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BURMA RELATED NEWS – OCTOBER 23, 2010
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Reuters – Cyclone slams Myanmar; Thai flood deaths rise
RTT News – Myanmar Editor’s Sentencing Shows Ruling Junta’s Double Speak: CPJ
Monsters and Critics – Journalist protection group condemns Myanmar editor’s sentence
ICP – Pro-Asia Mahbubani Says Myanmar “Doing Badly,” Ban Ki-moon “In a Rough Patch”
Asian Tribune – Zero Democratic Norm ahead of Arbitrary Election in Burma
China Daily – Chinese engines reinforce Myanmar’s rail transport
The Asian Age – 100 fishermen missing as cyclone hits Burma, Bangladesh
The Irrawaddy – Security Tight in Rangoon Amid Rumors of Protest
The Irrawaddy – Relief Urgently Needed as Cyclone Giri Leaves Dozens Missing
Mizzima News – Gender discrimination in authoritarian Burma
Mizzima News – Cyclone damage spurs calls for aid as 3,000 homes suffer
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Cyclone slams Myanmar; Thai flood deaths rise
By Aung Hla Tun – Sat Oct 23, 6:16 am ET

YANGON (Reuters) – A cyclone that hit the west coast of Myanmar has caused widespread damage, a local resident said on Saturday, while a meteorological official said it was expected to weaken as it moved northeast through the country.

There was no word from the authorities on damage or deaths. Unusually heavy rain has also caused the worst flooding in decades in neighboring Thailand over the past two weeks, so far killing at least 25 people, officials said.

Burmese state television said on Friday that Cyclone Giri had struck the coast near the western town of Kyaukphyu, with winds reaching 160 km per hour (100 miles per hour), and could trigger a tidal surge of up to 12 feet in some towns on the Bay of Bengal coast.

Telephone contact with the area was interrupted overnight after the cyclone hit but a resident of Kyaukphyu contacted by phone on Saturday morning said the area had suffered badly.

“Everything is gone. All the trees and lamp posts have fallen. Many buildings were damaged. Many people were left homeless,” Ko Ba Phyu told Reuters.

He said he had heard that the area between Kyaukphyu and Myebon, 35 miles to its north, had been worst affected by the winds and tidal surge.

“We haven’t got any information about casualties. It’s too early to know the exact size of damage due to poor telecommunications,” he added.

Coastal and delta regions in the Southeast Asian country are often hit by strong storms. More than 130,000 people were killed or went missing when Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy delta in May 2008.

An official at the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology described Giri on Saturday as an inland storm but had no details on the impact on coastal areas.

The Mandalay area northeast of the coast where Giri made landfall has suffered torrential rain in the past few weeks and residents contacted by Reuters said there had been flash floods recently.

There are a number of dams and hydro power projects in the region and some residents have expressed concern about the impact of the heavy rain on the dams.

Residents in Bagan, an ancient city and popular tourist spot about 430 miles north of the commercial capital, Yangon, told Reuters on Saturday that two main roads linking Bagan to Mandalay had been damaged by torrential rain caused by Giri.

DEATHS IN THAILAND

In Thailand, at least 25 people had been killed since October 10, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Migitation said on Saturday, raising the toll from 17 on Friday. The state-run Narenthorn Emergency Medical Center put the death toll at 32.

At least 29 provinces have been affected, mainly in the northeast and center, covering about a quarter of the country. Flooding has swamped thousands of acres of farmland and affected over a million people. Thousands were evacuated to higher ground.

Bangkok was on flood alert at the weekend, with excess water from reservoirs to its north likely to flow into the Chao Phraya river running through the capital at a time of high tides, possibly forcing it to overflow its banks.

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Myanmar Editor’s Sentencing Shows Ruling Junta’s Double Speak: CPJ
10/22/2010 10:44 PM ET
by RTT Staff Writer

(RTTNews) – The New York-based Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has flayed the trial and the subsequent sentencing of a Myanmarese journalist on sedition charges, saying that it revealed the military-backed government’s “double speak” on allowing democratic rights in the country, reports said on Friday.

Nyi Nyi Tun, editor of Kandarawaddy news journal which has since closed down, was found guilty of “crimes against the state.”

Following this, the trial court in the Myanmarese capital Yangon sentenced him to 13 years in jail.

“The bogus charges and harsh sentencing of Nyi Nyi Tun make a mockery of the ruling junta’s professed transition towards democracy,” Shawn Crispin, senior South-east Asia representative CPJ, said.

According to Crispin, a vibrant media is a key requisite for a functioning democracy and this is something that has been lost on the secretive state’s ruling Generals.

“A free press is essential to a functioning democracy – a reality Burma’s (Myanmar) journalist-jailing junta still hasn’t grasped,” Crispin added.

Tun was arrested in October last and had been under detention ever since.

A CPJ study has revealed that the number of journalists held in Myanmar’s jails is second only to that of Communist China.

The CPJ’s criticism of Yangon comes even as Myanamar is scheduled to go to polls on November 7, the first to be held in the country in the past 20 years.

In 1990 the NLD led by Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide in general elections held there but it was barred from power by the military junta which also brought in a new constitution to replace the old in 2008, further tightening its stranglehold over the southeast Asian nation

The military has also kept Suu Kyi under prolonged detention and she has now spent close to two decades in prison.

Eventhough she was to have been released in May, her house arrest was extended for allegedly breaching the terms of confinement after an American man illegally entered her house.

Also, the NLD was formally disbanded by Myanmerese officials earlier this year for its failure to register with authorities inorder to contest the forthcoming elections. However, Suu Kyi has already made it known that she will not contest the polls.

Suu Kyi, who was born to modern Burma’s founding father Aung San, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

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Monsters and Critics – Journalist protection group condemns Myanmar editor’s sentence
Oct 23, 2010, 1:51 GMT

Bangkok – A journalist protection group on Saturday condemned a 13-year prison sentence given to Myanmar editor Nyi Nyi Tun, noting that the military-ruled country is second only to China in its number of jailed journalists.

On October 13 a Yangon court found Nyi Nyi Tun, editor of the now defunct Kandarawaddy news journal, guilty of ‘crimes against the state,’ and sentenced him to 13 years in jail.

‘The bogus charges and harsh sentencing of Nyi Nyi Tun make a mockery of the ruling junta’s professed transition towards democracy,’ said Shawn Crispin, senior South-east Asia representative of the New York-based Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ).

Myanmar’s junta will stage a general election on November 7, the first in 20 years, as part of their seven-step path to ‘discipline flourishing democracy.’

‘A free press is essential to a functioning democracy – a reality Burma’s journalist-jailing junta still hasn’t grasped,’ Crispin said.

Nyi Nyi Tun was arrested on October 14, 2009, on subversion charges. His Kandarawaddy journal was shut down.

CPJ research shows that Myanmar, also called Burma, has at least 12 journalists in prison, the second-highest tally in Asia after only China.

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Inner City Press – Pro-Asia Mahbubani Says Myanmar “Doing Badly,” Ban Ki-moon “In a Rough Patch”
By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 — Elite pro-Asia academic Kishore Mahbubani, speaking Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said that Myanmar is “doing badly.”

Also in response to a question from Inner City Press about the UN Secretary General, Mahbubani’s first response was that S-G Ban Ki-moon “has hit a rough patch.”

Given that in other response Mahbubani said that Deng Xioping should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize and that Asia is a much more serious power than the Muslim world, that he nevertheless could not present a story of an upward trend line about Myanmar or Ban Ki-moon is significant.

By contrast, Ban told Seoul’s Yonhap that he is confident in receiving a second terms as S-G (Team Ban contests the translation) and that the reviews of his performance by the international community have been “very positive.” But even Mahbubani could not deliver a positive review.

Mahbubani’s remarks were delivered in a wood paneled room over Park Avenue and 68th Street, lined with oil painting of somber Caucasian old men. This was largely the audience, too, but for two younger women who spoke of human rights.

In response, Mahbubani said that human rights cannot be spread by sanctions, and that “after Guantanamo Bay, no one takes the US State Department Human Rights Reports seriously.”

Among the audience were the sister of Senator John Kerry, who works at the US Mission to the UN, and Ban Ki-moon’s speechwriter Michael Myer, among with John Brademas and David Denoon of NYU, both of whom asked questions.

Listed but not questioning was “Judith Miller, Journalist.” One wondered what she thinks of Mahbubani’s analysis that the US wrongfully spends 80% of its foreign policy on the Muslim world, including Iraq, while it should be devoting those resources to countering China’s rise.

While Mahbabani said that China overplayed its hand in strong-arming Japan to return its ship captain, one also wonders what he’d make of China’s moves to block the release of a UN Sudan Sanctions Committee report asserting that Chinese bullets were found in Darfur after an attack on UN peacekeepers there. The event ended at 9 am, and Mahbubani said he had to catch at 10 am train.

Footnotes: Mahbubani told the audience that he is used to being attacked, most recently on by a historian while taping this week’s Fareed Zakaria GPS show on CNN. He praised Zakaria’s piece which praises India — a regular circle of praise.

Just as Tom Friedman editorialized about conversation with Mahbubani over tea, Mahbubani recounted a talk with a “senior State Department official over tea.” In these heady circles, the UN and Ban Ki-moon are an afterthought, going through a rough patch. Watch this site.

Mahbubani’s talk was reminiscent of Tom Plate’s “Giants of Asia” talk at the Singaporean Mission to the UN earlier this year, and his book series by that name which now, Inner City Press has been told, will not include Ban Ki-moon. We’ll see.

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Asian Tribune – Zero Democratic Norm ahead of Arbitrary Election in Burma
Sun, 2010-10-24 01:45 — editor
By Zin Linn

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar (Burma), cast new doubt Wednesday (21 Oct.) on Burma’s looming election and highlighted more cases of prison torture, indiscriminate killings and forced labor in the military-ruled nation.

Mr. Quintana estimated that about 2,100 “prisoners of conscience” now “languish in prisons across the country.” He said at least 144 have died in prison since 1988 and 138 need urgent medical care.

“According to reports and direct testimonies, there are systematic patterns of abuse — physical, psychological and sexual and torture of detainees by Myanmar’s authorities,” Quintana said.

There are a total of 2193 political prisoners in Burma. According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), there were 256 monks, 12 Members of Parliament, 285Students, 176 Women, 413 NLD members, 31 Members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, 233 Ethnic nationalities, 20 Cyclone Nargis volunteers, 26 Teachers, 40 Media activists, 12 Lawyers, 36 Labor activists, 39 – 88 Generation Students, 11 Doctors and 602 Individuals in September 2010.

But the ruling junta strongly refused the UN report and again turned down that there are any “prisoners of conscience.”

Besides, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Burma, Vijay Nambiar, also stated the continued detention of political prisoners and the absence of outside observers at the Nov. 7 election could undermine the credibility of the election.

AAPP also urges ASEAN, the European Union, and other countries to stand with the people of Burma and pledge their support for a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma, as recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur.

The Free Burma Coalition-Philippines Friday (22 Oct.) pushed the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations to raise demands on Myanmar to apply democratic reforms ahead of November elections. ASEAN leaders were scheduled to hold their annual summit in Vietnam on 30 October (one week before Burma’s Election), during which they were expected to call for free, fair and inclusive elections in military ruled country.

With only two weeks to go ahead of the November 7 elections in Burma/Myanmar, the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines expressed despair for they notice ‘zero democratic integrity’ in the scheduled vote.

The coalition noted that despite mounting international criticism, Burma’s ruling junta has not shown considerable signs that the elections would be free, fair and trustworthy.

‘Instead, arbitrary arrests, harassment and continued detention of activists and ordinary people supportive of democracy including journalists are happening right now in Burma,’ the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines spotlighted.

In the mean time, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the 13-year prison sentence handed down on 13 October by a Burmese regime’s arbitrary court to Nyi Nyi Tun, editor of the Kandarawaddy news journal.

On October 13, the Seikkan Township court attached to Rangoon’s Insein Prison found the journalist guilty of “crimes against the state.” He was convicted of violating the Unlawful Associations, Immigration Emergency Provisions and Wireless Acts and other laws, according to Mizzima News based in New Delhi.

“The bogus charges and harsh sentencing of Nyi Nyi Tun make a mockery of the ruling junta’s professed transition towards democracy,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “A free press is essential to a functioning democracy — a reality Burma’s journalist-jailing junta still hasn’t grasped.”

Burma’s junta deems journalists as its harmful enemy after the dissident politicians. Media is often targeted during periodic crackdowns on opposition. Further arrests of journalists cannot be excluded. Journalists based in Rangoon say the detentions were part of a continued crackdown by the military authorities on those involved in the mass anti-government protests in September 2007.

In November 2008, Win Maw, a 47-year-old activist and rock musician, has been serving a 17-year sentence for his journalistic activities.

A military-controlled township court in Burma has handed down a 20-year jail term to the freelance reporter Hla Hla Win, a young female video-journalist who worked with “Democratic Voice of Burma” based in Norway, as the ruling junta continues its crackdown on the free press.

She was arrested in September 2009 after taking a video interview at a Buddhist monastery in Pakokku, a town in Magwe Division, the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres and the Burma Media Association said in a joint statement. For that she was given an additional 7-year prison sentence in October 2009.

In an additional case, the Special Court in Insein prison sentenced reporter Ngwe Soe Lin to a 13-year sentence in prison under section 33(a) of the Electronic Act and section 13(1) of the Immigration Emergency Provisions Act on Jan. 27, 2010 for allegedly attempting to smuggle information to exiled media, according to prominent Rangoon lawyer U Aung Thein.

Ngwe Soe Lin was detained in a Rangoon Internet café on June 26, 2009 and accused of working for the Norway-based opposition radio station Democratic Voice of Burma.

Burma has sentenced severe prison terms to scores of activists, monks, student leaders and journalists for their suspected responsibilities in the 2007 September protests and for helping victims of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962, and its aggressively controlled state media often accuses foreign news organizations of stirring trouble the country’s internal affairs.

Recently on 18 October, an announcement was made by the chairman of Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC). It says no media or photography will be permitted inside or around ballot stations on Election Day. Several local journalists and Burmese politicians have assumed that will unavoidably bring about vote-rigging and various frauds.

A former Major General and Judge Advocate General in Burma’s armed forces, Thein Soe later became the Deputy Chief Justice and then appointed as chairman of the UEC. Last week Thein Soe made the UEC announcement at a press conference in Naypyidaw. According to Rangoon-based journalists who attended the press conference, Thein Soe declined to respond questions honestly related to press freedom.

Burma is setting up for November 7 polls that critics have dismissed as a charade due to the exclusion of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The junta announced last week that Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, would be released after the elections. But, it was not an official announcement.

Burma has more than 150 privately-owned newspapers and magazines but they are all subject to pre-publication censorship by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division. PSRD is run by military officers. This kind of censorship is virtually unique in the world and prevents the emergence of any editorial independence. RSF ranks Burma 174 out of 178 countries in its 2010 press freedom index.

Without free press, the nation’s upcoming polls cannot be produced a democratic or valid result.

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China Daily – Chinese engines reinforce Myanmar’s rail transport
(Xinhua) Updated: 2010-10-23 20:39

YANGON – Myanmar is reinforcing its rail transportation with 30 Chinese engines recently presented to the rail transport department by China as friendship gifts, according to the department Saturday.

These locomotives are to be used not only in old railroads such as Yangon-Mandalay, Mandalay-Myitgyina, Mandalay-Lashio but also in new ones, the sources said.

Up to December 2009, altogether 243 passenger trains, 21 freight trains, 319 railway engines have been added to the country’s rail transportation, it added.

According to official statistics, the length of Myanmar’s railroads increased by two folds in the past 22 years, reaching 4, 800 kilometers (km) from 2,400 km in 1988.

Over the period, 73 million passengers and 3 million tons’ commodities were rail-transported yearly, up from 36 million and more than 1 million tons respectively.

Meanwhile, 13 new railroads are being built in Myanmar in parallel passing over mountain ranges and extending from the east to the west, of which some completed sections have been opened for service.

Besides, the number of railway stations has also been added by 406, bringing the total to 893, up from 487 in the past.

Moreover, Myanmar has planned to construct a railroad that will link a deep-sea port, Kyaukphyu, in western Rakhine state with Kunming, southwest of China and the project is targeted to complete in 2015.

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The Asian Age – 100 fishermen missing as cyclone hits Burma, Bangladesh
Oct 23rd, 2010

Over a 100 fishermen with 21 boats went missing from the northeastern reaches of the Bay of Bengal after cyclone Giri hit Burma and Bangladesh, authorities said Saturday.

The cyclone hit Burma’s southern coast of Sittwe around 8 pm on Friday, triggering storms, rains and huge tidal surges in Saint Martin’s island and other parts of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. With tidal surges hitting seven to 8 m above normal water level, people of St Martin’s island and Teknaf moved to safer shelters, the Daily Star reported on Saturday.

A weather warning broadcast on Burma’s state television described cyclone Giri as a “very strong” storm and urged people living in coastal areas in Rakhine state to move to safety. The storm was packing winds of about 177 km an hour at its centre, with gusts of up to 193kph, said the alert issued by Myanmar’s department of meteorology. Sea levels could rise by 3.7 metres, it said.

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The Irrawaddy – Security Tight in Rangoon Amid Rumors of Protests
Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Burmese junta tightened security around downtown Rangoon on Saturday amid reports that monks and activists planned to gather at the city’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda to protest next month’s election, according to local sources.

“Since this morning, riot police trucks have been going around the city and security forces are on standby near Shwedagon Pagoda and at monasteries near Rangoon General Hospital in Pazundaung Township,” said a source in Rangoon.

Saturday marked the end of the Buddhist Lent, a major event on Burma’s religious calendar, so temples and pagodas around the country were crowded as normal. But the authorities in Rangoon were on high alert after monks and activists reportedly issued a statement recently saying they would organize protests against the Nov.7 election.

According to local journalists, there were unconfirmed reports that at least two monks had been detained at Shwedagon Pagoda.

“Monks and other people started gathering around Shwedagon at about 11 am. Witnesses told us that two monks were taken into custody by government agents. Maybe they were detained briefly,” said a reporter for a local private journal.

“They were handing out pamphlets that said they don’t not accept the election or the new flag that the government introduced a couple of days ago,” he added.

Meanwhile, authorities attempted to deter some opposition politicians from traveling to Kale in northern Burma’s Sagaing Division, where ethnic leaders are scheduled to gather for a meeting on ethnic minority rights over the weekend.

“U Aung Thein, a lawyer for the National League for Democracy, was questioned by the authorities while he was traveling to Kale,” said a dissident source. “He is now safely in Kale with other opposition and ethnic politicians for the meeting.”

Opposition politicians and ethnic leaders have called for another gathering like the Panglong Conference of February 1947, when Burma’s independence leaders agreed to a political formula that guaranteed the rights of the country’s many ethnic minorities.

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The Irrawaddy – Relief Urgently Needed as Cyclone Giri Leaves Dozens Missing
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Around 100 villages on Ramree Island, as well as the island’s major town of Kyakpyu, have suffered severe damage after Cyclone Giri hit the Arakan coast on Friday with winds of up to 160 km (100 miles) per hour and waves as high as 3.6 meters (12 feet), according to local sources.

There are still no confirmed reports of casualties, although sources in the area said that dozens of  villagers and fisherman are believed to have gone missing since the storm reached its peak at around 3 pm yesterday.

Local residents also said that there was an urgent need for food, water and shelter after the storm left hundreds of homes destroyed by flood waters or falling trees.

Power lines and telephone poles have also been badly damaged by the storm, making it difficult for many residents to get outside assistance.

“The whole town of Kyaukpyu has been hit hard,” a local resident told The Irrawaddy on Saturday. “There are fallen trees everywhere, and many houses right on the coast have been swept away. All the shops are closed, so there’s nowhere to buy food or drinking water.”

A local government official confirmed the urgent need for emergency assistance, particularly in Kyaukpyu’s Zone 11, an area with a population of around 10,000 that was directly in the path of the cyclone.

Besides food and water, the official said that many people in the area also need medical attention and construction materials to build temporary shelters.

There were no reported cases of damage to the major Burmese naval base located on Ramree, an island that has attracted growing international attention in recent years as the starting point of a gas and oil pipeline project that will link Kyaukpyu to Kunming, capital of China’s Yunnan Province.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi media reported on Saturday that more than 100 fishermen in 21 boats from Bangladesh have gone missing from the northeastern reaches of the Bay of Bengal since yesterday.

There have also been reports that around 70 foreign tourists have been stranded in the southern Arakan resort town of Ngapali due to the closure of the airport at Thandwe.

Unlike in May 2008, when the Burmese regime failed to warn residents of the Irrawaddy delta of the approach of Cyclone Nargis, the state-run media has provided extensive coverage of Cyclone Giri.

According to Burmese meteorologist Tun Lwin, Cyclone Giri has weakened since crossing the Rakhine mountain range, but continues to bring heavy rain to Magway and Mandalay divisions, which have already experienced severe flooding in recent weeks. The state media has also issued storm warnings for these areas.

UPDATE (as of 5:00 pm Saturday local time): According to the latest reports, at least 5,000 people in Kyaukpyu are now homeless as a result of extensive damage to the town. Sources said that the Red Cross in Kyaukpyu has arranged to provide 300 tents and 150 bags of rice to local residents.

Myebon Township, located between Kyaukpyu and the Arakan State capital of Sittwe, has been identified as the worst-hit area, although no details regarding casualties or damage have been made available.

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Mizzima News – Gender discrimination in authoritarian Burma
Saturday, 23 October 2010 15:07
With women’s rights on the decline in Burma, Mizzima reporter The The interviewed Thin Thin Aung from the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) in the run-up to the 2010 general election.

Q: The WLB has outlined various discriminations against women and gender inequality in Burma. So, which rights are being violated and how is violence against women being committed? What are the reasons for these violations?

A: Many women in Burma are suffering from oppression, discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence and it is rampant across the country. I find two reasons when I analyze the cases. The root cause of these violations is the growing militarism in Burma since the military took power in 1962 and the military culture that has developed since then. The second reason regards cultural and traditional practices followed by all ethnic races across the country that discriminate against women. Speaking to the first reason, torture and persecution against people are being committed by authorities in many areas in Burma. Under these circumstances, the security scenario has worsened and women are suffering from various types of oppression.

Q: Burma is a signatory country to the ‘Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW). In which areas has Burma failed to implement the conditions of CEDAW?

A: The military regime of Burma signed CEDAW in 1997. As a signatory country of CEDAW, it is automatically committed to implement all the provisions in CEDAW. But I don’t see the junta effectively implementing articles on the promotion of status of women. They are implementing the eradication of female trafficking plan. I see they are speeding up this eradication plan. But, they have failed to implement the promotion of health and livelihood for women and also failed to enact the necessary laws in this regard. The promotion of the status of women must include tackling issues regarding the elimination of women in the political decision-making process and decreasing job opportunities. These issues must be implemented and tackled by special projects and schemes.

Moreover, the regime has responsibility as a signatory country of CEDAW to eradicate discrimination against women in education. But, women are still discriminated against in education under the junta’s constitution and existing educational laws. Though admitting women to some learning institutions in Burma such as medicine and engineering, qualifying marks for women are higher than required for male counterparts. This is a direct violation by the government.

Q: Do you study the policies of political parties contesting the election?

A: Some parties include some issues on women’s affairs in their policy papers such as promising gender equality and to enact laws to safeguard the security of women. They are also promising job opportunities for women and the eradication of female trafficking. But, the points these political parties make are general and as such fail to effectively tackle the root causes. For instance, the policies mentioned in the manifesto of the Wunthanu NLD (a break-away group from NLD) are shocking to me. I said before that traditions and cultural practices in Burma are one of the root causes of discrimination against women in Burma. However, they look to promote women who can preserve the national culture. I am shocked to see these words in their election manifesto. What is the national culture? When we analyze it we can see the national culture is a set of disciplines that dictates to women how to behave, how to live and how to preserve the culture. These points include many violations against women. Also, some women leaders and politicians have said in their speeches that there is no discrimination against women in Burma. Women in Burma are enjoying gender equality, they say. It is very dangerous for us, because this is the attitude of urban people, the urban middle class and women intellectuals in Burma.

The attitude that there is no discrimination against women is embedded in the brains of these women. At the same time, they are saying they will fight for women’s rights. They must admit there are discriminations against women and no gender equality in Burma before advocating for women’s rights in Burma. If there is no discrimination against women and there is gender equality, they have nothing to do with women’s rights. So, they must first admit and recognize discriminations against women and the lack of gender equality in Burma. Only after recognizing these things can they develop a programme on how to tackle these issues. But, I think they are just making superficial points in an attempt to lure women votes for their parties.

Q: After this election do you see any prospect for better security and social welfare for women and a reduction in violence against women?

A: I don’t see any chance. Even after the election it will be difficult to see the elimination of violence against women, forced labor and the trafficking of women and children. The military dictatorship is the root cause of discrimination against women and violence against women. Throughout the reign of the military regime, ethnic women living in frontier areas have constantly suffered more violence, including sexual violence. Thus, violence against women can only be eradicated after the elimination of the military dictatorship. However, the main purpose of this election is to make the 2008 constitution come into force. Many provisions in this constitution suggest the continuance of military supremacy in our country.

For instance, article 445 of the constitution provides impunity for the military junta with respect to any violation of human rights. By seeing this article, it is very clear that military rule and supremacy will continue in Burma, as well as these violations. This provision seems to encourage predators to commit more crimes against women.

Q: What points in the constitution are the most important and dangerous for Burmese women?

A: If you see the provisions of this constitution you will note there are no provisions guaranteeing gender equality. Moreover, there are specific provisions that discriminate against women in education and job opportunities.

For instance, please see chapter 8 of this constitution, which says ‘women shall be entitled to the same rights and salaries as received by men in respect of similar work,’ and that there shall be ‘no discrimination for or against any citizen of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in appointing or assigning duties to civil service personnel.’ But, the exception to these clauses is found in article 352, which says, ‘however nothing in this section shall prevent appointment of men to positions that are suitable for men only.’ So, I’d like to point out this is absolutely unfair and unjust to women.

Another dangerous point in this constitution concerns how action can be taken against servicemen and military personnel. Military personnel can only be tried by court martial under military laws for whatever crimes they commit. They cannot be tried by civilian courts for committing crimes against civilians. The constitution says ‘in the adjudication of military justice, defence service personnel shall be tried by court martial.’ Women will thus face more difficulties in seeking justice in civilian courts when crimes are committed against them by soldiers.

Q: I heard that the WLB is trying to put Burmese Army generals on trial at the International Criminal Court. What are your continuing efforts in this work?

A: Since we cannot seek justice from the un-independent judiciary system in Burma, we must put them on trial at the International Criminal Court for violations of international law. They have committed a lot of war crimes and inhumane crimes that need to be investigated by a UN commission of inquiry. About ten countries have already given their endorsement. So, we have a plan to enlist more countries in support of this commission of inquiry.

Q: In Burma, more than half of eligible voters are women. As a women’s rights activist, what would you like to say to women voters?

A: When you see the result of the 1990 general election, there were only 15 female MPs-elect out of a total of 485. That is only three percent. This percentage is very low by international standards. Under this constitution too, 25 percent of total seats are reserved in both legislative bodies for the armed forces, but there are no female military personnel in the armed forces.

Further, CEDAW calls for more participation of women in the decision-making process, at least 30 to 40 percent. But the provisions in the junta’s constitution are opposite to the CEDAW convention. So, we need to fight against this constitution. We must conduct legal reform by rectifying unjust provisions against women in this constitution, such as seeing women only as mothers linked with their children. We must amend these unjust and unfair laws. So, I’d like to say that women should resolutely and relentlessly oppose this election and try to amend this constitution.

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Mizzima News – Cyclone damage spurs calls for aid as 3,000 homes suffer
Saturday, 23 October 2010 22:07

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Cyclone Giri has carved a swathe of damage across dozens of townships in its path after it crossed the west coast of Burma yesterday, residents said, adding their calls for urgent relief aid and expertise.

The Category Four storm made landfall between the port of Sittwe and Kyaukphyu, Arakan State, at around 5 p.m. yesterday, with winds of up to 120 miles per hour (193 km/h) per hour, the state weather bureau reported last night.

Telephone contact with the area was interrupted overnight after the cyclone hit but a resident of Kyaukphyu contacted by phone on Saturday morning said the area had suffered badly, Reuters news agency and Mizzima reporters said.

“Everything is gone. All the trees and lamp posts have fallen. Many buildings were damaged. Many people were left homeless,” resident Ba Phyu told Reuters.

Residents reported widespread damage also across the severely hit townships of Myebon and Minbya and Sittwe, Ann, Pauktaw and Manaung, which had received sustained strong gales.

“We heard that Myebon was the most seriously damaged of all. We have strongly urged community organisations to carry out relief work. Our team members will go to Arakan State to that end,” Rangoon-based Arakan Friends Association secretary Tun Naing said.

“Currently, public transport is unavailable because of the traditional Thadingyut Festival [of lights, usually held at the end of Buddhist Lent]. As soon as that becomes available, we will leave for the state.”

Another Kyaukphyu resident provided more details on the extent of the damage, and told how earlier predictions of a storm surge hitting the area had become a reality.

“The cyclone brought a storm surge that was up to a man’s height … I heard that the power cuts would last for a month. I saw many local Red Cross members on the roads. But I see they’ve done nothing,” the resident from Kyaukphyu said.

He added that more than 3,000 houses, nearly all of the homes in 10 wards of Kyaukphyu, were damaged in the storm.

“There was no news of any casualties but the [nearby] dam was breached. Our town was seriously damaged. I didn’t think that the cyclone would be as fierce as that,” a resident from Saiditaung Ward in Kyaukphyu said.

All of the palm plantations and salt pans were also damaged.

Arakan Friends today opened a donation centre in Thamain Bayan Road in Tarmway Township, Rangoon, to help victims of the cyclone. The charity had received about 10 million kyat (about US$10,000), Tun Naing said.

More than 70 Arakanese social organisations will hold a meeting about potential cyclone relief efforts in the Arakan religious hall at the eastern archway of Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon tomorrow.

Giri spurred fears of a repeat of the destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis, which hit the Irrawaddy Delta region in May 2008, triggered a huge sea surge, killed at least 140,000 people, and affected up to 2.4 million people, making many homeless.

British analysts Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) of University College London at 9:30 p.m. Burma time (3 p.m. GMT) positioned the storm about 50 kilometres east of Sittwe, with maximum winds of 92 miles per hour.

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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.