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Issue No. 84, 2004
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KAOWAO NEWS NO. 71

An electronic newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma

July 20-August 8, 2004

READERS’ FRONT

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: A BOON FOR OPPORTUNISTS

BURMA ’S DEPLETING FORESTS: TEAK TRANSPORTED TO THE BORDER

NGO accuse Total of H R abuses

Despite talking peace fighting continues

MONEY THIRSTY CHECKPOINTS

CHILDREN: VICTIMS OF SERIOUS FLU

FIVE VEHICLES SEIZED IN MON STATE

THE EPIC STRUGGLE OF 8888: KANBAWZA WIN

KAREN CULTURE STILL ALIVE IN VANCOUVER

US SENATORS ASK POWELL TO EXPEL MYANMAR ENVOY


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

__________________________________

On passing away of Ajar Wat Singh and Dr. Chaotzang Yawnghwe

Dear Mon people,

Please accept our condolences on the untimely passing of Ajar Uttama (Wat Singh). It is difficult to understand why such tragedies happen, and we do not understand why Ajar Uttama was taken from us so early before his dream, Mon people’s freedom.

Though we are saddened by his death, we share with all the relief that Ajar Uttama is now at peace. Ajar Uttama will be remembered and recognized as a brave Abbot in the Mon political history as well as in the Buddha Sasana. We understand that Ajar Uttama not only committed his life to the Buddha Sasana but also was also deeply passionate about having the Mons regain their freedom. His actions speak volumes about his determination. We, the Mon people, will never forget his immense capacity in helping to pave the way to freedom of the Mons .

Please accept our sympathy. Rest assured that your loss is the loss of the entire Mons .

Sincerely yours,

Nai Simon (Chit)

Secretary General

Mon Buddhist Temple ( Canada )

___________________________________________

It is sad to hear this news because many respected leaders passed away during these days.  The new generation should follow good works of our leaders in order to gain our rights.

Mehm Blai

Mon youth

(KL, Malaysia )

___________________________________________________

Letter of condolence from Monland Restoration Council (USA)

July 29, 2004

Regarding the death of Chao Tsang Yawnghwe, the prominent Shan leader exiled in Canada , we the Monland Restoration Council of the USA would like to offer our condolences to his family and relatives. The death of Chao Tsang Yawnghwe is the loss of a good leader not only for the Shan people but for the entire peoples of Burma in the common fight for termination of the Burman ethnocentric military dictatorship and restoration of democracy and racial harmony in the country. The fight will continue and he will remain in our hearts forever.

Central Committee

Monland Restoration Council ( USA )

___________________________________________

With deep regret we heard the news of Dr Chao Tzang Yawnghwe passed away from the radio while we were in remote area discussing about Federal Constitution of Burma.

The founder of National Reconciliation Program and organizer of Conferences of States' Constitutions for Federal Democratic Burma, he led the ethnic nationalities leaders to learn about Federal System in Germany , Belgium and some EU countries.

May his spirit lead the Burmese leaders to accept Federal Democratic System for peaceful Burma !

 Sunthorn Sripanngern

Mon Unity League


HUMAN TRAFFICKING A BOON FOR OPPORTUNISTS

(Taramon/ Sangkhlaburi, August 3, 2004)

Traffickers in southern Burma bribe the SPDC authorities so they can work freely in the human trafficking business reported a Mon community leader from Moulmein

The source said the traffickers hand over about three hundred thousands Kyats (300 US $) to be allowed to pass through six checkpoints (Gate Paung Sone) in Mon State and Tenasserim Division to reach Kaw Thaung border town opposite of Ranong in Thailand.

“They negotiate with the checkpoint officers to pass through and pay about thirty thousands Kyats for one truck per checkpoint,” said the Mon youth leader. The trucks carry approximately twenty people, safety is really not an issue and many risk their lives in the hands of traffickers.  There are four checkpoints in Mon State and two in Tenasserim Division. ‘The most corrupt checkpoint is in Ye and most try to avoid it,’ he added.  So some cunning snakeheads choose other routes to Thailand though the Three Pagodas Pass border town opposite of Kanchanaburi and Mae Sot, Tak province in Thailand from Mon and Karen States .

According to a source from southern Karen State , the local human traffickers pay the policemen not to arrest them. One of the human traffickers was asked to pay 100,000 Kyats to the local police officer last month.

The human traffickers pay immigration officers about 550 baht for each person to cross the town to enter into Thailand .  The traffickers who have good relationship with the DKBA, Karen armed group, use Mae Sot in the past but the route now is very restricted said a trader Nai Ong.  The snake-heads cooperated with cease-fire groups such as the New Mon State Party and the DKBA also bring some arms with them during their trip to the border towns.  Some cease-fire party members also involved in human trafficking.

Even though there are warning signboards in the village, every community in Mon State have human traffickers.  Many own satellite hand phones bought from Thailand and set up networks to various areas.  They follow the trek along the jungle routes during the raining season and take motor bikes and trucks to reach to the Thai-Burma border.

“About 3,000 people use the way to Kaw Thaung by cars from Burma and about 5,000 people come to Thailand in this manner ( Three Pagodas Pass ) per month,” said the Mon merchant who trade along the road.


Environment

BURMA ’S DEPLETING FORESTS: TEAK TRASNPORTED TO BORDER

(Taramon/Sangkhlaburi: July 25, 2004)

Teak timber from Kyar-In Seik-Kyi were transported to Three Pagodas Pass border by boats for making furniture which is then sold in Thailand, a source from Mon business community said this week.

“The traders who have close relation with Karen rebel have transported 2,000 logs of teak from the Karen National Union (KNU) controlled area,” a business man from Three Pagodas Pass town told Kao Wao over the phone.

The teak forest in this township has been depleted and the pro-Rangoon armed group Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) is the main culprit, who paved the way for other opportunists.  Some businessmen have joined with the DKBA and have cut down various kinds of trees which are transported to the Thai Burma border town and inside Burma . Boats transport the logs during raining season.


NGO accuse Total of HR abuses

(Taramon/ Sangkhlaburi: August 5, 2004)

A local Burmese NGO based on the southern Thai-Burma border has accused Total Oil Company, of human rights abuses, while constructing the Yadana gas pipeline in southern Burma .

“There are 12 reported cases, involving 8 forced laborers and 4 perpetrators committed by three soldiers and one servant in these cases,” said Mr. Htoo Chit, Coordinator of the Grass root Human Rights Education and Development Committee.

The Committee had networked with a French NGO to bring the complaint against Total, formerly known as TotalFinaElf, in front of the courts. “We have strong evidence and are confident we’ll win the cases even though we are local NGO,” Htoo explained.

The French lawyers, he said, came to the Thai- Burma border three times to take testimonies and collect information about the cases.

“Total has 12 lawyers but we have 2,” said Htoo. However, he informally discussed with the Total lawyers about the cases while he was in France , but no compromise was settled because he did not represent the whole forced laborers of the pipeline project.  He criticized two French journalists who interviewed him last year about the case and who twisted the accusation in favor of the oil company.

“They didn’t write what I said,” Htoo said.  Their group is happy that the French embassy in Bangkok helped them to travel to France to provide testimony in front of the judges, he said.

The group has accused Total, one of the most corrupt oil companies in the world founded by France ’s General De Gaulle, since August 2002.


Despite talking peace fighting continues

Two Burma Army battalions have launched an offensive against the Karen National Union along the Zami river of Kyar-in Seik-kyi Township , Karen State .

A local witness today reported that the Burma Army used porters and was forcing money from the local people and passengers.

No. 547 and No. 355 Battalions of the BA have jointly operated against the KNU No. 6 Brigade along the river and also illegally established separated five checkpoints (gates) to raise funds from passengers who travel by boat; the money is used for its troop during the operation, the young man who came from the area said.

“Ten ox carts from the area must provide daily on a rotating system of portering since last week after seven SPDC soldiers were killed by a KNLA ambush,” the source from the Karen armed group said.  “Many Karen villagers from the area have left the villages out of fear in being rounded up for portering and of being tortured.”

According to the Three Pagodas Pass town residents, they heard sounds of mortar shells or missile attacks being fired off from the battle zone area.

Some passengers and traders have delayed their journey, fearing their personal security and illegal taxation by the Burmese troops.

The business community said about half of traders who usually trade along the river road have stopped their business activities this year because two new SPDC checkpoints have been set up for the sole purpose of demanding taxes to fund their offensive.

Migrant workers who were deported from Thailand to 3 Pagodas border regularly return to their hometowns by this road and were checked and extorted of their earnings by the SPDC and BA checkpoints.

“The deportees were seriously checked by the SPDC checkpoints,” Nai Min, a trader said.

Some local businessmen said the offensive is the first occurrence of a skirmish between the SPDC and KNU in this area since the beginning of the cease-fire talks.


MONEY THIRSTY CHECKPOINTS

(Taramon in Sangkhlaburi: July 25, 2004)

Passengers who pass through Kyar-In Seik-Kyi, Karen State were forced to buy drinking water worth 90 Kyats, more than three times the normal price, Nai Taming Ong, a Mon merchant said yesterday.

The SPDC checkpoint in the town sells bottle water to passengers who are heading to the border town and who are believed to be economic migrants entering Thailand .

This check point has become the main gate of Kyar-In Seik-Kyi - Three Pagodas Pass road as many migrant workers and traders use the route entering Thailand .  The business community at 3 Pagodas Pass border estimated about 5,000 people come to Thailand per month passing through the town mostly seeking jobs in the neighbouring country.


CHILDREN: VICTIMS OF SERIOUS FLU

(By Taramon and Banyar Toay: July 20, 2004)

Children in Mon and Karen States have suffered from serious flu outbreak, said local medics from the two states this morning.

“About one hundred children, most of them under 10 years old, from southern Mudon Township have been sent to Moulmein hospital for medical care”, a Hnee Padow villager said. “Among them, 28 children have contracted the serious flu.”

In southern Karen State , the local children also suffer from the disease and some of them were sent to the clinics.

“My grand-daughter was sent to the hospital for this severe flu,” said a villager in Pha Ann Township .  He said all of them are children and the village near his village also has patients who suffer from the disease.

“In central Mon State , about 13 children and 2 adults died from the serious flu last May,” Nai Kao Chan, a Mon merchant who recently arrived to Three Pagodas Pass said.

The children have no access to proper health care in Burma as most of their parents are working in Thailand There is no official notice from the authority regarding this infection of flu.  The population transfer of migrant workers may be one reason that spreads the flu, said a Mon medical worker in Kaw Kareik Township , Karen State .  Many children have suffered from this serious flu at the Three Pagodas Pass border town.


FIVE VEHICLES SEIZED IN MON STATE

(Taramon/ Sangkhlaburi: July 20, 2004)

Five vehicles were seized by the military for illegal smuggling from Thailand , even though the owners have permission from the Military Intelligence, said a Moulmein resident.

“The motor vehicle police by orders of the Southeast Military Command seized the cars on July 12 while waiting in the capital of Mon State and will transport them to Rangoon ,” said a resident under condition of anonymity.

The car owners pay bribes to the MI to transport their cars to Rangoon but the vehicle police with orders from the southeast command commander, General Thura Myint Aung seized the cars.  The source reported that the MI No. 5 in Mon State now has less power than before.

The MI, the resident said, asked the police not to interfere in their own business, but the police responded they will have to follow orders.

Vehicle smuggling in the past was controlled by the MI and involved by the cease-fire groups, but now the police force and the military control the booming business, said a Mon businessman in the capital.

All vehicles seized by the military are parked in the Southeast Command.


THE EPIC STRUGGLE OF 8888

(By Kanbawza Win)

The bullet holes at the Rangoon General Hospitals that  snuff out the lives of doctors and nurses tending the wounded have long been fill up and the pools of blood in front of the American embassy has been washed away. The White Bridge at /Inya/ Lake has cleansed, while /Kyandaw/ crematorium where the Junta troops burnt both the dead and wounded has been renovated and green vegetation has grown tall over the mass graves. But for the Burmese people they are still hearing the silent moan of the wounded, the epic calling of the dead and the clarion call of the persecuted crying out for help or at least to do something so that the atrocities which they have suffered at the hands of the Burmese army will not repeat again to their younger generation.

One and a half decades have passed and still the men in uniform who have committed these indescribable atrocities are still in power and still continuing its brutalities as the /Depayin /episode indicates. There is no remorse, no request for forgiveness, no attempt to explain things because they believe in the theory that the power comes out of the barrel of the gun (Chairman Mao's theory that the regime steadfastly follows), and that is why they let the Chinese to dominate our country. But this 8888 is an undisputable fact that the people of Burma have unmistakably expressed their wish for democracy and human rights and have attempted to overthrow the shackles of the tyrannical military rule.

But "*/a lot of water has flowed under the White Bridge/*," the paramount dictator has died in disgraced, so also the shinning gentlemen of Rangoon, the leading narco baron suffering from cancer is not permitted die in /Homong, /while most of the autonomy fighters have entered the cease fire. In their places new military dictators and new narco barons have emerged as the autonomy leaders seek for greener pastures. But the most troubling aspects are that some Burmese Diaspora intelligentsias have switched their identification from the persecuted people to that of the persecutor. Such is life. Globalization as in any other mankind has caught up with the Burmese and it seem that Machiavelli's theory of "the end justifies the means" seems to be true.

For many more years to come, it seems that the people of Burma will continue to suffer silently, children will die of malnutrition, life span would be short, students will have little or no education, the */Na Wa Ta/* disease (AIDS) will be rampant, girls will be sold to prostitution not to mention the forced labour, forced relocation, ethnic cleansing, environmental degradation etc. It seems we have reached of what Lord Buddha has predicted in "the sixteen points dream of King Kawsala." But we will struggle on for hope springs eternal in human breast. Is there any hope for a genuine /Pyidaungsu Myanmar Naingan Daw/ (Union of Burma ) other than the Junta led version of tyrannical disciplined democracy? This question is the crux of all the problems in the Burmese minds. Are we hopeless? Life is hope and without hope life is nothing. There is still a dim light flickering in the dark encouraging us to carry on the fight without fail and that is none other than our noble Nobel Laureate Daw Suu.

How many times has she been arrested? What psychological torture she must gone through when the Junta did not allowed her dying husband to see her? Staying all alone and even and has not been allowed to make a memorial service for her slain father she has barely recovered from the injury she received in her attempted assassination, yet she continues to whisper in our ears to carry on. Just imagine a widow separated from her children forced to live all alone in her house not being able to see friends and foe alike and incommunicado. If she did not give up why should we? Both the father and the daughter have not faltered in their believe and conviction come what may. Let us follow their example and carry on the good traditions as the motto of our emblem says for */even though our heads our bloody yet we are unbowed. /*We will die fighting rather than live on our knees. We will have to plan our strategy meticulously, revamped the leaders in the Diaspora group and call it "a spade a spade". We must always bear in mind that in our goal to reach democracy is that we must have *unity in diversity*.

Many people will work in several different ways and we cannot blame other people who do not work our way only. The only point is that the goal of our epic struggle must not be lost. If we were to look at international supporters we cannot lump altogether and say that they are all members of NATO, i.e. no action talk only. America has just come up with sanctions on Burma very lately while all the time US is just contend with preventing new investment. Looking at the Junta's response we can gauge that this is the language, which affect the Junta very much. At least the rogue and thugs knows the punitive language even if it refuse to comprehend dialogue, compromise, conflict resolution or what ever the civilized way may be. If so why can't we all support sanctions? Besides, Daw Suu and the NLD has supported sanctions, this explicitly means that those who do not support the sanctions have crossed the line into the Junta's camp. This is a clear line that must be drawn.

However, we cannot be satisfied with this. What are we going to do in the long term? What are our plans for the future generation in comparison with the Junta? If we don't move fast and grab the opportunities as they arise, we will end up like previous failed waves of resistance. CTY is gone; Tin Maung Win had said good-bye long ago.

The old man Bo Mya is in dotage, most of the NLD executive commit members are septuagenarian or octogenarian while some have to come to the meeting on wheel chair, and every day we are all getting old. On the other hand the Burmese military has layers and layers of young leaders and they are training them vigorously penetrating our democracy forces. The authentic prove is that we predicted that once Ne Win is gone there would be democracy has proved to be wrong. Looking back to our contemporary history we will have to admit that in half a century of ethnic nationalities struggle very few of them could produced young ethnic nationality leaders while in the biggest group nepotism is distinct. Now as we reflect on the 8888 group on this anniversary of August 8th we should clearly think of what are we going to do. Shall we allow history to repeat the same mistakes again? Let us judge not by our emotions but by science of reasoning.


Culture

KAREN CULTURE STILL ALIVE IN VANCOUVER

(Contributed by Mahn Kyaw Swe)

On a sunny holiday in August, the Burnaby Mountain Park is busy with people from the local community, international students and tourists.   The tall Totem Poles, cultural symbols of the native Indian communities of British Columbia , and the flowers in the park gardens are bright and shining on this glorious summer day of August.  Groups of Karen people from Vancouver and surrounding areas have come together to celebrate their traditional Wrist-tying ceremony on August 2nd, 2004, in the mountain park in Burnaby on the west coast of Canada .  The celebration begins at 12:00 noon followed by traditional sports activities for children as well as adults, like potato picking, volleyball and string pulling.  Saw Thaik Soe, one of the organizers of the celebration said, "We have celebrated the Karen traditional wrist tying ceremony every year since 1997; this is our 8th year." 

About a hundred and twenty people from different ethnic backgrounds such as Mon, Burman, Chin, Karen and Thais attend the celebration.  "People from Surrey, Richmond , Burnaby , Vancouver , Victoria Island came to join with us.  Some of them have come from distant parts of Canada and the US , like London , Thunder Bay , Edmonton , Toronto , Seattle , Bellingham and California ," Saw Thaik Soe announced. 

"Before Buddhism or Christianity was introduced to the Karen people, our ancient ancestors and great grandmothers and grandfathers, lived in fear of different spirits. Therefore, our parents and grandparents used white thread, which they tied on the wrists of children after calling back their spirits.  It meant that the person and one's spirit would stay together and could live free from fear," one of the participants explained in English to the visitors.

People who attended the wrist tying ceremony must wear full traditional costume. The ceremony could only be sponsored by an elderly couple who had lived together as husband and wife for their entire married life.  This senior couple called upon the spirits of the children to come back from the place of darkness and to stay with parents, grandparents and relatives. The senior couple then prayed that the young children would behave themselves well, and act with good discipline and preserve our culture.  There are seven materials are used for wrist tying ceremony:

1.  A glass of cold water

2.  Three white threads

3.  Seven rice balls

4.  Seven triangular-shaped lumps of sticky rice in the packages

5.  Seven boiled bananas

6.  Seven (Paw Woung) branches of flowers

7.  Seven pieces of sugarcane

The glass of cold water means to regain peace of mind and strength, cleansing the body and mind. Water

is one of the main sources of life that people and animals depend upon. As human beings, we frequently 

make mistakes both physically or mentally in our lives.

These mistakes will be cleansed from us in the same way as we take a bath with clean water.  The white threads represent protection of the person from misfortune and evil spirits.

The rice balls stand for being united. If rice stays separated in pieces, it would decay within short period.  If the rice is holds together in balls, it will not decay so easily and will last for a long time.  The triangular shaped steamed sticky rice in packages represents solidarity and sharpness. The nature of sticky rice is already stick together. When sticky rice is made as triangle shaped in the banana leaf, it is stickier and sharper like a weapon. That's the way the elderly couple want their children to be united, sharp and smar t.

Bananas represent good discipline and loyalty.  Bananas grow up in a serial, orderly, and gradual way. When the banana plant produces its fruit, it starts from a single branch. Then, the fruits appear serially and in order from the main branch.  A banana tree only come to fruit once in a lifetime. If it is cut from top to bottom, small plants will come out naturally and grow increasingly. 

The branch of flowers (Paw Wee) signifies our ability to settle and grow anyplace. Other types of flowers usually dry and dies, when the season is over or weather condition are bad.  However, the Paw Wee branch of flowers can grow anywhere and in any season as long as can put down roots somewhere.  It can grow quickly and doesn't need much water.  Sugar cane presents the quality of good ethics, moral values, and racial progress.  Its original quality of sweetness never disappears no matter how the weather changes. When sugar cane plant is cut into

pieces, new plants grow out from the middle link and able to grow well on any ground.

"In the past, when Karens began to get married to people from other ethnic backgrounds, they got away from traditions like this in order to avoid upsetting their spouses. And some of the spouses from different backgrounds didn't encourage their Karen spouses to join in traditional events either.   Today, not only people of Karen ethnic nationality, but also their spouses and family members from other ethnic backgrounds such as the Burman, Chinese, Malay, Mon, Shan, and Chin join their Karen spouses and show their support for preserving this lovely Karen traditional wrist tying ceremony", Mahn Shishaw said.

"By celebrating this traditional in local community event yearly, Karen people remember our culture and beautiful traditions, respect each other and forgive each other for the mistakes they may make in the past.  Everybody makes mistakes in one's life.  Forgiveness is one of the best solution in society", Saw Thaik Soe explained.  

Karen wrist tying ceremony is one of the ancient traditions of Karen people.  It is not a Karen Buddhist tradition that we maintain and celebrate, but rather a reminder to citizens of all nationalities of what we can live together in unity and strength not as Karen people but also with other ethnic nationals in a multicultural society,especially one like we enjoy in a country like Canada.


US SENATORS ASK POWELL TO EXPEL MYANMAR  ENVOY

Zateng Sisi

(Cited from AFP, Washington: July 30, 2004)

Two US senators have asked Secretary of State Colin Powell to downgrade diplomatic ties with military-ruled Myanmar by expelling its envoy to Washington .

They said Myanmar 's envoy Linn Myaing "should be sent home, to return only if, and when, progress is made in the restoration of democracy" in the Southeast Asian state.

Senators Mitch McConnell and Dianne Feinstein requested of Powell, in a letter dated last week, that "the United States downgrade its diplomatic relationship with the illegitimate military junta" in Myanmar by requiring Linn Myaing "to immediately return" to Yangon.

They said in the letter, a copy of which was made available on Friday, "such action was warranted" because of the military regime's refusal to free democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi despite repeated calls from the international community.

The junta was also accused of continued human rights violations, particularly against ethnic groups.

"These abuses include murder, rape, torture, forced relocations, forced and child labor, and trafficking in persons and drugs," they said.

Aung San Suu Kyi is currently more than a year into her third period of house arrest.

The junta has never allowed her National League for Democracy (NLD) to rule, although it scored a landslide victory in elections the international community considered otherwise free and fair in 1990.

The senators also urged the State Department to increase pressure on US allies to do more in support of democracy in Myanmar "and be vigilant in its dealings with" the junta.

They wanted Myanmar to be excluded from any list of invitees to functions marking official US holidays hosted by the State Department or any other US government agency.

The senators expressed "outrage" that Myanmar had been invited to the State Department's July 4 celebration of US Independence Day "when other odious regimes, including Zimbabwe, were excluded."

Since 1990, the United States has not appointed an ambassador to Myanmar and has kept its diplomatic representation in Yangon at the charge d'affairs level. "To put it simply, as the United States does not have an ambassador in Rangoon , the (junta) should not have one in Washington ," they said.

President George W. Bush signed into law this month renewed import sanctions against Myanmar for a further period of 12 months. The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi -- her deputy Tin Oo is also being held -- has also proved a sticking point for planned talks between Southeast Asian nations and Europe scheduled for October in Vietnam.

Thailand 's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Friday after talks with his Myanmar counterpart General Khin Nyunt than Yangon "is asking for more time" before considering Ang San Suu Kyi's release. The NLD party said it was compiling a nationwide petition to demand the immediate and unconditional release of its leaders and other political prisoners.


KAO WAO NEWS GROUP

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ABOUT US

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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