SPDC human porters caught in line of fire

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Naw Ae Ni, Kaowao
January 13, 2011

The DKBA troop has accidently shot prisoners who were used for portering by the SPDC units on the border after fighting broke out earlier this week according to the DKBA military personnel officer from the Thailand-Burma border.

The five prisoners with their legs in shackles were carrying rations and ammunition while being used as human shields on the frontline to set off landmines. It is believed that both the SPDC and the DKBA use landmines.

“They were purposely ordered to stay close among the military soldiers in the manner of mixing,” said Saw Kyaw Thet, a DKBA military officer who heads a battalion on the frontline.

“We find it difficult to avoid shooting them because they are amongst the SPDC (soldiers). Very often they get shot along with the SPDC soldiers,” the DKBA military officer said.

“We saw some of them walking ahead of the SPDC soldiers.”

The SPDC uses many rounds of mortars in their battles against the DKBA group who recently broke away from the SPDC. The Burmese Army is fighting to clear away areas under the control of the DKBA’s military base in southern Maesot along the Thailand-Burma border. Their tactics have had some success in targeting DKBA soldiers who are hiding along the main routes waiting to ambush approaching SPDC soldiers.

The DKBA spokesperson says that they have used guerilla tactics against the SPDC columns led by Military Command Number (8) based in Karen State.  According to the DKBA, about a dozen SPDC soldiers have been wounded in this manner in which three have been killed.

At the time of reporting it is difficult to verify who and how many have been wounded on either side in recent clashes.

Two Karen youth caught in the firing line


Mi Sandar Oo, Kaowao
January 19, 2011

Three Pagodas Pass — Two Karen youth were wounded when fighting broke out between the Burmese government troops and the Karen National Union (KNU).

The fighting occurred on January 17 near a small Karen internally displaced village under the administration of the New Mon State Party along the motor road to Three Pagoda Pass, Mon State; says a Karen national to a Kaowao reporter under the condition of anonymity.

The two SPDC columns under battalion No. (406) were ambushed by the KNU battalion No. (16) near a small stream close to Hti War Doh village of Kyar-inn Seik-kyi Township in the Three Pagodas Pass area.

“The KNU soldiers had planted landmines and were waiting to ambush patrolling SPDC soldiers when the two sides opened fire on each other. “Two SPDC soldiers were killed on the spot and three were wounded,” said the man from Myine Thar Yar village who witnessed the conflict.

The man says 17-year-old Saw Sha Poung and 12-year-old Kyaung Kwut from his village were seriously wounded in the arteries of the hands and legs. The SPDC at the Three Pagoda Pass Township blocked them from receiving treatment at the International Red Cross clinic along the Thailand-Burma border.

Burmese communities hit hard by the declining value of their earnings


Kaowao News Service, Bangkok

June 19, 2011
Burmese villagers struggle to make ends meet as an increasingly stronger Burmese kyat results in less money to live on when exchanged from an ever weakening foreign currency sent to them by their families working abroad, Kaowao has learned.

Burmese 
migrant worker in Thailand

Burmese migrant worker in Thailand

Burmese migrant workers living in Thailand and abroad are resisting sending their money home to Burma due to the rise of the Burmese kyat against the US and Thai currencies.

According to Burmese money exchange trader, Chan Ong in Bangkok, the Burmese kyat is valued at K 26.75 to the Thai baht and K 780 to one US dollar.

Ong says his business is declining since most of his Burmese clients are holding out for a better rate instead of sending their earnings back home.

“The Burmese kyat was worse last week, but it bounced back a little yesterday.  It’s been like this since the collapse of the world economy three years ago,” said Nai Myint Shwe, another businessman who lives in Samut Sakhorn, a central Thai province.

There are approximately one million Burmese migrant workers in the Kingdom of Thailand employed in the 3D jobs, with approximately 200,000 working in the Thai central provinces of Samut Sakhorn and Samut Songkhram, where most are employed in the fishing and prawn export industries located near the Gulf of Thailand.

Burmese migrant workers remit a large proportion of their earnings back home to Burma, vital for their families’ survival, which in turn, boasts the local economy.

“Even though the current rate was only K 750 to one US dollar, I sent it to my parents who need it desperately back home,” said Mi Mi Win, who works in Canada.

Commodity prices in Burma have risen since the collapse of the world economy and without remittances from their families living abroad, many Burmese will face difficult times in making ends meet.

Mons Celebrate Refugee Day in Kuala Lumpur to Raise Awareness


Kaowao

June 25, 2011
Kuala Lumpur — Mon refugees celebrated the World Refugee Day in Malaysian’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, on June 18-19, 2011, organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Mon community in Malaysia

Nai Sahai Mon, the Vice-Chairman of the Mon Refugee Organization (MRO), who assists refugees and migrants, told Kaowao that the event was organized by the UNHCR to raise not only funds and awareness about the plight of refugees, but to sign up volunteers for job skills training and teaching.

“The UNHCR helped with setting up several show-rooms and provided space for fund-raising shops managed by the refugee communities who sold their wares to the public,” says Nai Sahai.

Over the 2-day celebration, the Mons performed the Mon Solo Dance, followed by a popular New Year Water Festival Dance, the Alphabet and the Courtship (Wooing) Dances.  The Mon Solo Dance was created by a Mon artist who sang about the beginning of time when the earth was first formed. According to a Mon dance teacher, Nai Min, the dance is a Brahmism creation myth when the world came into being with only one human race on planet Earth. According to oral tradition and the Mons ancestors, human beings came down from the Brahma Celestial regions and later migrated to different territories and evolved into different nationalities or ethnic groups.

With Burma being so close geographically to Malaysia, Burmese migrants make up the bulk of the refugees at roughly 92 percent. Other refugee groups hail from Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nai Sahai estimates that there are approximately 40,000 Mon in Malaysia, half of whom are refugees, the other group are migrant workers. Of those 20,000 refugees, only 3,800 are registered with the UNHCR office with another 14,500 seeking registration.  The Mons leave Burma due to human rights violations, economic hardship, and repression under the Burmese government.

Since Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention on treatment of refugees, those fleeing abuses from their home countries are often stuck in limbo with no status or human rights. Refugees, as well as illegal migrants, have no access to healthcare, education, or legal representation. Thus, the MRO steps in to assist the Mons applying for refugee status at the UNHCR office and helps Mon refugees who need medical treatment, clothing, and shelter.

Having no legal status, refugees, and both legal and illegal migrants, are given little public sympathy and government support in Malaysia. Refugees are forbidden to work legally and they and their children have no access to public healthcare and education. Despite having documentation, refugee and migrant families fear late night searches by the Malaysian authorities who round vulnerable people for deportation to the border area or other locations where they fall into traps and are sometimes handed over by unscrupulous individuals to criminal groups for exploitation.

“They look down on us . . . they don’t see us as human beings, they see refugees as criminals,” said Mi Tanda Htun, founder of Mon Women Refugee Malaysia (Melissa Goh from Asia Pacific News, June 20, 2011).

Without a secure environment and strong economy back home, Burmese migrants and refugees will continue to leave their country in large numbers in order to seek a better life abroad. Political observers in Mon State are doubtful that any serious political change will come about under the newly elected civilian government that is led by the USDA, a military backed organization, which was voted into power in Burma’s first General Election in twenty years on November 7, 2010.

Military demands cash and transport from travelers

Mi Sandar Oo, Kaowao
January 25, 2011

Three Pagodas Pass – Burmese military border guards in the Three Pagodas Pass area have been demanding both cash payments and the use of civilian vehicles to transport supplies in Mon and Karen State, according to local sources.

Vehicle owners are troubled over being stopped in areas where the ethnic armed groups, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) are planning guerrilla attacks against the ruling military regime since December, 2010.

“I saw a passenger car pulled over to the side with passengers getting out and bringing their belongings with them,” says a local witness.

“No cars are leaving Three Pagodas Pass town while the town is being occupied by soldiers in uniform.”

The drivers of the vehicles are forced to drive the car and risk their lives during ambush attacks. The vehicles being used by the military can be blown up by landmines and damaged by stray bullets when the Karen rebels open fire on the Burmese military.

“No compensation will be paid if you get wounded and your vehicle will be damaged by any attack,” says the Mon source. He added that most of the passenger vehicles are owned by Mon nationals.

According to the source from the town, the military tried to collect thirty passenger cars for carrying military rations and office equipment for the Three Pagodas Pass sub-town office during the winter season after the four month raining season.

Mons See No Change to Political Landscape after 2010 General Election


Kaowao

June 22, 2011

Ye — Since the Myanmar General Election, the first held in twenty years on November 7, 2010, civilians in Mon State are still waiting for political change to take hold inside their country under the leadership of President Thein Sein, whose party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), won the majority of seats.

Social Welfare; Nai Lawi Ong (AMDP)

According to political observers, civilians are doubtful that any serious political change will come about under a new civilian run government that is led by the USDA, a military backed organization. Nai Soe Maung from Ye, who voted for the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMDP), says, “Things are the same as before and probably are getting worse here, so to show our spirit as Mon, we voted.” Another AMDP supporter, Nai Lun from Lamaing Town, says, “I have not been disappointed, while the USDP won the election unfairly, the AMDP did gain a few seats.”

In Mon State, USDP leader, Ohn Myint, a former Brigadier General formed a new state government with nine ministers.  Two were chosen from the AMDP, Dr. Min Nwe Soe from Mudon who was appointed to act as Social Welfare and Culture Minister, and Nai Lawi Ong (aka) Colonel Myint Swe, from Ye, the Energy and Electric Power Minister.

The Mon State Parliament has thirty-one seats, fourteen from the USDP, seven from the AMDP, two from the National Unity Party (NUP), and eight military-appointed representatives.

“We met Ohn Myint and the two Mon ministers at Kamawak during a religious ceremony recently, but I came away thinking that they wouldn’t keep their election promises.  They will not help our rural community,” said Nai Ein from Hneepaday village, which is located near Thanbyu Zayat Town.

The AMDP has tried to make aware the problems in Mon State and occasionally has called on the new government for cultural rights, including the right of the ethnic groups to teach in their own languages at the government schools and to improve economic development in Mon State.

AMDP Chairman, Nai Ngwe Thein, recently told the Myanmar media that he called on the present government to create productive employment opportunities in Mon State or more people will leave the country to seek better employment due to the poor economic prospects in their home villages.

While the political situation remains unpromising, the security situation in the border areas remains bleak and continues to jeopardize any positive change to the country. Military conflict has continued unabated since the election along Myanmar’s eastern and northern border areas with the Burmese Army moving in troops and targeting unarmed civilians in the ethnic areas to counter fresh attacks by the ethnic armed groups.

Shortly after the election, the ethnic armed groups rejected orders from the Burmese government to disarm and form into border guard forces, but instead over the last six months, have intensified their rebel attacks against the Burmese Army.

The Three Pagodas Pass border town has seen an increase in guerrilla attacks against the Burmese soldiers and civilians who support the Burmese government, while in recent weeks pockets of armed conflict have broken out between the BA and the Kachin, Shan, and Karen ethnic groups in other areas along the border region.  According to local sources, the Burma Army is beginning to move in their troops to the Three Pagodas Pass area in preparation for a military campaign against the Karen armed groups.

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur, said: “The situation of ethnic minority groups in the border areas presents serious limitations to the government’s intention to transition to democracy.”

Debbie Stothard, coordinator for the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma), says a major problem with Myanmar’s political insecurity is the impunity of government officials who escape accountability for committing human rights violations. According to Amnesty International, Myanmar officials, who have committed human rights violations in the past, are granted immunity by the constitution in Article 445.

Many civilians in Mon State worry that the security situation may deteriorate even further. “The BA may decide to attack the Mon (NMSP), so we have to prepare for the worst,” said Chan Mon, a young activist from Ye.  Ye Township is the Mons strong hold area where the AMDP candidates Nai Myint Swe, Dr. Banya Aung Moe and Ms. Mi Myint Myint Than won seats.

mon in Pudu

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Mawyawaddy Navy Seizes Land in Yephyu Township

May 9th, 2011

By JALOON HTAW – Hundreds acres of rubber land and paddy farm in Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village, in Yephyu Township, Tenasserim Division, were seized by the Mawyawaddy Navy, which is based in the Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village.

Part of a rubber plantation confiscated by the Burmese Army ( Photo:IMNA )Part of a rubber plantation confiscated by the Burmese Army ( Photo:IMNA )

The Mawyawaddy navy is under the control of the Mawyawaddy Regional Command, based in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State.

Villagers from Kywe Thone Nyi Ma explained that the navy began measuring the village’s land in February, and put small poles over certain areas to show that those areas had become the navy’s.

The land seized was seven miles in length and four miles in width, including both rubber plantation and paddy farms.

Speaking to the Independent Mon News Agency, a victim of land seizure said that 8 acres of rubber trees and 18 acres of cashew nut plants were seized from him.

“They seized all the land that I have. We do not dare say anything because we are afraid of them [the navy]. The current price of all my rubber plants is 30 million kyat [$37,500 U.S.],” he said.

“We heard that about 6,000 rubber plants were confiscated to build military barracks,” said Awe Mon, coordinator for the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, an NGO which documents human rights abuses in Burma.

Sources from the village explained that some land owners had just bought their rubber plants recently and now that they have been confiscated, leaving landowners depressed over their land loss.

Those who lost their land are now unemployed. Some have moved to Ye Township while others have sought work in Thailand, explained a Ye Township resident, who recently arrived at the Burmese border.

“About 15 people arrived in Ye Township, and 20 people went to work in Thailand. They told me they did not have jobs after their land was confiscated,” the source said.

Land confiscation is a common occurrence in Mon State, where many farmers have experienced confiscation of their land with no payment. Land confiscation has been documented repeatedly in HURFOM’s monthly online report, called The Mon Forum.

Myanmar censorship chief ‘calls for press freedom’

AFP – Sat, Oct 8, 2011

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  • Yangon residents are seen here reading local newspapers. The head of Myanmar's repressive state censorship body has called for press freedom in the army-dominated country -- even suggesting his own department should be shut down, according to a report. (AFP Photo/)Yangon residents are seen here reading local newspapers. The head of Myanmar’s repressive …

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The head of Myanmar’s repressive state censorship body has called for press freedom in the army-dominated country — even suggesting his own department should be shut down, according to a report.

Tint Swe, director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Department set up more than four decades ago, told Radio Free Asia that censorship should cease as part of reforms under the new nominally civilian government.

“Press censorship is non-existent in most other countries as well as among our neighbours and as it is not in harmony with democratic practices, press censorship should be abolished in the near future,” he said in an interview.

But he added that newspapers and other publications should accept press freedom with responsibilities.

He also said newspapers were being allowed to publish reports on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released shortly after last November’s election, without restrictions that were previously imposed.

“There are no restrictions now on coverage for Aung San Suu Kyi’s activities and more freedom is expected in the near future as the country undergoes democratic change,” he told the broadcasting corporation.

Since the new administration came to power in March after controversial November elections, Myanmar has announced a slight easing of strict censorship rules for some publications, whilst keeping a tight grip on news titles.

Publishers were told in June that sports journals, entertainment magazines, fairytales and the winning lottery numbers would not need to have prior approval from the information ministry before they are printed.

But the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said last month that Myanmar’s media remained among the world’s most restricted, calling for an end to “draconian” reporting laws and for the freeing of jailed journalists.

The CPJ said the new regime had done little to ease restrictions, while two journalists have been given lengthy jail sentences since the election.

In September, Myanmar’s Internet users were able to see banned media websites for the first time, including the BBC and exiled media organisations such as the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

But the move, which was not officially announced, came in the same week that a court added an extra decade to the sentence of a journalist jailed over his work for DVB. He now faces 18 years in prison.

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