Burma Partnership firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com http://apppb.blogspot.com Briefer 30th June – 6th July People Still Await Promised Signs of Progress Cyclone Nargis: Two months since the cyclone, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that more than a million cyclone victims have yet to receive any assistance. In lieu of effective help for farmers in the country’s devastated rice-bowl, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that almost a million people will need food assistance for at least the next six months. Traumatised children and teachers are struggling on with the school year and doctors race to provide crucial help to pregnant women (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=13133). The international community is suspended in limbo while the people of Burma limp on, still waiting for the promised signs of progress. The effects of the cyclone have certainly been political, despite desperate diplomatic claims to the contrary. The junta has demonstrated its intransigence and destructive paranoia to an increasingly impatient world, and passions may have been reignited in the brutally suppressed people of Burma. The international community chose not to apply the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect; a decision that might have cost many lives. Whether change comes from within or from outside remains to be seen, but in a country with such a strangulating government it seems unlikely that even a people so keen for democracy can do it alone (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=13100). The UN has reported that cooperation between the international humanitarian community and the Burmese authorities is improving, despite some bureaucratic hurdles (http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=79012). At a press conference in Tokyo, Ban Ki- moon referred to his ‘meaningful dialogue’ with Senior General Than Shwe and the Burmese authorities’ ‘encouraging’ acceptance of international aid workers (http://yangon.unic.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=252&Itemid=73). In the face of such prolonged desperation in the delta, such claims risk sounding hollow (http://www.irrawaddy.org/opinion_story.php?art_id=13145). According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 52,000 farmers will be unable to cultivate monsoon crops without immediate comprehensive help. The consequences of missing this season’s crop are dire. One farmer was quoted as saying, “there is a silent Nargis ahead. We are sure to starve if we miss this season” (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=13047). The situation looks bleak. Despite the efforts of the Burmese and international communities, farmers simply haven’t been provided with sufficient seeds, tractors or fuel to plant effectively (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1485, http://www.mizzima.com/nargis-impact/18-nargis- impact/738-farmers-find-it-difficult-to-procure-fuel-and-seeds, http://www.irrawaddy.org/article2.php?art_id=13143). Corruption has served only to compound the extreme difficulties faced in the delta region. The chairperson of the Phyar Pon Township Peace and Development Council is being investigated following accusations that he sold 5000 bags of fertiliser intended for township farmers (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1494). The Thanpyuzayart Town Peace and Development Council collected 1000 kyat from each of more than 6000 households in order to pay for the cremations of 389 cyclone victims. Almost a third of the money collected remains unaccounted for (http://www.monnews-imna.com/newsupdate.php?ID=1071). Local authorities in Labutta are pressuring 7,000 cyclone survivors to return to their homes. Those who agree to do so will be provided with enough food to last ten days and will be entered in a draw for new houses; those who refuse to leave have been warned that they can expect no aid next month (http://www.irrawaddy.org/highlight.php?art_id=13104, http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1498). The construction projects in the seat of the junta, Nay Pyi Daw, have ground to a halt as construction companies are relocated to assist with the reconstruction efforts in the Irrawaddy delta. An estimated 80% of construction work has been relocated, leaving workers jobless or forced to move with the companies. There are concerns that workers must often go unpaid due to the financial problems of their contractors (http://www.irrawaddy.org/highlight.php?art_id=13122). Villagers have voiced their doubts that the regime will fulfil its promise to build 6000 new houses for cyclone victims. They further commented that, though they received sufficient aid from private donors, the UN and INGOs, the junta merely pretended to provide aid in front of its state television channel (http://www.monnews-imna.com/newsupdate.php?ID=1076). Local organisations in Burma continue their efforts to assist cyclone victims. The National League for Democracy (NLD) announced plans to focus efforts on providing clean drinking water to cyclone-afflicted villages. The party’s Cyclone Relief Committee will clean and mend ponds used to collect rainwater that have been damaged by salt water carried by the cyclone (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1486). A Rangoon-based NGO, the Myanmar Business Executive Group, has announced a 50 million kyat (more than US$ 40,000) microfinance scheme to help victims of the cyclone. Loans will be offered to those with no collateral on the basis of recommendations from others in their communities. An estimated 500 farmers in Dedaye Township have been assisted by a scheme to provide mechanical tillers. The scheme follows the highly successful model of Mohammed Yunus’ microcredit scheme in Bangladesh (http://www.irrawaddy.org/highlight.php?art_id=13081). The Medical Association has reported that a total of 21,834 cyclone victims have been found to be carrying the Tuberculosis virus. TB, a communicable disease that easily affects vulnerable people living in densely populated relief camps, is of high concern in Burma (http://rss.xinhuanet.com/newsc/english/2008-07/02/content_8478323.htm). Reporters Sans Frontieres notes that at least 10 foreign journalists have been expelled since the cyclone, the latest of whom is Inga Gruss, a German volunteer with local NGO Myanmar Egress. The authorities are thought to have become suspicious after she met veteran politicians and ethnic leaders for her social science research. (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article2.php?art_id=13120). Burmese border police have caught human traffickers as they tried to smuggle 80 women and children from the cyclone-afflicted region into neighbouring countries. It is feared that trafficking will increase in the wake of the cyclone, and the regime has warned against the exploitation of cyclone victims. Burma introduced an anti-trafficking law in 2005 that carries a maximum penalty of death (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article4.php?art_id=13116). Other news: Fighting between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), and its breakaway faction, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), broke out on 30th June near Pob Phra district in Thailand’s Tak Province (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article1.php?art_id=13057). The Thai authorities evacuated more than 200 Thai villagers and 200 Karen villagers from Burma fled to Thailand. Thailand has sent soldiers to secure its border (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article3.php?art_id=13077). The KNU claims to have recaptured its Waylaykhe base camp, just 45 km from the Thai border town of Mae Sot (http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/4-inside-burma/743-karen-rebels- recapture-outpost). According to the KNU, one DKBA soldier and two SPDC troops, who were supporting the DKBA, were killed in the clash (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1500). A bomb exploded in the office of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) in the outskirts of Rangoon on 1st July. There were no reported injuries (http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/4-inside-burma/740-bomb-blast-at-pro-junta- groups-office-in-rangoon). An armed student group, the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement posted on a Burmese blog in exile (http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/4-inside-burma/745-warriors-claim-responsibility- for-rangoon-blast). A township leader of the NLD has been arrested in connection with the attack (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article3.php?art_id=13138). The explosion has prompted the junta to call for people to watch out for “saboteurs” ahead of August and September’s potentially incendiary anniversaries (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article4.php?art_id=13101, http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1488). Following the violent crackdown on last September’s monk-led demonstrations, the junta ordered many monks to leave Rangoon and return to their villages. The monks are now returning, slowly and fewer than before the uprising, for Buddhist lent and to resume their studies (http://www.monnews-imna.com/newsupdate.php?ID=1078). Restrictions are being tightened on political prisoners held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The AAPP reports that political prisoners are suffering an exercise ban and the cessation of the regular supplies of books from family and friends. The failing health of U Win Tin, Min Ko Naing and Myo Yan Naung has also been highlighted (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article2.php?art_id=13078, http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1496). As of 4th July, U Win Tin, the world’s longest serving prisoner of conscience, has spent 19 years in solitary confinement. The highly respected journalist has repeatedly refused to sign a promise to abandon his political career in exchange for freedom. Reporters Sans Frontieres and the Burma Media Association issued a statement calling for his release (http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/12032). Six activists given lengthy prison sentences for gathering workers to celebrate May Day at the US Embassy last year have had their appeal rejected for a second time. The activists have been charged under the Unlawful Association Act as well as sedition, and face up to 28 years imprisonment each (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1499). Two NLD members, U Tin Win and Nyi Nyi Min, detained for allegedly wearing T-shirts with a ‘No’ symbol campaigning against the draft constitution have appeared in court (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1497). Meanwhile, four NLD youth members in Arakan State have been sentenced to one year in prison for distributing statements issued by the NLD headquarters (http://www.narinjara.com/details.asp?id=1804). The NLD fears that 25 activists were detained on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday, not just the 14 previously reported. There has been a marked increase in the harassment of NLD members over the past few weeks (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1502). Htay Aung, the poetry editor of Rangoon-based monthly magazine, Cherry, was fired for publishing a poem about the ancient town of Depayin. Depayin is where many heroic warriors and figures in Burma’s history were born, although the poem suggests that there were also traitors in the town. It was also the scene of the 2003 attack on NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1481). The Shan Herald Agency for News conducted a poll to see if there was any reflection of public opinion in the regime’s ‘results’. The poll contradicts the official ‘results’ and demonstrates that there was not the 99% turnout claimed. The report states that only 10 of the 1,186 respondents voted in favour of the constitution of their “own free will” (http://www.shanland.org/politics/2008/test). Foreign investment in Burma’s oil and natural gas sectors more than tripled to US$ 474.3 million last year. Despite the British government’s strict restrictions on trade with Burma, the UK led the investors with investments of US$ 187 million. According to the official report, the UK includes the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda since some oil companies register in such places in order to bypass the sanctions imposed by their governments (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article2.php?art_id=13054). The debate over Chevron’s stake in Burma is still raging in the US (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi- bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/07/05/MNS311I24I.DTL). A 16 year-old migrant worker from Mon State was gang-raped by Thai and Burmese men working at the same cotton factory. She has been hospitalised and is now recovering from the severe beatings, torture and repeated rape (http://www.monnews- imna.com/newsupdate.php?ID=1070). An unidentified Thai gang shot dead a Mon migrant worker in southern Thailand on 1st July. Migrant workers have been facing many problems with gangs torturing and murdering them, according to a worker in the region (http://www.monnews- imna.com/newsupdate.php?ID=1073). Following the massive investigation into Maung Weik and his associates’ drug use and alleged production, the young tycoon has been moved to Insein prison and faces a severe punishment. There has been a major crackdown on drug users amongst Burma’s elite, but some have suggested that Maung Weik has been the victim of a top-level conspiracy (http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/4-inside-burma/750-drug-investigation-heavy- punishment-likely-for-maung-weik). Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council have pledged to deal with the political impasse in Burma this month. Ban has asserted his commitment to the process of democratisation in the country, and the Special UN Envoy on Burma Ibrahim Gambari is expected to visit Burma later this month. The White House has announced that Burma will be a priority for world leaders to discuss at the G8 summit (http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=13113). Solidarity actions: More than 200 Burmese nationals living in Japan gathered before the UN office in Tokyo to urge visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to take effective measures to resolve Burma’s political impasse (http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1484). The rally took place on the fifth anniversary of the Depayin massacre, in which at least 70 of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters were killed. Amnesty International has urged people to take urgent action for U Win Tin. The Amnesty International appeal for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Win Tin, U Khun Htun Oo and Zaw Htet Ko Ko can be found at http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/feature- stories/myanmar-eighteen-years-persecution-20071024. The Asian Human Rights Commission has launched an urgent appeal calling for the case against Ko Htin Kyaw, arrested for protesting against rising commodity prices in August 2007, to be dropped. To add your voice to the call, please visit http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2008/2917/. Note: If you reproduce this briefer, please attribute it to the Burma Partnership and retain all links.
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