Welcome to Kao Wao News Group

KAO WAO NEWS No. 70

An electronic newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma

June 17- July 3, 2004

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READER’S FRONT

STEP OUT OF LINE AND YOU’LL BE SHOT

THE JUNTA’S WAY OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

FORCED LABOUR FOR ROAD CONSTRUCTION

SALWEEN RIVER BAND SET TO TAKE THE STAGE

JULIA TRYBE THAI/BURMESE BORDER TOUR BENEFIT

CHALLENGING THE 9-year old cease fire agreement

MON OPINION SPLIT OVER NATIONAL CONVENTION

FOREST AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT NOT A CONCERN

PASSENGERS HELD UP BY BOMB THREAT

 

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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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KaoWao website is missing, that I have been looking for is, good detailed map of Mon state and immediately adjoining areas.   It would provide the average reader with much needed orientation in locating the place mentioned in news stories. 

 

Eric 

(Victoria, BC)

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Thank you for the useful resource Kao Wao News. I have been reading it for several years.  I have 1 question. In the article below it states that middle school charges are between 3,600-41,000 Kyats. Is it actually 41,000 or 4,100?

 

Thank you!

Michele Keegan

 

* Correction

Please accept our apology for the mistake.  Please take the middle school charges 3,600 to 4,100 Kyats (instead of 41,000) in our pervious “Poor Forced to Pay for Basic Education by Taramon and Lita Davidson: June 15, 2004

 

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Reader Thanks

 

Dear Kao Wao,

Even though I am very interested in Mon organizations, I have no chance to join in any politics.  I read news from Kao Wao and I am very proud of Mon organizations around the world and your media work.

 

Kyaw Hlaing

Japan

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On Mon Opinion Split Over National Convention: Cham Toik

 

It is good to know your views on NC, my friends. Mon national leader Nai Tun Thein, who is the leader of MNDF and a prominent leader in CRPP, clearly showed the way to the people that NC is a fake. I believe MNSP should review its self-serving approach in regards to NC.

 

MMT

Sydney, Australia

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For ethnic nationalities, either reaching cease fire agreement or continue to fight the junta, there is not much different.  The SPDC continue to violate human rights including unlawful killing, rape and torture. 

 

With regards,

 

Mahn Kyaw Swe

Canada

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It's such a good stuff that we've been informed about the opinions of Mon people. The Mon, as a minority group, have full rights to express their voices and concerns in whatever way the chance comes up, but not to be twisted by the thuggish regime in exchange of personal business opportunities.

 

In Solidarity,

Min Thura Wynn

Toronto

 

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STEP OUT OF LINE AND YOU’LL BE SHOT

(By Banya Toay Taw: June 30, 2004)

 

Burmese Army reprimanded local people who were recently kidnapped and harassed, with a young man being executed by the Burmese Army, when they informed the local community and New Mon State Party about their case.

 

In early June, the Infantry Battalion No. 106 abducted three men and four women from Ham Gam, southern Ye, Mon state.  A soldier from the troops of Captain Myint Naing disguised himself as a Mon rebel and spoke in Mon when he abducted the 7 villagers.  The victims were later released after paying a high ransom.

 

The source from the Mon community said the BA soldiers abducted the victims and extorted 50,000 Kyats from each of them.  In the middle of the night in the forest nearby the village, four women were threatened and sexually assaulted by the soldiers and Nai Acuu (age 18) was shot dead while trying to protect the women.  The witness said Accu was shot after being accused of grabbing a gun belonging to the soldier.

 

Local villagers and the New Mon State Party were informed about the incident and the case was reported to the senior members of State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).  Instead of charging the soldiers with kidnapping and murder, the victims were reprimanded for spreading the news to the local people. The local commander ordered them to come to the camp every week as a punishment, reported a local headman who spoke under condition of anonymity.

 

“It’s a psychological attack because the SPDC wants them to keep busy working as slaves and not to report incidents on any wrong doings of the hard-line BA,” said Nai Hong, the community leader in Ye.

 

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THE JUNTA’S WAY OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

(Banya Toay; June 22, 2004)

 

The Burmese Army has confiscated more land for the Agriculture Research Centre in southern Mon State.

 

A senior officer from the New Mon State Party (NMSP) that reached a cease-fire with the military regime said that the State Peace and Development Council took over 800 acres of land owned by about a hundred farmers.

 

The confiscated land in southern Ye Township, Mon State has rubber, betel nuts, durians, limes and other tropical fruits and vegetables.  Nai Ba, whose land was confiscated, said that land adjacent to this area had already been taken by the SPDC military to implement the Burma Army’s self-sufficient policy.

 

The majority of landowners are Mon farmers who rely on their land for a subsistence way of life and there is no other choice for them to survive reported Mon community leader in Ye.

 

The area is under the BA’s military offensive against Mon armed group Hongsawatoi Restoration Party and the local farmers need permission to go to their farms since it was defined as a black area.

 

The SPDC government has confiscated over 5,000 acres of land in Ye Township after the cease-fire agreement between the NMSP and military regime, which has left people impoverished. The land is used for military purposes and the crops are ruined by the military, causing environmental degradation.

 

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FORCED LABOUR FOR ROAD CONSTRUCTION

(By Lawi Ong, southern Mon State: June 25, 2004)

 

Use of forced labour continues in southern Ye, Mon State for construction of a road to wipe out opposition armed group.

 

Mon local community reported Ye-Khawzar road is under construction for the military purpose and villagers were forced to work for completion of the road. 

 

When asked by Kao Wao about the forced labor, a Mon health worker said, “They order villagers to work on daily basic to connect the road to Ye.”

 

The source from Khawzar said the Burma Army local commander has also started a high school construction in the village and about five acres of land owned by Nai Shwe Pha and Mi Kyi Linn was confiscated by the army.

 

Khawzar is one of the biggest Mon communities in southern Ye and a strategic command office led by Burma Army Colonel Than Toe is based at present.  The SPDC has launched a military offensive against Mon armed group since December last year in southern Ye area.  About 70 Hongsawatoi Restoration Party Mon guerillas led by Nai Hloin and Nai Bin brothers are active in the area.

 

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Entertainment

 

SALWEEN RIVER BAND SET TO TAKE THE STAGE

(Kao Wao, June 24, 2004)

 

The Salween River Band will perform a Burmese concert this summer in August in San Francisco.

 

According to Than Soe Win, manager of the band, entertainers include famous Burmese singers Mar Mar Aye, May Sweet and Lashio Thein Aung (Jimmy Jack).

 

Two brothers Moe Nyunt and Thiri Nyunt first founded the band in the summer of 1998, it later on grew to include other musicians, dissident students, and ethnic youths based in the United States.  The band’s present members are Karen and Mon youths, Saw Kaphaw, Aung Zar Myo Lwin, Cherry Oo and Ei Mon Kyaw.

 

The band’s name, Salween River, was chosen in dedication to the thousands of unknown youths who lost their lives along the war torn Salween River, which is the longest river in Burma running through Shan, Karen, Karenni (Kayah) and Mon States.

 

The founders Moe and Thiri have performed with several other Burmese celebrities including Sai Htee Saeng, Than Naing (Playboy), Soe Paing, Kai Zar, Academy Soe Thu, Lwin Moe, Ye Aung, Mar Mar Aye, Nwe Yin Win and Aye Chan May in the USA on many occasions.


The band is scheduled to play on
August 28, 2004, Saturday at 6:30 to 11:00 pm at the Performing Arts Center, San Francisco State University, California. Tickets are available from $15 $ to $50.

 

Please visit http://www.salweenriverband.com for more information.

 

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JULIA TRYBE THAI/BURMESE BORDER TOUR BENEFIT

(Cited from Julia TrYbe Concert: July 1, 2004)

 

Australian singer-songwriter and performance art-activist Julia TrYbe has been invited to sing at the United Nations’ XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok this July, attended by up to 20,000 delegates from 25 countries.

 

Julia will be performing 9 concerts with other international acts such as Caravan, including the AIDS 2004 Film Festival gala opening with Richard Gere, and for children in the Klong Toey slums of Bangkok.

 

Julia has written a new song to perform at AIDS 2004 in Bangkok called Before We Die for upcoming single release. Collaborating with producers in the UK/Australia and musicians in Thailand and Nepal, she hopes to produce a debut album in 2005 as the feature film soundtrack to her musical screenplay, Before We Die, donating a percentage of film box office to humanitarian aid and grassroots human rights projects worldwide. As part of her Thai Tour, Julia plans to return to the Burmese Border to sing and record with Burmese refugees and musicians in exile, and create a special ‘Free Burma’ CD to donate to Burma’s struggle for freedom.

 

In 2003 Julia opened Small World at Glastonbury Festival on the same stage as an acoustic LAMB. She organised 1 Voice 1 Day Festival at Ginglik in London, featuring TrYbe with special screening of Faithless founder Jamie Cato’s acclaimed music-film 1 Giant Leap, and performed at RAWPEACE during Bush’s London visit with GM Baby at Sahara Nights, Kings Cross. Returning to Australia in 2004, Julia sang to public rallies in Treasury Gardens and Bourke St. Mall for International Women’s Day and Global Action Day for Peace, and at the St Kilda Espy Gershwin Room asylum seeker Benefit. To survive, she also appears in the new Canberra Tourism TV commercial as a 1940’s Russian migrant acrobat.

 

She will be staging a special Bangkok/Burmese Border Tour Benefit on Sunday, July 4 at Gertrudes, 30 Gertrude St, Fitzroy and doors open 5 pm Julia TrYbe solo show upstairs at 6.30pm, $5/$8.

 

For more information please contact; juliatrybe@lycos.com.

 

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Perspective on the 9th anniversary of cease-fire agreement

 

CHALLENGING THE 9-year old cease fire agreement

(By Sunthorn Sripanngern: June 29, 2004)

 

The obscure cease-fire agreement between NMSP and SPDC has lasted for 9 years.  Some veteran Mon leaders in exile in reviewing this agreement view it as a complete failure having no advantage at all for both the Mon people and the NMSP itself. But the NMSP leaders claim that there has been some progress, such as the expansion of Mon national schools; the freedom of party members to travel freely; and having access to the Mon population. General Khin Nyunt, when he first met the NMSP leaders in Moulmein in 1995 said, "within 3 years the Mon State will be modernized". The local Mon people were happy and hoped there would be some job security created in Mon State and an increase the living standards. Instead, the situation became worse and killed our hopes of any progress.

 

Many thousands of acres of Mon farmlands have been and continue to be forcibly confiscated by the military. As a result the local people are unemployed and have to flee from their homes seeking jobs with the poor in neighboring countries. The remaining people in the village, unable to flee due to poor health and family, are forced to work for military purposes. The military authority without any sense of future considerations forcibly extorts money and properties from the local people. They behave as they did centuries ago; no idea of modernity exists in the minds of the Burmese authorities.

 

Apart from the right of free _expression, the rights in living according to Mon traditional and cultural rights are consistently violated. For the NMSP, after the cease- fire there was disunity among the party members. Some party members grabbed at the opportunity as a cash cow, to advance their personal business interests. After they were successful in their ventures they left the party. Also within the party's military force, some soldiers were not satisfied with the cease-fire and split the force into groups and left the party.  These are only some of the situations which have led to the disadvantages caused by the cease-fire, destruction to the environment and loss of our heritage has changed the picture. We respected the goodwill and political decisions of the NMSP leaders who advocated for their people and their country.  But they had no choice at that time because of internal problems and strong external pressure from the Thai government and other groups that made the NMSP fall into the trap of agreeing to a cease-fire agreement. There was no choice; it was something they couldn’t get away from.

 

Also in the latest situation of Burma, a delegation from NMSP is attending the SPDC's national convention. This time again the NMSP has no alternative, since all of cease fire groups must attend the national convention. They were the last group that decided to attend the NC. I believed it was not out of fear of SPDC, but a concern about the unity of the cease-fire groups.

 

According to the Mon saying “Chot Mooa Kataing, Kyaing Mooa Sako" to die in the one grave or alive together on the one mat—so they are dancing to the same tune. NMSP and their cease-fire alliances are in a small boat relying on their own rowers, trying their best at rowing toward the goal of Federal Democratic Country. Now they are in the middle of ocean, they cannot see the shore; they are preparing to face a rough sea and a severe storm that is developing around them. 

 

I deeply hope that the NMSP along with the other ethnic nationality parties do their best to achieve their goal of democracy and independence for our country.

 

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New Mon State Party seeks public support over its engagement with the junta while public opinions split whether it should join Burma’s state sponsored National Convention.

 

MON OPINION SPLIT OVER NATIONAL CONVENTION

(By Cham Toik: June 29, 2004)

 

President Nai Htin of the New Mon State Party recently visited Mon communities and senior monks in Mon State seeking public support for the party’s position on attending the National Convention in Nyaunghnapin.

 

Support for the NMSP has gradually declined since it reached a cease-fire agreement with the military regime in 1995.  This was not always the case.  For decades following its founding after the surrender of the Mon People’s Front in 1958, the NMSP was known as the vanguard of the Mon freedom movement. Under the leadership of Nai Shwe Kyin and Nai Nonlar, it was the main Mon political party.  Together with its military wing, the Mon National Liberation Army, it was active in rural guerrilla warfare and warmly welcomed by Mons in both Burma and Thailand.  The NMSP was respected for its uncompromising struggle and flying golden shell-drake flag became the nationalist symbol of the Mon people for achieving the right to self-determination and a democratic federal union in their struggle against the military dictatorship in Burma. 

 

The Mon people have paid the bitter price of lives lost, lands confiscated, houses uprooted, during this struggle. Many have sacrificed for the dream of regaining sovereignty.  Frustrated by the protracted civil war, civilians have rarely seen the silver lining and have fallen out with each other and complained against their leaders. Especially since the cease-fire, support for the NMSP among the public has been on the decline.  The party has been criticized by many for its failure to protect against human rights violations by the Burmese military regime.  Many cadres and freedom fighters have left the party accusing it of making a deal for the benefit a few which failed to provide a lasting political solution.  The expansion of the Burma Army in the Mon region has proved a real threat to the local population and thousands of acres of land in Mon State have been confiscated.  As a consequence, villagers have fled to Thailand and refugee camps in fear of torture, arrest, rape and forced labour in their homes.  In Mon State, organized groups rarely speak out and only voice their criticism at seminars on Mon national affairs sponsored by the NMSP, but overseas Mon organizations occasionally blame the NMSP for its engagement with the oppressive military regime.

 

An opportunity for the NMSP to speak out arose when the military junta initiated its ‘Road Map to Democracy’ and reconvened the National Convention.  This offered room for political manoeuvre and a little hope for the NMSP which has been longing to get into dialogue with the regime ever since it made the cease-fire deal -- a chance to take advantage of its engagement with the regime. 

 

The day before entering the National Convention camp in Nyaunghnapin near Rangoon, Nai Chan Toi, the leader of the MNSP delegation, said the party would demand rights for all nationalities rather than adhering to the old “black or white policy”.  He confidently asserted that it was time, for the party to explore new alternatives in its bid to change the junta’s political will instead of sticking to a negative approach.  The NMSP, he said, saw the NC as a place for political settlement rather than as a battle ground.

 

However, political analysts are of the opinion that the NMSP was pressured by the SPDC and only decided to attend the NC at the last moment.  Opponents say the Mon leaders were summoned to Rangoon by the SPDC and offered a deal in exchange for some business opportunities. Party activists Nai Yekha and Chem Gakao were arrested and charged with plotting against the State and sentenced to death.  Vehicles smuggled into Burma from Thailand were seized.  Mon national school teachers were threatened by local army commanders and schools were ordered to close down.  The Mon political community considered all these measures as tactical moves used to pressure the NMSP into joining the NC and keeping quiet at the camp.

 

Following an invitation to attend the NC by Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt in December 2003, the NMSP reluctantly provided a list of a five-member delegation led by Nai Chan Toi.  But before reaching a final decision, the party faced the difficult choice of whether to take a stand with democratic forces or to side with the regime.  Finally, and only at the last minute in early May, following a tough political debate, the party’s Central Committee (CC) voted 16 to 8  to join  the NC.  Those favouring participation said it would was an option for further dialogue and that the Party would demand freedom of _expression and a change in some of the NC’s principles.


Even though the NMSP is in the junta’s camp, the SPDC has not been happy with the NMSP and other cease-fire groups because of their demand for changes in the basic principles set out for the Constitution. General Khin Nyunt was upset when the NMSP and five other groups (Kachin Independence Organization, Shan State Army North, Shan State National Army, Palaung State Liberation Organization and the Kayan New Land Party) on
May 11, 2004 demanded a review of the Convention principle which states that the military would have a leading role in national politics.

 

“The SPDC did not expect that we (cease-fire groups) would be united and put forward an alternative proposal regarding state constitutions and power sharing between the central government and the federal states. They were upset with our proposal,” said Colonel Kao Rot, a senior leader of the NMSP. He said the Mon delegation was very optimistic but he wondered if the dream would come true. Many regulations and restrictions were set by the SPDC and even taking group photos with other Mon nationals who attended the convention has been viewed unfavourably by the junta.  The delegates are restricted from leaving the convention site and are unable to gain access to other groups and organizations for consultation.

 

Public opinion in the Mon community has been split over the NC.  In March 2004, at the Mon National Affairs Seminar held in eastern Ye, politicians and community leaders called the Road Map a trap and said it should be avoided.  Buddhist monks and local communities spoke about the broken promises of Rangoon governments and voiced their disagreement with the NMSP's decision to attend the NC. They urged the NMSP to co-operate with other national ethnic parties and the democratic alliance.

 

The Mon National Democratic Front took its stand by joining with the democratic forces and opposing junta’s Road Map. “We have no confidence in the National Convention, unless the National League for Democracy participates in it,” said an MNDF youth leader, quoted in by Kao Wao News.  Even though imprisoned MNDF leaders Nai Ngwe Thein, Dr. Min Soe Linn and Dr. Kyi Win were conditionally released after signing a document in mid June, the MNDF has not yet shown any sign of support.  It has been speculated that the junta released the Mon leaders in a bid to persuade them to attend the NC. 

 

Grass root leaders from overseas and Mon State opposed the national convention. The Mon Unity League, an umbrella organization at the Thailand-Burma border, the EU Mon Organization, the Monland Restoration Council (USA), the Mon Canadian Society and the Mon National Democratic Front (Liberated Area) issued a News declaring that the NC could not solve the political crisis because it lacked delegates from political parties. They claimed that the Mon delegates were being put in a concentration camp and represented only their Party and not the entire Mon people. “The SPDC’s 104 principles are based on a unitary state and not a federal system which we are seeking. Mon delegations were dominated and were not able to communicate with outsiders,” said Nai Sunthorn, General Secretary of Mon Unity League.

 

There are differing opinions in the Mon community.  Many expect that the Mon people may even gain political advantage and that something new will happen after the NC.  Many Mons in exile and inside Mon State have supported the NMSP’s decision to join the NC, even though most are opposed to the junta’s Road Map.  Nai Rotmon, a Toronto-based Mon activist has argued that Mons should support the position of both the MNDF and the NMSP, because the role of the overseas Mons is to support movements inside Burma.  Exiled Mon communities, a U.S. Mon points out, are not national leaders and we should try to understand their positions rather than blaming them.

 

“We have already decided to attend the Convention and we will try our best to persuade the regime to change its political will.  We also understand the frustration of the general pubic and we don’t blame them for not supporting us,” said Nai Hongsar, the Secretary General of the NMSP during an interview with local media.

 

Calgary, Canada

 

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FOREST AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT NOT A CONCERN

(By Banya Toay; June 20, 2004)

 

The cease fire group have been involved in the illegal logging business in Tenasserim Division, southern Burma reports the local community.

 

Nai Ong Lawi, a Mon teacher from Ye Byu Township says since last year two Karen cease-fire groups that have a tight working relationship with the BA have been ripping down the forest bit by bit for easy money.

 

The two groups Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and KPF (Karen Peace Force), Lawi said, are freed from paying taxes or pay less when charged by the Forestry Department and Military Intelligence.  Some other dealers who have a good relationship with the Army also get tax breaks.

 

“Every village in Ye Byu Township has at least two sawing machines which are used for cutting down trees, sawing and trimming,” he added.

 

During the rainy season the loggers haul the logs down from the deep forest using elephants, loaded onto bamboo rafts and transported to the villages, situated along Mon State-Tenasserim Division motor road Ye-Tavoy.  Harvesting and pulling logs from the jungle is dangerous work for the loggers as the stream is too small and has a strong current besides, losing control of the logs can cause serious problems when logs are maneuvered onto the bamboo rafts.

 

The SPDC junta’s Forestry Department in Ye Byu Township collects roughly between 40,000 and 50,000 Kyats in taxes for a truck carrying ten tons of logs.  The department and the local Military Intelligence (MI) illegally charge most of the taxes.

 

According to a Mon community leader, the senior members from the department lack forest management capabilities, do not dare go into areas under the control of armed rebels and have no political will or idea of the damage being done to the forest and wildlife.

 

The logging trucks pay about 300,000 Kyats to pass through checkpoints on the way to Mon State from Ye Byu Township. There are four SPDC checkpoints along the way; one at the boundary of Mon State, LIB No.229 gate and the other two military gates in Ye township.

 

The logging dealers also pay the cease-fire New Mon State Party (NMSP) about 20,000 Kyats for one truck. Nai Blai, one of the dealers said that some NMSP members have been involved in the illegal logging business for some time.

 

The local communities are disappointed with the logging business because the people in this area subsist on wild animals and search for food in the forest.  “Over the past twenty years there were many areas where we could easily find animals to hunt, but now animals are difficult to find, there is no more now,” said Amaung a local hunter who used to hunt wild pig, various monkey species, and tigers.

 

Monkey (Gang in Mon language) are extinct in this area after the high rate of deforestation and over-hunting for over five years now, said Nai Cay Mon, an environmentalist.  “The weather in Ye Byu Township has gradually changed, it is different from last year and the water in the stream is getting more shallow.

 

“Our villagers (Kwan Rot Ta mah) have to dig a canal in the deep stream to keep water in summer.  In the past, this stream was deep and clean throughout the whole year.  The summers are longer and hotter than before,” observed a village headman in Ye Byu.

 

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PASSENGERS HELD UP BY BOMB THREAT

(By Taramon, Sangkhlaburi; June 24, 2004)

 

Passengers were ordered to wait until thorough search over the news of bomb threat to destroy national convention.

 

Nai Taming, a Mon trader from Three Pagodas Pass Thai Burma border said traders and migrant deportees returning from Thailand were checked by State Peace and Development Council’s security force for explosive devices.

 

The source close to the security unit said the SPDC received information that some parcel bombs were being brought in by opposition groups to plant inside Burma in order to destroy the government sponsored National Convention.

 

“The SPDC’s border security forces, led by officers Myint Htwe, Than Winn and Nyi Lay Naing, have checked passengers on the way to Kya-in Seik-kyi, Karen State.  Migrant workers, especially Muslims and Buddhist monks, are searched,” said Taming.

 

“Until now a thorough search failed to turn up an explosive devices, but we have been under threat by the Burmese Army,” said another businessman Myo Win.

 

The traders and passengers were exhausted with the long wait and could only travel around 3:30 pm since June 19.  Male soldiers order many passengers including women to strip off their clothes, reported a migrant worker.

 

The passenger boats usually take off at 8:00 am and arrive at Kya Inn Seik Kyi in Karen state by 5 or 6 in the evening.  Long tail boats are used during the rainy season to travel from the Thailand Burma border to Mon and Karen States in Burma.

 

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KAO WAO NEWS GROUP

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Phone:  + 66 -7 169 0971 (Thailand)

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Kao Wao 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. Our motto is working together for lasting peace and change.

 

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