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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

KAOWAO NEWS NO. 91

Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
June 16 - July 6, 2005

READERS FRONT

PROUD TO BE MON SAYS FORMER THAI PM

MON JOINS UNPO ASSEMBLY

MIGRANTS FROM THREE PAGODAS ARRESTED

VILLAGER BEATEN TO DEATH

SOUTHERN BURMA FACES LABOUR SHORTAGE IN AGRICULTURE

OPPOSITION SHOULD FOCUS ON GENERAL MAUNG AYE

THREE PAGODAS PASS BORDER TO OPEN

BURMA ARMY INTRUDES REFUGEE CAMP


READERS’ FRONT

Dear Readers,

We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kaowao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kaowao 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.  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


On Racism: Junta’s Biggest Weapon In War (By Mahn Kyaw Swe)

To clarify the content please read as "The commanders of operation were Maung Hla and Lt. Gen Tin Oo, who was killed in helicopter crashed near Tayoke Hla village in Paan, on Febrauary 19, 2001". Instead of "The commanders of the operation, Maung Hla and Tin Oo, were killed in a helicopter crashed in Paan." 

Regards,

Mahn Kyaw Swe


The cease-fire has reached for ten years and we see no benefits for the Mons .  Every body knows the SPDC is pressuring the NMSP to surrender and the NMSP or our armed movement will soon be terminated.  I rarely see reaction from our patriots.  What is to be done? Why should we find other way to support the movement?

With Regards

Hong Mon 


I appreciate your enthusiastic attempt to report the situation of Mon community around the globe.  Even I'm living far away from my homeland, my home affair is always closed to me as I'm getting to know through Kaowao news.  I hope the Kaowao keep singing on the Mon news until self-determination right is bloomed in Monland.

With regard,

Nandasuraman

NY, USA


Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Anand Panyarachun says he is proud to be a Mon.

PROUD TO BE MON SAYS FORMER THAI PM
(MUL: June 20, 2005)

The former Thai PM, Anand Panyarachun delivered a 30-minute speech at the Mon Youth Community's 30th anniversary held in the National Theatre Hall, Bangkok with about 1500 people in attendance.

Nai Anand Panyarachun also talked about the problems in 3 of Thailand ’s southern provinces in which he is serving as the chairman of the reconciliation committee.  He said there is a problem of recognition of ethnic groups, a problem that began about 50 years ago. Thailand needs to reconsider its government policy toward the ethnic nationalities living in Thailand .  In the south, local language groups including the Mon are proud of their own language and ethnicity. He declared, “These differences do not make Thailand weak, but strong.”

Talking about the Mon on the topic "saiel phaen din tae mai saeil chard Mon" (the Mon lost their country, but not their national identity), he said, "I am happy to be born and brought up in Thailand," and narrated his family lineage all the way back to his great grand father who came from Monland. His grand father built a Mon monastery in Ratchburi called Wat Khao Chon Phran where his ancestor's ashes are kept in the monastery.

Anand Panyarachun visited the Sangklaburi village where there is a Mon village called ‘Wangka’ in Mon situated on one end of Thailand’s oldest wooden bridge built by the Mon near the Thai-Burma border. The area is a small community with about 10,000 inhabitants including Karen, Burman, and Thai people, with mostly Mon and Karen who share business, social and family links with one another.

Many of the local people warmly welcomed Mr. Panyarachun knowing him to be a Mon proud of his heritage. Anand also visited other Mon communities scattered throughout Thailand where the local people are proud to be both Mon and Thai and who often have Mon festivals in celebration of their heritage along with that of Thai history.  He is also proud to have both Chinese and Mon ancestry together saying that this is why he loves Thailand because it is a country and a people made up of many ethnic groups, all of whom have contributed to Thailand ’s history for many centuries.

Another well-known Thai Mon professor, Snan Meekhanmark from Srinakharin Viroj University talked about the same topic during the 30th Anniversary of the Mon community gathering and, Professor Kochaporn narrated the famous and victorious King Rajadhiraj epic drama.

The event was sponsored by the Bangkok Bank and an exhibition on Mon history including a historical timeline of the Mon in Southeast Asia was set up with the Mon OTOP (one tambon one product). Delicious Mon foods, including various Mon curries and noodles were served and prepared by the Mon communities from the surrounding area of Bangkok .  The event included a competition by the Mon Orchestra conducted by the literature and history departments from The Fine Arts Department, and classical dance was performed by the Thai Study Center , Thamasart University and a Performance on Lagon Ein (King Rajadhiraj’s famous warrior) by artists from Sangkhit. 

A Mon Unity League member said that the dancers wore colorful local costumes representing the different communities from Samut Sakhorn, Samut Prakarn, Samut Songkram, Ratchburi, Ayudhaya, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Nakorn Pathum, Lopburi, Uthai Thani, Hongsawatoi (Mon State of Burma) and Bangkok (Bangsaikai, Nonchork, Minburi, Bangkradee, Ladkrabang) which was the highlight of the event.

The MYC was founded on the 18th June 1975 in Bangkok by a group of progressive young Thai Mon. The first president was Nai Sathit Ngonhorm who passed away on the 9th June 2005. Now Nai Ong Banjoon is the 10th president of MYC.

The celebration site was held at Thammasart University , the National Museum and the National Theatre Hall, places of high prominence being called Wang-na (front palace) that included the division of Mon troops of the Royal Thai army who used to be stationed here in past centuries.


UNPO Resolution on the Infringment of Sovereignty and Military Occupation of the Chin, Mon and Shan by the Burmese Military Junta
MON JOINS UNPO ASSEMBLY
(Kaowao: June 30, 2005)

A group of Mon delegates have joined the General Assembly of UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) on June 24-26 in The Hague , Netherlands .

The Mon team comprised of Nai Beehtaw Monzel, Nai Saik Htow and Nai Ong Jotamoi were among 137 members of participants from 37 member organizations.

Commenting on the appointments, Nai Beehtaw and representatives from Burma gained attention and sympathy from other delegates expressing their solidarity to the present situation in Burma .  The UNPO meeting recognized the Chin, Mon, and Shan peoples' right to self-determination as outlined in the historic Panglong Agreement signed in 1947.  The UNPO also expressed their concern on the detention of eleven Shan leaders, including Chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, Hkun Htun Oo, veteran politician U Shwe Ohn and Major-Gen Hsoten, Chairman, Shan State Peace Council, in February 2005.

The UNPO calls upon the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, China, India, Japan, ASEAN countries and all international stakeholders to help bring into effect the 1990 nationwide election results and find ways to strengthen national reconciliation and democracy.

The UNPO’s members are indigenous peoples, occupied nations, minorities and independent states or territories who have joined together to protect their human and cultural rights, preserve their environment, and to find non-violent solutions to conflicts which affect them. UNPO provides a legitimate and established international forum for member aspirations and assists its members in effective participation at an international level. 

The UNPO is regarded as a shadow United Nations Organization (UNO), an alternative world body.  The next General Assembly is going to be held in Taiwan , one of the leading UNPO members.


MIGRANTS FROM THREE PAGODAS ARRESTED
(Kaowao: July 6, 2005)

Sangkhalaburi -- Over a hundred migrants who came from the Three Pagodas Pass border were arrested on their way into Thailand two days ago.

A Wangka villager said migrant workers paid the trafficker to take them to central Thailand and they were arrested by the Thai authorities while tracking on foot to avoid the check points.

Since May, hundreds of people from Burma crossed the Three Pagodas border ahead of the registration process for migrant worker, which begins in mid June.

The source from southern Mon State said many people are trying to leave their villages due to human rights violation by the Burma Army.  Forced labour, land confiscation and human rights abuses in Mon state are the main reasons why people migrate to Thailand to find employment and seek better life.

Human traffickers are less concerned about making the trip through the checkpoints inside Burma .  The U.S. State Department placed Burma in the worst category for human trafficking, saying it had not complied with minimum standards for eliminating the practice.


VILLAGER BEATEN TO DEATH
(Kaowao: June 20, 2005)

A villager from Durae, Ye township was tortured to death while he was in the lock-up according to an eyewitness report from the Mon community in Ye.

Aung Soe Naing, 38 years old, was arrested by the order of the Village Peace and Development Council and was detained at the VPDC’s lock-up for 24 hours without food on June 5.  He was charged for arguing and beating his wife.

On the next day, he was beaten and tortured severely by the members of VPDC for trying to escape.  The victim was then brought to Ye hospital by his relatives but died on the way on June 6. 

The village headman Nai Than Maung negotiated with the victim’s family for compensation of 100,000 Kyats (100 US $). However, his father Nai Achirk, mother Mi Yokeku and other family members were not happy with the compensation and want justice for what happened to their son.

Nai Tinae, a community leader from Durae (Duya) said villagers were shocked by the death of an innocent villager who was murdered for only having an argument with his wife. 

Nai Than Maung has been headman of Durae for several years and is regarded as a corrupt man notorious for extorting and for suppressing the local villagers.  Durae is situated six miles to the west of Ye city and is known as a peaceful and prosperous community for horticulture and small family owned businesses. 


SOUTHERN BURMA FACES LABOUR SHORTAGE IN AGRICULTURE
(IMNA: June 26, 2005)

A shortage of farm laborers in southern Burma is forcing farmers to seek help from central Burma after the yearly migration of local people leaving to Thailand and other neighboring countries.

“Nobody wants to work on farms anymore so it is difficult to get people from our area.  If they don’t get an increase in their wages they just leave to Thailand .” Ma Sein, a farm owner in Mudon Township , said.  “We had to hire a group of people from A-pyar, Pegu division to work for years to do the paddy transplanting and harvesting,” she added.

Farmers in the south have to look for people from central Burma , such as Bago (Pegu), Waw, Bilin, and Kyaikto for farm labour.

“If the people from that area don’t come we will face many problems.  There are hardly any people left to do the work from our villages, (they) all went to Thailand ,” said Ma Pee, another farmer.

To persuade people from other areas to work in the south, some farmers have already given money in advance to people who will come south to work to their farm.

“One of my friends already gave advance payment to people from that area at 700 Kyat per day. Depending on the area, some people they will pay more,” Ma Pee added.

Currently the daily wages for a transplanting worker reached about 1000 Kyat per day in Southern Burma , where in some areas more than 1200 Kyat to 1500 Kyat is paid out.

Many people from the Pegu area are interested in working in lower Burma due to the higher wages and the fact they have to work less compared to where they work now, says farmers from Mon State .

In Bago (Pegu) division, the current payment is just 600 per day.  Local plantation owners in Mon State , Karen State and Teninsserim Division also have to rely on the people from upper Burma to work in their fields.

According to farmers, they have relied on people from upper Burma and Bago areas for many years.  While many people in Mon and Karen States and Tenesserim division seek jobs in neighboring countries legally or illegally.  A major push factor however is the poor working opportunities and human rights violations committed by the Burmese Army who push people out of Southern Burma to go live in neighbouring countries.


Commentary

OPPOSITION SHOULD FOCUS ON GENERAL MAUNG AYE
(By Aung Naing Oo)

Burmese opposition groups have tried in vain to bring the military junta to the negotiation table. But their efforts have remained futile since they have only targeted Sr. General Than Shwe, Burma 's intransigent and entrenched leader. Perhaps it is time they reworked their strategy by focusing on the number two in the junta hierarchy, Sr. General Maung Aye, for a compromise.

It is very important that a political compromise be reached between opposition groups and the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). A compromise would be ideal for both protagonists and Burmese citizens. However, the SPDC has ignored the appeals from within the country as well as from the international community for engaging in a dialogue.

The regime's refusal to work with the opposition has widely been attributed to the intractability of Gen. Than Shwe. Numerous reports have indicated that he does not want to speak to Aung San Suu Kyi. Unfortunately, as he is Burma 's paramount leader making all the executive decisions, his inflexibility has been detrimental to Burma .

General Than Shwe came to power in April 1992 following the "palace coup" in which the 1988 coup leader General Saw Maung was ousted. But over the past 13 years he has done very little to improve the lives of the Burmese people.

Nothing in Burmese politics has progressed under his leadership since his ascent to power. His government reneged on its promise to transfer power to the National League for Democracy (NLD) election winners in 1990. His administration has been continually labeled as one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, and has put Nobel laureate and pro-democracy NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house detention for most of the 17 years she has been back in the country. There are about 1,300 political prisoners in captivity in Burma , and their treatment in prisons is appallingly inhuman. In addition, the writing of a new constitution as part of the National Convention process that Gen. Than Shwe conceived around 1992 continues without any prospect of when it may end.

Furthermore, forced labor is still very much in practice without any sign of improvement, leading the International Labor Organization (ILO) to recently threaten to take tougher actions against Burma . Despite ceasefire with some 17 armed ethnic political groups, civil war continues. Most critically, Gen. Than Shwe has disgraced the Burmese Army, or Tatmadaw, by directing it to be a prime perpetrator of human rights violence and recruiting underage children for military service.

The economic situation in Burma hasn't improved since the pre-1988 period. There is massive unemployment in the country and approximately one in every 50 Burmese is a migrant worker in neighbouring countries. Burma became the world's fourth most corrupt nation under Gen. Than Shwe's policies this year. And in 1997 his erroneous and parochial policies brought tougher economic sanctions and further stringent measures from the international community.

As part of these sanctions, Than Shwe and his fellow generals are banned from entering most European and Western countries, an ignominy that damages Burmese national pride. And Burma 's chance to chair Asean's rotating presidency is being jeopardized due to his hardening attitude towards political opponents and reforms.

Furthermore, Aung Lin Htut, former military intelligence officer and deputy head of the Burmese embassy in Washington D.C, who sought asylum in the US in April this year, alleged in his hand written letter of resignation to Burma 's Foreign Minister Nyan Win that it was General Than Shwe who masterminded the Depayin Massacre.

Without any doubt, the unresolved saga of Depayin and other state failures under Than Shwe's leadership indicate his complete lack of credibility to lead or compromise with the opposition. Most importantly, there is no sign that he will step down. This can only mean that his erratic policies will continue and Burma 's opportunity for national recovery and reconciliation will certainly be stymied.

After 13 years of Burma regressing under Than Shwe's leadership, "The Burmese prefer General Maung Aye to General Than Shwe," as confirmed by Htay Aung, a military analyst based on the Thai-Burma border. He said that unlike Than Shwe, Maung Aye is a graduate of the Defense Services Academy . He is considered more educated, and belongs to the Army's new generation. "They want to see Maung Aye adopting pragmatic policies and working with the opposition," he added.

According to my own interviews, this view is shared by Burmese academics, ordinary people and several ethnic leaders. In our discussions they all cited the meeting that took place between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi in January 2002 before she was released from detention in May that year. In that meeting, General Maung Aye chatted with the pro-democracy leader for more than an hour. According to a Rangoon-based diplomat who met both Maung Aye and Aung San Suu Kyi after their encounter, they both seemed to like each other. Aung San Suu Kyi even ventured to say that she could work with Maung Aye, compared to former premier Khin Nyunt or Than Shwe.

One may argue that General Maung Aye belongs to the military group that has brought misery to the Burmese people and that he may not be any different from Than Shwe. Indeed, he may be one of the key generals conforming to the current policies of the SPDC. However, this is not surprising due to the highly polarized nature of Burmese politics and the opaque political system attached to the military dictatorship. And unlike Than Shwe, Maung Aye is yet to take the helm and be proved wrong.

The opposition groups should recall the failure of the 1988 uprising where they were unable to persuade key players in the Army to join the revolution. In fact, the opposition may not have even known who the key players in the military were at that time.

Needless to say, Gen. Than Shwe has failed the Burmese people, Asean and the international community. Consequently, the Burmese people have put their hope in Maung Aye. In all probability, there may be many generals in the Tatmadaw who wish to adopt substantive reforms in the country. The congenial relationship between Maung Aye and Aung San Suu Kyi in 2002 - even if it was just for an hour - was a powerful message that they may be able to work together.

This is the key to beginning a new chapter in Burmese politics. The opposition should seriously reconsider their strategy to target General Maung Aye as their main man.

Aung Naing Oo is the author of the Burmese language book entitled "Compromising with the Burmese generals."

(Cited from Mizzima: July 4, 2005)


THREE PAGODAS PASS BORDER TO OPEN
(July 2, 2005)

Sangkhalaburi -- Three Pagodas Pass Thai-Burma border is to open soon after an announcement by a senior Thai leader at the Sangkhlaburi border town yesterday.

“I am glad that it will finally open. It was terrible because of this (closure) and we haven’t been able to do business for over a month now,” said Nai Lwin, a trader from the border town. 

On May 20, the Three Pagodas Pass border was closed by the Burmese and Thai authorities with only pedestrian traffic being allowed to cross over.  When the Thai government banned furniture from Burma ; the Burmese, in return, prevented all Thai goods from being exported across the border.  The border closure cost several million baht in trade revenue lost for both sides through unemployment in Burma ’s furniture factories.  The local business community complained that the closure affected about one thousand workers from over seventy furniture factories, a major industry at the Three Pagoda Pass town. 

The Three   Pagodas Pass has for centuries been a gateway for Thai Burmese trade.  It served as both an invasion route by which the Burmese crossed when they came to occupy Ayudhaya in 1767 and a terminal on which the Japanese Railway of Death during the Second World War was built.


BURMA ARMY INTRUDES REFUGEE CAMP
(Kaowao: June 23, 2005)

The Burma Army entered Halockhanee refugee camp near the Thailand-Burma border in the morning on June 22, reported local villagers.

Local villagers said about a hundred soldiers of Infantry Battalion 38 intruded the cease-fire zone of the New Mon State Party area with about thirty entering Halockhanee refugee camp at 9 a.m.

Nai Kao Chan, the leader of the camp said that the refugees from Halockhanee and Bang Tong Yang camps including those recognized by the UNHCR as Persons of Concern (POCs) were shocked and expressed deep concern over the intrusion.

Another eye witness reported that the Burma Army Commander Aung Naing Lin and Thai authorities later held a meeting at the Mon camp to discuss the border line dispute and the position of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.  "I don't know the reason for this (intrusion) but I heard them talking about the DKBA and the Thai Burma borderline," said a Mon refugee during an interview with Kaowao.

A source from the New Mon State Party said that the NMSP was not informed about the movement of the BA.  A senior officer of the cease-fire group said it was not an appropriate move on part of the Burma army to enter into the restricted zone as it may  strain relations between the NMSP and the SPDC.

Halockhanee refugee camp is within the cease-fire zone and located on the route of Ye and refugee camp connected to Thailand 's Kanchanaburi Province and Mon State , Burma .

The last time they intruded was in December 2001, when about 200 troops of BA IB 61 and LIB 106 entered Bleh DonPhike and Chae Daike areas to search for the splinter group led by Colonel Pan Nyunt.  The area has been under the control of the NMSP for many years.


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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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