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Hammersmith Goldhawk Road get Total Oil out of Burma protest

Awyame | 03.05.2008 01:17 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Social Struggles | London

Six protestors demonstrated at the Raven Total station on 372 Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith, 30th April. They called on the French oil company to stop funding the military dictatorship with 500 million dollars a year. Total has long been an accomplice of the corrupt junta's theft of Burma's resources, funding their brutal oppression of the Burmese people and the genocide of ethnic minorities. Total's pipeline was built with slave labour.

There were road works causing slow traffic near the station. The weather was bad but the protesters were in good spirits and held a "Beep 4 Burma. Boycott Total" banner, to which many passing cars, including buses beeped in support of the protest.

The police briefly chatted with the protesters after stopping a passing car. The nice policeman we spoke to was sympathetic with the plight of the people in Burma and our protest and even suggested larger banners.

Total and Burma

A detailed report on Total Oil's involvement in Burma, written by Burma Campaign UK, can be downloaded at

Total is in a joint venture with the dictatorship in the Yadana gas project in southern Burma. [1]

The gas project funds the junta with hundreds of millions of dollars a year and represents a major source of foreign currency for the regime to buy weapons and finance the army.

Burma has the world's worst health care [2], the most corruption [3] and the most child soldiers [4].

Protests in London next week

7th May Wednesday

Meet at Burma Embassy to join daily protest
Myanmar/Burma Embassy 19A, Charles St, London W1J 5DX.
Tube: Green Park | Map:

Total 1st Quarter 2008 Results
Total London HQ, 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW
Tube: Oxford Circus | Map:

Willesden Lane Total Station Protest
5.00pm - 7.00pm (Wednesday)
Protest at Willesden Lane Total Station, 290 Willesden Lane, Willesden NW2 5HS
Tube: Willesden Green. Map:

Protests are held weekly but locations may change. For information and reports on protests in London and around the country please see

BURMA CAMPAIGN MAY 16TH PROTEST : Tell TOTAL to pull out of Burma on 16TH MAY

Our next big protest is the global day of action against TOTAL on May 16th. Every year TOTAL gives the Burmese regime $500 million through its gas platform in Burma. Since around 1/2 of the regime's money is spent on the army and its violent campaigns of repression it is fair to say that TOTAL is funding repression in Burma. We're aiming to hold protests at TOTAL Garages across Europe on May 16th, why not join us? Below are the 3 steps to holding your own protest:

1. Find your local TOTAL garage (on there is a convenient Service Station Finder).
2. Download some resources (flyers to give to the public, facts and figures, the campaign briefing) at
3. Spread the word and protest on the day! will be doing the following protests for this event, more may be arranged:

Protest at West Four Total petrol station, 137 Chiswick High Road,
Chiswick W4 2ED
Time: 11:00-2:00pm Friday May 16th
Tube: Turnham Green Map:

Protest at Raven Total station, 372 Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith W6 0XF
Time: 2:30pm-3:30pm Friday May 16th
Tube: Stamford Brook. Map:

Marylebone Road (main protest)
Protest at Total petrol station, Dorset House, 170-172 Marylebone Rd,
London NW1 5AR
Time: 5.00pm - 7.00pm Friday May 16th
Tube: Baker Street. Map:

European Day of Action against TOTAL on May 16th Event on Facebook (Host Burma Campaign UK) (Host Get TOTAL OIL out of Burma)

You can email TOTAL right now to tell them that you think they should leave Burma via

Burma Campaign UK on Facebook

Get Total out of Burma on Facebook ( Facebook group)


Make sure you've signed:

- Urge immediate medical care for Min Ko Naing (Email campaign launched 29th April 2008)
- "Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now!" petition (global campaign launched 13 March 2008)
- The Burma Campaign UK e-action to TOTAL:
- The global pledge:
- Don't Forget Burma - send a photo message to the regime:


Burma Campaign UK's video channel on YouTube:

- New to Burma? Watch these videos for a brief introduction
- This is Burma Music - U2, REM, Damien Rice, KT Tunstall...
- This is Burma: News and Documentaries - including Burma's Secret War
and Inside The Crackdown

30 Days (in May 2008) for a million voices:
Millions Rallied to Free Nelson Mandela and South Africa. Now it's Burma's Turn
Hollywood Stars Team up with the Human Rights Action Center to Launch Campaign on Behalf of the People of Burma
Will Ferrell, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen Page, Judd Apatow, Mana, Sylvester Stallone, Eric Szmanda, Sarah Silverman Part of 30-Day Call-to-Action to Free Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.

Get TOTAL OIL out of Burma group on Facebook:

RECENT BURMA NEWS: (see - read links for the full versions of stories)

The EU's Burma shame

David Cronin, The Guardian

May 2, 2008 6:30 AM

There are not many examples of the United States taking a more principled approach than the European Union toward a foreign country. Burma offers a rare case in point.

When the Burmese military junta brutally suppressed protests by Buddhist monks during the autumn, the response from Washington was commendably robust. Sanctions dating from 1997 were complemented by fresh measures and legislation with potentially far-reaching consequences were brought before Congress. John McCain introduced a bill in the Senate to ban global energy company Chevron from continuing to hold a minority stake in the Yadana gas field in southern Burma - a bold step for a man then seeking a nomination from a political party with an almost umbilical tie to the oil industry.

Superficially, EU governments appeared to take similar steps to the US by, for example, banning Burmese imports of precious metals, gemstones and timber. However, on closer inspection it emerges that they have been more timid than America. Europe's restrictions on banking and financial transactions involving the Burmese authorities or companies are narrower in scope than those imposed across the Atlantic.

One loophole of particular concern is that the EU's sanctions do not prevent Burmese generals or their cronies from using Swift, the leading global network for cross-border financial transfers; Swift has its headquarters in Belgium.

This week the EU had a chance to rectify that situation when its foreign ministers assessed the package of sanctions they had agreed in October. By merely renewing - and not widening - that package, they squandered their opportunity.

McCain's attack on Chevron can be contrasted with the position taken by France to protect the investment of Total, the main company behind the Yadana project. No western company has propped up Burma's murderous regime more than Total. That much is obvious, when one considers that at over $2 billion in 2006, revenues from gas are the largest source of income for the military. Most of the gas sold originated from just two fields: Yetagun and Yadana.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated that he does not want Total to expand its activities in Burma. Yet France has done everything it can to protect investments already made. French officials have insisted that Total's operations should not be hurt by EU sanctions. Nobody should be surprised by this duplicity, given that Total has connections at the highest level in Paris. Before being appointed foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner stoutly defended Total against allegations it was using child labour. His 2003 'fact-finding' mission about Total's activities was financed by the company itself.

I've heard some people, including at least one member of the Burma solidarity movement, argue that there is little point in forcing European firms to divest from Burma. China would rapidly step in and replace these firms, the argument goes.

There are no easy answers to the growing role played by China in countries under the yoke of loathsome governments like Burma, Sudan or Zimbabwe. It is also distressing to observe how China's excesses mirror those of Europe's biggest powers during the colonial era.

However, shifting the focus to Beijing can often just be a convenient way to distract attention from how Europe refuses to defend human rights with any real gusto.

UN calls for fair Burmese ballot

The UN Security Council has urged Burma to ensure fundamental political freedoms are respected in the 10 May referendum on a constitution.

Its statement also called on the military government to allow all political actors to participate in a free, fair and credible ballot.

But it made no reference to jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

China, a close trading partner of Burma, objected to mentions in the first two drafts of the statement.

Also out are calls for Burma's government to release all political prisoners, and take tangible and timely steps towards genuine dialogue.

Diplomats say China regarded such language as unhelpful.

China's UN ambassador told reporters it was not up to the Security Council to say what the conditions should be for each referendum.

Burma has faced international pressure to make democratic reforms since it cracked down on pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks last September.

Ibrahim Gambari, the UN envoy to Burma, has made three visits to the country but little progress towards getting talks going between the government and the opposition.

The New-York based organisation Human Rights Watch has denounced the referendum as a sham designed to entrench the military in power.

Hollywood Stars Team up with the Human Rights Action Center to Launch Campaign on Behalf of the People of Burma

Will Ferrell, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen Page, Judd Apatow, Mana, Sylvester Stallone, Eric Szmanda, Sarah Silverman Part of 30-Day Call-to-Action to Free Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

WASHINGTON & BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Human Rights Action Center and the U.S. Campaign for Burma have joined together to create “Burma: It Can’t Wait,” a first-of-its-kind, 30-day campaign using influential celebrity voices to help build a million-person movement to free Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.

“We’re witnessing a new age of activism,” said Jack Healey, founder of the Human Rights Action Center and former director of the Peace Corps in Lesotho and Amnesty International USA. “Now more than ever, people have access to, and participate in, a multitude of online options to learn and communicate about causes and charitable giving. With this campaign, we’ve created 30 unique and creative video appeals, designed for the Web, with the goal of inspiring people to take action, once they learn what is happening in Burma. For me, that spark came in 1999, when I had the opportunity to meet Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon. I believe this campaign can be the spark that motivates millions of other people to join her cause.”

According to Human Rights Watch, the government of Burma has been responsible for recruiting more child soldiers than any other country in the world, has coordinated programs of ethnic cleansing that rely on rape as a weapon of terror, and practiced policies of forced labor, censorship, and imprisonment of political activists. Another such atrocity committed by this government was the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi, currently the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient. After her political party won more than 82 percent of the seats in parliament in Burma's last election, Burma's military junta placed her under house arrest, where she has remained for 12 of the past 18 years. Because of her peaceful fight for human rights and democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi has been forced from her children and family. The military regime won't allow her family to see her – even preventing her husband from visiting her in the final days of his life. On April 24, the U.S. Senate awarded Aung San Suu Kyi with the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian honor. Suu Kyi is the first person in history to be awarded with this medal while under arrest. Past winners include George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela.

“Just as the world came together twenty years ago to free Nelson Mandela and South Africa, we can do so again for Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma,” said Jeremy Woodrum, co-founder of U.S. Campaign for Burma. “Our goal is to mobilize one million people to join the U.S. Campaign for Burma and become agents for change in Burma.”

"Every now and again, a single person or event captures the imagination and inspiration of the world,” said Will Ferrell in his video, which kicks off the campaign today. “This moment belongs to Burma, and to Aung San Suu Kyi. Please, honor her courage, honor your compassion and let this be the month you join an effort to change the world."

Each day during the month of May, a different vignette will be released from celebrities who are raising their voices to spread awareness about Aung San Suu Kyi. The vignettes will be available through as many video websites as possible and the full campaign will live within Fanista at Will Ferrell, Ellen Page, Anjelica Huston, Judd Apatow, Jennifer Aniston, Julie Benz, Rosanna Arquette and many others will help educate and inspire viewers to sign an online petition, virally spread the site to their friends, and take action against these atrocities.

The vignettes will be available through as many video websites as possible, though the full campaign will live within social shopping site Fanista at Bonus footage from video shoots will be available exclusively on Fanista, and personal Fanista profile pages of many of the participating celebrities will be available on the site. Check out and for more information.

Villagers forced to do repairs on the hydropower dam project

Junta authorities in Namkham township, Northern Shan State, have been forcing villagers to repair the collapsed bank of the Shweli Hydropower Dam Project which is established on the Shweli River, according to a reliable local source.
Villagers forced to do repairs on the hydropower dam project

By Hseng Khio Fah

On 21 April, Man Tat based commander from Light Infantry Battalion 144, Captain Kyaw Than ordered villagers of Wangmeng, Hangkarm, Hinlong, Kawngkart and Wiangkang village tracts to repair the collapsed bank of the Shweli Hydropower Dam Project.

On 24 April, a villager from Kawngkart village tract ran away from the project but the authorities caught him and beat him until the blood came out from the body. Afterwards, the rest of the villagers also were beaten and given punishments.

"We did nothing wrong and we did not run away, but we were beaten too," said a villager in anonymity. "If we don’t' have people in our family to work there, we have to pay Kyat 10, 000 ($10)."

There were over 350 people from 5 village tracts at the project. The authorities announced that 70 people from each village tract were required to go to the project site. The junta is still eager to call more people for the repairing project, the source said.

The project was signed between Burmese Ministry of Electric Power and Chinese Yunnan Machinery Equipment Import and Export Company Limited (YMEC) in 2002. It was started in 2003, and the installed capacity of the project will be 600MW. The actual power supply will be 174.8 MW; the annual power output 4,033 GWh. The electricity will be transmitted to both Burma and China through 230 KV and 220 KV cables, according to a report from Palaung Youth Network Group.

The Shweli River, known by Shans and Palaungs as the Mao, is a main tributary of the Irrawaddy. Its sources lie in China's Yunnan province at 11,000 feet above sea level. The river runs past Burma's Muse and Namkham and flows into the Irrawaddy north of Mandalay. The project is near Man Tat village, 17 miles southwest of Namkham, Northern Shan State.

Burma Army stops forced labour and use as porters in Chin state

April 29. 2008 - The Burmese Army has suddenly stopped using forced labour and porters in Chin state, northwestern Burma in the run up to the referendum to approve the constitution to be held on May 10.

"Surprisingly, there is no more forced labour and they have stopped using porters as they did previously. I think the reason is that the military authorities are worried that they might lose votes of the people," a local from Chin state who requested anonymity said.

In the first two weeks of April, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs of Burma Brig-General Thura Aung Ko and Chin state's tactical commander (1) Brig-General Hung Ngai launched a campaign in support of the referendum across Chin state to woo for votes to approve the new constitution.

Apparently, the order to stop forced labor and use of porters was issued during Thura Aung Ko's visit to Chin state, locals said.

"These days, we do not get reports of soldiers forcibly engaging people into labour and for carrying army rations and ammunition along the Indo-Burma border between Chin state and India's northeastern state of Mizoram," Sangbik from CHRO (Chin Human Right Organization) based in Mizoram said.

"It is possible that stopping forced labour and using porters in Chin state is another of Burmese regime's tactics to woo voters in the referendum," Sangbik added.

A new constitution was drafted by junta's hand picked delegates after the 14-year long national convention, which is part of the regime's seven step road map to so called "disciplined democracy' in Burma.

Most critics felt that the newly drafted constitution was designed to perpetuate military rule in Burma. It also bans democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from contesting elections and run for office.

After the military grabbed power in 1988, the regime deployed several troops in Chin state. Consequently, the people in the area had suffered widespread force labour and were used as porters almost daily.

Dogs Enlisted for Anti-Referendum Campaign
Sittwe: Unidentified anti-referendum campaigners in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, enlisted dogs on Monday for their campaign by hanging posters around the dogs' necks, said one witness.

He said, "I don't know who hung the small posters on the necks of some dogs. I saw a few dogs running in the streets wearing anti-referendum posters."

The posters hung on the dogs were marked only with an 'X' and the word "Against" in Arakanese.

On the ballots in the referendum, an X signals a "no" vote for the proposed constitution. "Everybody easily understood what is meant by the posters when they saw them on the dogs," the witness said.

Some police in Sittwe attempted to take the posters off the dogs, but were unable to because the dogs ran away whenever the police came near.

The resident said, "It was very humorous to the people when they saw police following the dogs to take off the posters. Police chased the dogs, but they would run away."

In Sittwe, as people have been protesting the upcoming referendum in a variety of ways, the authority has been deploying many additional police forces in the city.

It has also been learned that many police are now guarding the streets of Sittwe day and night to prevent anti-referendum activities.

Sporadic street protests erupted in several Burmese cities

By Larry Jagan
Bangkok Post - Tuesday April 29, 2008

Sporadic street protests erupted in several Burmese cities over the weekend. Says a Burmese businessman: “The country is a social volcano ready to erupt.”

Sporadic street protests erupted in several Burmese cities over the weekend, as people prepare to go to the polls in May to vote on a new constitution. More than 50 demonstrators, led by some 20 saffron-clad monks, tried to make their way to the country’s famous Shwegadon Pagoda in Rangoon on Saturday. Police prevented them from entering the temple and quickly herded them away.

The Burmese authorities have prohibited Buddhist monks from entering the historic pagoda precincts since the massive protests last September. Many other monks who planned to join the procession were detained while travelling on buses from the suburbs and other neighbouring cities to the protest.

There was another small protest at Rangoon ’s Tamwe Bazaar. More than a hundred protesters also took to the streets in Sittwe, the capital of the predominantly Muslim province of Arakan in western Burma. There were also unconfirmed reports of small demonstrations in several other cities over the weekend.

Security forces are guarding most of Rangoon’s monasteries, preventing monks leaving or entering the buildings.

This is the first signs of unrest since last years’ Saffron Revolution was brutally suppressed. “More protests are expected in the coming days as the anger against the regime is rising,” said Khin Ohnmar, a Chiang Mai-based activist with close links to the protest organisers.

The protests have been triggered in part by the government’s planned referendum on May 10, and are certain to grow in the coming days before the poll.

The military regime is obviously nervous about the vote and is carefully orchestrating the referendum results. It is certain to announce that an overwhelming majority of the country has endorsed the charter, which will effectively allow the army to retain political control of the country for decades to come.

But there are growing signs that many in the electorate may in fact reject the constitution, although the authorities will undoubtedly manipulate the count.

Businesses threatened with closure for 'No' vote

pr 30, 3008 (DVB)−Owners of beauty and massage parlours in Rangoon are the latest to face pressure from the city authorities to vote Yes in the upcoming referendum, according to Rangoon residents.

The business owners have been threatened with closure if they do not vote in favour of the new constitution.

A resident of Rangoon's Lanmadaw township told DVB that owners of beauty parlours and massage businesses were called to a meeting on 27 April at around 7pm by township authorities who ordered them to vote Yes in the referendum.

"Over 100 beauty and massage parlour owners were told at the meeting that they and all their employees must vote Yes," said the Lanmadaw man.

"The township chairman said their businesses would be shut down if they refused to do so."

The Burmese government has been putting pressure on a number of groups, including government workers and farmers, ahead of the 10 May national referendum on the draft constitution.

The government is running an ongoing campaign of incentives and intimidation aimed at persuading people to vote in favour of the new constitution.

Opposition accuses junta of intimidating people to vote 'Yes' in Tanintharyi

Even as the referendum to approve the constitution approaches local Burmese military junta authorities are on a overdrive in some townships in Tanintharyi division intimidating people to cast the 'Yes' vote, the opposition said.

This intimidation and coercion is being done on the directive of the Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief's office, the Directorate of Army, in Khamaukyi, Botepyin, Kawthaung, Pulaw, Tavoy and Thayetchaung townships and villages, the Thai based National Referendum Monitoring Organization alleged.

It is learnt that as part of the instruction, Regional Command Commanders, Military Operation Command Commanders, Regional Operation Command Commanders and Commanders of all three arms of the armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) are visiting the areas under their commands and intimidating and mobilising local people and ceasefire groups to cast the 'Yes' vote in the forthcoming referendum.

The National Referendum Monitoring Organization was formed on the Thai-Burma border at the end of March and comprises exile based organizations viz. Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), exile coalition government (NCGUB), National Council of Union of Burma (NCUB), Women's League of Burma (WLB), Federation of Democratic Burma (FDB), Student and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB) and the Ethnic Forum.

The members of Village Peace and Development Council (PDCs) are coercing and intimidating the villagers living along the Tanintharyi river valley to call back their fellow villagers from their hideouts and to tell them to cast the 'Yes' vote in the referendum, otherwise their villages will be burnt down and forcibly relocated to other places, the monitoring organization in exile said.

"We would like to profoundly urge the people to tick X on the ballot papers. And then the people should wait until the polling stations are closed and they must be present when the vote counting starts. They must ensure the votes be counted before them, in the presence of the voters. They must rally around the vote counting stations and show their strength thwart vote rigging. In this way the SPDC (junta) cannot harm them. It will be possible if we do it harmoniously and unitedly," U Khun Myat Htun, MP-elect and a member of monitoring organization added.

70 activists arrested in 3 days: AAPP

Chiang Mai – The Thai-based Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPP) says that over 70 activists have been arrested trying to stage demonstrations in Burma over the last three days.

These fresh arrests include those of monks, AAPP commented, as they continue to compile information on the latest crackdown of Burmese activists.

"The junta arrested a lot yesterday, but we don't know the exact figure. The protesters were arrested at Shwedagon and at their homes," Ko Teik Naing, Secretary of AAPP told Mizzima.

Another activist, wishing to remain anonymous, confirmed this news and said that more than a dozen people were arrested on Saturday and Sunday.

"About fourteen to fifteen people were arrested for launching a poster campaign in the downtown area. Authorities didn't arrest them while they were sticking up the posters, but at their homes," he said.

Activists and monks in recent days have tried to assemble at designated rendezvous points such as Shwedagon, Sule and Kyaikasan Pagodas, but they have been systematically dispersed by authorities.

Security had been tightened in Rangoon amid a rumor in circulation that there would be fresh protests before the scheduled referendum date of May 10.

Meanwhile, the National League for Democracy (NLD) released a statement that some it its party workers were arrested while launching their 'Vote NO' campaign in Irrawaddy, Magwe and Rangoon Divisions, as well as Rakhine State.

Additionally, since the junta's announcement in February on a scheduled referendum date, six NLD party workers have been physically accosted by unknown assailants.

Similarly the NLD issued a news release averring that 20 protesters in Rakhine State who staged a protest against the junta's draft constitution by wearing T-shirts with 'NO' printed on them, were beaten up.

According to United Nations statistics over 30 protesters were killed during last September's crackdown on widespread unrest.

Also thousands of monks and lay-people were arrested last August and September, with hundreds still missing, according to human rights organizations.

Approximately 1,800 political prisoners remain behind bars throughout Burma.

Imprisoned Burmese activist paralyzed

A Burmese social welfare activist arrested during the September protests has reportedly suffered paralysis over half of his face due to lack of proper medical treatment inside Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, a colleague said.

Than Naing, an activist committed to helping people living with HIV who was arrested in September, reportedly suffered the partial paralysis on April 21 as a result of the poor prison medical treatment, his colleague elaborated.

"Half of his face is paralyzed. He cannot close his left eye and cannot feel anything with his teeth and lip on the left side of his face. When he eats he has to chew with the teeth on his right side," added the colleague, who saw Than Naing at the prison.

Than Naing's wife was totally ignorant of his situation as authorities did not inform her, only learning that Than Naing has been living for several days in a critical state after she made a prison visit on Monday.

Than Naing, who is also a member of the organizing committee of the Thaung Dwin Gyi Township National League for Democracy in central Burma, himself is living with HIV.

His colleague, who worked with him in helping people with HIV, said a poor diet for people with HIV can cause grave medical problems.

"Since he is paralyzed he cannot eat, and this will further deteriorate his health as a person living with HIV. I am even worried that he might die," added the colleague.

Than Naing was arrested on September 26 at Shwedagon Pagoda during the peak of the protests, which were brutally suppressed by the ruling junta.

His wife and colleagues today appealed to the Ministry of Home Affairs to allow Than Naing proper medical treatment and a free trial, also asking the ministry to immediately take measures in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Burma.

Junta forcibly sets up polling stations

The Burmese military junta in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State is forcibly setting up polling stations and making people shift, a source said.

The authorities are setting up polling stations in schools and other places where people usually gather. The polling stations are being set up for people to vote in the May 10 referendum to approve the national constitution.

"The authorities have ordered shifting of small roadside shops in Thidar quarter, beside the Myitkyina hospital to construct the polling station," said a resident. "Mostly government servants live in Thidar and the small market remains open at night," a resident added.

On the other hand, the authorities have allowed residents to cast votes in advance with the copy of the national identity card. Now voters who planned to cast the "No" note are worried.

Meanwhile, guards at the polling station have been making rounds of the town, an eyewitness said.

Senior communist leader Burma shot by MMT gunmen

Veteran communist leader Krishna Raj Burma was shot by cadres of Madhesi Mukti Tigers (MMT), an armed outfit active in Terai region, in Rajbiraj of Saptari district Wednesday evening.

Three MMT gunmen who entered Burma's house, pretending to be looking for rooms to rent, fired three bullets at the 70-year-old communist leader who was sleeping in his room.

Critically injured in the attack, Burma was rushed to BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan for treatment. Reports quoting doctors said Burma is out of danger.

MMT has claimed responsibility for the murder attempt. The armed group which claims to have been fighting for an independent 'Terai state' has been targeting mainly the local leaders of political parties and people of hill origin living in Terai

Rage against Burma's mockery of justice

HONG KONG, China, There are, despite the odds, human rights lawyers in Burma. In fact the efforts of some to defend a working legal culture from official vandalism and neglect surpass those of their counterparts in more open societies of Asia.

Take the advocate representing someone accused of involvement in the nationwide protests of last August and September that arose in response to a dramatic hike in fuel prices. After being illegally imprisoned for over two months and kept in remand for a number of months more, his client was put on trial recently. When the arresting policeman took the stand, the cross-examination went in part roughly as follows:

Defense lawyer: I put it to you that your allegation is based upon information from sources rather than your direct knowledge.

Police officer: We investigated the information.

Lawyer: But you have not included these sources in your list of witnesses?

Officer: They are not included.

Lawyer: Do you have any documentary proof of the allegation?

Officer: I myself do not have documentary proof.

Lawyer: So on what basis are you prosecuting the accused?

Officer: On the basis of the information received.

Lawyer: But you have nothing to show of this?

Officer: I cannot present anything to the court.

Lawyer: It's also correct to say that you have no photographs to show?

Officer: That's correct.

Lawyer: Only the eyewitness accounts?

Officer: Correct.

Lawyer: Is it not the responsibility of the police to obtain evidence like photographs with which to support the case?

Officer: It is.

Lawyer: Do you know that a case based only on eyewitness accounts and without any other types of evidence is not strong?

Officer: No.

And so it went on, a heroic battle for rationality against overwhelming absurdity, an appeal for sanity to an insane system.

There are perhaps not many lawyers in Burma who would so vigorously question a policeman in court, let alone take this sort of case in the first place. Those who do are unable to continue ordinary practice, because persons with mundane criminal complaints won't approach them. They are left to handle the matters that others won't touch.

But there are a much larger number of interested advocates who have become experts in related fields, such as those handling land and labor cases, which have multiplied since the International Labor Organization set up an office in Rangoon. Still others have familiarized themselves with laws on women and children, whose rights the government has acknowledged under international treaties.

The lawyers are sometimes joined not only by brave litigants, but by doctors who refuse to falsify evidence in support of government officials, by council members who speak against the police to protect local residents, and by journalists who write carefully in private journals on the need for higher quality criminal inquiries.

Together, these persons and others are acting as a kind of life-support for Burma's judicial system. They are doing more than simply keeping alive hopes for justice in places characterized by injustice. They are also keeping professional conduct alive that would otherwise long ago have died out completely. And they are keeping alive prospects for a better society.

Burma's new draft Constitution, which is being put to a vote of sorts on May 10, stipulates that "the three branches of State power, namely legislative power, executive power and judicial power are separated as much as possible."

It is amply clear that for the military "as much as possible" in fact means as little as possible. But it will not ultimately decide the extent of this possibility. That prerogative lies with those whose insistence upon principles to which the government is so violently opposed signifies that there is still something going on in Burma's courts which can be equated with the upholding of justice, rather than its mockery.

Authorities keep Rangoon monks under close watch

Apr 30, 2008 (DVB)−A monastery in the former Burmese capital Rangoon has been under the close watch of government authorities as the constitutional referendum draws nearer, according to locals.

A resident of Alone township in Rangoon said 17 police vehicles have been deployed in the township's Thittaw street since 24 April to monitor the activities of monks from the Zawtanarama lecturing monastery which is located on that street.

"Locals have seen the police cars parked in the street near the monastery at night," said the resident.

"The police are armed and accompanied by soldiers, and they hide in the bushes at the corner of the street to monitor activities at the monastery."

Zawtanarama lecturing monastery, which was home to over 130 monks before the monk-led protests in September 2007, was raided by the military following the demonstrations and now only has around 40 monks living there.

The national referendum on the government’s draft constitution is due to be held on 10 May.

Critics: Myanmar biofuel drive uses forced labor

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — An activist group on Thursday called a plan by Myanmar's military rulers to grow a biofuel crop "draconian," alleging that it was using forced labor and contributing to food shortages.

The fiercely critical report, released by activists linked to the exile-based opposition, says the biofuel policy hurts an already ailing agriculture industry.

The U.N.'s World Food Program said last year that some 5 million people — almost 10 percent of Myanmar's population — were chronically short of food.

"Farmers, civil servants, teachers, schoolchildren, nurses, and prisoners have been forced to purchase seeds, fulfil planting quotas, and establish biofuel plantations in service to the 'national cause,'" the report says.

"They must plant the trees along roadsides, in housing, school and hospital compounds, in cemeteries and religious grounds, and on lands formerly producing rice," it says.

"A draconian campaign by Burma's military to grow eight million acres of the Jatropha curcas tree for biofuel production is resulting in forced labor and land confiscation throughout the country, while evidence of crop failure and mismanagement expose the program as a fiasco," alleges the report. Myanmar is also known as Burma.

The five-year plan calls for the crop to be planted on 8 million acres — an area roughly the size of Belgium. Each state and division of the country was to plant the crop across 500,000 acres.

The report alleges that people "have been fined, beaten, and arrested for not participating."

The crop has promise as a biofuel, with greater yields of fuel per acre than other crops and one-fifth the carbon emissions of petroleum-based products. But poor management has doomed efforts to use it in Myanmar, where the yield so far appears to have been too low to be of much use, the report says.

Some 800 refugees who fled to Thailand from Myanmar's Southern Shan state have even cited the program as the reason for fleeing their country, the report says.

"It will not be successful," said one farmer quoted in the report. "You see, the soldiers carry guns. They don't know anything about agriculture."


[1] Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s democracy leader, has said that “Total is the biggest supporter of the military regime in Burma.” For more information about Total Oil's investment in Burma see the Burma Campaign UK website:

[2] The World Health Organization's ranking
of the world's health systems:

[3] Burma joins Somalia in 179th place as the most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International 2007 index rankings:

[4] Human Rights Watch report on Child Soldiers in Burma:

- e-mail: totaloutofburma [at] gmail (dot) com
- Homepage:


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