New York Times – An Election Not Worthy of Support
AP – Myanmar courts sentence activists, monk to jail
AFP – Myanmar to free Suu Kyi days after election: officials
MCOT News – Thai PM to visit Myanmar after Nov 7 general election: FM Kasit
Asian Correspondent – Will Aung San Suu Kyi free beyond doubt after elections?
Indiana’s NewsCenter – Burmese Cultural Event Reversing Negative Stereotypes
E-Pao.net – Ten UGs, 2 Myanmar nationals nabbed
VOA News – China Endorses Burma Elections
Xinhua – Chinese culture experience center opens in Yangon
The Jakarta Post – Regional efforts needed to push for democracy
CNA – ASEAN ministers raise concerns over economic and democracy developments
Asahi Shimbun – Refugees to face a high wall for settling in Japan
The Irrawaddy – Ethnic Campaign Ads Censored
The Irrawaddy – In Burma’s Public Hospitals, You Get What You Pay For
The Irrawaddy – Tay Za’s Son Takes Sanctions Case to Court of Justice
The Irrawaddy – Junta-backed USDP Campaigning through Nargis Projects
Mizzima News – Student unions condemn ‘unlawful’ arrest of activists urging poll boycott
Mizzima News – Pegu official’s office bombed
DVB News – Relations sour between pro-junta parties
DVB News – Forced labour dashes Rohingya elections hope
New York Times – An Election Not Worthy of Support
Published: September 30, 2010

YANGON, MYANMAR — Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently said the world must exercise “utmost vigilance” to ensure the approaching elections in Myanmar (Burma) are free and fair.

We are disappointed in such comments, which focus on the election as something important for our country, as something worth waiting and watching for, although this election is not the solution for Burma.

The elections, scheduled for Nov. 7, are designed to legalize military rule in Burma under the 2008 constitution, which was written to create a permanent military dictatorship in our country.

After the election, the constitution will come into effect, a so-called civilian government will be formed by acting and retired generals who all are under the military commander-in-chief, and the people of Burma will legally become the subjects of the military.

Our party, the National League for Democracy, and our ethnic allies have refused to accept the regime’s constitution and have decided to boycott the elections. The military regime’s constitution and severely restricting election laws demonstrated to all of us the true intention the regime has for this election — the legalization and legitimization of military rule in our country.

We refuse to abandon our aspirations for democracy in Burma and give the regime the legitimacy it wants for its elections. With millions of people of Burma supporting our position, we hoped the international community would understand the regime’s intentions as clearly as we do and pressure the regime to stop its unilateral and undemocratic process.

Until recently, the United Nations demanded the regime commit itself to an all-parties inclusive, participatory, free and fair process through political dialogue with democratic opposition and representatives of ethnic minorities. But now an important phrase — “all-parties inclusive” — is surprisingly excluded from their statements and speeches.

Although Ms. Pillay urged the world to exercise “utmost vigilance,” there is no need to wait until the Election Day to make a judgment. The election commission was appointed by the regime and filled with loyalists who unilaterally decided that many candidates are ineligible to run. The electoral laws and by-laws impose severe restrictions on political parties.

Thousands of political prisoners — including our leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — are not allowed to participate in the election or be members of the parties.

The regime’s prime minister and cabinet ministers have switched to civilian dress, transformed their mass organization into their political party, and are campaigning with the use of state properties, resources, funds and threats. The election commission is shamelessly violating its own rules in favor of the prime minister’s party and other proxy parties of the regime.

Is it really necessary for the international community to wait until election day to see whether the elections are free and fair?

Unfortunately, some European countries are not only watching the regime’s elections, but also supporting them. They discussed with us their belief that the election is the only game in town, and suggested that we, the National League for Democracy, should participate.

When we explained our rationale for not legitimizing military rule, they turned to others and now help them to make their way in the regime’s election game. They have gone so far as to help pro-regime academics and opportunists travel to Europe to promote the regime’s election and gather support for their favorite parties.

Even though some democratic parties have European support, their chances of winning seats in the election are very slim, as more restrictions on their campaign activities are revealed each day. The regime is determined to capture almost all of the contested seats in the national and state parliaments by use of fraud and threats.

With 25 percent of the seats in Parliament reserved for the military, it is more and more clear that almost all the seats will be controlled by the military and its cronies. Even if some lucky candidates get elected, they will have no authority to promote change. The Parliament has no power to form the government, no authority to legislate military affairs, and no right to reject the president’s appointees and budget.

One might ask what is the solution, if it is not the election. It is dialogue, which we have been calling for for many years. Meaningful political dialogue between the military, the National League for Democracy led by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic representatives is the only way to solve problems in Burma peacefully.

The military has no desire to talk. But if the international community seriously exercises strong and effective pressure on the regime, the combination of pressure from outside and peaceful resistance inside the country will force the regime to come to the dialogue table.

I wish that our friends in Europe would abandon their dream of expecting something impossible from the election, and start taking serious action against the regime with the aim of starting a dialogue. They should begin by creating a U.N. commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Burma.

Win Tin is a founder of Burma’s National League for Democracy party and a member of its central executive committee. He was a political prisoner from 1989 to 2008.

Myanmar courts sentence activists, monk to jail
2 hrs 30 mins ago

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Courts in military-ruled Myanmar have given long prison sentences to 13 people, including a Buddhist monk, who were accused of planning bombings and other activities to disrupt upcoming elections, lawyers said Thursday.

The sentencing is the first major crackdown on dissent since campaigning officially began last week for the Nov. 7 general elections, the first in 20 years. The ruling junta is eager to promote the polls as a key step in a return to democracy after almost four decades of military rule.

However, many opposition activists are already in jail or in exile, and critics say the election rules are unfair and undemocratic. Detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, which won a landslide victory in the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power by the military, has decided to boycott this year’s vote.

Lawyer Myint Thaung said a special court inside Yangon’s Insein prison sentenced a group of 12 people, including one woman, to prison sentences ranging from five to 23 years. He said authorities accused them of planning bombings and activities to disrupt the elections, but they were convicted on other charges including immigration law violations, links with illegal organizations and possession of arms.

Another lawyer, Khin Htay Kywe, said the monk, identified as Okkantha, was sentenced by a separate court to 15 years in prison for alleged anti-election activities and links to illegal opposition groups.

Myint Thaung said many of his clients were unfairly charged and “there was no proof” that they were planning bombings.

He said they are carpenters and construction workers who were arrested in January after a construction site boss, Kyaw Zin Lin, was arrested for allegedly planning bombings on the outskirts of Yangon.

Okkantha, a monk belonging to the ethnic Mon minority, was arrested in January in southeastern Myanmar and was charged with violating the Electronic Act, Printing and Publishing law and disrupting peace and tranquility, his lawyer said. The Electronic Act, Printing and Publishing law is a catchall statute that can be used against people who disseminate information that the government doesn’t like.

“Authorities said they seized some leaflets that called for the release of political prisoners before the elections and were against the 2008 constitution. Authorities also seized a computer and camera and accused the monk of sending photos to the Mon News Agency,” Khin Htay Kywe said.

The Mon News Agency is an opposition news service that operates on the border with Thailand. The constitution was written under military supervision and ensures that the army will control a large number of seats in the new parliament.

Also Thursday, a student exile group, the All Burma Federation of Student Union, condemned the arrest of six student activists who had called for a boycott of the elections, according to Mizzima, an opposition website also run by exiles.

An official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide information to the media confirmed that six university students were arrested earlier this month for distributing anti-government leaflets.

Myanmar to free Suu Kyi days after election: officials
2 hrs 35 mins ago

YANGON (AFP) – Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will be released in November just days after Myanmar’s first election in two decades, officials said Thursday.

The Nobel Peace laureate, who has been detained for most of the last twenty years since winning the country’s last poll in 1990, will be freed when her current house arrest expires on November 13, the unnamed sources said.

“November will be an important and busy month for us because of the election and because of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release,” a Myanmar official told AFP, noting the release would come soon after the country’s November 7 vote.

A second Myanmar official, who also declined to be named, confirmed the date, adding “she will be released on that day according to the law.”

Neither Suu Kyi nor her National League for Democracy (NLD) party will participate in the upcoming vote, which opponents have dismissed as a sham aimed at hiding military power behind a civilian facade.

Uncertainty over whether the military regime will indeed release the 65-year-old, known reverently among Myanmar’s people as “The Lady”, will remain until the moment she appears in public.

The junta, humiliated by its crashing defeat in the last election, has prolonged Suu Kyi’s confinement almost continuously ever since.

She has been detained since May 2003 and has only enjoyed fleeting periods of freedom since 1990.

Thailand-based analyst Aung Naing Oo said any release would come with conditions and she “won’t be free to go out”.

“It’s a military dictatorship. No matter what the legal background of the issue — if they don’t want to release her, she won’t be released,” he said. “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Suu Kyi’s current spell of detention stems from her imprisonment in May last year — just days before a previous period of house arrest came to an end — due to a bizarre incident in which an American swam to her lakeside home.

She was initially given three years in jail and hard labour but was returned to her crumbling family home in August 2009 after her sentence was commuted to one and a half years’ house arrest by junta leader Than Shwe.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer Nyan Win said the period of detention started with her imprisonment on May 14 and authorities would have to release her in November because “there is no law to extend her house arrest”.

“So far we have no plan in advance for her release date. We will do and follow whatever she asks for. We are waiting for that day,” Nyan Win added.

Government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar recently warned an unnamed party — thought to be the NLD — to drop protests against its dissolution, and threatened jail for anyone impeding the upcoming vote.

The party was disbanded after it opted to boycott the election in response to rules barring serving prisoners — like Suu Kyi and other members — from standing.

A UN ministerial group has said that the election will not be credible unless military rulers release Suu Kyi and other opposition detainees.

But on Tuesday Myanmar’s foreign minister Nyan Win rejected international criticism, insisting that the junta is committed to a “free and fair” vote.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and the generals have stacked the cards in their favour for the poll.

A new constitution, which comes into force with the election, ring-fences a quarter of the legislature for the army, while junta-friendly parties are seen as having a major advantage in the contest for the remaining seats.

Opposition parties face formidable hurdles, including a fee of 500 dollars per candidate — the equivalent of several months’ wages for most people.

The National Democratic Force (NDF), a breakaway opposition party created by former NLD members, is among those planning to contest the vote, a decision that put it at odds with Suu Kyi, who favoured a boycott.

Asian Correspondent – Will Aung San Suu Kyi free beyond doubt after elections?
Sep. 30 2010 – 10:58 pm

Zin Linn

The Nobel Peace laureate and Democracy Icon Aung San Suu Kyi will be released just days after Burma/Myanmar’s first election in two decades, officials said on 30 September (Thursday), Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported from Rangoon.

The Nobel Peace laureate, who has been detained for most of the last twenty years since winning the country’s last general election, will be freed when her current term of house arrest expires on November 13, the unidentified sources said.

‘November will be an important and busy month for us because of the election and because of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release,’ a official in Rangoon told AFP, noting the release would come soon after the country’s November 7 poll. A second Myanmar official, who also declined to be named, confirmed the release date, adding ‘she will be released on that day according to the law’.

Neither Ms Suu Kyi nor her National League for Democracy (NLD) party will play a part in the first poll since their 1990 victory and the vote has been dismissed as a sham aimed at prolonging military power behind a civilian appearance.

Actually, the planned elections controlled by the military authorities have lots of flaws including the forming and campaigning of the junta-backed USDP. The worst of all is stop-working to take care of the result of the 1990 elections in which NLD won landslide. In accordance with the respective law point, the incumbent junta has broken not only the people’s mandate but the parliamentarians’ rights and responsibilities.

According to some critics, the NLD headed by Aung San Suu Kyi supports the 1947 Panglong Agreement and self-determination for every ethnic nationality while the military regime strongly opposed it. Thus, various ethnic leaders underlined that they don’t have confidence in the new 2008 constitution, which will not generate a genuine democratic federal union by any means.

Meanwhile, central executive committee of major opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has decided to publicly boycott the Nov 7-Election, according to a party spokesman. The decision was made on the 19-August meeting attended by leading party members at the residence of NLD vice chairman Tin Oo in Rangoon. The NLD decided to boycott the election because the 2008 Constitution and the election commission’s electoral laws do not guarantee democracy and human rights in Burma.

Recently, The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed mounting “frustration” with the junta, which has blocked Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and other opponents from standing in the election.

Although the news of release of the Lady came out, citizens are still daren’t believe the whispered news.

They do not easily forget the junta’s crimes including the assassination attack on the Lady and her supporters at Dapeyin on 30 May, 2003 in which nearly hundred NLD supporters killed by the junta-backed USDA or present USDP.

MCOT News – Thai PM to visit Myanmar after Nov 7 general election: FM Kasit

NEW YORK, Sept 30 — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is scheduled to visit the neighbouring country of Myanmar after its general election on Nov 7, aiming to acknowledge its post-election policy and to hold talks with officials about the continued Thai-Myanmar border closure, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya, in New York for the annual UN General Assembly.

The minister said that as a result of the planned official visit, the prime minister will directly receive Myanmar’s administrative strategy from its leaders after the completion of its first general election in two decades on Nov 7.

Mr Kasit added it is a good opportunity to express the international community’s concern over the continued detention of Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu kyi and other jailed opposition politicians as well as minority groups.

Meanwhile, the premier planned to negotiate with the Myanmar authorities about the ongoing Mae Sot-Myawaddy border closure in Tak province since July 12 that has jeopardised border trade between the two countries.

The foreign minister also said that bilateral cooperation to improve its transportation network connecting the two countries, customs clearance procedures and a follow-up about transportation construction projects financially supported by Thailand were other agenda items on the prime minister’s official visit.

As Myanmar begins more free trade plans and would like private sectors to succeed some jobs from the Myanmar’s state enterprise, the Thai government needs to acknowledge related measures, aiming to inform Thai private sectors interested in investing in the neighbouring country, Mr Kasit explained.

Earlier, the Thai premier’s trip to Myanmar was first scheduled in July a year ago but was delayed as it coincided with the incident in which an American man swam across the lake to the home of pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi, who is confined under house arrest.

The planned visit to Myanmar in August was again postponed due to demanding schedules on the part between the leaders of the two countries. (MCOT online news)

Indiana’s NewsCenter – Burmese Cultural Event Reversing Negative Stereotypes
By John W. Davis
September 29, 2010

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Integrating into American culture.

That was one of the topics at the Burmese Cultural Event held Wednesday night at the Allen County Public Library.

Imagine not knowing English or basic American customs.

That is the reality for a lot of Burmese refugees that live in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

However, Burmese leaders believe the integration process is a two-way street.

The event was hosted by the Burmese Advocacy Center.

The goal was to teach Fort Wayne residents about Burmese culture.

One of the speakers was Hau Len Thang.

Thang moved to the United States with his family 13 years ago, on July 4th, 1997.

The 25-year-old has spent seven years in the National Guard, including two tours of duty in Iraq and one in South Korea near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

He said inter grating into American culture was hard when he was teenager, especially with the stigma that all Burmese are dirty and unsophisticated.

Thang said to cope he became friends with Vietnamese children who shared similar integration struggles.

However, Thang believes that Burmese refugees must take an active role to reverse the negative stereotypes that surround Burmese Americans.

“They need to realize that this is not Burma. They need to realize that there is rules and regulation that every citizen, every individual has to follow. So they gotta follow the rules, and educate themselves,” said National Guard Soldier & IPFW ROTC Student Hau Len Thang.

“Arriving here is not the end. There is more to learn, there is more to improve, to a better life for yourself and for your generation to come,” said Thang.

Palermo Galindo is the Hispanic & Immigrant Liaison for the City of Fort Wayne.

Galindo, an immigrant himself, agrees that education is the key.

“Learning the language. Integrating to the community at-large is the best way to become productive citizen(s),” said Galindo.

The motivation for Wednesday night’s cultural event was the Ricker’s Laundry incident that occurred back in March, 2010.

Ricker’s put up a sign that said No Burmese Allowed after Burmese Customers were seen spitting on the floor.

Ricker’s later apologized, and paid $2,500 dollars to fund a Burmese cultural education series.

E-Pao.net – Ten UGs, 2 Myanmar nationals nabbed
Source: Hueiyen News Service

Imphal, September 29 2010: Ten underground cadres and two Myanmar nationals were apprehended by police commandos and security forces in their continuing counter insurgency operations launched in different parts of the state.

Imphal west senior SP, L Kailun, in a statement, said that seven cadres, four belonging to PLA, two to KYKL and one PREPAK involved in extortions were apprehended by Imphal West Police Commandos in joint operations with troops of 26 and 28 Assam Rifles in the last two days.

PLA cadres, Mayanglambam Shamungou (44) of Kyamgei, Yambem Narayan (50) of Kakching, Soyam Chaoba (44) of Sega Road Khwairakpam Leikai and Thangjam Romen (42) of Pungdongbam Mayai Leikai were nabbed yesterday (Tuesday) from two separate places by the combined team, the senior SP said.

The first two were nabbed from Kyamgei Pal Ahanbi at about 8 am.

On spot verification police came to know that they had extorted huge amounts of money from the general public, various government departments and private schools as ‘party fund’ for the PLA.

Two mobile handsets were seized from them.

The other two PLA cadres Chaoba and Romen were nabbed around 2.30 pm in a follow up action based on disclosures made by the two cadres nabbed earlier.

On questioning, police came to know that they had also extorted huge amounts of money from businessmen, various government departments for their ‘party fund’.

They were working under the command of one Rombus of PLA.

Two mobile handsets were also seized from them.

Three more cadres, two KYKL and one PREPAK were also nabbed by the same combined force in other separate operations.

The two KYKL cadres were identified as Naorem Arun @ Karou (23) of Moidangpokpi Mayai Leika and Angousana (28) of same locality while the PREPAK cadre was identified as Meisnam Kuber (34) of Kangpal Laishram Leikai.

The two KYKL cadres were also involved in extortion of money from the general public of Patsoi and Lamshang area under the command of one Yambung @ Malemnganba.

One Smith (Wesson) pistol along with a magazine loaded with six rounds was seized from KYKL cadre Arun while one AK-56 rifle (Made in China) with a magazine and two live rounds were seized from the PREPAK cadre, the Senior SP added.

Two PREPAK overground workers involved in extorting money from the general public were also nabbed by troops of 33 Assam Rifles today.

They were identified as H Ranjit alias Basant (21) son of H Chandra of Chandapur Mamang Sabal of Bishnupur district and Kh Abung alias Mangan (29) son of Sanathomba of Kumbi Mayai Leikai of the same district.

They had been involved in carrying out extortions and ‘tax collections’ for the PREPAK.

The OGWs have been handed over to Moirang Police Station.

A combined team of 28 Assam Rifles and 12 Maratha Li apprehended one PULF (Umar Farooq) cadre yesterday at about 12.15 pm in a operation at Canchipur area.

He was identified as Abdul Karim alias Itombi (58) son of late Md Amok of Phoubakchao.

A 9mm pistol with a magazine containing four live rounds, a license of a SBBL gun and a mobile handset (Nokia) were recovered from him, a statement of the IGAR (S) said.

In yet another action troops of 29 Assam Rifles posted at Tengnoupal on the Imphal-Moreh section of NH-39 apprehended two Myanmar nationals around 4.30 pm yesterday.

They were travelling without valid documents in a Maruti Van bearing registration no.MN 01 W-8965 plying the Imphal to Moreh route.

On interrogation they were found to be Myanmar nationals and were identified as Usman Goni (20) son of Hamit Hussain of Chokto village under Thama police station of Myanmar and Md Saleem (18) son of Md Noor of same village.

A wallet, three photographs and `110 in cash were recovered from them.

The two along with the recovered items were handed over to Tengnoupal Police Station, the statement added.

VOA News – China Endorses Burma Elections
Peter Simpson | Beijing 30 September 2010

As Burma prepares for its first election in 20 years, it is getting strong backing from neighboring China. Regional political analysts say Beijing’s goal is ensure stability along its border.

Beijing is one of the few nations endorsing Burma’s elections next month.

Burma’s military government says the elections, the first in 20 years, are central to its path to democracy and civilian rule. But critics, including the United States, consider the November 7 vote to be flawed and designed to ensure that the military remains in control.

International Crisis Group’s report

The International Crisis Group in a recent report said China’s top concern is not democracy, but security along the 2,200-kilometer border it shares with Burma.

A year ago, tens of thousands of refugees flooded across the border because of a Burmese military offensive into the mainly ethnic Chinese area of Kokang, in northeast Shan state.

Beijing was forced to deploy its own troops to stabilize the region.

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt is the Northeast Asia Project director for the International Crisis Group, says Beijing was caught off guard.

“Beijing did not think that the neighbor was really going to go in and undertake a military intervention. And also Beijing was surprised because it was not sufficiently warned by its officials down on the border,” she said.

Ahlbrandt says Beijing has since become more closely engaged with General Than Shwe, Burma’s leader.

Chinese investment

According to the International Crisis Group’s report, this has not changed China’s deteriorating image among most people in Burma.

The report says some of China’s large energy investments have fostered discontent.

Beijing is Burma’s third-biggest trade partner after Thailand and Singapore.

But the report says many Burmese are unhappy with Chinese companies in their country, because of a lack of transparency, disregard for the environment and the unfair distribution of benefits.

In April 2009, three bombs exploded close to a Chinese-built dam in northern Burma’s Kachin state.

Some experts in China’s foreign relations think the blasts were prompted by resentment toward Chinese businesses.

The role of economy

Zhang Xudong, a professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, says that the Burmese resentment in the area is a result an economic imbalance.

He says most of the big businesses in Burma are run by Chinese companies and the Burmese rarely reap the benefits from China’s vast profits.

Zhang also says many of the Chinese working in Burma are unfamiliar with the local culture.

He thinks this creates misunderstandings, which are further inflamed by the Burmese leadership’s policies towards minorities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected the Crisis Group’s findings, saying the trade with Burma benefits both sides equally. Jiang says her government always urges Chinese companies to abide by local laws and regulations, and to pay attention to environmental protection and local traditions.

Critics of Beijing’s policy say China believes that its economic interests in Burma depend on stability, especially among ethnic groups in the border areas.

But earlier in September, the sensitive border areas again fell under the spotlight and are worrying Beijing.

Burma’s government said it would not set up polling stations in some ethnic communities.

Albrandt says Beijing is now taking a risk by openly supporting the poll.

“At the end of the day this is all a very volatile mix for risk-adverse Beijing,” said Albrandt. “I think that China is looking toward elections that can provide legitimacy to these elections and the fact that you do not have ethnic groups participating is going to make that very difficult.”

Seat allocation in Burma’s parliament

Under Burma’s new constitution, 25 percent the seats in parliament are reserved for the military. The country’s election laws, announced earlier this year, barred anyone with a criminal conviction from participating in the election, and required political parties to expel members who are in prison or under detention.

Members of the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma, hold posters of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, in Hong Kong, 27 Sep 2010.

That included the National League for Democracy, Burma’s major opposition group. Its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for most of the past 20 years. The NLD won the country’s last elections, in 1990, but the military never allowed it to take power.

The NLD refused to kick out Aung San Suu Kyi and the government said it had to disband.

A United Nations ministerial group recently urged Burma’s government to release political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and to include all groups to make the elections credible. China was part of that group.

Chinese culture experience center opens in Yangon
English.news.cn 2010-09-30 14:59:07

YANGON, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) — A center to experience Chinese culture for Chinese language learners was opened in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar on Thursday.

Culture counselor of Chinese embassy to Myanmar Gao hua, leaders of overseas Chinese society and Chinese language learners attended the opening ceremony.

The center, which features a wide range of exhibits such as the style of Chinese handwriting, Chinese art works including artifacts and Beijing operas are being showed through TV as well as books on Chinese culture are also displayed at the center.

The center organizer told Xinhua that the event will help culture understanding between the two countries, boost Sino- Myanmar friendly relation and make sure that the learners of Chinese language understand the essence of Chinese culture more easily.

A number of audiences joined the ceremony and of which an older audience said that the center is very beneficial and worthwhile for young people.

The Jakarta Post – Regional efforts needed to push for democracy
Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 09/30/2010 9:26 AM | Headlines

All eyes are now turned to Indonesia as one of the few countries in the region believed to be capable of taking the lead in helping bring about change in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Experts and Myanmarese activists agreed during a discussion here on Wednesday that Indonesia, which would chair ASEAN next year, should use its chairmanship to form an agenda on Myanmar, which was scheduled to conduct widely anticipated elections in November.

They also said that through ASEAN, Indonesia should ask for assistance from China and India to put more pressure on the military rulers in Myanmar.

China and India, which have interests in Myanmar’s energy resources, choose to keep silent over the lack of democracy and the human rights abuses in the restive country, despite international expectations of their participation in concerted efforts to uphold democracy in Myanmar.

“I believe it’s important for Indonesia to invite other ASEAN countries to form ASEAN’s [strategy] to push for change and democracy in Burma,” Centre for Strategic and International Studies executive director Rizal Sukma said during a dialogue organized by KBR68H radio’s international news program Asia Calling.

Such an agenda, he said, was reasonable as Myanmar had been a thorny issue for ASEAN’s internal performance and in ASEAN’s relationship with the rest of the world.

Rizal said the time was ideal for Indonesia — whose “high profile is on the rise” as claimed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — to conduct public advocacy campaigns and invite all elements in Indonesia and other ASEAN countries to help the Burmese people.

He added that ASEAN’s policy of non-interference was expected to be more flexible in this matter, citing an example in 2008 when Myanmar was hit by Cyclone Nargis.

He said the government  allowed in global aid packages after being persuaded by Indonesia.

However, Rizal said, it would be hard to involve China and India in efforts to bring the country to democracy because they feared that a transitional period in Myanmar would be followed by instability, which would hurt their business interests.

Burma Partnership coordinator Khin Ohmar said there were some problems in expecting China and India to join pro-democracy efforts.

“Over the years we see all these players play each other. Why does ASEAN have to do something about Burma, where is China? China has to do something about it. And [finally] no body wants to take the lead,” she said.

“China is not going to start no matter what. China will probably come to us if it sees [the efforts] as a strategic partnership, like the [one] it has with Indonesia [who is] China’s strategic partner politically and economically.”

Indonesia and other countries, Ohmar said, would probably need to have a “very aggressive diplomatic engagement” in dealing with Myanmar’s rulers.

“We can’t just have an engagement to appease the regime. We have to really hit hard on that door,” she said.

“Indonesia has to tell them, ‘look, we’re not going to recognize your election or the results of the election. If you do this, we will [take certain measures]’.”

Channel News Asia – ASEAN ministers raise concerns over economic and democracy developments
By Natalie Carney | Posted: 29 September 2010 1523 hrs

NEW YORK: ASEAN foreign ministers on Wednesday touched on economic and democracy developments at the 65th United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo opened his address to the General Assembly highlighting fears of economic imbalances in Asia.

“Without fundamental restructuring, increased liquidity in a global system, we’ll end up creating new asset bubbles some of which we already see forming in Asia. For this restructuring to take place – the international trading system must be kept open – only then can markets make the adjustment and prices find the right levels.”

Mr Yeo also stressed the need to spread education by advancing technologies, which he called the key to sustainable and successful development.

“Taking full advantage of globalization and technology, we can now spread education to the most remote parts of the world.” With education, a citizen is more able to insist on democratic safeguards against abuse of power and corruption,” said Mr Yeo.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military government responded to calls from UN and ASEAN leaders for transparency at the upcoming November general elections.

Nyan Win, Myanmar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: “Whatever the challenges facing us, we are committed to do our best for the successful holding of the free and fair general elections for the best interest of the country and its people.”

Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa also focused on democracy as he highlighted tolerance and mutual respect among cultures, religions, faiths and civilizations.

“As the world’s third largest democracy, Indonesia is proof that Islam, democracy and modernization can go hand in hand. It is an endless journey. It must keep evolving to remain capable of addressing new challenges.”

Asian regional issues such as the Chinese currency debate, Myanmar elections and North Korea’s leadership succession, are set to move towards the top of the global agenda.

Other highlights include key East Asian summits to be attended by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama’s first official visit to Indonesia.

Refugees to face a high wall for settling in Japan

Arrangements to support the 18 refugees from Myanmar (Burma) who arrived in Japan on Tuesday as part of a UNHCR third-country resettlement program are flawed and may leave them unable to establish normal lives in Japan, according to refugee support workers.

The 18 refugees from three families–all members of the minority Karen tribe–are the first of about 90 refugees due to relocate in Japan under the U.N. refugee agency’s resettlement program.

On their arrival at Narita Airport on Tuesday morning, the refugees looked surprised to see photographers in the arrival lobby.

“I am happy to be in Japan, rather than feeling anxiety,” one woman said.

They will live in Tokyo and undergo a crash six-month course on living in Japan that officials hope will equip them for a lifestyle that is profoundly different from the one they left behind.

During the first week, they will learn how to use a gas range, electric appliances and garbage disposal rules.

They will then embark on intensive language education and life skills training.

The Refugee Assistance Headquarters, which is affiliated with the Foreign Ministry, will be in charge of the training. At the end of the six months, the refugees will essentially be left to their own devices. They will have to find their own housing and will be expected to secure employment.

Hiroko Sakurai, who heads the nonprofit organization Association for Supporting Refugees’ Settlement in Kanagawa Prefecture, said six months of Japanese language training is not sufficient.

“Unless they speak Japanese, they can’t get a job,” said Sakurai. “Stumbling at the beginning could be a start of a vicious circle–unable to communicate, unable to find a job and unable to make a living.”

It is a job of the welfare ministry to offer or introduce jobs. Two counselors from the ministry will work at the facility where the refugees are staying.

But welfare ministry officials say that opportunities for the refugees to access job training may be limited. After the resettlement program finishes, many refugees may find it difficult to find appropriate professional training, the officials said. There are no job training programs aimed specifically at refugees.

Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, which is home to 1,200 Burmese, has a six-month training program for foreign residents.

Despite the ward’s willingness to help with the government’s refugee program, one official said the central government had shown little understanding of the municipal government’s processes.

The ward office said it received a request from the ministry for help in July. The Refugee Assistance Headquarters began looking for a place for the refugees to live and only secured the accommodation on Sept. 16, just two weeks before the refugees arrived.

A citizens group in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, volunteered to host the refugees during their resettlement and started to organize a symposium on refugees. However, a city official complained that the ministry did not provide detailed information.

Eri Ishikawa, secretary-general of the Japan Association for Refugees, said the government, support organizations and refugees already settled in Japan should have discussed the issue together before the refugees arrived.

The Irrawaddy – Ethnic Campaign Ads Censored
By LAWI WENG –  Thursday, September 30, 2010

Burma’s Union Election Commission (EC) has censored campaign ads submitted by ethnic political parties that make reference to a federal union in Burma, several ethnic leaders have told The Irrawaddy.

The campaign ads—which can be no longer than 15 minutes air time in length—must be submitted to the EC for approval before they are broadcast on radio or TV.

Nai Ngwe Thein, the party chairman of the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMRDP), said, “Two phrases from our script were deleted—“genuine union” and “narrow-minded nationalism.”

He said he believes the Burmese junta disapproves of federalism and is censoring any mention of it.

A representative of the Shan Nationals Democratic Party (SNDP) said that six sentences from the party’s campaign script, which refered to the the 1947 Panglong Agreement, were deleted by the EC.

SNDP Secretary Sai Hla Kyaw said, “They deleted the words ‘Panglong Agreement,’ which was signed in 1947 by ethnic and Burman leaders, and proposed a multi-ethnic union with equal rights for ethnic minority groups.

“We want to tell our people about the Panglong Agreement,” he added. “But the regime will not let us.”

Each of the 37 political parties approved by the EC to contest the Nov. 7 election are allowed one 15-minute advertisement on state-run radio and television, but must submit the script for their campaign ad to the EC for approval seven days before broadcasting.

Political parties whose ads are rejected may revise them and resubmit them, but must submit them in person at the EC headquarters in Naypyidaw, which the ethnic leaders say is costly and time-consuming.

“It takes a lot of time to write a campaign ad,” said Sai Hla Kyaw. “We take care not to write anything inflammatory or anything we suspect the EC will censor. If our ad is rejected and we have to submit it a second time, it means a long trip to Napyidaw. It is too far for us.”

Thu Wai, the chairman of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), confirmed that his party’s election campaign ad was rejected by the EC in the second week of September, and that the party had until Sept. 23 to submit a revised script to the EC in Naypyidaw, but was unable to comply.

Burma state-run television and radio started broadcasting party campaign ads on Sept. 26. Ads for two ethnic political parties, the AMRDP and the Taaung (Pa Laung) National Party, were broadcast on TV on Wednesday.

The Irrawaddy – In Burma’s Public Hospitals, You Get What You Pay For
By HSAT LINN – Thursday, September 30, 2010

RANGOON — “Where’s the patient’s relative? Where is she?”

It’s the voice of a female duty doctor who appears to be around 25 years old. There is a male patient, about 50 years old, lying in bed No. 12 in Ward No. 12 of the Rangoon General Hospital.

Ward No. 12 is for patients with diseases affecting the lungs, liver, kidney and stomach.

“When a patient’s relatives can’t afford medical expenses, they just leave their relative and sneak out of the hospital. How can we treat them without medicine?” said the angry young doctor before she turned and walked away.

A signboard near the entrance to Ward No. 12, read: “Share expenses for health” The ward is hopelessly overcrowded with patients, who line both sides of the hallway. The floor of the ward and many bed sheets are stained with spots—whether of blood or something else.

“A woman was here before, but I don’t know where she went,” said a relative of another patient next to bed No. 12.

Shortly after the doctor left, the patient in bed No. 12 pulled out the needle of an intravenous transfusion he was receiving in his arm and rolled over. Blood flowed out of his arm.

Several people rushed to him while others ran to tell the doctor and nurses, who appeared shortly and with others’ help they put him back onto his bed.

The patient never said a word, but showed his resistance by shaking his head and hands, as his relative returned to the ward.

“Where have you been? How come you left him alone?” said the angry doctor.

“I went to get money from my nephew because you said we needed to buy medicine,” said the relative, holding up about 1,000 kyat [US $1.07].

Scenes such as this occur daily at Rangoon General Hospital and other public hospitals across Burma, according to Myo Min, a relative who had been looking after his father for 24 days at the hospital while he received treatment for kidney disease.

Burma is ranked among the countries that provide the least health care service to its citizen, who regularly complain about the treatment available in public hospitals but who have little recourse other than private clinics which are beyond their means.

Once a patient is taken into the emergence room, said Myo Mind, the doctors and nurses question them about their identity and family registration before any treatment is given. Many people don’t bring such documents with them, he said, because many illnesses arrive unexpected and demand immediate attention.

“When I first took my father to hospital, I had to deal with such questions. Later I took others’ advice to use a broker’s service for admission and things went more smoothly,” said Myo Min.

He said many patients pay 3,000 kyat ($3.2) to brokers who take care of all the procedures for hospital admission.

“No matter how serious the condition the patient is in, he or she will receive no attention unless his or her relative can provide the required medicines,” said Myo Min.

“Once you see the doctors, you’re asked to buy medicine at a drug store in the emergency ward. You have to provide everything such as needles, syringes, gauze and plaster. They don’t have any medicine. They start giving treatment only when they have everything they need,” he said.

Once they enter the hospital, patients are charged for all equipment such as a wheelchair or handcart as well, he said.

Myo Min recalled that when one patient was released from the emergency room, additional fees for using a handcart were charged in order to carry the patient to a hospital ward where he or she will be admitted and another 500 kyat ($0.53) would be charged for cleaning the bed that the patient used when he or she was in the emergency room. In fact, the same bed would be used for another patient without cleaning, he said.

Myo Min said there are two common problems in the hospital. The first is that a patient’s relatives cannot afford medicine and the cost of other equipment. The other is that patients are abandoned by the relatives.

“Look at the woman over there,” he said. “She is the only person to look after that patient. Around noon, she often goes away somewhere. Maybe she goes out to find money,” said Myo Min.

“Sometimes, patients relatives just sit still no matter how many times doctors ask them to buy medicine because they don’t have money. Some patients can live for two or three days, that’s all,” Myo Min said.

About 3 a.m. the following morning, the sound of crying was heard around bed No. 12.

“He didn’t want to receive treatment anymore, because he didn’t want to be a burden. I said his life is more important than money, but he didn’t accept it,” said the crying woman. The woman could not mourn the death of the man, her husband, because soon two men came with a stretcher to take the body to the mortuary.

The men asked for money, and she gave them 1,000 kyat ($1.07).

When the woman was ready to leave the hospital to inform other family members, a doctor asked her instead to go see the duty doctor.

“Once a patient dies in the hospital, anyone related to the deceased is asked to remain and the hospital informs the family via phone because many people try to leave the hospital quietly after their relatives die,” said Myo Min. “Even under such tight restrictions, I saw three dead bodies that were abandoned by their relatives. People had no choice but to leave them. Some people also leave the patients alone in the hospital.”

A young doctor who worked at the Rangoon General Hospital for five years, and who now works as a project manager at an NGO, said there were many cases in which relatives knew their loved ones would survive with medicine but they had to watch them die because they couldn’t afford the cost.

According to a study by the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace, Burma’s military regime allocates a little under $3 billion to the Ministry of Defense while spending less than 1 percent for public health care for a population of almost 60 million people  from the overall national budget of around $6.6 billion.

The lack of funding is reflected in the lack of equipment and laboratory services that are available at Rangoon General Hospital and other public hospitals. For instance, there is usually a long queue of patients waiting to undergo radiotherapy. Depending on the number of patients, it may take a week to receive a gastroscopy.

“I was told by the hospital to wait for 10 days to receive a gastroscopy for my younger brother,” said a relative of a patient who was transferred from the hospital to a private clinic. “I took him to the Aung Yadana private clinic where we were given good service but charged about a million kyat ($1,075).”

Most poor and middle class people know that they will receive inadequate service at public hospitals, but they have no other options because treatment at a private clinic is too costly. A deposit for a private clinic in Rangoon is about 200,000 kyat ($215); a room cost about 25,000 kyat ($27) a day.

In small clinics like Shwe Baho, Bahosi, Shinpagu and Aung Yadana at least 500,000 kyat ($538) is needed to be able to receive treatment. However, for the best clinics such as SSC, Asia Royal and Pan Hlaing, a deposit is about one million kyat ($1,075) and medical bills for in-patients range from $1,612 to $2,150 for a two to three-day stay.

According to Myo Min and others who look after their relatives at the Rangoon General Hospital, there are few senior doctors present in the hospital during day or night. Usually, only junior doctors and house surgeons work there to obtain a medical license.

“Although they have duties at the hospital, surgeons always spend time at their private clinics,” he said.

He said there appears to be few experienced doctors and surgeons at the hospital to train junior doctors.

All patients and family members hope for sympathetic treatment from doctors and nurses, Myo Min said, but, “We don’t hear any kind words—only yelling and scolding.”

The Irrawaddy – Tay Za’s Son Takes Sanctions Case to Court of Justice
By SIMON ROUGHNEEN – Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pye Phyo Tay Za, the son of Tay Za, a businessman with close links to Burma’s military government, is appealing a decision taken earlier this year which maintains European Union (EU) financial sanctions and travel ban against him.

The case is now before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which is the highest court in the EU in terms of EU law, and pits Pye Phyo against the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the United Kingdom.

On May 19, Pye Phyo Tay Za lost a legal bid at the General Court to have EU sanctions overturned. He was ordered to pay the court costs for the Council of the EU. He is seeking that the entire May 19 decision be overturned, that the sanctions regulations be rendered null and void in his case, and that the Council foot the bill for this appeal and for the previous case.

Pye Phyo’s legal team is challenging the May 19 decision on a number of grounds pertaining to what it terms “particular legal flaws in the General Court’s judgment.” His lawyers and solicitors are again focusing on “the link between the Appellant and the military regime of Burma/Myanmar.”

The appeal was lodged on July 27, and details were published in the EU official journal on Sept. 25. It says that Pye Phyo “is not a ruler of Burma/Myanmar, nor a person associated with a ruler, and is not controlled, directly or indirectly, by a ruler. The fact that he is the son of someone whom the Council considers to have benefited from the regime is insufficient.”
This echoes the case made at the General Court, in which Pye Phyo argued that he is neither a member of Burma’s military government nor associated with it, and does not benefit from “the administration of that government.”

However, in the original General Court case, it was claimed that “neither the applicant [Pye Phyo] nor his father received any benefits from the regime.” However, it now appears that the Court of Justice appeal will not go so far as to question whether Tay Za is “someone whom the Council considers to have benefited from the regime.”

In defending the General Court case to have sanctions against Pye Phyo retained, the Council said that the appeal could be a way for Tay Za to circumvent the sanctions against himself. The Council stated: “The applicant was aware of the reasons for which such restrictive measures specifically apply to him, since he states in paragraph 37 of the originating application that there may be a risk of his father circumventing the freeze on his own assets by transferring his funds to other family members.”

Tay Za owns the Htoo Group of Companies, which has stakes in major economic sectors in the country such as logging, tourism, hotels, airlines, transport and construction. He also owns Air Bagan, which dominates domestic air travel inside Burma.

In early September, The Irrawaddy received information from junta officials that most of the telecommunication services of the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs in Burma will be taken over by the Htoo Group. Tay Za is among a group of four businessmen who will be allowed to open new private banks in Burma ahead of the Nov. 7 general election. The quadrumvirate run conglomerates and are considered top beneficiaries of a wave of privatization in which about 300 state assets, including everything from real estate to ports, shipping companies and an airline were sold amid growing Chinese, Indian, Thai and Singaporean investment in the military-run country.

Tay Za has worked side-by-side with Aung Thet Mann, the son of ex-Gen Shwe Mann, who is the third-ranked figure in the ruling junta and a possible president of the country after the November elections.

The upcoming election is expected to be dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the National Unity Party (NUP), two junta-linked parties who will contest most or all of the 1,096 constituencies across the country at regional, lower and upper house levels. A number of businessmen close to the military government will run as election candidates for the USDP.

The Irrawaddy – Junta-backed USDP Campaigning through Nargis Projects
By WAI MOE – Thursday, September 30, 2010

Junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidates are using Cyclone Nargis rehabilitation projects in the Irrawaddy delta and other state projects across the country to campaign for the election.

According to the state-run-newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar on Thursday, Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein who is also the USDP chairman attended the opening ceremony of a hospital and a youth training school in the cyclone-hit area of Laputta Township alongside other USDP key leaders who retired from their military posts in April including Thein Nyunt, the minister of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs, and Maung Maung Swe, the minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

Ahead of the Nov.7 elections, the state-run-media are full of reports that USDP leaders who are also sitting ministers are traveling to state projects and attending openings of completed projects. Observers said the military junta allowed state media to highlight USDP activities but limited publicity to other political parties.

Although Thein Sein seemed to be focusing USDP campaign activities through the state projects in the Irrawaddy delta this week, his election campaign last week focused on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River in the Magway Region, the location of government arms factories as well as alleged work on military missiles and nuclear projects.

Thein Sein appeared in the state media where he was shown Sept. 20 opening the Minhla-Minbu section of the railway line from Kyangin in the Irrawaddy Region to Pakokku in the Magway Region.

The New Light of Myanmar also reported on Sept. 25 that Thein Sein opened a hospital in Zabuthiri Township in Naypyidaw. According to the Naypyidaw candidate list, Thein Sein is running for the People’s Assembly (Lower House) seat in Zabuthiri Township.

Along with USDP top leaders and senior military officials, the state-run newspapers on Thursday highlighted one of richest tycoons in the country, Zaw Zaw, the head of  the Max Group of Companies and the newly formed Ayeyawady Bank. Zaw Zaw appeared in a front page photo in The New Light of Myanmar along with USDP leaders and senior military officers including Maj-Gen Hla Min, the chief of the Bureau of Special Operations-3.

Zaw Zaw and other US-sanction list tycoons including Tay Za, Htay Myint, Khin Shwe and Dagon Win Aung were awarded construction projects in the Irrawaddy delta following Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

Khin Shwe of the Zay Gabar Company is a USDP candidate for the Nationalities Assembly (Upper House) in Twantay Township in the Rangoon region, which was hard hit by Cyclone Nargis.  He told The Monitor Journal recently that he had done campaign activities while also working on Nargis work projects.

“For me, I don’t need to do election campaigning in the area. Following Nargis, I had worked there for a year doing reconstruction on pagodas and feeding people food. So people tell me, ‘Please come here!’ I don’t need to do any extra campaigning like other candidate,” Khin Shwe was quoted as saying in the journal.

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Mizzima News – Student unions condemn ‘unlawful’ arrest of activists urging poll boycott

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The All Burma Federation of Student Unions yesterday condemned the unlawful arrest of six student activists who urged the public to boycott the junta’s election on November 7, according to statement from the umbrella group.

Six university students from North Okkalapa Township, aged between 19 and 24, distributed the leaflets calling for a boycott of the vote were arrested this month. The All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABSFU) said that the students’ activity was lawful and in accordance with basic human rights.

Chapter 1, article 3 of the National Parliament Electoral Law stated that “an element of one’s electoral right is the right to vote or the right to choose not to vote” and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by many countries including Burma, said: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”, the statement pointed out.

So in accord with the junta’s existing laws and basic human rights, the people have right to opt out of voting and the federation condemned the junta’s unlawful act of detaining the student activists for distributing the leaflets, it said.

The statement also demanded the students’ immediate release.

List of detained student activists, all from North Okkalapa
1.Tha Htoo Aung, 20, final-year engineering student, J Ward. Father’s Name: Khin Maung Oo.
2.Zin Min Htet, second-year distance education history student, K Ward. Father’s Name: Ohn Khine.
3.Kyaw Thi Ha, aka Kyaw Kyaw, 24, geography student, K Ward. Father’s Name: Nyi Nyi Lwin.
4.Zarni Lin, aka Lin Lin, 21, student from Hmawbi Technological University, K Ward. Father’s Name: Khin Zaw.
5.Kyaw Thu Soe, aka Arnold, 19, first-year Dagon University distance education student of geography, K Ward. Father’s Name: Aye Shwe.
6.Ye Lin Phyo, aka Ko Phyo, 21, first-year Dagon University distance education economics student, J Ward. Father’s Name: Thaung Myint.

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Pegu official’s office bombed

Khaing Suu

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A bomb was detonated last night in a ward peace and development council office in the capital of Pegu Division, residents said. No injuries were reported.

The blast went off at about 9:40 p.m. behind a cupboard in the Pegu Myothit Ward Peace and Development Council chairman’s office, destroying the wall and furniture, a resident said.

“We heard a loud bang at around 9:40 p.m. yesterday. We thought that it was a tyre blowout. But this morning, we learned that it was a bomb blast,” the resident who lives near the ward office told Mizzima.

The ex-servicemen’s association in Pegu confirmed it was an explosion but were unable to provide any details.

Other residents told Mizzima there was an explosion last night and that no one was hurt. Although Mizzima tried to contact Pegu Police Station No. 3 and the township’s peace and development council office, officials there offered no comment.

Residents were concerned that there would be more blasts, a resident of Pegu said. “I feel uneasy about the explosion in our town. After the incident, I felt too afraid to go to the cinema,” she said.

DVB News – Relations sour between pro-junta parties
Published: 30 September 2010

One of the two main pro-junta parties competing in Burma’s elections has filed a lawsuit against a member of Prime Minister Thein Sein’s party, alleging foul play in the build up to the polls.

The National Unity Party (NUP), which came third in the 1990 elections, claims that a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is widely tipped to win the 7 November vote, snatched photographs of new NUP members intended for membership cards and destroyed them.

San Win is accused of being behind the incident on 19 September in Bago division’s Tharawaddy township that has caused the biggest fissure between the two pro-junta parties since campaigning began several months ago.

“[Two NUP campaigners] accidently showed the photos to the USDP’s youth campaigner, San Win, who took them away and handed them to the township’s USDP secretary, Thein Zaw,” according to NUP candidate San Thwin.

He claims that when asked to return the photos, Thein Zaw refused, saying: “We will not give you back. The USDP is going to win the election and you still lose even if you win anyway”. He then allegedly threatened that NUP members “would be in trouble” once the USDP had won.

The confidence of the USDP is not altogether unfounded – the party is led by current Burmese PM Thein Sein, and includes top-level government officials, including the junta’s former third-in-command, Shwe Mann. Like the NUP, it will field close to 1000 candidates in the polls, and compete in all 330 constituencies in Burma.

Prior to the incident, relations between the two parties appeared to be healthy, although the government-appointed Election Commission (EC) had refused two NUP candidates put forward for the vote.

But the NUP’s spokesperson, Han Shwe, told DVB this week that the USDP was a competitor, not ally, in Burma’s first elections in 20 years, and admitted that the USDP is “the strongest party in the whole of the country”.

Meanwhile, San Min, a USDP campaigns secretary in Tharawaddy was recently given a warning by the EC after apparently attempting to secure votes in exchange for donating to a village monastery.

“Three USDP members went to the Abbot U Sandara of Maha Zedihla monastery in Letpangon village and pledged to donate 200,000 kyat [US$200],” said a Tharawaddy resident.
He added that when the monk’s assistants went to collect the money, San Min told them that “they were actually buying votes by donating the money”.

DVB News – Forced labour dashes Rohingya elections hope
Published: 30 September 2010

Promises of citizenship and development for the Rohingya minority in eastern Burma’s Arakan state are being thwarted by increased forced labour, a report warns.

Pledges had been made by pro-junta parties campaigning prior to the elections in Arakan state that citizenship rights for the long-persecuted Muslim Rohingya would be reinforced.

“This is what many Rohingya in North Arakan had hoped for, as the election campaigning already started (unofficially) with promises of citizenship and development,” said a report, ‘Forced labour in times of elections’, released by The Arakan Project.

It adds however that “despite election promises, Rohingya at the grassroots level remain subject to much of the same persecution as in the past”, including high rates of forced labour.

The report is based on 25 interviews carried out by The Arakan Project in Arakan state and is included in the submission of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations (ILO CEACR). The ILO CEACR reviews Burma’s compliance with Convention 29 prohibiting forced labour and is due to release its report in early 2011.

The report claims that north Arakan state in 2009 “witnessed a surge in forced labour, particularly for the construction of the [Bangladesh-Burma] border fence and due to increased military deployment along the Bangladesh border”.

Civilians there are being ordered to construct new outposts to accommodate increasing troop numbers as well as working to rehabilitate roads, “primarily for military purposes”.

Ironically, the sighting of a rare white elephant in Arakan state in June, which was reported with great fanfare given the mystical status of the animal, was also accompanied by reports of forced labour, with Rohingya villagers ordered by Burmese troops to help find and capture the elephant – a three day effort where they received food but no pay.

The report did add however that some labourers working on the controversial border fence in Maungdaw, about 100 kilometres north of Sittwe, reported receiving between 1,000 and 2,000 kyat (US$1 to US$2) a day – “an improvement over past practices of unpaid labour”, but still below the local average of around 3,000 kyat (US$3) a day.

The ruling junta has promised a transition to civilian rule following the 7 November elections, but critics allege it will be the same generals pulling the strings behind the façade of a civilian government. Moreover the expansion of Burma’s near 500,000-strong army shows no signs of abating, with battalion commanders regularly required to fulfil quotas for troop recruitment.

The ILO, or International Labour Organisation, is the only body mandated to address complaints of forced labour in Burma, which is believed to be widespread. Forced recruitment of child soldiers into the army comes within the ILO’s remit.

News collected by : Tin Kyi

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Editor - The Myanmar Gazette || First Amendment – Religion and Expression - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.