New Rakhine party to register with EC

Thursday, 01 April 2010 10:46 Salai Han Thar San New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Chairman of a new ethnic Rakhine party, Union of Myanmar National Political Forces (Rakhine State), has said the party will register with the Election Commission next month to contest the 2010 election. “We are planning to register our party before or after the Thingyan festival. We are still discussing the issue,” party Chairman Aye Kyaing told Mizzima. Aye Kyaing was a member of Kyaungtawthar, or The Study Group, prior to forming the UMNPF (Rakhine State). The Study Group has been toeing the Burmese military junta’s line while being critical of the main opposition party National League for Democracy. It is alleged that The Study Group was receiving financial support from the junta. Aye Kyaing has been the Chairman of UMNPF (Rakhine State) since its inception in 2005, though the party was not legal. The Vice-Chairman of the party is San Tin from Myauk Oo, with Secretary Myint Zaw from Sittwe and Joint-Secretary Maung Ohn Tin from Kyauk Taw. The party has branch offices in 14 townships including Sittwe, Kyawk Taw and Myauk Oo out of a total of 17 townships in Rakhine State. Party membership, according to Aye Kyaing, is over 240,000. “We have done organizational work in all townships except Than Dwe (Sandoway), Gwa and Man Aung. We have also already mobilized 180 Rakhine people in Rangoon,” he elaborated. However, Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) Chairman Aye Thar Aung said new Rakhine parties likely to contest the elections cannot work for the benefit of Rakhine State as the 2008 Constitution ignores ethnic rights. “There is no room for doing work for the people in Rakhine State under the 2008 Constitution and 2010 electoral laws,” he said. In the 1990 general elections, the ALD won 11 constituencies out of a total of 26 in Rakhine State. The NLD was the second largest winning party, taking nine constituencies. Some military officers believed to be representatives of the National Unity Party (NUP), a political party formed by the military junta, members of the Burma Socialist Program Party and the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) are also conducting organizational work and touring Rakhine State, say local residents from Sittwe. “Some military officers visited our wards and asked what community development work we want done, such as repairing roads or schools. They have never done this before,” explained a Sittwe grocery store owner. Pro-junta parties such as the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics, 88 Generation Student Youths and National Unity Party have already registered with the Election Commission. Source :

Karen Party Applies for Registration
The Kayin People’s Party (KPP) applied to register as a political party on Wednesday to contest in the upcoming Burmese election, according to party sources. The state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar on Wednesday ran a notice saying that the Karen group, based in

Rangoon, submitted an application to the Union Election Commission in Naypyidaw. A party member said that after approval the party will launch a campaign in areas that are heavily populated with Karen, such as Irrawaddy Division, Rangoon Division and Pegu division as well as in Mon State. She said the party will seek to represent all Karen in Burma. Led by Dr. Saw Simon Tha, a Karen physician in Rangoon, the party has 15 committee members. He is a well-known peace negotiator who has worked with both Karen rebel groups and the Burmese junta. In 2004, he arranged peace talks in Rangoon between the Karen National Union led by the late Gen Bo Mya and a Burmese government delegation led by former Burmese Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt. So far, Karen cease-fire groups have said that they will not participate in the upcoming election, according to Karen sources. There are seven Karen cease-fire groups based in Karen State including the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Karen Peace Force led by Col Thu Mu Heh, the KNU/KNLA Peace Council led by Maj-Gen Htain Maung, the Peace Group led by Bado Aung San, and a group led by the late Gen Bo Mya's son, Nay Soe Mya. Three Karen political parties were formed during the 1990 Burmese election: the Karen State National Organization (KSNO), the Union Karen League and the Karen National Congress for Democracy. The KSNO won one constituency in Karen State.

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Mon Decide to Field no Election Candidates
A political alliance representing Burma's Mon community has decided not to take part in the planned general election. The decision, taken on March 30 at a meeting of a 15-member committee in the Mon State capital, Moulmein, leaves the Mon with no representation in the election. The alliance includes former members of the central committee of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), an armed group that signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta in 1995, members of the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF) and other respected Mon community leaders. The MNDF announced last week that it will not contest the election because the junta's election law is unjust. The NMSP announced last year its opposition to participation in the election. The party has called for a review of the 2008 constitution, saying

A monk prays at the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock Pagoda, in Mon State. (Photo: Reuters)

it doesn't protect ethnic or democratic rights. A member of the political alliance's committee, speaking anonymously, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, that a majority rejected the election law and decided not to contest the election. “It was like the National League for Democracy decision,” he said. When the Mon political alliance formed in June last year it said it planned to take part in the election, although its committee was divided on the issue. The promulgation of the election laws in March swung opinion against participation in the election. At a meeting of the committee in March, one member, Nai Banya Aung Moe, told The Irrawaddy that the Mon alliance could advance peace and democracy by taking part in the election. “We need national reconciliation, peace, democracy and development,” he said. “I want to implement work on that.”

A Mon monk in Rangoon said: “They (regime) will not get one vote from our people if the Mon has a political party participating in the election.” The monk said: “If there is a Mon political party at the election, the Mon people will have a chance to vote for their own people. We will be able to know what is going on inside parliament if we have representatives there. Without our people in parliament, we know nothing about what is going on.” The MNDF participated in the 1990 election, winning five seats. The junta then disbanded the party and sentenced four elected representatives to long prison terms. The party's military wing continues to bear arms, saying it will remained armed until the Mon people win freedom. Source :

Ethnic council opposes junta electoral laws
The Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC-Union of Burma), a coalition of ethnic political organizations, announced yesterday that the council would not accept the Burma’s electoral laws as they were patently one sided laws drawn by the military junta for itself. The announcement was made after its five-day long meeting held from 27 to 31 March at an undisclosed place on the Thai-Burma border. It was attended by 35 representatives from 7 ethnic states: Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Arakan, Chin, Mon and Shan states. According to the council resolutions, the group will oppose not only the electoral laws, but also the military junta’s 2008 constitution which it says is undemocratic. At the same time, the group expressed its support for the National League for Democracy (NLD) on its decision on 29 March not to re-register as a political party. On the other hand, the council will not oppose or condemn ethnic organizations and individuals planning to contest in the forthcoming elections, or the people who will vote in the elections even though its position does not support the elections. The newly elected Chairman Tu Tu Lay urged all state representatives to prevent discord among those who are participating in the elections and those against the elections. According to a participant at the meeting, there are people, even though they are against the 2008 constitution, who has decided to contest elections. One of them is veteran Shan politician Shwe Ohn, who formed a new party; Union Democratic Alliance Organization (UDAO), last year saying if there are no opposition parties, the military junta’s candidates will win by acclamation. A former member of the defunct Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), who also shared the same view, said, “The military’s door is opening a little bit. We must try to pry it open wide with a few seats that we can win.” A former resistance leader said that ethnic people have been fighting against the junta for more than half a century, but they have yet to win, it is because they are fighting from the exterior lines. “It is high time we fought them in the interior lines.” The ENC was established in August 2001 as Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC). In 2004 it became ENC, a state based organization. Another ethnic alliance is the National Democratic Front (NDF), formed in 1976, by armed ethnic movements. Source :

Thailand to press Myanmar to open elections
4/1/2010, 6:59 p.m. EDT EDITH M. LEDERER The Associated Press (AP) — NEW YORK - Thailand will be pressing Myanmar's military leaders in the coming week to open its first elections in two decades to all political opponents and ethnic minorities, the country's foreign minister said Friday. "I'm concerned about the national reconciliation and the inclusiveness of the whole new political process," Kasit Piromya said in an interview with The Associated Press. Last week, opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, denounced the government's newly announced laws guiding the election as undemocratic and recommended a boycott of the election, expected later this year. Her National League for Democracy, which swept the last vote in 1990 but was barred from taking power, decided Monday to opt out of the election and now faces dissolution under the junta's laws. Kasit said Thailand has raised the issue of political inclusiveness with Myanmar and he will raise it again when he meets Myanmar's foreign minister in two days at a meeting of the Mekong River Regional Commission which Thailand is hosting. Source :

Japan Economic Newswire: Indonesia foreign minister urges Myanmar to hold ‘inclusive’ election
Yangon – Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Thursday he told Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein that “inclusivity, openness and transparency are important” in the process of holding elections.Speaking to reporters in Yangon after their meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s administrative capital, Natalegawa said he had shared Indonesia’s experience in making the transition to become the world’s third largest democracy, hoping it would be useful for Myanmar in its own democratization process. He said Indonesia wants to see Myanmar hold an election that is “open, free, fair, credible and inclusive,” adding that those are the same things that the Myanmar government itself has said in the past that it wants. “They have said it and we hope it will be the case,” he said. Natalegawa’s remarks follow the recent announcement by Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy led by detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, that it will boycott the upcoming general election, which is to be held later this year for the first time in two decades. “We are not in a position to say this was a good decision or bad decision, only they know better so we are not going to second-guess it.” But he said Indonesia hopes the election will be a problem-solving one in which everyone in the country who can contribute to Myanmar’s development, stability and prosperity can participate. “We are very keen to ensure that the election is inclusive, is participatory, and that the implementation of the laws does not exclude anyone,” he said. “All we are hoping for is the open commitments by Myanmar.” Myanmar’s military junta recently enacted election laws, one of which would require the NLD to prevent Suu Kyi from participating in the election, a move which sparked harsh criticisms both from inside the country and abroad. Natalegawa, who arrived in Myanmar on Tuesday, also met with his Myanmar counterpart Nyan Win in Naypyitaw on Wednesday. Source :

Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Inter-Parliamentary Union urges Myanmar to change election laws
Bangkok – The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on Thursday called on Myanmar’s junta to amend its recently promulgated election laws to ensure polls planned this year are “inclusive, free and fair.”“With the elections drawing to a close, time is running short,” said Philippine Senator Aquilino Pimentel, president of the IPU’s human rights committee. The IPU, an organization which brings together the national parliaments of 143 countries, wound up its 122nd assembly in Bangkok on Thursday. Myanmar’s military junta last month passed a series of election-related legislation that appeared designed to force the main opposition party – the National League for Democracy (NLD) – to boycott the polls. The Party Registration Law, for instance, prohibits people currently serving prison terms from being party members. This would force the NLD to expel party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from their ranks before it is allowed to contest this year’s election, a date for which has not yet been set. Suu Kyi is currently serving an 18-month house arrest sentence. On Monday, the NLD announced the party would not contest the polls. The NLD won Myanmar’s last general election in 1990, but has been blocked from power for the past two decades. The party remains the strongest political opponent to the military institution that has ruled Myanmar, also called Burma, since 1962. The IPU human rights committee also examined the individual situations of 293 parliamentarians in 32 countries including Myanmar, Afghanistan and Malaysia. Senator Pimentel said that the parliamentary delegation from Afghanistan had agreed to close a case against Afghan member of parliament Malalai Joya for a statement she had made, and would allow her to run in the elections in Afghanistan later this year. He said he hoped that “in the few months between now and the elections, the Afghan Parliament will reinstate Ms Joya.” On the controversial case of Malaysian member of parliament and de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who faces sodomy charges, Pimentel said, “The investigation and the proceedings seem to suffer from the same flaws as in the previous sodomy case.” Malaysia’s Federal Court overturned the conviction in his earlier sodomy case and he was released from prison in 2004. Source :

US senators seek tighter Burma sanctions
Published: 1 April 2010

Nine US senators across the political spectrum are calling for tighter sanctions on Burma’s military regime to persuade it not to hold elections that effectively bar key opposition leaders. In the letter to President Barack Obama released Tuesday, the senators agreed with the administration that election laws made a “mockery” of democracy but called for a more robust response. Senator McConnell has called for tougher sanctions on Burma (Reuters)

The senators – including Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s top Republican – urged the Treasury Department to act on a law that would crack down on US bank accounts linked to Burma’s leaders and target foreign banks that do business with the junta. “We believe that exercising this authority represents one of the most powerful instruments at our disposal for pressuring Burma’s leaders to change course,” they wrote. They also called for Obama to appoint a special representative on Burma, a position required by law but vacant as senior State Department officials spearhead policy on the reclusive Southeast Asian nation. The Obama administration, which has made a signature policy of engaging US adversaries, last year initiated a dialogue with the junta, judging that a previous approach of isolating the regime had not borne fruit. The junta plans to hold elections later this year which most foreign observers believe are aimed at legitimizing the rule of the regime, which never allows the opposition to take over after it won the last vote in 1990. The main opposition National League for Democracy has decided to boycott the election rather than give in to pressure to oust its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who is under house arrest. Besides McConnell, the letter was also signed by 2008 presidential candidate John McCain along with fellow Republicans Sam Brownback, Susan Collins and Judd Gregg. It was also signed by Democrats Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold and Dianne Feinstein and independent Joe Lieberman. Source :

Refugee woman kidnapped and raped by local goons
Teknaf, Bangladesh: A refugee woman was kidnapped and raped by local goons on March 24; from Leda (Tal) unregistered refugee camp where over 10,000 refugees live, said a relative of the victim. The victim is identified as Noor Begum (35), wife of late Moulvi Sayed Alam, mother of two children, Block-E and Shed # 237 of Leda camp. The victim was kidnapped by two local goons Abu Taher (32) and Md. Boshor of nearby Bangali village. Before she was kidnapped, Abu Taher proposed marriage but she refused. He is also a Burmese native who came to Bangladesh earlier and married a Bangali girl. Recently, Muslim Aid provided her Taka 20,000 to support her family. But, this was known to Abu Taher, so he proposed marriage. Noor Begum knew that he only wanted to marry her for the money; therefore she did not accept his proposal, said a woman refugee. She was kidnapped by the two local goons from the camp and was brought to the forest where she was kept for three days and raped. After three days later, she was brought to Baharsara and kept there. After some days, she was brought to the Leda camp after forced to marry. After arrival at the camp, the victim told a local elder Nur Hussain. There is no administration from the government side, and the camp is isolated from the village and situated near a mountain. But, the negotiator Nur Hussain took Taka 2,000 from the victim to settle the problem, but the problem is still unsolved, the woman added. The victim again complained to the concerned authority but she did not get redressal. However, the local goons are trying to kidnap her again from the camp. So, the victim is afraid. There is no security for the refugees in the camp. The refugees of Leda camp have also been facing drinking water crisis, so they have to carry water from the streams near the mountain, about one mile from the camp or carry water from a nearby local village after paying Taka 2 per pot. If the refugees do not take water from the local village, the pots of the refugees are broken by the villagers. Besides, frequently, the women refugees are attacked by local youths or goons while they go to streams to carry water. The women are raped and their ornaments are looted by local goons, said a refugee leader from the camp.

The water in the local village and streams is not pure water, so, most of the refugees; especially children have been suffering from diarrhea and dysentery. A refugee woman named Nur Ayesha (32), from Leda camp, Block-C and Shed # 323 said, “My daughter was beaten up by local goons while she was carrying water from the stream. So instead I have to carry water for security reasons. Source :

Somali Pirates Negotiate Ransom for Hijacked Vessel
The owners of the UBT Ocean, a chemical tanker hijacked by Somali pirates in early March, are in the process of negotiating a ransom for the release of the vessel and 21 Burmese crew members, according to relatives of the hostages. The Norwegian-owned ship was hijacked off the coast of Madagascar on March 6 en route to Tanzania from the United Arab Emirates.

“We heard the pirates are demanding US $17 million from the company, which said it is now negotiating the ransom
amount,” a relative of one of the Burmese crew members told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. The ship's owner, Singapore-based Nautictank Shipping Company, said all of the crew members are safe and healthy, but declined to discuss the ransom negotiations when contacted by The Irrawaddy.

“The shipping company doesn't want us to talk about the situation on the vessel because it could be dangerous for the
hostages,” said one relative in Rangoon who requested anonymity. This is not the first time Burmese seamen have been held hostage by Somali pirates in recent years. In September 2008, 14 Burmese crew members aboard the South Korean-owned MV Bright Ruby were held for ransom and later released after the ship's owners paid an undisclosed amount to pirates who seized the ship off the coast of Somalia. In October 2009, a Burmese marine engineer was aboard the MV Kota Wajar, owned by the Singapore-based Pacific International Lines, when it was was hijacked near the Gulf of Aden. The vessel and all 21 crew members were released after 72 days in captivity when the company agreed to pay a ransom of more than $8 million. Somali pirates hijacked 68 ships in 2009 and extorted an estimated $60 million. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of hijacking incidents targeting ships passing through the Gulf of Aden, a major shipping lane, since 2005. According to reports, ransoms are usually based on the size of the ship's crew and the value of its cargo.

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Indonesia Wants All-inclusive Election in Burma
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told his Burmese counterpart, Nyan Win, in Naypyidaw on Wednesday that Jakarta expected the regime to “uphold its commitment to have an election that allows all parties to take part.” A Jakarta Post report that appeared before the meeting said Natalegawa would also discuss with Nyan Win the regime's controversial party registration law, which has led to the opposition National League for Democracy's withdrawal from the election. The paper quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah saying: “Indonesia will pose questions on the terms of the elections to ensure that the country upholds its commitment to have an election that allows all parties to take part.” In an official Burmese account of the meeting, the state-controlled daily New Light of Myanmar said Natalegawa and Nyan Win had shared their views on mutual cooperation between their two nations and regional and international issues. Indonesia and Burma are both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Natalegawa's itinerary in the Burmese capital included visits to a gems museum and other leading city sites and a dinner hosted by Nyan Win, the paper said. The planned general election in Burma and the disputed election laws are expected to figure in discussions at an Asean foreign ministers' summit meeting in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, nest week.

No meetings have been scheduled with members of Asean civil society and youth representative, similar to such encounters last year in Thailand, according to the English language daily Bangkok Post. Roshan Jason, executive director of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), said Asean should discuss and make clear its views on Burma's upcoming elections, especially regarding the unfair laws and conditions set by the regime which barred the full, free and fair participation of political parties and individual citizens. David Scott Mathieson, a Burma expert with Human Rights Watch, said: “They [the international and regional community] need to come up with a united and strong message that the environment for the election is not inclusive.” The Singapore government said on Wednesday that the election law will be a greater challenge for a vital national reconciliation in Burma that includes all stakeholders.

“We are disappointed that the new election laws have led to this result,” said a Singapore Foreign Ministry spokesman.
“This will make it harder for national reconciliation to be achieved.” It is still not too late for the Burmese government to make the election inclusive, however, the spokesman said.

“This would require the participation of the National League for Democracy and other political parties. It is still not too
late for all parties to reach a compromise and we urge them to do so.”

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Junta Turns Attention Back to the Jungle
Following a month of relative quiet at the Sino-Burmese border while the military regime focused on election laws and the political situation in the country, attention turns once again to the border guard force (BGF) issue and the regime's attempts to bring the ethnic cease-fire groups under its command. Naypyidaw's chief negotiator with the ethnic groups, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, is scheduled to meet on Thursday with an ethnic Wa delegation in Tangyan, a town in Shan State close to Wa territory, to discuss the military government's BGF proposal, according to sources close to the Wa. The meeting is the first between the junta and the country's largest armed ethnic group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), since February. At the previous meeting, Chinese officials, including commanders from the People’s Liberation Army, accompanied the Wa delegation, which was led by Bao Youxiang. Ye Myint, who is also chief of Burma's Military Affairs Security, met on Sunday with representatives of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), known as the Mongla Group, a cease-fire group allied to the UWSA. During the meeting, Ye Myint reportedly urged the NDAA delegation to respond positively to the BGF plan before April 22 or face repercussions by April 28. According to ethnic sources at the Sino-Burmese border, Ye Myint took a “tougher line” with the Mongla Group. It is now one year since Naypyidaw proposed the BGF plan to various ethnic cease-fire groups. The Burmese Armed soldiers from the United Wa State Army ride in a vehicle on a street in Namteuk, neighbouring China's border town of Mangka. (Photo: Reuters) government set the end of March as a further deadline, but has been unable to convince the main cease-fire groups in the region––the UWSA, the Mongla Group and the Kachin Independence Army––to agree to its terms. According to sources, the regime leaders suspended negotiations with the ethnic groups for a month while they concentrated their efforts on the election laws and marginalizing the NLD, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. On March 28, just a few days after Suu Kyi announced that she did not support the NLD registering for the election, the junta resumed talks with the NDAA. The NLD announced its decision not to register for this year's election the following day, on March 29, after a meeting of its executive committee in Rangoon.

“It is clear that the junta has turned its attention back to the cease-fire groups now that it believes it has strategically
checkmated the NLD,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese observer based on the Sino-Burmese border.

Meanwhile, Burma’s state-run media reported on Wednesday that Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming met Burma's Secretary-1 Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo in Naypyidaw on Tuesday though it did not report on the officials' agenda. However, the Chinese delegation is expected to raise concerns about the Burmese regime’s growing tensions with the ethnic cease-fire groups along its border, as well as discussing bilateral economic ties. Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian visited Naypyidaw and spoke with Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein and Tin Aung Myint Oo on August 28 during the Burmese army’s siege of the town of Laogai, which is the headquarters of the armed ethnic Kokang group known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. The following day, hundreds of Kokang fighters opposed to the BGF plan crossed the Sino-Burmese border and handed over their arms to Chinese officials. During the conflict, as many as 37,000 Kokang-Chinese villagers fled to China. Chinese businessmen lost an estimated Yuan 280 million (US $40 million) in property and trade losses during the conflict and China subsequently called for compensation. After negotiations, the Burmese authorities agreed to pay out, but only to Chinese companies that were operating legally in the area. Analysts say the Burmese army’s treatment of ethnic groups along the Sino-Burmese border in 2009 distressed Beijing and caused it to rethink its Burma policy.

“In view of the unilateral action taken by Naypyidaw that inadvertently served to upset the order in the local communities
on the Chinese border in the summer of 2009, Beijing may be compelled to conclude that when it comes to peace on its doorstep, the issues involved are not entirely 'internal' after all,” wrote Xiaolin Guo, a Sino-Burmese affairs expert, in her policy brief in December. Regarding ongoing ethnic issues, Burmese generals reportedly boasted they can conquer the armed ethnic groups easily. However, Chinese experts on Sino-Burmese issues say resolving tension with force is not so easy. Li Chenyang and Lye Liang Fook noted in their article, “China’s Policy towards Myanmar: a Successful Model for Dealing with the Myanmar Issue?” that the Sino-Burmese border is an estimated 2,204 km long with more than 40,000 ethnic militia fighters based there, but less than 300 km of the border is directly controlled by the military regime. Chenyang and Fook said that ethnic groups along the border have pursued independence or greater autonomy for a long time, which has implications for the safety and stability of southwest China.

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Nine hundred Karen refugees head home
Thursday, 01 April 2010 22:12 Kyaw Kha Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In what is ostensibly a voluntary action, 900 war refugees, who had stayed back in the two refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border, are going back home today, despite the fear of landmine explosions. An official of one of the warring groups, the ‘Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’ (DKBA) has admitted on condition of anonymity that the danger of landmine explosions in the areas where the refugees hail from, is very much real. And they are risking their lives in going back home. The Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) said the return of 785 refugees from Uthu Tha camp and 108 refugees from No Boe camp in Thar Saung Yang Township, Tak province is on a voluntary basis. “The Thai Army escorted them till the river bank but there was no one to receive them. They came here because of war in their areas, not out of choice,” KRC Secretary (1) Saya George said. The refugees are ethnic Karen people hailing from Pai Kyone and Hlaing Bwe townships in Pa-an District, Karen State. They fled to the two refugee camps because of war between KNU and the joint forces of the Burmese Army and the KNU breakaway faction, the ‘Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’ (DKBA). The number of refugees in the camps was over 2,400. An officer of the 999th Battalion of the DKBA, who wished to remain anonymous, admitted the danger of land mine explosions in the villages where the refugees hail from.

“We are aware of the return of the refugees and the landmines cannot be seen. Their lives are in their hands. Though they are our fellow ethnic Karen, under the circumstances, we cannot do anything for them,” he said. “We have to start our lives afresh but we cannot live in this crowded place,” a refugee from Pa Nwe Pu village, Pai Kyone township, who is going back home today, told Mizzima. “The hardships and difficulties compelled us to flee from our homes. If there is peace and tranquility, we would like to stay in our country. We have to flee from our homes again if war breaks out yet again. Our family has fled home three times,” another refugee said. “The Thais wish them well on their return home. The refugees want to work on their farmlands again. But KNU cannot provide any assistance to them,” Karen National Union (KNU) Vice-Chairman David Tharkapaw said. Source :

Living in a Dangerous Land
MAE SOT, Thailand—It was coming up to midday and the sun beat down through the still forest. Careful not to disturb the peace, Saw Htoo crept through carrying his bow and arrow. He had spotted a bird suitable for eating, and was fast on its trail. Suddenly, the forest sounds were disturbed by an explosion near Saw Htoo’s village, and the bird flew away. In a place where explosions can only be one thing, he raced towards the sound. He saw his two grandchildren lying on the ground. He knew right away the younger boy, five years old, was dead—the injuries were severe. His other grandchild was alive, and there was a chance to save him. On a stretcher made of bamboo, he was carried to Thailand and placed in the Mae Sot intensive care unit where he now lies bruised, bandaged and semiconscious.

“I am so devastated that this has happened, but I can’t

do anything to change the past,”Saw Htoo told The Irrawaddy, as he watched over the boy lying in a hospital bed. “I have lost one of my grandchildren, but I must do everything I can now to look after my other one.”
Karen refugees walk along a road on the Thai-Burma border in 2009. (Photo: Getty Images)

mortar shell.

The two children had gone out to play when they came across a metal object and did not recognize it as a

Not knowing what it was, they hit it with sticks until the shell exploded. Saw Htoo, not his real name, and his family were part of the mass Karen exodus from the former KNU headquarters at seventh brigade. In June 2009, when DKBA troops, led by Col Chit Thu, prepared to attack, they fled to Thailand to escape the fighting. While the fighting continued, they sought refuge in Mae U Su temporary camp on Thai soil. Soon after the DKBA had taken 7th brigade, Saw Htoo said he stopped receiving food rations and then the Thai army told him that he had to return to his home.

“We told the army that we didn’t want to go back, and we were scared of landmines but they didn’t listen. They just told us
the war was over so we have to return,” said Saw Htoo. Refugees were marched down to the river by Thai soldiers and ordered back. On the day he returned, Saw Htoo said he was immediately conscripted as a porter by the DKBA.

On Monday, the same day his grandson was killed, the last of his refugee group left the three main temporary Karen camps. Many have gone back to Burma, while some remain in Thailand. The Karen Human Rights Group reports that Noe Boh camp, which originally had 1,111 residents in November 2009 is now empty. In Mae U Su, there were 1,573 residents last November. Now there are less than 20 households, who plan to leave this week. In February, the Thai government announced that it would repatriate all the Karen refugees to Burma because hostilities have stopped. The circumstance surrounding the return of the refugees has come under heavy criticism from local NGOs and the international community. The Thai government has been criticized for involuntarily returning the refugees to a dangerous area. In an interview on Tuesday, one Karen villager said no one wanted to return to Burma.

“The people who went back yesterday, they didn't want to go back but the Thai soldiers always threaten them. So, we all
think that it is better to go back in our villages,” said a man in Oo Thu Hta camp. A local NGO worker who has monitored the situation closely said: “Numerous families told us that they are scared to leave, that their villages are not safe but they feel they have no other option and cannot stay in Thailand so they must go back to Burma. Everyone I spoke with in Noe Boh told me this, and it was the same for my colleague at Mae U Su.” Commenting on the repatriation of the refugees, Matthew Finch of KHRG, told The Irrawaddy that he believed it wasn’t voluntary, but rather the result of months of pressure on the refugees.

“Aid workers have all said the families that they have spoken with are scared to return to their villages, and they don’t
think their villages are safe but they feel they have no option to remain in Thailand, so they left.” A UN refugee group interviewed a large number of the refugees before they left the camps and reported that they all wanted to return. The main reason that most the refugees gave was that they wanted to plant seeds before the season changed. When asked if she felt that the refugees were leaving because of pressure from the Thai authorities, Kitty McKensey, a UN spokesperson, said: “It is possible that they felt under pressure, everybody knows that Thailand didn’t want them to stay.” She said the return “shouldn’t be seen as one way trip,” because they can come back to Thailand in the future. Some, she said, have probably already come back and are staying in villages around Tha Song Yang. However, Saw Htoo’s grandson will not be returning to Thailand. He died because of what many of the refugees were claiming: that their home territory is full of danger, from unexploded shells, to mine fields, to forced conscription, to firefights between opposing armies. Sitting outside the hospital bed where his injured grandson lies, Saw Htoo said the dead grandchild was buried right away. Having lived a life on the run, they were worried they would have to flee before they had time to bury him. He said there was no point waiting, because they couldn’t afford to give him a proper burial. Remembering his grandson, he said he was like a little monkey.

“He was always hunting for things and had such a creative mind. Even when they sent him to school, he would try to go
outside to explore the world.”

Source :

Junta officials meet Wa brass again
Thursday, 01 April 2010 22:06 Phanida Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The United Wa State Army (UWSA), which is still steadfastly refusing to transform its army into the junta controlled Border Guard Force (BGF), met Military Affairs Security (MAS) chief Lt. Gen. Ye Myint today in a bid to end the stalemate, it is learnt. The Wa delegation led by Bao Yo Yi, Vice-Chairman of the political wing, the United Wa State Party (UWSP) met Naypyitaw's negotiating team led by Lt. Gen. Ye Myint in Tan Yang, northern Shan State today yet again. “They (Wa) left at about 5 or 6 a.m.”, a source close to Wa said.

The junta has been desperately trying to convert the 30,000-strong force UWSA into the BGF under the direct control of the Burmese Army for about a year, but it has failed. “The regime refused to compromise on a proposal presented by Wa so the imbroglio persists. Either side needs to compromise,” Sino-Burma border based military analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw told Mizzima. The Wa will stick to its 9-point proposal where it wants to form two military regions namely Wan Hon and Pan Kham based on battalions in their area, he added. The BGF makes it mandatory to have 326 personnel of which 30 officers will be from the Burmese Army. The last meeting between Lt. Gen. Ye Myint and UWSP Chairman Bao You Chang was held in Tan Yang on 25 February this year. Despite the junta’s attempt to convert the ceasefire groups which are struggling for self-determination rights, since 28 April last year, like UWSA, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), New Mon State Pary (NMSP) and Eastern Shan State Special Region No. 4 or Meng La group are still refusing to accept junta’s proposal. In one year, junta officials have met Wa representatives at least 10 times and the KIO at least 12 times. Lt. Gen. Ye Myint met Vice-Chairman U San Luu of the 3,000-strong Meng La group in Keng Tung, headquarters of the Triangle Command on 28 March and told them to accept the proposal by April 28 or else they would be declared an unlawful association. Source :