Ramonnya Mon State that is in co-operation with 7 other nations. We will live in a harmony within a Federal Union with all ethnicities in Burma.

We, international Mon communities, will continue supporting your MNDF and NMSP works. Our overseas Mon works are to support leaders of the MNDF and NMSP; and to help Mon people who are forced to live in fear of the SPDC.

Victory is in our hands,

Rotmon H (Toronto, Canada)

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Life in Mon State

POOR FORCED TO PAY FOR BASIC EDUCATION

(By Taramon and Lita Davidson: June 15, 2004)

Where only 40% of the population complete primary education in Burma; students, mostly from poor subsistence based families in Mon State have had to fork over extra fees in the new school term, which started this month, a source from Mudon Township said.

“The entrance fees are 4,000 Kyats, in which students pay for the upkeep of the school which includes repairing it,” a township resident from Mudon city said. “They pay not in cash but by donating materials needed to repair the school, such as cement, logs, and galvanized iron sheets or they cannot attend,” he added.

The school entrance fees vary in different areas in Mon State. Some schools in Mudon and Thanbyu Zayat townships charge 2,500 Kyats for primary school, 2,980 Kyats for middle school and 3,600 to 41,000 Kyats for high school.

But every student in Hnee PaDol village, southern Mudon Township, pays about 6,700 Kyats which includes repairing the school.

In Pa-An Township, Karen State, the fee is much higher than in Mon State. “The Secondary (Middle) school fee is 5,250 Kyats each and I can’t afford it. So I’ve had to pull my children out of school,” said Ms. Mi Mya, a mother of four children.

Students at the Thai-Burma border town also pay a higher fee for their basic education. At Three Pagodas Pass border town, opposite Karnchanaburi, the fee for primary school is 180 Thai Baht; middle school 250; and high school 300 Baht. Apart from these entrance fees, parents must buy textbooks and other materials for the schools.

Normally, students at primary schools spend 315 Baht for middle school, 600 and 1,000 Baht for high school, said a student’s parent.

Since 1990 the Burmese government’s spending on social sector services has steadily declined, one of the lowest levels of public investment in the world (Source: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/).

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CONSCRIPTED VOLUNTEER FOR SCHOOL

(By Banyear Toay, Kao Wao: June 14, 2004)

The SPDC is using forced labor in Tenasserim Division to prepare for a school in spite of its claim to have abolished its use to the International Labor Organization.

About ten tons of logs were needed to prepare the primary school in Ye Byu Township and Infantry Battalion No. 410 ordered the village headmen to collect the logs by forced laborers according to local witness.

“This month, seven villagers worked daily to cut down the trees and saw them. They had to go into the forest, about half a day walk, to cut the trees,” a community leader Nai Ong Lawi said. “They must pile and transport the logs onto a two cow wheel wagon to the village.”

The village headmen organized the unpaid laborers to prepare the school in about two week’s time. The villagers paid all expenses including engine oil; they also supplied their own water and food. The household who cannot provide the laborers can hire other villagers to work as forced labor paying 1,000 Kyats per day for their work, said Lawi. The SPDC township education department, he said, cooperated with the local military to implement the project with forced labor in the village. There is a mobile troop based in the village and Sergeant Nyi Nyi Aung is heading the patrolling base. He is the main person to implement the whole works regarding to the SPDC. The village headmen are selected by the villagers but they are under the control of the local commander and township authority. “There are three teachers and over one hundred students in the primary school,” Lawi said.

The village consists of about 100 households and the villagers are mostly made up of Mon, with the minorities Tavoyan and Burman. Villages in this area usually pay around one thousand kyat to their headmen, who is given to the SPDC for its own purposes such as organizing meetings and hosting senior authorities while staying in the village reported local villagers.

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Migrant Watch

WAITING MIGRANTS SUFFER FROM MALARIA

(Banyear Toay Taw: June 8, 2004)

Migrant workers who are waiting along the border to enter Thailand are suffering from malaria due to the rainy season and having no mosquito nets to protect them.

“Nearly all of us suffer from malaria,” said Ms. Mi Kun Sorn from Kaw Kareik Township, Karen State who came to Thailand with 20 people.

“Some of them were treated at the hospital. One patient nearly died after the local medic gave him the wrong prescription. Fortunately, he was admitted at the MSF clinic and recovered,” said a 30 year old woman, who left her two children at the village with her parents.

When asked if they slept with mosquito nets the migrant workers said no. The makeshifts are built too small and are dark and dirty.

The reasons for the deadly diseases are; migrant workers are placed in strict areas with poor living conditions, and they are not allowed to see outsiders complained a social worker from Thai Burma border. Some migrants also bring allow their young babies (3 to 5 years old) and some leave their children with their mothers. A grandmother in her 50s said she came to Thailand with her family to look after her grandchildren while her daughter works. The family was infected by malaria during their stay in the jungle for three days before reaching to the border. The grand mother said they were contacted by human traffickers and taken to the border on debt, as they have no money left. They struck a deal with the brokers to pay back twice the amount of money after they arrive in Thailand.

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FORCED LABOUR FOR ROAD CONSTRUCTION

(By Field reporter Banyeah Toay: June 6, 2004)

Local civilians have fled from their villages in Southern Ye of Mon State after the Burmese Army ordered them to build roads linking all the villages in the area.

A village headman from the area said, “We cannot work for our family because we have to work for their (SPDC) needs.”

Nai Cuu who is now staying at the Mon Refugee camp with his family said the BA ordered one person from every household to construct the road.

The road is for the use of the SPDC’s troops to attack Mon guerilla groups, said a villager who just arrived at the Halockhanee camp waiting to enter Thailand. Army Commander Colonel Myo Winn and Nyi Nyi Swe ordered the road to be completed since the military launched its offensive in December 2003.

They aim completing the road for military purposes only. When asked by Kao Wao about any forced labor; Nai Cuu said, “His villagers have worked about 10 days a month to complete a 3 mile stretch along the road to connect to other villages.”

According to a revered Buddhist monk, the cease-fire agreement between the Mon and the military junta has caused only increased suffering of the local people and the New Mon State Party is unable to protect their civilians from being tortured, killed, and raped.

A woman from Ye who just arrived at Sankha said, “I’m very happy to leave my village because we could not earn money there and could not go to work in the farm as the military orders to stay away from our farm.” The local people also have to build roads ordered by the military commander so they cannot survive and take care of themselves she added.

Nai Ong from Yong Deane (Yin Dane) village reported that ten young men have left the village for the border area with him because of severe human rights abuses. Almost all have been forced into portering and forced labor ordered by the BA. This situation has forced many to flee to Thailand with some men joining the Hongsawatoi Restoration Party to fight against the regime.

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ARMY CONFISCATES 800 ACRES FROM VILLAGERS

(Based on IMNA report: June 4, 2004)

The Burmese Army ordered Village Peace and Development Council to confiscate 800 acres of farmland after they summoned a meeting.

The Village PDC members from Hnee Padaw and Kwan Hlar who were called upon to meet in Thanbyu Zayat said, “The Infantry Battalion No.31’s Army Officer plans to take over farmlands for four battalions near Thanbyu Zayat.”

“Soon, the army will survey these farmlands in southern Mudon and Thanbyu Zayat Townships which are under their control. But they have not told anyone which places will be confiscated,” said the village PDC members who came from the meeting.

However, the order said the army would confiscate the farmlands in which owners do not cultivate the lands and which are un-registered.

Thanbyu Zayat based Infantry Battalion No.31 gathered the township PDC chairpersons at its headquarters on June 2 and discussed about the farms for army. The officers mentioned that the army does not have to fight the ethnic rebels anymore because the Karen are about to reach a cease-fire. When the fighting stops, there will be no work for the soldiers and they will need the lands to exploit for their purposes. Last year, the Burmese Artillery Regiment No.318 confiscated farmland of about 300 acres in Yaung Daung village, Southern Mudon Township.

Four battalions: No. 4 Southeast Command’s Central Military Training, Infantry Battalion No.62, Artillery Regiment No.315 and Infantry Battalion No.31 are based in Thanbyu Zayat, Mon State.

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VILLAGERS ABDUCTED AND KILLED BY BURMA ARMY

(By Banyeah Toay Taw: June 7, 2004)

The Burmese Army abducted three villagers and a man was shot to death after the victim refused to pay money in southern Mon state.

According to villagers, two women and one man from Ham Gam, southern Ye Township were kidnapped by the BA on June 2, 2004 and taken to a hidden place nearby their village. The victims, as claimed by local villagers, were abducted in the middle of the night by the Infantry Battalion No. 106 of northern Ye led by Captain Myint Naing.

A survivor said their man was killed after arguing he had no money to pay the kidnappers. A local village headman reported that some soldiers from the BA spoke Mon and disguised themselves as Mon freedom fighters.

The Army opens Mon language classes at the military base for their soldiers in order to avoid a language barrier during military operations to wipe out the armed guerrillas. “The bad use of learning Mon language is that they can pretend to be Mon rebels and attack villagers”, said a Mon community leader from Ye.

Among the brutal military officers in Ye area, Captain Lin Oo, also known as Nai Charn Mon, which literarily means Mon patriot, is the most infamous one among civilians according to local villagers. The BA has launched a military offensive against the Mon armed group since December 2003 in southern Ye area.

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TV LICENSE IN MON STATE

(Independent Mon News Agency: June 1, 2004)

The Burmese government Television and Communication Department has ordered everyone to register their TVs for issuing license in southern Burma.

“The authorities are implementing this process; they issued the order last week and they are collecting number of TVs from every home in southern Mon state,” said U Hla Kyaing, a local resident of Mudon.

“We have paid 2,000 Kyat for a TV registration. If someone wants to register, the person has to go to the office for the license and if they fail to do so the person will be fined,” he added.

The Television and Communication Department is conducting the registration in Moulmein (Mawlamyine) where the numbers of TVs have increased; as a result, the authorities have also increased the registration cost.

“They are making money because many people work in neighboring countries (Thailand and Malaysia) and bring back their TVs when they return,” said Nai Lyi Chan a community leader in Kwan Hlar.

“Last year we only paid 700 kyat for the registration,” said U Thein Oo from Kyaitmayaw in Mon State.

Many unregistered TVs in southern Mon State are mostly imported from Thailand. Even the government launched registration more than ten years ago, many people failed to register.

“It is not necessary; in Thailand, people do not need to register their TVs, why do we have to?” said Myo Hlaing who worked in Thailand for four years.

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CIVILIANS WELCOME IMPRISONED LEADERS

(By Taramon, Sangkhlaburi: June 5, 2004)

MNDF leaders were warmly welcomed by their supporters after the military junta released them from Moulmein prison.

The MNDF (Mon National Democratic Front) members from Mon and Karen States swiftly came down to the capital of Mon State to greet their leaders after they were informed about the release of political prisoners through international broadcasting radio stations, said a senior member from Karen State.

“I have met General Secretary Dr. Soe Lin; Vice Chairman Nai Ngwe Thein and Joint Secretary Dr. Kyi Winn were already taken to their homes by the Military Intelligence (MI),” said Nai Sar Tin from Pha- Ann Township, Karen State. “They all are looking good and have more strength than before, because they are committed politicians,” he added.

Dr. Min Soe Lin (aka) Nai Joon Ta-Mah rushed to Paung Township to meet a senior leader Nai Thein Maung as a first trip for the party’s business on the next day after he was released from the prison. He also plans to open a private clinic in upper plaza of Moulmein next month, Tin said.

According to local source, Nai Ngwe Thein also arrived at his residence on June 4 at 10 p.m local time. Many people invited the three leaders for lunch and dinner.

When asked about the future plans of the MNDF, Tin said it is too early for the party to start any activities and they have to wait and see what will happen in the political climate regarding the SPDC’s National Convention.

Most of senior members such as the spokesperson Nai Pan Aung and Nai Sar Tin are in their 70s.

Two MPs Dr. Min Kyi Win, Dr. Min Soe Lin and Nai Ngwe Thein were arrested in 1998 for supporting the Committee Representing People’s Parliament (CRPP) and for urging the armed New Mon State Party (NMSP) to reconsider its position on its cease-fire agreement with the military junta. They three leaders were sentenced to seven years imprisonment with hard labour, serving their term at Moulmein Prison and were released on June 4 around noon.

The MNDF won 5 seats in the general election in 1990 but it was disbanded by the SPDC junta.

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KAREN UNITY SEMINAR HELD AT THE BORDER

(Kao Wao; June 4, 2004)

The Third Karen National Unity Seminar was held in a liberated area near the Thai Burma border.

The source from Karen political community reported, the seminar was attended by 99 delegates from 19 organizations from May 31 to June 2, 2004 to discus the current situation, unity, cease-fire talks between the KNU and the SPDC, and the future of the Karen people.

The Seminar called upon the Karen people to strive on with unwavering determination and courage, the rights of the Karen people to determine their own destiny, establishment of democracy and a genuine federal union.

It also urged the international community and the Karen people to endeavor to agree to a genuine federal union in Burma, promote meaningful talks and a tripartite dialogue. The gathering also urged the SPDC to cease military activities, human rights violations, forced labor, destruction of homes, properties and extortion of cash in Karen areas during the period of truce, and to resolve political problems.

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VIETNAM SEEKS TO MEND EU ASIA RIFT OVER MYANMAR

(Cited from Reuters, June 15, 2004)

HANOI - Vietnam is battling to hammer out a compromise between the European and Southeast Asia that will allow military-ruled Myanmar to attend an inter-continental summit to be held in Hanoi in October.

The EU want to block Myanmar from Asia -Europe meeting (ASEM), which Asian countries say should also include Cambodia and Laos besides the 10 nations that acceded to the EU on May 1.

As the clock tick down with little sign of a solution in sight, Vietnam, the first-time host of ASEM, is keenly seeking a compromise, diplomatic source said.

Vietnam has consulted the Association of South East Asian Nations over the impasse, said Ong Keng Yong, secretary-general of the 10 nation group that includes Myanmar , which is due to chair ASEAN in 2006.

''I wouldn't say there's an SOS now (from Vietnam), but the e-mail traffic has increased, said Ong.

Asked if the ASEM meeting was in jeopardy of if he thought the EU would boycott the event, he said:'' It's too early to say. I think we should let diplomacy continue.''

His office had not intervened, Ong added, but had left it to Hanoi to work out. Besides ASEAN and EU, ASEM's other members are China, Japan and South Korea. Vietnam's Military of Foreign Affairs did not respond to questions sent to it about the ASEM summit.

Myanmar's year-long house arrest of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has infuriated many foreign governments, who have responded with economic sanctions and other curbs on the junta.

Thing came to a boil on Monday when the EU cancelled two ministerial meetings with A countries after several EU member states refused to grand even observer status in the dialogue to Myanmar, a virtual pariah for suppression of political opponents.

'' The Vietnamese are very concerned,'' one diplomatic source said.'' They are doing everything they can to get a solution that is acceptable to all parties.'' Another diplomatic source said the ASEM summit was unlikely to be cancelled over the Myanmar row, noting both continents had too much at stake.

ASEM is viewed as a valuable forum for cooperation on security concerns such as terrorism, immigration, organized crime and regional issues such as the tensions on the Kprean penisula.

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KAO WAO NEWS GROUP

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