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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

KAOWAO NEWS NO. 84

Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
February 16 - March 1, 2005

READERS’ FRONT

NMSP: MORE DIALOGUE WITH JUNTA

PRESIDENT’S HEALTH RAISES CONCERN

58th INTERNATIONAL MON NATIONAL DAY

CHIN COMMEMORATE NATIONAL DAY

MON GUERRILLA LEADERS SEEKS SAFE HAVEN

THE IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON BURMA ’S CHILDREN

ASIAN INDIGENOUS DELEGATES ASSERT RIGHTS

BURMESE PROTESTERS ARRESTED IN MALAYSIA

WE CAN FIGHT ANOTHER 50 YEARS: MYANMAR REBEL CHIEF


READERS’ FRONT

Dear Readers,

Thanks again for your support.  We are extremely pleased with all the letters and articles we’ve got from you, for your keen observations and your critical feedback.

As promised, we will continue to use Cyberspace as a communication tool to cut across obstacles of repression, to fight for self-determination, to fight for cultural survival and to post the individual opinions of our readers.  

We like to remind our readers that Kaowao is your forum for freedom of _expression and we hope that you continue to send in your thoughts and opinions to support our aims.  The Mon community in Thailand and volunteers from Canada and Australia make up the members of Kaowao Newsgroup.

In particular, the following individual supporters have contributed to Kaowao and we would like to thank them sincerely.  With this donation, hard copies in Mon and Burmese will be available to those who have no access to the Internet and our news in Mon version will be updated pending time and resources.

Ashley South (U.K)                               100 US             (Feb 22, 05)

Lita Davidson (Vancouver, Canada)     100 Cdn           (Feb 24, 05)

Eric Snider (Victoria, Canada)              125 Cdn           (Feb 24, 05)    

Best wishes from

Cham Toik                  (Editor) 

Nai Taing Taw  (Assistant Editor)      

Thomas Jefferson (one of the founding fathers of the United States ) would have surely approved of the Internet, which is very much like the founding father's philosophy: 'individual liberty, commitment to pluralism, diversity, and community.'

(Cited from Wired, 1993)


Thanks as ever for your excellent reporting.  Now, more than ever, your analysis of the outcome of the tsunami is useful. 

Larry Dohrs

Seattle , USA


Please keep posting news that related to our Home Land .

Dong Khup


Dear Editor,

It is wonderful to read the General Statement of 58th Mon National Day which you posted on February 24, 2005.  The Mon spoke as a unique people and stood as a strong community.

Cheers,

Amanda ( Calgary , Canada )


Please forgive me if I’m too aggressive with your Mon National Day statement posted on February 26, 2005.  Focusing the past history and telling how your glorious civilization is not important than the present situation in Burma .  Unnecessarily, maintaining a tradition can not build unity with other nationalities that are in the same boat suppressed by Burmese military junta.  Let’s forget about the past and work for better future.

Ko Ko Aye


NMSP: MORE DIALOGUE WITH THE JUNTA
(Kaowao: February 28, 2005)

The President of New Mon State Party, Nai Htin, in his Mon National Day message, states that the NMSP will urge Burmese military junta for talks.

“We are not satisfied with the military regime since it has no political will for a political dialogue.  The NMSP, however, has to attend the government sponsored National Convention with other cease-fire groups to solve the problem of the country and cooperate with other political parties and nationalities,” read the President’s message which was delivered to civilians on the 58th Mon National Day celebrations held under NMSP controlled areas on February 24, 2005.

It also mentioned that the NMSP was disappointed with the junta for arresting Shan leaders but continued attending the National Convention as an opportunity to work for the betterment of civilians and the ethnic nationalities.

The NMSP promised in the statement that it will not betray public opinion and will endeavor to achieve good benefits for the people.  The cease-fire party will never throw away the revolutionary fruit. 

The NMSP urges to work together for unity among the Mon people including overseas Mons and Thai Mons.

The Central Committee of NMSP decided early this year to resume attending the National Convention and General Aung Naing is now leading the delegates.  The NMSP conducted a public survey seeking opinions from Mon people whether it should attend the NC or not.  The survey shows, according to a senior NMSP leader, many people wanted to join the government sponsored National Convention.

Established by late President Nai Shwe Kyin in 1958, the NMSP is the only major political party with a military wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), which had fought against the regime for almost five decades.  When it reached a cease-fire deal with the ruling junta in 1995 the NMSP lost some public support and political involvement from the Mon community.


PRESIDENT’S HEALTH RAISES CONCERN
(Kaowao: March 1, 2005)

Sources from family members of the New Mon State Party report that President Nai Htin’s health has gotten worse within the past two months.

According to his family, the 84 year old NMSP President was suffering from a bout of malaria at the party Headquarters and was brought to Bangkok for medical treatment two months ago.  He recovered and was sent back to the border, but soon after his health started to decline and is now at Chang Luk Christian Hospital , Karnchanaburi Province near the Thailand Burma border getting treatment. 

According to a relative who visited him at the hospital, he would like to return the Mon Headquarters as soon as he feels well to do so.

Nai Htin was chosen as President of the New Mon State Party replacing Nai Shwe Kyin who passed away in March 2003.  He is well-respected by the majority of the Mon population and grass roots organizations for his optimistic attitude and loyalty to the Mon national movement.  Despite his age, he lived with his comrades at the NMSP’s jungle Headquarters, BeeRee Camp in Mon State before being taken to the hospital.

The NMSP President Nai Htin will turn 85 years old in March.


58th INTERNATIONAL MON NATIONAL DAY
(Kaowao: February 27, 2005)

The 58th anniversary of Mon National Day celebration was held at several places from Australian to North America, from Mon State and other parts of Burma where the Mon community live.

The New Mon State Party organized several MND celebrations within its controlled area and one major event was held at Kyaikmaraw Township organized by Sathom (Thaton) District of NMSP.  Nai Layeh Sem, the Chairman of MND committee said over five thousand civilians attended the event and form into 26 long columns from 26 villages.  Colonel Joel Yeh and NMSP members attended the event with local civilians.

Mon National Day was also held along the Thai Burma border, at Palaing Japan and at the Three Pagodas Pass town. 

In the capital of Mon State , Nai Pan Aung, the leader of Moulmein Mon National Day Central Committee urged all Mon people to be united under one goal.  Since last month, the committee has produced 2nd Mon Cultural Heritage CDs.

In Thailand and Malaysia , the majority of Mon migrants took the day off and celebrated the event near their work place. 

In Maharchai, several hundred migrant workers attended the MND celebration at two different events.  Another event was organized by the Thai Mon community in Thailand on February 20, 2005 at Wat Sathatham, Samut-Songkram Province . The Governor of Samut-Songkram presided over the opening ceremony, which was followed by a parade of Mon dressed in their traditional clothes from several provinces in central Thailand . There was a cultural exhibition on the Mon way of life, including customs and traditions, and an exquisite dance performance.  Leaders from the Mon Unity League, Mon communities in central Thailand and Mon Youth Community attended the annual event. 

Organized by Malaysia based Mon National Democratic Front, in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Buddhist monks and guest joined with migrant workers at MND events.

The Mons in Fort Wayne , Indiana , USA celebrated the MND on the evening of February 20 at South Side High School , Fort Wayne , Indiana , USA .  The dancers performed graceful movements with their hands and danced as elegantly and firmly as possible to the music. Mon traditional foods, such as stir fried vegetables, noodles, curried rice and fresh fruit was served to the guests.  Mon community of North Carolina and Ohio also celebrated the events in their communities.

In Calgary , Canada , the Mon community organized a similar event in the evening on February 26 where about 150 supporters and friends attended.

The celebration was jam packed with activities that started from 6 p.m. and lasted until midnight. Mon cultural performances were organized by the Mon Canadian Society and Mon Women Organization.  A lot of tasty and spicy food was offered and speeches and Karaoke music rounded out the whole evening.  A Canadian Member of Parliament and community leaders delivered their speeches thanking the Mons for their invitations.

Mon families from Vancouver and Edmonton traveled to Calgary to join in the festivities with the members of the Mon Cultural Society in Calgary .

In Europe the events were held in Norway , UK and the Netherlands .

Mon National Day falls on the first waning day of Maigh, the ninth month in the Mon lunar calendar which honors the founding of the sovereign old Monland Hongsawatoi or Pegu.  The Mon has celebrated Mon National Day since 1947 and nowadays celebrations are held in many areas in Mon State and around the world.

(For more photos view http://www.kaowao.org/gallery.php)


CHIN COMMEMORATE NATIONAL DAY
(By Salai Za Uk Ling, Chinland Guardian)

21 February, 2005 -- Hanging a banner that reads “Chin National Day” is illegal at celebrations inside Chin State , but Chin people living in exile in countries around the world were able to commemorate the 27th Chin National Day without having to worry about repercussion from Burmese military authorities.

February 20 is an annual celebration marking the declaration of the result of a Chin public plebiscite held in 1948. At the public assembly held at Falam that year, over 5000 Chin people voted for democratic system of government after rejecting the continuance of traditional aristocratic feudal system that had been in practice in Chin society for centuries. That day came to be known as Chin National Day and has annually been observed as a national holiday.

The 57th celebrations of Chin National Day were held in cities across Asia, Europe, North America and Australia . In Kuala Lumpur , imminent immigration crackdown by Malaysian authorities did not deter over 2000 Chin expatriates to converge for the National Day celebration. In New Delhi , Aizawl , Singapore and Tokyo hundreds of Chin gathered to observe the occasion. In Canada , celebrations were held in Ottawa , Winnipeg and Vancouver . In the United States there were celebrations in Washington D.C, Dallas , Atlanta , Seattle , Indianapolis and Battle Creek . In Europe, commemorative events took place in Germany , Norway and Denmark .

“We take pride in our National Day being an occasion that celebrates the dawn of democracy in Chinland,” says Salai Mang Bik, Chairman of the organizing committee for the celebration in Ottawa . Ironically, the democratic system that the Chin people voted for was short-lived when General Ne Win overthrew a democratically elected government in 1962.

Inside Burma and Chin State , the decree of ruling military regime prohibits the celebration of February 20th as Chin National Day. Instead the regime uses the name “Chin State Day.” This move has been seen by Chin people as a distortion of history to facilitate the policy of eliminating the Chin’s distinct national identity.

This sentiment was echoed in a commemorative address to the Chin people by Chin National Front’s Chairman Thomas Thangnou. He blamed the “racist ideology” of Burma ’s military junta as being responsible for the erosion of Chin language, culture and religion. He stressed that patriotic consciousness is necessary to resist the threat of identity erosion.

“We will stand firmly against any powers which threaten the survival of our national identity. Protecting our Chin national identity and interest remains the guiding principle of Chin national revolution,” Mr. Thangnou said.


MON GUERRILLA LEADERS SEEK SAFE HAVEN
(Kaowao: February 26, 2005)

Mon guerrilla leaders Nai Hloin and Nai Bin are seeking safe haven in Thailand after a Burma Army’s major offensive in southern Burma according to reliable source. 

A source from Bangkok reported that Nai Hloin is now seeking refugee status at the UNHCR office and is receiving medical treatment for serious injuries he received from the offensive.

Back in August 2003, the BA Infantry Battalion No. 282 of the Coastal Command surrounded Nai Hloin’s base near Mi TawHlar village in an attempt to root out his armed units in southern Ye and Nai Hloin was seriously injured during the clash.

Local sources report that the main reason the two brothers Nai Hloin and Nai Bin decided to give up their guerrilla warfare against the Burma Army was because of intensive military action since December, 2003.  

A politician from Ye said, “even though the local Mon people do not fully agree with the splinter group, they sympathize with them and hope that the existence of the Mon armed group can offer some kind of protection from the worse human rights violations committed by the Burma Army.”

“Nonetheless, the armed struggle continues in the area.  Nai Sook Gloin (long hair) succeeded their command and are leading a small guerrilla group,” said a 35 year old Buddhist monk who just arrived to the Thai Burma border from southern Ye.  One BA soldier was shot dead as a result of a skirmish which recently broke out between the BA and the guerrilla group.

Several villagers have been arrested, tortured, raped and killed by the BA on suspicion alone, in which the truth is never determined.  From January to March of 2004, the Tactical Command No. 3 killed over 10 villagers and tortured several others on suspicion charges. A Mon Relief and Development Committee member said ‘that due to offensives launched by the BA in the area, about 20% of the local population of over 50, 000 have been displaced.’ Many have fled to the Thai border area or to Mon refugee resettlement camps.

After the New Mon State Party reached a cease-fire deal with the military junta in 1995, Nai Hloin split from the Party in 1997 to resume fighting against the BA.  The two brothers Nai Hloin and Nai Bin led a Mon National Warrior Army (MNWA) of about 100 fighters formed with Sook Gloin, Nai Jai-Daik and Chan Dein in southern Mon State and the northern part of Tenasserim Division.


Book Review

THE IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON BURMA ’S CHILDREN
(NCGUB: February 17, 2005)

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) has published a report: “The Impact of Armed Conflict on the Children of Burma” to alert the UN Security Council members about the problem facing the children in Burma .

Aiming to bring the matter to the forefront of international attention it will be discussed as ‘Children and Armed Conflict’, the NCGUB report points out that children from the ethnic groups, which are directly bearing the brunt of five decades of conflict, are particularly vulnerable to the widespread and systematic human rights violations occurring in their areas.

These children are subjected to direct military violence and are frequently displaced and forced to live as internally displaced persons or refugees without security, health care, education or adequate nutrition. Children from ethnic groups are frequently used as forced laborer or porters as well as human minesweepers. They are frequently victims of rape and are vulnerable to trafficking for sex work and other forms of exploitation both in Burma and neighboring countries.

Children and youths are commonly abducted from public places, train stations ports, teashops, cinemas, schools and off the street for the army. An estimated 70,000 children are sent to military training camps to be trained as soldiers and they are routinely beaten and brutally punished if they try to escape. Once deployed, they are ordered to abuse human rights against civilians, round up villagers for forced labor, burn villages, and commit rape and extrajudicial killings. 

Dr. Thaung Htun, Representative of the NCGUB for UN Affairs, said, "We are concerned about the impact of the long political stalemate and armed conflict on the children of Burma .  Every aspect of children's lives -- security, education, physical and mental health, and early childhood development, and so forth, is being affected. Destruction of the lives of our children means destruction of the future of our country.  Hence, we are sending our report to UN members to urge them to address the plight of children of Burma urgently when there is debate on children and armed conflict at the UN Security Council on February 23.”

The report of the UN Secretary General released on 9 February, 2005 put Burma ( Myanmar ) again in the list of parties that recruit or use children in situations of armed conflict. The report says, “There continued to be reliable reports from the United Nations country team, diplomatic missions and NGOs about the recruitment and use of children by Government armed forces and a range of non-State armed groups.”


ASIAN INDIGENOUS DELEGATES ASSERT RIGHTS
(AIPP: February 26, 2005)

Asian Indigenous delegates assert U.N. rights in Shillong Meeting.

"The governments, United Nations Agencies, and international communities should pay attention to improve the situation of indigenous peoples and promote their rights, especially the rights of indigenous peoples in the Northeast India," said Mr. Parshuram Tamang, the current Asia member to the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UN PFII) at the concluding session of the Shillong meeting that took place from February 25 to 26.

At this Asian preparatory meeting, about 40 representatives from ten countries made recommendations to UN Permanent Forum, UN Agencies, governments, and international agencies to implement strategies and action plans for poverty reduction and primary education programs for the indigenous communities. Ms. Lola Garcia-Alix from the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Denmark also attended the meeting.

The delegates came from India , Nepal , Bangladesh , Thailand , Burma , Philippines , Malaysia , Japan , and Taiwan .

This meeting was aimed with the objectives to gain a broader understanding of UNPFII and make concrete recommendations to the Permanent Forum, which will convene its 4th session in New York this coming May.

"Indigenous peoples should use the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as advocacy tools for establishing their rights", added Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the other Asian Representative to United Nations Permanent Forum during the Shillong meeting over the weekend.

The two-day long preparatory meeting was jointly organized by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation (AIPP), Thailand and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Philippines and hosted by the Naga Women's Union in Manipur (NWUM), and the Meghalaya Peoples Human Rights Council (MPHRC). In this meeting indigenous delegates have made recommendations on land rights, right to forest and resources, education, women, children and youth.

Recommendation was made on free, prior and informed consent must be followed in all the processes for the developmental activities that affect indigenous peoples, directly or indirectly. It was also discussed in the meeting that the right-based poverty reduction strategy should be adopted for indigenous peoples who are the most vulnerable.

Expressing their concerns about the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, the meeting participants said they have failed to include indigenous peoples and made specific recommendations to .the 4th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the body set up by the United Nations to deal with indigenous peoples issues.

The indigenous representatives also appealed to Chief Minister D. D. Lapang to cancel the uranium mining at Domiasati, West Khasi Hills not to resort to coercion, intimidation and force on the people who are demanding guarantees for their future generations.


BURMESE PROTESTERS ARRESTED IN MALAYSIA
(Kaowao: February 17, 2005)

Eighteen Burmese nationals were arrested today in Kuala Lumpur for holding a protest in front of the Burmese embassy.

The Democratic Federation of Burma comprised of Burmese, Mon, and Chin nationals demonstrated in front of the Burmese Embassy and were later arrested, according to Nai Khit RaeMarn, Vice-Chairman of the Malaysia based Mon National Democratic Front in exile.

Among those arrested were: 3 Central Committee members of MNDF, Nai Hong Chan, Nai Wunna and Nai Ong Chem Tala.  “It is the first time that we (MNDF) demonstrated in Malaysia along with others but all were now in the detention centre,” reported Mr. RaeMarn over the phone.

The MNDF members posters read: “We don’t want the SPDC’s sham National Convention; Stop human rights abuses in southern Burma ; and Stop raping Mon women and burning our houses.”

During the protest, the police gave warnings to disperse but when the protesters refused, all were arrested and it is assumed they were taken to Pudu police station.

 “The first group of over ten people demonstrated at 6 in the morning and no one was arrested.  We the third group, plan to demonstrate at 4: 50 again this afternoon,” said the MNDF Vice-Chairman.

Last May, the Burmese demonstrated against the Depayin massacre committed by pro-SPDC mobs and all 23 members were rounded up and arrested.

Among several thousand Mon migrant workers in Malaysia , there are over two hundred MNDF members, but many have are in hiding after the crackdown by the police this month.

Since last year, the Mon political activists have published a Hongsarwatoi monthly journal and over the past four months were collecting funds from their members. The self-funded publication, however, has stopped for the time being because the publishers fear that they will be arrested by the police after a raid at their office last April, 2004.

Back home, the military regime has refused to hand over power to a wining political party and human rights abuses against the ethnic nationalities continue in rural areas.


WE CAN FIGHT ANOTHER 50 YEARS: MYANMAR REBEL CHIEF
(By Paul Holmes, Reuters: February 28, 2005)

Kaw Htoo Lae Camp, Myanmar -- The commander of Asia's longest running insurgency urged Myanmar's reclusive military junta on Monday to get serious about peace talks or face another 50 years of guerrilla war.

In his first interview in 56 years as a jungle fighter, General Mutu Saepoe said the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) may be short of arms and ammunition, but had all the will to fight on for the autonomy of an ethnic Karen state in Myanmar .

"We have already fought them for 56 years. The end is not coming, not yet," Mutu, 72, told Reuters in an open-sided teakwood command hut just a few yards (metres) inside the former Burma across the Moei river that marks the border with Thailand .

Asked how long the conflict, subdued but not entirely stopped by an informal ceasefire reached last year, might continue, he said: "Maybe the next generation, or the next, or the next...

"If the dictators still want to fight, we are ready to fight. If they want to compromise, we are going to compromise."

Since independence from Britain in 1948, the Southeast Asian nation has been convulsed by a series of ethnic guerrilla conflicts with the ruling ethnic Burmese majority.

The Karen number around 1.5 million inside Myanmar , according to Mutu. The rebels' political wing, the Karen National Union (KNU), is the largest ethnic minority rebel group holding out against Yangon 's generals.

They reached what Mutu called a "gentleman's agreement" in January 2004 to cease hostilities, but skirmishes continue at the rate of about one every two days.

"We want them to know that we still have the ability to kill them however big they are," he said.

SPORADIC TALKS

The KNU has held sporadic talks with Myanmar 's junta in the past year and said it had been invited to further informal talks in Yangon in late March.

Mutu said he saw the talks as a way for the junta to buy time while it oversees a National Convention meant to draft a new constitution paving the way for multi-party rule.

Myanmar 's main opposition parties symbolised by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, and the KNU call the convention a sham and are boycotting it.

"All dictators are crooked men," Mutu said. "But people can change, dictators can change."

Mutu, who left school aged 16 in 1949 to take up arms, spoke in deliberate colonial English he learned as a boy at British-run mission school.

He said his dream as a youth had been to be a pilot or a doctor, but his people's struggle against a Burmese-dominated government they saw as oppressors proved a stronger calling.

His only son, Chee Kirt, was killed in action aged 18 six years ago.

Dressed in crisp camouflage fatigues and wearing a black beret made in England , Mutu said his army had only small arms, made its own landmines, possessed no vehicles and had not bought weapons for at least 11 years. Even bullets were in short supply.

"We need a lot of training for our boys to get them to shoot straight, but we don't have enough ammunition," Mutu said. "We save it for the Burmese army."

LONELY STRUGGLE

Mutu said the KNLA had never had outside support in what he called a lonely struggle that has lasted as long as the Palestinian conflict with Israel .

He also said he had never met any other guerrilla leader. Asked about the death last November of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he said: "We're a long way from the Middle East ."

One of Mutu's few trips abroad, when he flew on a false Burmese passport to London , Geneva and New York , was nearly 20 years ago and paid for by the British-based Anti-Slavery Society.

Mutu, who has shaved his head since his hair turned silver, said he kept trim by walking the length and breadth of KNLA territory and switched locations regularly to avoid capture.

"I don't need aerobics. Walking in the jungle is better than being in a room," he said.

During the interview, young soldiers sat in the shade of the handful of teakwood huts in a dusty clearing where the red, white and blue Karen flag hung limp on a pole in the clammy midday heat.

At least one of the soldiers had an antiquated bolt action rifle but stood stiffly to attention as a group of visitors crossed the river back to Thailand on a rickety wooden pontoon bridge that forms one of Mutu's few links to the outside world.

"We are looking for a good friend, a sincere friend, a helpful friend, or at least a sympathiser," Mutu said. (Additional reporting by Ed Cropley and Nopporn Wong-Anan)


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ABOUT US
Kaowao 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.
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