AFP – UN chief slams Myanmar junta on rights ahead of election
AFP – Malaria stalks Myanmar’s poor as healthcare crumbles
UPI – Indonesia urged to back Myanmar inquiry
Asian Correspondent – Burma junta blames ethnic Kachins for blast
Asian Correspondent – Prospect of Civil War Looms Large in Burma
Asian Correspondent – Report: Flood delays opening of Burma highway
Bernama – Myanmar Masseur Charged With Killing Country Man
Times & Transcript – Myanmar’s Suu Kyi: Voters can find way to register discontent with ‘unfair’ elections
EarthTimes – Myanmar independent candidate campaigns on ‘no yes-man’ platform
Chicago Tribune – 3 years in prison for Wheaton mom who abandoned newborn
ReliefWeb – Democratic and Peaceful Change in Burma/Myanmar
BWFD(Weblog) – Stonewalled by China and the United States
The Irrawaddy – Farmers Fight for Their Land in Kachin State
The Irrawaddy – Junta Calls KIA “Insurgents”
The Irrawaddy – Cartoon Campaign Ridicules The Generals
Mizzima News – What is a ‘free and fair’ election?
Mizzima News – USDP signboards vandalised with red paint in Pegu town
Mizzima News – Independents on foot after TV, radio access denied
DVB News – PM’s party ‘rounds up villagers for vote’
DVB News – Burma has ‘one doctor for every 8000 prisoners’
DVB News – New initiative reignites Burma tourism debate
UN chief slams Myanmar junta on rights ahead of election
Fri Oct 15, 5:02 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday expressed “grave concern” at the Myanmar junta’s refusal to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of a November election.

The UN chief accused the junta of being “slow and incomplete” in meeting political commitments and said its refusal to hold talks with the international community was “deeply frustrating”.

In a report on human rights in Myanmar, Ban made repeated calls for the military government to free Aung San Suu Kyi if it wanted the November 7 election to have any international credibility.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the past two decades under house arrest. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won the last election in 1990 but she was never allowed to take power. The junta has banned the NLD from taking part in this vote.

The UN leader said that since he visited Myanmar in July 2009, the government has shown “some signs of flexibility” with acts such as releasing more than 130 political prisoners in September last year.

“However, the detention of other political prisoners and the continued house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remain of grave concern,” he said in the report.

He called for “respect for the fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association for all citizens, including engagement in political debate and access to the media.”

He added: “Failure to fulfil these responsibilities could seriously undermine the credibility of the elections.”

The UN has been trying to engage the Myanmar government by arranging a visit to the country for Ban’s special envoy, Vijay Nambiar.

But diplomatic sources said Myanmar had only agreed to invite Nambiar after the election and this was turned down by the UN leadership.

Ban said Myanmar has not invited his chief of staff. He described the junta’s attitude as “deeply frustrating” and “a lost opportunity for Myanmar.”

He called for other countries, particularly Myanmar’s neighbours, to apply more pressure and said that contacts with opposition groups and the government were continuing outside the country.

Ban said that deadlocked negotiations between the government and “key armed ethnic ceasefire groups” was also a concern.

The UN chief warned that the November 7 elections “present a major test of the prospects of peace, democracy and prosperity in the country.”

The junta has banned 10 parties, including the NLD, from contesting the election but 42 parties have been registered.

Ban said: “It is all the more necessary for the authorities to ensure that the elections are conducted in an inclusive, credible, participatory and transparent manner.

“In this regard, I reiterate my call for the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as the clearest signal of such commitments.”

He added that “failure to seize this opportunity could undermine the credibility of the process, efforts to advance national reconciliation and the prospects of needed reforms in the political, social and economic fields.”
Malaria stalks Myanmar’s poor as healthcare crumbles
by Rob Bryan – Fri Oct 15, 11:21 am ET

WAIMAW, Myanmar (AFP) – In a sleepy, rural settlement in the far north of army-ruled Myanmar, farmer Tu Raw anxiously cuddles his young son and baby daughter, both coughing and feverish with the symptoms of malaria.

About half of the villagers in this remote corner of Kachin State are suffering from the mosquito-borne disease, but medical supplies provided by the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), a Christian group, ran out two weeks ago.

“We are waiting for medicine,” said the 29-year-old, shaded from the fierce tropical heat by his wooden hut, as chickens squawked nearby.

Tu Raw, whose name AFP has changed for his safety, does not know when the next batch of malarial drugs will arrive and he owns no means of transport to get to the nearest clinic in Waimaw township.

In military-ruled Myanmar, saying anything seen as critical of the authorities can have serious consequences.

“We wait because we don’t have enough money,” said the worried father, who has resorted to the traditional method of vigorously scrubbing the skin to relieve pain, leaving maroon, whip-like marks on his three-year-old boy’s back.

Malaria is the country’s most rampant disease, infecting up to 10 million people and possibly killing tens of thousands each year, according to Frank Smithuis, a malaria expert who has been in Myanmar for 16 years.

Many struggle to get the help they need, particularly in rural border states such as Kachin that are home to marginalised ethnic minorities.

A local co-ordinator at the KBC said his group only had the resources to assist about five percent of the Kachin population in the fight against malaria.

“There are many people we can’t reach and it’s getting worse,” he said. “It’s linked to poverty. Most of them can’t even afford mosquito nets.”

Non-governmental organisations such as the KBC are crucial in a country where, according to a United Nations report earlier this year, the military regime spends just 0.5 percent of gross domestic product on health.

And despite being one of the least developed countries after nearly five decades of army rule, overseas development aid trickling into Myanmar is among the lowest in the world.

World Bank figures show nearly a third of the 50 million-strong population lives below the poverty line, while the mortality rate of children under five is almost double the world average, according to the World Health Organisation.

“It’s a very hard life. We are not happy,” said one of Tu Raw’s neighbours, a 48-year-old woman, as she tended to her malaria-infected daughter, aged 10, huddled in the corner of their thatched bamboo home.

Aside from malaria, hundreds of thousands in Myanmar also suffer from a range of other ills including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, dysentery and malnutrition.

While some public healthcare — such as malaria tests and treatment — is supposed to be free, often clinics are not supplied with drugs and patients have to go to local pharmacies.

“Almost 70 percent of healthcare is provided by the private sector, but this is of varying quality and not affordable for a big group,” said a foreign aid worker in Myanmar, who declined to be named owing to political sensitivities.

He said non-governmental aid groups are not allowed access to hospitals, which are understaffed in rural areas.

Despite the critical humanitarian situation, political parties have only mentioned health policy in vague terms, if at all, ahead of controversial November 7 elections that the main pro-junta party is expected to win.

Maung Zarni, a research fellow on Myanmar (Burma) at the London School of Economics, said there was a “complete absence of space to seriously discuss the fundamental issues” such as healthcare.

“The problem is not that people don’t want to raise policy issues, it’s that the generals who make decisions are not open to any policy discussion,” he said.

The cause of the healthcare crisis is not low revenues. The regime rakes in cash from exports of natural resources, such as gas, but 80 percent of state spending goes on the army and state-owned enterprises, according to the UN.

Although humanitarian groups try to fill the gaps in the healthcare system, it is “not remotely sufficient for what is needed,” the aid worker said.

In the past, overseas governments have scaled down aid in protest at Myanmar’s lack of democracy, human rights abuses and the suppression of the opposition, or felt forced to pull out because of the junta’s tight controls.

The country receives about four dollars per person a year in foreign aid, compared with about 38 dollars per person in Cambodia and 50 in Laos, according to Smithuis, the former Myanmar director of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

He called for a major injection of foreign funds following signs that new drug-resistant malaria has emerged in eastern Myanmar, which he said was potentially a “very serious” threat.

“It is in practice a humanitarian boycott, for purely political reasons. This is a scandal,” said Smithuis. “The needs are high and the humanitarian boycott is only harming the people of Myanmar.”
Indonesia urged to back Myanmar inquiry
Published: Oct. 15, 2010 at 9:45 AM

NEW YORK, Oct. 15 (UPI) — A human rights group called on Indonesia Friday to support a United Nations investigation of Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Indonesian Foreign Minister R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa urging him to “show leadership” by endorsing establishment of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry. The panel would investigate reports of human rights and humanitarian law violations in Myanmar, formerly Burma, since 2002 and identify perpetrators.

Human Rights Watch pointed out that Natalegawa has backed international inquiries into other cases, such as Israel’s seizure of an aid flotilla sailing to Gaza on May 31.

The group said Myanmar’s security forces have committed deliberate attacks on civilians — summary executions, sexual violence, torture, use of child soldiers, attacks on food supplies, forced mass displacement and use of anti-personnel landmines — with impunity for decades.
Asian Correspondent – Burma junta blames ethnic Kachins for blast
Associated Press – Oct. 15 2010 – 04:47 pm

Burma’s military government on Friday blamed “insurgents” from the ethnic Kachin Independence Army for a deadly landmine explosion, the latest indication of a toughening stance against ethnic minorities ahead of elections.

The state-run Myanma Ahlin reported that a landmine blast Wednesday in northern Kachin state had killed two people and injured one. It said the “landmine was planted by KIA insurgents.”

This is the first time that the junta has used the word “insurgent” to describe the ethnic Kachin’s 8,000-strong army since the group signed a cease-fire agreement with the junta in 1994 that ended a decades-long struggle against the government for autonomy.

The junta has tenuous control of many parts of the country where minority groups are strongest. It has reached cease-fire agreements with 17 ethnic minority rebel groups since 1989 and most have been allowed to keep their weapons and maintain some autonomy over their regions.

But ahead of the Nov. 7 election, Myanmar’s first in 20 years, the junta has asked the groups to turn their armed forces into a border guard force under virtual Burma military leadership. Most have refused.

There is concern that the military could try to force the issue.

Critics call the upcoming polls a sham designed to cement military rule. Burma has been under military control since 1962.

Leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization, a political wing of the KIO, who sought to run in the parliamentary elections, were neither allowed to register their political party nor run as independent candidates.

The Election Commission gave no explanation to Kachin leaders but an ethnic Kachin said he believed the reason was the KIO’s refusal to form into a border guard force. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The government announced last month that voting would not be held in several townships and villages in Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon and Shan states including four townships in the Wa self-administered division.

Ethnic groups in those areas, which are mostly along Myanmar’s eastern and northern border, are at odds with the government over its demand to integrate their semi-autonomous security forces into border guards.

The elections on Nov. 7 will be Burma’s first since 1990, when democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory. The junta ignored the results and has kept Suu Kyi jailed or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.
Asian Correspondent – Prospect of Civil War Looms Large in Burma
Oct. 15 2010 – 07:56 pm
Zin Linn

A mine blast occurred in Kachin State on 13 October, leaving two dead and one wounded. Five villagers from Pinkyaing Village, Pinball Village-tract Mogaung Township stepped on a mine planted by KIA insurgents while climbing Nwalabo, the New Light of Myanmar said today.

Two who hunt animals were killed and one was injured in the blast which occurred 10 miles en route for the west of their village. The injured was then sent to Pinbaw Station Hospital for medical treatment.

From 1st January to 14th October, 11 men and three women, altogether 14 have fallen to victims of mine attacks by insurgents across the nation. Figures also show that 52 men and seven women, altogether 59 were injured in the mine blasts according to the New Light of Myanmar.

This is the first time that the junta has used the term “insurgent” to describe the ethnic Kachin Independence Army since the group signed a cease-fire agreement with the junta in 1994 that ended a decades-long struggle against the government for autonomy. Using the term “insurgent”is not a good sign.

Tensions between the Burma Army and ceasefire groups, the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), SSA ‘North’ and the NDAA have soared after the junta’s latest deadline for the groups to disarm expired on September 1. Both sides have been reinforcing their troops on heightened alert after none of them accepted the junta’s plan.

The Burmese Junta’s radio and television said the Union Election Commission had decided that the election in a number of townships in five states would not be free and fair.

On 16 September, the UEC announced that the elections will not be held in some areas in Kayin State, Kachin State, Kayah State, Shan State and Mon State as they are in no position to host free and fair elections in the Multiparty Democracy General Elections to be held on 7 November 2010. The announcements did not clarify how many constituencies have been removed from the election.

The states are home to armed ethnic groups which defend against the Burmese junta’s attempts to assimilate them into a border guard force. Hence, several ethnic leaders asserted that they don’t have faith in the planned 2010 election where they could have little space. For, it will not create a real peaceful federal union as the Burmese armed-forces take not only 25 percent of all seats but also seize additional 50 percent via junta-backed party in the upcoming parliaments as set by the 2008 Constitution.

The junta’s planned election setting can be seen evidently as a wonderful structure of grabbing power incessantly. Persons may be changeable but military dictatorship will hold on power for many more decades.

Recently, incidents between the Burmese Army and ceasefire groups, the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), SSA ‘North’ and the NDAA, have increased after the junta’s latest deadline for the groups to disarm expired on September 1. Both sides have been reinforcing their troops who are on heightened alert with none accepting the junta’s demand.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said that the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has had “basic discussions” with Beijing over the contours of a “genuine union” within Burma in which the ethnic groups would have autonomy, possibly similar to the Special Administrative Regions in China—Hong Kong and Macao.

Burma’s junta said any group failing to surrender by the deadline will automatically become an unlawful association. The nation seems to be tumbled into a horrified tragedy due to negligence of national reconciliation and ethnic self-determination aftermath of the planned polls.
Asian Correspondent – Report: Flood delays opening of Burma highway
Oct. 15 2010 – 09:32 am

Heavy rain and flooding have indefinitely postponed the scheduled opening Thursday of a highway linking Burma’s three biggest cities, a news report said.

The opening of a section of the 352-mile (566-kilometer) highway linking the capital, Naypyitaw, with Mandalay has been put off because several parts were damaged by flooding from heavy rain and water released from dams, the biweekly Eleven news magazine reported, quoting an official from the highway transport department.

The Yangon to Naypyitaw section of the highway is already open.

The state-run Myanma Ahlin daily reported flooding in several townships in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city. It reported that at least 11,000 families from two townships in Mandalay had been evacuated to schools and Buddhist monasteries.

Floods and landslides were reported in many other parts of the country as well, inundating rice fields, roads, houses and bridges, the newspaper reported.

Flooding is common during Myanmar’s monsoon season, which typically starts in late May.

Heavy rains have battered other parts of the country, including southwestern Myanmar, where Cyclone Nargis hit in May 2008, leaving 130,000 dead. Nargis affected 2.4 million people and destroyed more than 800,000 buildings and houses.

Report: Flood delays opening of Burma highway

Oct. 15 2010 – 09:32 am

Heavy rain and flooding have indefinitely postponed the scheduled opening Thursday of a highway linking Burma’s three biggest cities, a news report said.

The opening of a section of the 352-mile (566-kilometer) highway linking the capital, Naypyitaw, with Mandalay has been put off because several parts were damaged by flooding from heavy rain and water released from dams, the biweekly Eleven news magazine reported, quoting an official from the highway transport department.

The Yangon to Naypyitaw section of the highway is already open.

The state-run Myanma Ahlin daily reported flooding in several townships in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city. It reported that at least 11,000 families from two townships in Mandalay had been evacuated to schools and Buddhist monasteries.

Floods and landslides were reported in many other parts of the country as well, inundating rice fields, roads, houses and bridges, the newspaper reported.

Flooding is common during Myanmar’s monsoon season, which typically starts in late May.

Heavy rains have battered other parts of the country, including southwestern Myanmar, where Cyclone Nargis hit in May 2008, leaving 130,000 dead. Nargis affected 2.4 million
people and destroyed more than 800,000 buildings and houses.
October 15, 2010 15:57 PM
Myanmar Masseur Charged With Killing Country Man

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 (Bernama) — A Myanmar masseur was charged in the Magistrate’s Court here Friday with murdering his countryman last month.

Tomei Zuan, 31, nodded his head after the charge was read before Magistrate Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin.

However, no plea was recorded.

Tomei is charged with murdering a Myanmar national, only known as Jack, at No 29-1 Jalan 2A/27A Section 1 Wangsa Maju here between 5am and 7am last Sept 27.

The offence, under Section 302 of the Penal Code, carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Deputy public prosecutor Shashitah Mohd Hanifa prosecuted.

The court fixed Dec 15 for mention.
Times & Transcript – Myanmar’s Suu Kyi: Voters can find way to register discontent with ‘unfair’ elections
Published Friday October 15th, 2010
The Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has advised people to register their discontent at the upcoming elections, which her disbanded party is boycotting as unfair and undemocratic.

Suu Kyi’s call, relayed Friday by her lawyer, is the latest in what amounts to a veiled campaign to boycott the Nov. 7 vote. She has carefully avoided asking voters to take any specific action, evidently to avoid prosecution under broadly defined laws. Her party won the last election in 1990 but was not allowed to take power by the ruling military.

“The people had clearly voiced their aspirations in the 1990 election, but the government has ignored the results. Now is the opportunity for the public to retaliate for what the government had done in 1990,” lawyer Nyan Win quoted Suu Kyi saying.

Asked to elaborate, Nyan Win said: “Daw Suu did not say what the people should do. As for myself, since the government did not honour my ballot in the 1990 election, I will also not honour their election.” ‘Daw’ is a term showing respect for older women.

The military has controlled Myanmar since 1962, and critics call the upcoming polls a sham designed to cement military rule. The junta has kept Suu Kyi jailed or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

The government dissolved Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party because it declined to reregister for the election.

“She said the NLD did not (agree to) participate in the election because she was honouring the wishes of the people and does not want to go against the mandate of the people,” Nyan Win, also a party spokesman, told reporters after meeting Suu Kyi at her house Friday.

Suu Kyi also gave him her response to the argument that the upcoming election is a step in a process that will eventually bring democratic change.

“Myanmar can never achieve democracy with elections that are unfair and which will be held according to their (the government’s) wishes,” said Nyan Win, quoting Suu Kyi.
On Tuesday, Nyan Win relayed Suu Kyi’s decision not to vote, even though authorities have told her she is on the electoral roll.

Suu Kyi “said the decision to put her on the electoral roll is against the law and this is lawlessness. She has instructed us to tell authorities that the decision was against the law,” Nyan Win said.

According to the law, convicted people include those serving prison terms imposed by a court and those who are undergoing an appeal process, Nyan Win said. Under the military-initiated constitution, she is already barred from holding party or political office.

Suu Kyi was convicted last year of violating the terms of her previous detention by briefly sheltering an American man who swam uninvited to her lakeside home. The 18-month house arrest expires Nov. 13, six days after the elections.
EarthTimes – Myanmar independent candidate campaigns on ‘no yes-man’ platform
Posted : Fri, 15 Oct 2010 08:18:47 GMT

Yangon – Myanmar independent candidate Yan Kyaw on Friday kicked off his campaign for a seat in parliament in the November 7 general election with the slogan “Don’t vote for a yes-man.”

Yan Kyaw, 56, a former political activist, is one of more than 40 Burmese who have been permitted to contest the upcoming polls as independent candidates.

He began canvassing for votes in Puzudaung township in downtown Yangon, the economic capital of Myanmar.

“Don’t vote for a man who is in the water to follow other fish,” Yan Kyaw shouted as he canvassed for votes, an indirect attack on the pro-military parties that are contesting the election, the first to be held in Myanmar for 20 years.

“The message I want to give to the people is to go to the ballot station and cast their votes boldly,” Yan Kyaw told the German Press Agency dpa.

Myanmar’s election commission has permitted 36 political parties and about 40 independent candidates to contest the polls for the lower, upper and regional houses of parliament.

Election regulations pushed through by the junta earlier this year have effectively blocked the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, from contesting the election.

The NLD, which won the 1990 election by a landslide but was blocked from assuming power by Myanmar’s military, has decided to boycott this year’s polls.

Analysts believe the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), with more candidates and money than its rivals, will win the most seats in the polls.

The USDP, established in June, is the political arm of the military junta that has been running the country with an iron fist since 1988.

The USDP’s closest rival in terms of the number of candidates and financing is the National Unity Party, another pro-military party.

Suu Kyi, 65, was blocked from contesting the polls by an election rule that stipulates a person currently in prison cannot run. Suu Kyi is serving an 18-month house detention term which will expire on November 13.
Chicago Tribune – 3 years in prison for Wheaton mom who abandoned newborn
October 15, 2010 12:18 PM |

A Wheaton woman who abandoned her newborn son last year in a backyard was sentenced today to three years in prison and claimed she wants to keep the child.

Nunu Sung, 25, an immigrant from Myanmar, pleaded guilty today to obstruction of justice and in a plea agreement with DuPage prosecutors accepted the maximum sentence.

DuPage County Public Defender Jeffrey York said the state dropped child endangerment charges and agreed not to seek termination of Sung’s parental rights.

Sung cried during the court hearing and was handed a box of tissues by Judge Blanche Hill Fawell.

The child was found by neighbors June 12, 2009, unclothed behind bushes outside a garage in the 800 block of East Michigan Avenue, steps from the apartment building where Sung lived with her cousin.

Sung had hidden her pregnancy and originally denied being the mother.

Relatives reported Sung missing after she failed to return from a walk late June 11. Wheaton police found her in her apartment cleaning herself and her clothes when they investigated the incident June 12, officials said.

Sung told police she had no emotional attachment to the child, but later expressed a desire to see the child.

York said today that weekly visits with Joshua, the name given by hospital workers, have gone well and that Sung “wants the child back.”

The child has been in the custody of a state-approved foster home.
ReliefWeb- Democratic and Peaceful Change in Burma/Myanmar
Source: Crisis Management Initiative
Date: 15 Oct 2010
Full Report (http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/EGUA-8A9NUM/$File/full_report.pdf)


On November 7, 2010, Burma/Myanmar(1) will organize its first parliamentary elections since 1990. The significance of the elections stems from the controversial constitution on which they are based and which involves a complete reconfiguration of the political structure. It establishes a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature as well as fourteen regional governments and assemblies – the most wide-ranging change in a generation.

The purpose of this report, financed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland from the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), is to examine the political situation Burma/Myanmar at a time when the country is facing a unique moment. It provides analysis of the pre-election political situation and identifies opportunities for further engagement by the international community in the post-election period with the aim of supporting democratic and peaceful change in the country, including dialogue and reconciliation with the leadership of the Myanmar government.

The report starts with an analysis of the current political context in which the November elections will be organized, highlighting the key sources of societal and political conflict.

Second, the report looks at the preparations for the election, paying special attention to both the shortcomings of the process during the campaigning period and issues to watch out for on election day. Then the report surveys the positions of both internal and external actors regarding the elections, and how they can influence the process. The final chapter gathers the key findings and provides recommendations on how to constructively support conflict prevention, democracy and the improvement of government policies in Burma/Myanmar.

The international community and all political groups in Burma/Myanmar face major challenges in how to respond to the November elections. So far the response has been highly fractured. However, the current situation should not be viewed too pessimistically. Obstacles for change must be recognized. Pessimism fuels apathy; and apathy will result in the missing of opportunities for progress.

Despite the very obvious flaws in the election process, the generational transition and the transition within the political system (due to the elections themselves and any possible protests over their fairness) can offer genuine opportunities both in the short run as well as in the longer term. New political landscape will emerge, giving rise to opportunities to push for change, as well as a new set of challenges. Incremental political change is possible; it is also the most likely scenario for Burma/Myanmar. The November elections are a step forward in this process. After a generation without elections this is a crucial learning and training period for the political parties on how to represent citizens’ interests, how to campaign and act as a part of a political system. Above all, this will prepare ground for more meaningful elections in 2015.

(1) In 1989, the military government changed the name of the country from Burma to the Union of Myanmar. This name has not been universally recognized. In this report when referring to the government of the country “Myanmar government” is being used. When referring to the country as such, the report uses Burma/Myanmar.
Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy (Weblog) – Friday, October 15, 2010
By: Roland Watson
October 14, 2010

The Chinese version of our Lessons in Democracy initiative, prepared by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation, was launched on September 27th. We can now report that the Lessons in Democracy website has been blocked by the Communist Party of China. The great and glorious CCP, with more than two trillion dollars in savings, and an increasingly powerful military, is afraid of our little book.

Of course, it is not Dictator Watch that the CCP fears, or even democracy.
It is the people of China. The real power in China, in any country, lies with the people. No matter what the nature of the regime, the people can rise up and overthrow it. History has demonstrated this again and again.

The CCP, for the last sixty one years, has done everything it can to keep the Chinese people down. It only opened up economically in the late 1970s, when the country was approaching collapse (and after Mao died). The communists were therefore able to avert the fate of the Soviet Union, which did collapse due to its own centrally planned failure. But now, because of the impact of this economic transition, and, ironically, increasingly free information access for the Chinese people via the Internet, the CCP is close to losing control again. And this time, nothing can save it. The communists can relinquish power peacefully, or fall in a revolutionary cataclysm.

The CCP may try to block our book, but we will get it through. Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao may try to stop the people of China from learning about democracy, or this year’s Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo, but again they will fail. The Chinese people will push harder and harder for their rights, and democracy, and the communist empire will fall.

In a revealing parallel, another Dictator Watch initiative has also been blocked, this time by the United States. In June 2008, President Bush signed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act into law. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted for the law as senators.

Section 10 of the law requires that the State Department prepare a Report on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma, by foreign countries, companies, and other entities. Subsection (b)3 covers weapons of mass destruction. The report is to be prepared annually, with an unclassified version paced on the Department’s website.

The first report should have been published by January 2009 (180 days after the law was signed). It seems clear that the outgoing Bush Administration punted this political hot potato. By now there should have been two reports. The Obama Administration, as with its overall Burma policy, is indecisive on how to handle the issue, and is refusing to comply with the law.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act application with the State Department at the beginning of April, going on seven months ago. I mailed the application, just ordinary first class mail – I trust the Post Office, because the online filing system didn’t work. According to State’s FOIA website, “The Department’s initial response will advise you of the date of receipt, the case number assigned to your request, and whether or not the records you are seeking are under the Department’s control.” State is required to acknowledge FOIA requests within twenty days. “In unusual circumstances, as defined in §171.11(k), the time limits may be extended by the Information and Privacy Coordinator for not more than 10 days, excepting Saturdays, Sundays, or legal public holidays.”

I never got an acknowledgement (my letter was not returned by the Post Office as undeliverable), so after a month and a half I telephoned State’s FOIA requester service at 202-261-8484, two times. Both times the officials who answered the phone said they would check on the application and call me back. Neither did.

It appears that State felt it could safely ignore the filing, because other than my word there was no proof that it existed.

I resent the application in early June, this time by certified mail and with a request for a signed delivery receipt. Almost a month later I received the receipt, but not a filing acknowledgement. I telephoned the FOIA requester service again, and the official who answered said she would check and get back to me. Amazingly, she did, and confirmed that my application had been received and that I now had a case number, and that my request was being considered and that I should receive a formal acknowledgement within a couple of weeks. I never did.

In mid-August I received a letter – at least it was addressed to me – from State. Shockingly, the letter inside was not actually for me. It was a letter to another FOIA applicant, about the status of his application.
State sending the wrong letter is incomprehensible. Worse, it implies that someone else received a communication for me.

I called again, an official said she would check on it and get back to me, and once again did not. Now, in mid-October, I have not even received a formal acknowledgement for an application correctly submitted at the beginning of April, much less my real and valid goal, the first two annual reports on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma.

Under the FOIA, you can file an appeal if the government refuses your request. What can you do if it won’t even acknowledge that you made one?

What does the Obama Administration fear?

What in the reports is so damaging?
We and others have published intelligence that Burma’s military rulers, the SPDC, are working on a clandestine nuclear program with North Korea, China, Russia and perhaps even Iran. If the government has intelligence which confirms this, and which it is required to disclose under the Tom Lantos Act, why doesn’t it do it? In the 1960s, President Kennedy revealed that the Soviet Union was stationing missiles in Cuba, which precipitated a real crisis. (As a boy, I had to get under my school desk during emergency tests.) Is the Burma intelligence even more outrageous? Are Secretary Clinton and President Obama afraid that if they make only a partial disclosure, and keep the real bombshells secret, they will be held up for censure later, so it is better to stonewall and release nothing at all?

It is astonishing that both the most powerful dictatorship in the world, the CCP, and democracy’s supposed champion, the United States, are blocking a small NGO. These acts, though, illuminate important facts. The CCP is paranoid, and it is willing to do anything, including imprison and kill millions of Chinese people, to retain power. (There are currently an estimated 3-5 million Chinese in the Laogai gulag prisons.) However, notwithstanding its financial resources and military strength, ultimately it will disintegrate.

Similarly, there is good reason to believe that the Obama Administration is hiding important information about United States national security, and which secrecy disturbingly may be tied to its diplomacy with, and fear of, the CCP.

The Irrawaddy – Farmers Fight for Their Land in Kachin State
By KO HTWE – Friday, October 15, 2010

“Every day, I can hear farmers crying. I see their despair and their tears,” said Bauk Ja, a Kachin farmer who lost her land to the Yuzana Company in December 2008. “We farmers depend on our land for agriculture. It is our livelihood and our life. Without land, we have nothing!”

The 44-year-old is the appointed leader of one of the groups of farmers in Hukawng Township, a rural area west of state capital Myitkyina. She spoke to The Irrawaddy after a State Court decision exonerated Yuzana Company Chairman Htay Myint from prosecution on Tuesday.

However, all is not lost for Bauk Ja and her fellow farmers: although the court in Myitkyina threw out the lawsuit against the company chairman, it said it would allow a case to be launched against the director of Yuzana, whose name was not revealed.

The State Court decision was greeted with skepticism by most observers who see the case as yet another signal that military cronies such as Htay Myint are above the law.

Htay Myint is known to be close to several military generals in Burma and is blacklisted with sanctions by the US and the EU. He is running as a candidate for the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in Tenasserim Division in next month’s general election, and, according to sources, has upward of 100 million kyat (US $100,000) to spend on campaigning.

“We cannot omit the chairman of the company from our lawsuit, because the director is below the chairman on the company ladder,” said Bauk Ja.
Htay Myint is accused by the farmers of establishing a massive mono-crop plantation on 200,000 acres of land in the Hukawng valley.

The 600 farmers were evicted from their farms between 2006 and 2008 without full compensation and displaced to areas far from their ancestral lands while the state granted 1,338 acres of the seized property to the Yuzana Company. Bulldozers and backhoes arrived shortly after and razed the land to make way for sugar cane and tapioca cultivation.

“The company confiscated the farmers’ land and razed it. That is why we filed a lawsuit—to claim adequate compensation from the company,” said Myint Thwin, one of the lawyers for the farmers.

A group of 148 farmers filed a lawsuit in August, but Yuzana reacted by convincing the group to drop the case in return for payments of 80,000 kyat ($80) per acre each to a maximum of 500 evicted farmers.

However, in many instances the farmers did not receive any payments and enquiries to lawyers and Yuzana Company executives went unanswered or were stonewalled, said Bauk Ja.

“They evicted us to rocky land where we can grow nothing,” she said. “Some farmers have been forced to sign documents saying they agree to the land confiscation.”

Two groups of farmers have already filed lawsuits claiming compensation. A third group, representing 46 farmers, filed a lawsuit on Thursday. The court will reconvene on Oct. 20, according to Bauk Ja.

The land in dispute lies in the Hugawng Valley in the western part of Kachin State near the Indian border. It is also the site of the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve where conservationists are fighting to protect the endangered species.
The Irrawaddy – Junta Calls KIA “Insurgents”
By WAI MOE – Friday, October 15, 2010

The Burmese junta decribed the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a cease-fire group which operates on the Sino-Burmese border, as “insurgents” in state-run-newspapers on Friday, ceasing to call them a cease-fire group which they have done since signing a cease-fire agreement with the KIA in 1994.

The state-run newspapers described the KIA as “insurgents” in a report blaming the KIA for a mine blast which killed two and injured one in Kachin State on Wednesday.

The report came amid Naypyidaw’s flaring tensions with the cease-fire ethnic groups including the KIA over the Border Guard Force (BGF) plan, which ordered the groups to transform their independent militia’s into a Burmese army-controlled BGF.

Five villagers from Mogaung Township, Kachin State “stepped on a mine planted by KIA insurgents” in “Kachin Special Region-2”, the state-run-newspaper The New Light of Myanmar said.

Responding to Naypyidaw’s usage of “insurgents,” Wawhkyung Sinwa, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that it is incorrect to describe a cease-fire group as insurgents while the cease-fire remains in operation.

He added that although the ceasefire has not yet broken down into armed conflict, tension between the regime and the KIA is high. “The situation is more or less normal for us,” he said, referring to the high state of tension.

Observers in Rangoon who read the newspapers were surprised by the junta’s tone toward the KIA.

“After reading the report, I was shocked because insurgent is a term the regime has only used for non-ceasefire groups such as the Karen National Union in the last 20 years,” said an editor of a private Rangoon weekly speaking on condition of anonymity. “It also signals a potential new civil war in the country’s border areas.”

Military sources in Rangoon said they learned some light infantry battalions normally stationed around Rangoon were ordered to deploy in Kachin State this week. The junta also recently purchased 50 Mi-24 military helicopters from Russia for counter insurgency operations, said observers.

In late September, KIA soldiers shot at a Burmese military helicopter that flew over the KIO headquarters at Laiza, which was considered unusual since the cease-fire agreement normally deterred such acts on both sides.

After a major military reshuffle in junta forces in late August, the two main junta commanders dealing with the KIA, Lt-Gen Tha Aye, chief of Bureau of Special Operation (BSO)-1 and Maj-Gen Soe Win, commander of the Northern Regional Military Command were replaced by Maj-Gen Myint Soe of the Northwest Regional Military Command and Brig-Gen Zayar Aung, commandant of the Defense Services Academy.

The new replacement commanders have yet to hold any meetings with the KIO since taking up their appointments, said KIA sources in Laiza.

“New commanders usually come to introduce themselves and create cordial relations, but we haven’t seen either Maj-Gen Myint Soe or Brig-Gen Zayar Aung,” a KIO official said.

When the junta, then called the State Law and Order Restoration Council, and the KIO officially announced the cease-fire agreement, the agreement was based on three topics—peace under a cease-fire in Kachin State and related areas in northern Shan State, economic development in the area and a commitment to work for peace across Union of Burma.

The KIA and its allies on the Sino-Burmese border such as the United Wa State Army and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA—also known as the Mongla group) rejected the junta’s BGF plan under the 2008 constitution saying it could not guarantee ethnic rights.

Meanwhile, the junta has suspended the November elections in the group’s areas due to ongoing tension in the area and the prospect of being unable to win, according to observers.

The BGF tension on the Sino-Burmese border became a regional stability issue when an estimated 37,000 Kokang-Chinese refugees fled from Burma to China after the junta launched a surprise offensive against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in Kokang in August 2009.

Since then, Beijing has been worried about potential conflict in neighboring border areas in the post-election period.

“For a risk-averse Beijing, it all makes for a volatile mix in an election year. At a time when China is pushing border stability in Myanmar [Burma], elections lacking participation from major border ethnic groups—the Wa, Kachin and others—may set the stage for potential conflict,” said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, the International Crisis Group’s North East Asia Project Director in Beijing in a recent article.
The Irrawaddy – Cartoon Campaign Ridicules The Generals
Friday, October 15, 2010

Cartoons drawn by Harn Lay, The Irrawaddy magazine cartoonist, are now being distributed in the southern part of Rangoon by activists who launched an anti-election campaign against the Burmese regime’s election, sources in Rangoon said.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, a leading anti-election campaign activist in Rangoon said, “Many people are interested in these cartoon campaigns, even the children in the villages in the outskirts of Rangoon.”

The campaigner said that people are more interested in the cartoon distribution campaign than other leaflet campaigns in the past.

Most of the distributed cartoons, which illustrate how the election is neither free nor fair, have already been launched on The Irrawaddy’s website and other Burmese media organizations.

The campaigners downloaded Harn Lay’s cartoons from the internet and printed them out, distributing them to villages in the southern part of Rangoon including Kungyagone, Payargone, and Aung Chan Thar.

The activists are sticking copies of cartoons on electric poles, video stages, free water services and other public places. The campaigners have also given copies to children telling them to pass them to their parents.

“Many children like the cartoons, laugh at them and ask for more,” said a leading campaigner.

Another youth activist said, “We are targeting the villages as we have already distributed these cartoons in the towns.”

Kyaw Zwa Moe, managing editor of The Irrawaddy, said, “It’s part of our mission to get information about the upcoming election disseminated among people inside Burma. Through our cartoons and stories, I am sure that the voters are more informed and educated so that they will make a right choice regarding the election.”

Harn Lay, The Irrawaddy’s illustrator and cartoonist, received a Hellman/Hammett award in April for his artistic illustrations and political cartoons that reflect the image of the Burmese regime and current political situation in Burma.

Harn Lay has specialized in satirizing Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the head of the Burmese military. His work appears in The Irrawaddy online website and in the monthly print magazine, where he frequently illustrates magazine cover stories and articles.
What is a ‘free and fair’ election?
Friday, 15 October 2010 17:52 Thea Forbes (Special Report)

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In one of its opening salvoes against the Burmese junta’s elections this year, the country’s most powerful opposition party, the National League for Democracy, announced in March it would not re-register as a political party, thereby guaranteeing it would not take part.

The party released a statement at the time saying they had “decided not to register … because the election laws … are unfair and unjust”.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi also said she “would not dream” of entering the race because of its illegitimacy. Since the Burmese military regime released its new electoral laws, the election has been widely criticised as a sham. Many international governments and individuals within and outside Burma have called for all of Burma’s political prisoners to be released before the elections take place, in order for them to be considered democratic.

The following is the first in a series of reports in which Mizzima will examine what constitutes a “free and fair’ election by international standards.

The components can be divided into 16 different categories according to International IDEA, (the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) and various other intergovernmental organisations that promote sustainable democracy and efficient, “free and fair” elections around the world. The following points are a compilation of what they feel is required for a country to meet these standards.

International recognition
International standards for free and fair democratic elections have their foundations in the fundamental freedoms and political rights within various international conventions such as the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Legal framework
The legal framework is the basis for the regulation of the election process. It comprises the electoral law regarding voter registration, political parties and candidates and the media. The framework for elections should be transparent and understandable and approach all the issues of an electoral system necessary to create democratic elections.

Electoral system
The electoral system in place within a country should guarantee political inclusiveness and representation. It should provide a clear electoral formula for transforming votes into legislative seats.

Electoral watchdog
The most important elements of a free and fair election lie in the independence and impartiality of a country’s electoral watchdog or election commission to monitor the efficiency, effectiveness, professionalism and transparency of the electoral processes.

The duties and functions of such a body are:

To ensure that election officials and staff are well-trained and are independent of any political interest,
To ensure the voting public are educated about election processes, voting procedures and contesting political parties and candidates,
To ensure the registry of voters and upkeep of voter registers.
To ensure the integrity of the ballot via maintaining the secrecy of the vote, by insuring against fraudulent voting and by ensuring a transparent process for lawful collection and counting of the votes.

Right to elect and be elected
There should be no discrimination on account of colour, race, sex, language, religion, political views, ethnic minority status, property or birth that could eliminate an eligible citizen’s right to vote or right to contest the elections. All eligible citizens should be guaranteed the right to equal voting and the right to contest the elections without any discrimination.

Voter registration and registers
Voter registers should be maintained with transparency and accuracy. The right of an eligible voter to register should be protected, and the prevention of unlawful or fraudulent registration or removal of voters, enacted. The voter register must be comprehensive, inclusive, accurate and up to date, and the process, fully transparent.

Political parties and candidates
All political parties and candidates should be treated equally while competing in elections. The legal framework of a democratic election should clearly provide notification of the dates for beginning and end of registration for political parties. The requirements and procedures for party and candidate registration should be based on reasonable, relevant and objective criteria.

Democratic electoral campaigns
Each political party and candidate has the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association and access to the electorate.

The electoral system should ensure:

There are no unreasonable restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and whatever restrictions there are that they be set out in the law,

Every party and candidate has equal access to the media to undertake their campaign,
Every party and candidate should have equal access to finance for a credible election campaign,
No party or candidate should be favoured, financially or through other resources,
No party or candidate incites or threatens violence to another party or candidate,
All parties and candidates should cease campaigning one or two days before polling day.

Media access and freedom of expression
The legal framework for elections should ensure that all political parties and candidates have access to the media and equal treatment in media owned or controlled by the state. Freedom of expression should be upheld in election campaigns and no party or candidate should be discriminated against in terms of access to the media or freedom of expression. The ruling party should not have unfair dominance of media coverage.

Campaign finance and expenditure
All parties and candidates should be treated equally by the institute governing campaign finances and expenditure. If public funding is distributed among parties and candidates it should be proportionately and equally distributed. Limitations on funding of campaigns should be reasonable and equal among each party and candidate. Political finance laws should be adequately and effectively enforced.

Polling stations should be accessible and there should be accurate recording of ballots. The secrecy of the ballot should also be guaranteed. Sufficient provisions for the security of all ballots and voting materials before, during and after voting should be provided by the legal framework. Safeguards should be put in place to prevent fraudulent voting or double voting. The routine entry of police or armed forces into the polling station should be prohibited except when they themselves are voting.

Counting votes
All votes should be counted and tabulated accurately, equally, fairly and transparently. A democratic electoral system should ensure that the entire process for counting and tabulating votes is conducted in the presence of representatives of parties and candidates as well as election observers.

Role of the representatives of parties and candidates
For the election to maintain integrity and transparency, the legal framework must provide for independent observation by representatives nominated by parties and candidates contesting the election to observe all voting processes. These representatives are not permitted to campaign within the polling station or designated area around the polling station.

Election observers
For an election to be credible and transparent, independent electoral observers should be permitted to observe all processes of the election.

Electoral law
The legal framework for elections must set forth detailed and sufficient provisions protecting suffrage rights.

Every voter, candidate and political party has the right to lodge a complaint with the competent electoral watchdog or a court when an infringement of electoral rights is alleged to have occurred.

Defining/delimiting boundaries of electoral units/constituencies
There are three universal principles to guide the delimitation process: representativeness, equality of voting strength and non-discrimination. The ideal international standard is to attain equality of voting power for each vote, therefore providing effective representation.
USDP signboards vandalised with red paint in Pegu town
Friday, 15 October 2010 23:08 Salai Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Signboards belonging to Burma’s main junta-backed political party were vandalised with red paint in Pegu Division on Thursday morning, forcing party members to scrape them clean, witnesses said.

About 10 Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) signboards in Thayarwaddy Township, 60 miles (97 kilometres) north of Rangoon, including one on the house of USDP candidate Tin Soe, one at the bus stop near Alelgone Pagoda and another on the District Peace and Development Council’s offices were painted red.

Obscene language covered some of the signs, a witness said.

The Township Police Force and USDP members have made enquiries about the case, but no arrests had been made.

The USDP, another junta-backed group – the National Unity Party – and the Democratic Party (Myanmar) will contest in Thayarwaddy constituency in the forthcoming election.

Burma’s ruling junta backs the USDP, which was transformed from the now-defunct ultra-nationalist Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), notorious for its bloody attacks on opposition and democratic forces including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her entourage in Depayin, northern Burma in 2003.

At least 5,000 USDA members gathered in a co-ordinated attack and beat to death more than 70 National League for Democracy supporters during Suu Kyi’s roadshow around the country in May of that year. Suu Kyu aided by bodyguards managed to elude the attackers but was arrested soon after the massacre.

USDA members also aided the bloody suppression of the “Saffron Revolution”, so named as it was led by monks protesting against up to 66 per cent fuel price rises in 2007. The protests expanded but were brutally suppressed by the Burmese Army.
Independents on foot after TV, radio access denied
Saturday, 16 October 2010 03:10 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Independent candidates are being forced to settle for distributing leaflets in their campaigning amid a ban on their television and radio campaign addresses, according to the unaffiliated contenders.

Though they have the right to erect campaign billboard, time was already running out as the junta’s electoral watchdog, the Union Election Commission, had not yet issued regulations regarding billboards.

Some independent candidates were distributing leaflets to voters containing their profiles and interviews with the press.

Kamayut Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) independent candidate Dr. Phone Win said he had distributed campaign leaflets himself because he was uninformed about the regulation on billboards and because of time-wasting red tape over prior permission for them.

“We distribute our leaflets everyday in the wards. I do it myself along with some assistants. Sometimes, I explained issues to voters if they have any questions. I’m doing my campaign in this way,” he told Mizzima.

He added that he had conducted campaigning with three private cars bearing loudspeakers, sending messages to the public on how to vote.

“We sent our cars to Hlaing and Kamayut Townships one each with speakers … In the next few days, I’ll send these cars to Tamway, Kyimyindine, Dagon satellite town, North Okkalapa, Botataung, Latha and Lanmadaw townships,” he added.

According to the campaign poster and billboard regulation that appeared in the local journal Weekly Eleven, these are banned only on transport vehicles.

Since the independent candidates were contesting only in one constituency, the ban on them delivering campaign addresses on television had not had much impact on their campaigns, North Okkalapa Pyithu Hluttaw independent candidate Ba Tint Swe said.

“We need to popularise ourselves in our own constituency so it has not put much pressure on us. We need to focus only on distributing our leaflets in accordance with regulations,” he said.

Despite three visits to the Rangoon municipal committee seeking permission to print the interviews that had appeared in local journals on vinyl, the civic body told the independents they had not yet received “concrete guidelines” on the matter and gave them more appointments for further visits.

“But USDP campaign billboards with two-by-three-foot photos of candidates can be found everywhere, including on lampposts. If we wanted to do this, we’d have to go to the electric power department as well. It would take a lot of time and could reach even to November 7, the polling date,” he said.

Though the independent candidates and political parties were competing fiercely among themselves, he had to prioritise his campaign work around organising voters in North Okkalapa to come and vote on polling date, he added.

“My first work is to urge them to come to polling booths and cast their vote and then organising them to vote for me comes second. In my canvassing work … I’ve found some voters saying they’re not going to vote … in protest as the NLD is not contesting this election,” he added.

Yesterday’s issue of 7 Days reported there were 97 independent candidates across Burma. In the 1990 general election, 87 independent candidates stood and only six won seats.

Junta Foreign Minister Nyan Win told the UN General Assembly that more than 3,000 candidates were contesting for a total of 1,171 seats in the three Hluttaws (parliaments).
DVB News – PM’s party ‘rounds up villagers for vote’
Published: 15 October 2010

The party headed by the Burmese prime minister and widely tipped to win the 7 November polls has been accused by locals in southern Burma of collecting votes in advance.

Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by Thein Sein, have been busily campaigning across the country, with only weeks to go until the elections, Burma’s first in 20 years.

But residents of Yaydwinaung village in Tenasserim division say that during campaigning the USDP had rounded up villagers into one house and collected details of each.

“[The USDP campaigners] said it is raining this time of year so the villagers should give them advance votes in case they can’t show up [at the ballot stations during the election time],” said one Yaydwinaung villager. “They filled in forms on the villagers’ behalf and collected their ID card number.”

The USDP’s main rival in Khamaukkyi township, where Yaydwinaung is located, is the National Unity Party (NUP), who came second in the 1990 elections and are also closely affiliated to the ruling junta. The NUP is fielding around 980, while the USDP has more than 1000.

“According to the election laws and regulations, in Aungchanthar village [close to Yaydwinaung] there is a ballot station – station number 79 – and about 300 voters so there is no reason to collect votes in advance there. The law doesn’t approve it, and if it is true, we will file a lawsuit,” said NUP candidate Hla Shwe.

Tensions are already high between the two main contenders for the vote – the NUP has already filed a lawsuit against the USDP alleging foul play in the build up to the polls.

Similar allegations of advanced voting have been levelled at USDP members in Rangoon division. Soe Kyi, from the opposition Democratic Party, told DVB that nearly 40 USDP campaigners were handing out ballot papers with the party’s name on despite no authorisation by the government to do this.

“The USDP campaigners are telling people to tick the vote mark next to their party’s logo on the ballots,” he said. “They also included the logo and the name of our party. They cannot do that without our permission.”
DVB News – Burma has ‘one doctor for every 8000 prisoners’
Published: 15 October 2010

Details of healthcare professionals available to Burma’s estimated 200,000 prisoner population has exposed a grossly under-resourced sector, with one doctor available for every 8000 inmates.

The prisoner population is spread over 43 prisons and around 100 labour camps scattered across the country, from the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon, built by the British in 1871, to remote camps along the Burma-China border.

Tate Naing, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), says there are around 200,000 prisoners in total, although government figures are more conservative. Around 2,170 of these are monks, activists, lawyers, policians, relief workers and journalists.

Burma’s healthcare system outside of prisons is already amongst the worst in the world, with the ruling junta thought to spend only around $US0.40 per person each year.

But yesterday an official from the Prison Administration Department was quoted in the Weekly Eleven News Journal as saying that there are only 109 medical staff assigned to prisons and camps across Burma, 32 of which are trained doctors. A number of other specialists pay twice-weekly visits to prisons.

“Sometimes it can take two or three days to see a doctor,” said Kyaw Hsan, who in 2000 was sentenced at the age of 15 to five years in prison, and now lives in Thailand. “You’ll be sent to a clinic to assess you, and if it’s serious you go to the prison hospital.

“The hospital is really bad for criminals, not so bad for political prisoners. The politicals sleep in a bed but criminals have to sleep on the floor, with no mat. The toilet is a plastic bowl – we used to have to hand-wash the floor around the bowl and there were loads of flies and mosquitoes.

Medicine donated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which the junta has now blocked from visiting prisoners in Burma, was often given to political prisoners, Kyaw Hsan said, while the common criminals were forced to buy their medicine from the doctors.

Only when it became obvious that the prison hospital could not treat the patient would they be sent to a local hospital outside of the gates, he added.

According to official government statistics, Insein prison has around 5000 inmates, although other estimates put the figure closer to 10,000. Mandalay prison holds around 3000.

Inmates of remote labour camps and prisons are often subject to harsh weather conditions, particularly in the country’s far north where temperatures in winter drop to near freezing.
DVB News – New initiative reignites Burma tourism debate
Published: 15 October 2010

A new campaign promoting Burma and three other countries as a single tourism destination has reignited debate on the ethics of travel to the military-ruled Southeast Asian nation.

Tourism ministers from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma announced the “Four Countries: One Destination” campaign at an international travel expo in Ho Chi Minh City earlier this month. The four countries will aim to improve transport links between their major attractions and encourage tour operators to design cross-border tours.

The initiative aims to help the countries compete with more popular destinations such as Thailand and China. A two-week tour could see tourists take in Halong Bay in Vietnam, the historic Laotian city of Luang Prabang, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the ruined Burmese city of Bagan – arguably just as spectacular as the famous Khmer temple complex.

But travel to Burma remains controversial. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader under house arrest in Rangoon, has urged a boycott of travel to the country, arguing tourism merely lines the pockets of the military and its cronies. The junta has also been accused of using forced labour in the construction of hotels.

Last year rumours surfaced that Suu Kyi had dropped her opposition to travel to Burma, though her party, the National League for Democracy, made no official announcement indicating a change of policy. Anna Roberts of the Burma Campaign UK told DVB her organisation supported the policies of the democracy movement, “and they have called for tourists to stay away”.

“As this new initiative demonstrates, Burma’s generals have identified tourism as a potential major source of income,” she said. “Some people argue that it is all right to go on holiday to Burma as local people will benefit. It’s true a small number of people do benefit from tourism, but millions suffer from the regime it helps to fund.”

But many observers take a different view. The Free Burma Coalition, a political initiative which spent years advocating a tourism boycott, reversed its position after deciding pro-sanctions campaigns had failed to achieve change in Burma. Dr Maung Zarni, the organisation’s founder, is broadly in favour of tourism. “I know it is against the views of the pro-sanctions crowd, but I would like more people to go,” he told DVB. Tourists should nevertheless avoid government-run facilities where possible, he said, adding that most five-star hotels were joint ventures with the government.

Derek Tonkin, former UK ambassador to Vietnam, Thailand and Laos and chairman of the Network Myanmar advocacy group, is another tourism advocate. Tonkin argues that avoiding government-run hotels is now less of a concern than it was. “All the old state institutions, the restaurants and hotels have been sold off to the private sector, and were sold off at the beginning of the 1990s,” he said, claiming the majority were now 100% owned by foreign companies.

The amount of money the regime derives from tourism is small, Tonkin said. According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, 227,400 visitors visited Burma last year. Those tourists brought in around $US200 million, Tonkin estimates. “It’s ceased to be – if it ever was – a main source of income for the regime,” he said, adding that the regime’s real source of income – sales of natural gas – bring in about $US200 million every month.

Tourism advocates argue the industry supports a large number of people who suffer from the boycott. Tonkin says the industry employs around 600,000 people. “That includes everyone down to the postcard seller, the taxi drivers and the tour guides, whether they’re official or unofficial… I see tourism very much as a means of breaking through Burma’s isolation and getting to the people,” he said.

On November 7, Burma will hold its first elections in 20 years. Following the polls, few observers look likely to change their views on the tourism boycott. The Burma Campaign UK’s view of the polls is typical of most in the pro-democracy movement.

“Everyone knows that the sham elections in November won’t bring Burma closer to freedom and democracy, the elections are designed to maintain dictatorship. That’s why we need the international community to unite behind a UN-led effort to pressure the dictatorship to open dialogue with the democracy movement and ethnic representatives,” said Roberts.


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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.