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Bastille Day Card - Support Liberty in Burma

Awyame | 19.07.2008 14:08 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Social Struggles | London

On July 14th, three members of celebrated Bastille Day at the Institute Francais in London, calling on "Liberty Equality and Fraternity" with the Burmese "liberty" movement and the heroic prisoners of conscience in Burma. A Bastille Day card with approximately 150 signatures was sent to President Nicolas Sarkozy care of the French Embassy in London, highlighting French Total Oil's continuing shameful collaboration with the brutal Burmese dictatorship and calling for liberty for Burma.

Front cover of card
Front cover of card

2nd page of card
2nd page of card

Graphic used for signature page
Graphic used for signature page

Pipeline Map on back of Card
Pipeline Map on back of Card

The card contrasted the Bastille prison with the notorious Insein prison in Burma, where many prisoners of conscience have been suffering for years. In the recent Nargis Cyclone, 36 of the prisoners were shot dead by guards and apparently four more died from torture during interrogation after the shooting.

The card celebrated the recent release of French hostage Ingrid Betancourt from Columbia and called for Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 years. Her party won 82% of the vote in the 1990 election but she was not allowed to take power by the corrupt Burma dictatorship, that is kept in power by gas revenues from Total's Yadana gas pipeline (the pipeline map was used in back page of card showing displaced/destroyed villages and military camps for the pipeline).

We were grateful for the support of many passers-by, students studying French at the Institute and particularly the French people we met who knew of French Total Oil's collaboration with the dictatorship in Burma and were very critical of Total.

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].

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)

Future Events

Please check for news and dates of Total Oil Protests
Check Burmese Democracy Movement Association for Burmese events or changes to events:

Saturday 19th July

Wrexham Women for Peace Day of Action for Burma
10:30am - 12:00 Burma Stall in Eastgate St, Chester
12.30 pm to 2 pm Demo at Hoole TOTAL petrol station
29 Hoole Road, Chester, Cheshire CH2 3NH
Google Map:

Sunday 20th July

Fundraising Event in Birmingham for Cyclone Nargis Victims
What's on: Sales of household items, Burmese arts and crafts and Burmese food
Date: 20 July, 2008 (Sunday)
Time: 12:00 to 18:00
Hosted by: Myanmar/Burma Emergency Aid Network (MBEAN)
Venue: Birmingham Peace Pagoda, Osler Street, Ladywood, Birmingham, B16 9EU Map:

Food Festival, Traditional Dance & Musical Concert in London (fundraiser for Cyclone Nargis Victims)
Date: 20 July, 2008 (Sunday)
Time: 15:30 to 21:00
Hosted by: Burma Charity - UK
Venue: Chiswick Town Hall, Heathfield Terrace, London. W4 4JN Map:

Wednesday July 23rd ( Protests)

Meet at Burma Embassy for regular Burmese protest
12:00-1pm Wednesday July 23rd
Myanmar/Burma Embassy 19A, Charles St, London W1J 5DX.
Tube: Green Park | Map:

Total London HQ, 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW
1:30-2:30pm Wednesday July 23rd
Tube: Oxford Circus | Map:

Chiswick Total petrol station
5.00pm - 7.00pm (Wednesday July 23rd)
Protest at West Four Total petrol station, 137 Chiswick High
Road, Chiswick W4 2ED
Tube: Turnham Green Map:

Friday 25th July

Special Burmese Cultural Show in London (Fundraiser for Cyclone Nargis Victims)
(famous dancer Ko Chan Thar and classical musicians in fully traditional Burmese orchestra)
Date: 25 July, 2008 (Friday)
Time: 16:00 to 22:00
Hosted by: Sasana Ramsi Vihara (Colindale monastery)
Venue: Acton Town Hall, High St, Ealing, London W3 Map:

August 4th to 10th

the burma play
a comedy of terror
... a vital glimpse of the courage and suffering of the Burmese people. I warmly recommend it - John Pilger
Edinburgh Festival Fringe - August 2008
St John's Church, Corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road
See also
August 4-10 16:00 (1hr) £8.00(£5.00)
Tickets available from The Fringe Festival Box Office box office AT 0131 226 0026

Bank Holiday Monday 25th August

Music Concert & Burmese food in London (Fundraiser for Cyclone Nargis Victims)
(Zaw Paing, Chit Thu Wai, Tin Zar Maw, Kyar Pauk & Samba Dancers)
Date: 25 August, 2008 (Bank holiday Monday)
Time: 17:00 to midnight
More information: Temptation 2
Venue: Clapham Grand, 21-25 St. Johns Hill, Clapham Junction, SW11 1TT


Make sure you've signed:

- "Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now!" petition (global campaign launched 13 March 2008)

- Downing Street petition to ask Prime Minister to support 1990 Elections result and urge International Community not to follow junta's 2010 Election plan (new petition launched in June 2008)
- Urge immediate medical care for Min Ko Naing (Email campaign launched 29th April 2008)
- The Burma Campaign UK e-action to TOTAL:
- Ipetition Boycott Total Petrol Stations to support Burma (started June 2008):
- The global pledge (Boycott of Total Oil and Chevron and all their subsidiaries)
- 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

The Real Disaster in Burma' - new animated film narrated by Ricky Gervais
23 Jun 2008

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)


Ethnic minority Chin people Face Food Shortages
Famine-like situation in Maungdaw
Burmese refugee dies of starvation in Lada camp
Mon Refugees Face Food Shortage
Three Laputta Refugee Camps to Close
UN to end Myanmar aid flights on Aug. 10
Charges of Forced Labor Emerge in Cyclone-hit Areas
The Irrawaddy Delta Redux - LETTER FROM BURMA
Donated fishing equipment taken back from villagers
Burmese junta profiting from aid funds?
Rice plantation season nearing end, farmers at a loss
British MPs call on Govt. to investigation Mahn Sha's assassination
US lawmakers ease pressure on Chevron in Myanmar
US House vote to bar Burmese gems
Forced labour on road reconstruction
Monks continue regime boycott
NLD members charged with causing public alarm
NLD warned not to celebrate Martyrs' Day
Low expectations for Gambari visit
Armed Burmese Uprising Morally Justified: Chomsky
Seeds of further uprising amid the fear and intimidation
Thai Embassy Raises the Bar for Burmese Seeking Visas
Junta officials, two Chinese teak traders killed over unequal division of loot

Ethnic minority Chin people Face Food Shortages

By VIOLET CHO Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some 70,000 people in Chin State are facing severe food shortages after a plague of rats destroyed their entire rice crop earlier this year, according to sources from the Chin community in India and Thailand.

Sui Khar, the joint-secretary of the Chin National Font (CNF) and an international fundraiser, said that UN agencies must respond to the crisis.

“Our Chin community and UN agencies have been providing relief and assistance, but the number of people affected is so great that it cannot cover all their needs,” he said. “We have tried our best to solve the problem, but there is a still a big gap between what we can give and what they require.”

Sui Khar also expressed concern over the migration of many Chin people to foreign countries to escape the food crisis.

“More than 1,000 people have crossed the border illegally into India to look for work,” he said. “We expect more people will follow in the near future.”

In northeastern India, about 1 million people in the state of Mizoram are also facing food shortages after an infestation of rats left them with just one-fifth of their normal rice supply.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said that the infestation of rats spread over the border areas of Bangladesh and Burma earlier this year and is now “increasing fears of widespread food shortages.”

The rat population boomed after the flowering of a native species of bamboo, which happens only every 50 years. It will take four or five years for the fields to recover, said Sui Khar.

According to the Chin Famine Relief Committee, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has been providing limited food assistance since the infestation while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) has promised to provide work for people in famine-affected areas in Chin State.

Sui Khar accused the Burmese government of failing to address the growing need for food aid in famine-affected Chin State.

Instead of providing aid, the CNF official said that local authorities were selling rice and food supplies to victims of the plague.

“The military authorities have told local people that they will help them by selling them rice,” said Sui Khar. “This is an inhumane act against poor and disadvantaged people.”

Famine-like situation in Maungdaw

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Villagers in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State are starving in a famine like situation over the last three weeks because of incessant heavy rain and a consequent rise in prices of essential commodities, said a schoolteacher on condition of anonymity.

Northern Arakan, especially Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships, have been witnessing heavy rain. Poor people are not getting jobs and are unable to support their families resulting in some facing acute food shortage.

Besides, the prices of essential commodities have risen because of the incessant heavy rain. Now a kilogram of rice sells at Kyat 550 against Kyat 500 two weeks ago. The price of chili has soared from Kyat 1,500 to Kyat 2,000 a Viss (one Viss = 1.63 kg). A viss of onion is being sold at Kyat 800 while it was kyat 600 two weeks ago, and a Viss of garlic is being sold at Kyat 1,400. It was Kyat 1,250 before.

Forida Begum (30), from Aley Than Kyaw village tract in Maungdaw Township said, "We have five members in our family. My husband is unable to go out for work due to heavy rain, so we have no money and no rice to feed our family. We have been starving for three days."

Another villager Ali Hussain (60), from the same village said, "I think, in every village in Maungdaw Township, some of the families are starving. I know that at least five to eight families have been staring starvation in the face in other villages surrounding our village Aley Than Kyaw."

Burmese refugee dies of starvation in Lada camp

Teknaf, Bangladesh: A Burmese refugee belonging to the unofficial Lada camp died of starvation yesterday. Due to incessant heavy rain over two weeks, refugees have been facing severe food shortage because they have been unable to go out to work to support their families.

The dead refugee was identified as Abdu Salam (45), son of Abdul Zabber, Block C, and Room No.193 of Lada refugee camp. He left behind his wife and two children. He was unable to go out of the camp because of the rains and died of starvation, according to the victim's wife.

Mon Refugees Face Food Shortage

Kuala Lumpur -- A group of Mon refugees in Klang, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, are facing a food shortage by eating only rice shared with them by the local migrant community, a social worker said.

In one single storey old wooden house alone 31 boys from Ye township have been sticking together and eating only a small portion of food provided by other refugees and migrant workers nearby.

"They look for any edible leaves nearby but they also dare not go out during the day, fearing arrest by the police," Nai Plu, a community leader said.

There are about 200 refugees in the Klang area aged between 18 and 42 years; only nine asylum seekers have been registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office. These refugees, including young children and women, are asking for help with food supplies however they have no contacts with NGOs and assistance groups. Most of them came to Malaysia from Ye Township, southern Burma.

"We have no food and no jobs. Some UNHCR officers came here to see Mon orphaned boys, with a Mon interpreter, and we told them about our situation," said Nai Plu.

Everyday these hundreds of refugees face the risks of disease, a lack of food and other associated problems borne out of living in very poor conditions.

According to Nai Lawi Mon, Chairman of the Mon Refugee Organization (MRO) based in Kuala Lumpur, there are more than 30,000 Mon refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia and most of these refugees are not registered by the UNHCR office. They are hiding in jungles and living together in local areas, separate from the non-Mon community in fear of detection and arrest by the police. Refugees are occasionally arrested as illegal immigrants. Many refugees face serious abuse by human trafficking rings along the Thai-Burma border. The UNHCR can accept only limited numbers and asylum seekers are left as illegal immigrants. Without a proper document, it is very difficult to approach hospitals and clinics in times of illness.

Three Laputta Refugee Camps to Close

LAPUTTA, Burma — Burmese authorities will close three remaining refugee camps in Laputta, one of the areas hardest-hit by Cyclone Nargis, on August 5, forcing about 6,000 remaining refugees to return to their villages, according to sources in the township.

refugees who oppose relocation will face forced eviction, refugee sources said. The three refugee camps held as many as 50,000 refugees in recent months.

Sources said authorities have pressured refugees at the three remaining camps in Laputta Township since June 20 to go back to their villages...

"We are summoned every evening by a camp official and told to go back to our villages. He said our tents will be dragged down after August 5 and all our belongings will be set on fire. He advised we should leave as early as we can and should not blame them if it happens," said a female villager from Mi-Kyaung Ai living in Yadanar Dipa camp.

UN to end Myanmar aid flights on Aug. 10

BANGKOK, Thailand - A United Nations decision to end aid flights to Myanmar next month could hurt relief efforts already struggling to reach millions of survivors with adequate food and water, humanitarian groups said Friday.

The U.N. plans to stop aid flights between Thailand's Don Muang airport and Myanmar's commercial capital, Yangon, on Aug. 10 and withdraw the last five U.N. helicopters that have been ferrying relief supplies to the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta. Five other helicopters have already stopped flying.

Without the helicopters, relief groups will be forced to depend on boats and trucks to get supplies to the delta. The cargo at Don Muang will be transported by sea.

Charges of Forced Labor Emerge in Cyclone-hit Areas

Thousands of people in hundreds of villages are being forced to labor for free under a military-led reconstruction effort in the cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy delta, according to sources in the area.

Villagers in the hard-hit townships of Laputta, Bogalay, Pyapon and Dedaye say that local people, including children, have been told by Ward Peace and Development Councils and military troops that they must provide labor on a rotating basis.

The work they are expected to do includes serving as porters, cutting bamboo and trees and cleaning up roads and villages. Some have also been put to work on construction sites, the sources said.

The villagers, many of them living in camps for cyclone survivors, said that the duties imposed on them were preventing them from rebuilding their own homes or tending to their fields.

“They [farmers] said that for the past month, they have been forced to work in rotation for the authorities. People who don’t work when it’s their turn have to pay a fine of 1,500 kyat (US $1.26),” said a source in Laputta.

A refugee from the village of Kyar Chaung said that the authorities call on 100 men each day to carry sacks of rice. “Those who do not obey the order are driven out of the refugee camps,” he added.

Another refugee, from the village of Kaing Thaung, said: “The authorities accuse people who don’t want to work for them of being lazy. They say that they are opportunists who are just waiting around to get everything for free.”

There have been a number of reports of people in the camps being beaten and forced to leave. Some say that the authorities are looking for excuses to throw people out of the camps.

Meanwhile, fishermen in the area have been ordered to catch prawns and fish for Burmese troops, said one fisherman in Ywe, a village in Laputta Township.

The Burmese army unit responsible for recovery and reconstruction efforts in the Irrawaddy delta is Light Infantry Division 66, under the command of Brig-Gen Maung Maung Aye. As a commanding officer of Infantry Battalion 70 in Pegu Division and Karen State in the early 2000s, Maung Maung Aye was notorious for press ganging civilians into road construction.

Sources in the camps for cyclone victims say that they have been told not to discuss the use of forced labor with visitors, and to inform the authorities about the presence of any unknown people in the camps.

Burma’s military regime has been strongly condemned by international rights groups for its use of forced labor in building army camps and constructing basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Refusal to work on any of these projects has resulted in documented cases of detention, torture and execution.

In June, the International Labor Organization said it was concerned that the Burmese military regime might use forced labor in reconstructing cyclone-devastated areas.

The Irrawaddy’s correspondent Aung Thet Wine in Laputta also contributed to this report.

The Irrawaddy Delta Redux - LETTER FROM BURMA

By AUNG THET WINE / LAPUTTA Thursday, July 17, 2008

I’ve just returned from Laputta in the Irrawaddy delta, where the situation is appalling and vastly different than government accounts.

I visited Kaing Thaung, Kanyin Kone, Ywe and Pyin Salu villages, where I witnessed a lot of forced labor incidents in the name of "reconstruction."

I was told the soldiers said, "We’re here for your village reconstruction. You must cooperate with us." Some villagers are even beaten during their forced labor conscription.

There are also numerous cases of refugees who remain at Three-Mile, Five-Mile and Yatana Dipa refugee camps being conscripted for forced labor. The authorities say these remaining camps will be closed on August 5.

I haven’t been that impressed with what the UN is doing. I think many UN workers are just here for dollars. Perhaps, they don’t release the real news of conditions here because they fear the government’s reaction. They are on the ground, they know the situation, but I think they turn a blind eye because they don’t want their projects stopped.

The UN workers live in good house, renting for around 1.5 million kyats (US $ 1271) per month. It’s my belief that if they had good hearts, they could reduce these high expenses and give more to the refugees.

Thanks to regular rain fall, the refugees appear to have enough safe water. If they don't get rain water, there could be more outbreaks of infectious diseases. In terms of medical care, there are still a lot of villages that need medical services.

The villagers I talked with complained about the hardships they experience. They hope I can do something for their relief, but I can't do anything except write a report or a news story. I realize that what I write may get to the international communities, but then what?

Refugees told me that when they were ordered to leave Pha Yar Gyi and other temporary camps in Laputta, soldiers from Light Infantry Division (LID) 66 entered the camps with batons and guns and forced the refugees into trucks, like driving a herd of cattle.

The UN staff knows about the forced relocation of the refugees, but they don’t issue any press releases about it.

Refugees have many stories of abuse by Burmese military and civil officials in charge of the camps. They tell stories of drunken camp officials swearing at refugees: “You are lazy people living on rice donations! You are beggars! Go back home."

Some refugee families couldn't bear it and talked back to the authorities. They would beat and drive them from the camp. It is happening in all three camps. Refugees are also told to inform volunteer donors who come to the camps that they don’t need anything. Some savvy donors wait and talk for several minutes and then they understand the real story.

From my talks with Laputta residents, I also question the assessment by the Tripartite Core Group (TCG)—a body formed in cooperation with Asean, the UN and the Burmese junta. The teams collected data in the Irrawaddy delta.

The local authorities I talked with said some young people came around and asked questions about the situation in the surrounding villages. They claimed they were not well informed on the current situation there, but they offered to send them to the villages. The teams, however, seemed to have limited time and left the town with the data they gathered from the administrators in the town.

I also made inquires about the government providing mechanical tillers and paddy seeds to farmers and boats and fishing nets to villagers. Villagers I spoke with said some villages received the assistance, but the tillers were old and the authorities provided only 2 gallons of diesel for plowing an acre. The old machines break down and consume 4 or 5 gallons to plow one acre of land.

They said three out of five of the tillers were in workable condition, and if a farmer wanted to use the machine, they had to bribe the village head with 200,000 kyat ($ 169.5)

The rice seeds the authorities provided are low quality, called Hnan-Kar, also known as Ma-Naw Thu-Kha. Some farmers said they sow them but no sprouts appeared. The farmers feel helpless because they don’t have access to the seeds they used before.

I saw some paddy fields with green sprouts, but much of the land in the disaster area has not been planted.

My impression is that the camp administrators, township officials, their relatives and landlords in Laputta are benefiting post-Nargis. The restaurants in town are crowded most of the time.

I returned from this trip feeling great sympathy and sorrow for the cyclone victims. I wish the relief effort could be more effective. The people are still suffering.

Donated fishing equipment taken back from villagers

Jul 15, 2008 (DVB)–Villagers in Daydaye township, Irrawaddy division, have complained that local authorities have taken back items given to them at a public donation by the government and other private donors.

A private donor told DVB that village authorities had given fishing boats, nets and other equipment to the villagers in front of visiting senior officials but then took them back once the officials had left.

Village authorities gave speeches announcing the donation of 150 fishing boats and other items during the senior officials’ visit, the donor said.

“They told the senior authorities how much the boats and fishing nets had cost, and they told them people should be grateful to the government for these supplies as they would now be able to successfully restart the local fishing industry,” he said.

“But when the senior authorities had gone, the township authorities and USDA officials took all the stuff back and told the fishermen to go home and that they would get them later,” he explained.

“But they never got them and they had to go home empty-handed.”

Cyclone refugees in Daydaye have also been pressured to drop their demands for new housing promised to them by the local authorities while the senior officials were visiting, according to the donor.

The donor also said that local authorities had skimmed off some of the money given by private donors to help cyclone victims.

“Donors gave cash to the authorities to buy supplies for the refugees and farmers, but they only bought cheap seeds that you can’t grow anything with and kept the rest of the money for themselves,” he said.

“Apparently the crop seeds were wet and will never grow anything – they will only waste the farmers’ time and energy.”

Burmese junta profiting from aid funds?

New Delhi - Even as cyclone victims reel under the devastating impact of Nargis, the military rulers are lining their pockets from the aid funds donated by the international community including the UN. The money is being made by way of a twisted currency exchange mechanism – dollar to local Burmese kyat, a source in the Burmese military establishment said.

Following the killer Cyclone Nargis lashing Burma on May 2 and 3, several international non-governmental organizations as well as UN aid agencies rushed in to help cyclone victims.

The source, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal, said the ruling junta is making a huge killing from these donations by keeping a margin in the conversion rates – from foreign currency to Burmese Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC).

According to the source, the government-owned Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank is the principle bank that is used by aid agencies for transferring funds. And when aid agencies withdraw their money from the MFTB, it is given in the form of Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC), which is treated as equivalent to the US dollar.

While the information cannot be independently verified, the source said the difference in exchange rates between the dollar and FEC is the margin that the government makes.

A businessman in Rangoon, who is into exchanging foreign currency in the black market said, currently a US $ is worth 1,175 Kyat while the FEC is valued at 850 Kyat. While the rates continue to fluctuate depending on the market, the US Dollar and FEC have never been treated equally in the market.

"The rate between the FEC and Dollar is only equal in the government exchange rates but here in Burma things are done only in the black market," the businessman told Mizzima.

The source, who is also close to the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank, said, while the bank retains the in coming foreign exchange, it also profits from the marginal difference in the conversion.

The UN World Food Programme, one of the largest UN agencies currently involved in helping cyclone victims in Burma, however, declined to comment on it.

But Paul Risley, the WFP spokesperson in Bangkok admitted that it uses the MFBT to transfer funds to Burma.

UN Humanitarian Chief, John Holmes, who is scheduled to visit Burma next week, on Wednesday, told reporters at a news conference in New York that he would look into the issue of aid money going into the coffers of the ruling junta through a twisted currency exchange mechanism.

But reports quoted him as saying, "My impression from what I heard is that there is not a significant problem. There may be moments when the difference between the dollar and FEC is significant, but by and large it is not."

The source, however, said the Burmese military generals have made millions of Kyat from the exchange margin.

"For every dollar, if the junta is profiting about two to three hundred Kyats, you can imagine how much they will have pocketed since aid agencies made their way into Burma," the source said.

Rice plantation season nearing end, farmers at a loss

Friday, 18 July 2008 13:46

New Delhi – Though the monsoon rice plantation season is coming to an end, farmers in cyclone-hit Bogale and Labutta Townships have been unable to sow paddy.

Only one third of the farmers from Bogale could revert to farming but most of the others cannot go back to agricultural activities because of lack of capital and farming equipment. Similarly most farmers in Labutta Township could not till their lands due to lack of farm labour because of death of family members.

"Time is running out for this monsoon's plantation season. But two thirds of the farmers in Bogale township cannot till their farms due to lack of money and farming equipment," a paddy merchant from Bogale said.

Farmers in many of these areas are depressed, unable as they are to revert to agricultural activities rendering them unemployed. Many have moved to towns to take up odd and menial jobs, a farmer from Bogale said.

British MPs call on Govt. to investigation Mahn Sha's assassination

New Delhi - Nearly 60 British parliamentarians have signed a petition, 'Early Day Motion', urging for the UK government to investigate and expose the assassins of Burma's ethnic rebel leader Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan.

In absence of no official investigation on the assassination of the General Secretary of Karen National Union (KNU), an ethnic armed rebel group, the British parliamentarians call on the UK government to conduct a direct investigation and expose the culprit.

"We welcome this move by the British parliamentarians because it is not only a moral support but is a fight against injustice," Zoya Phan, daughter of Mahn Sha, who is currently in UK, told Mizzima.

Mahn Sha was assassinated on February 14, by two unknown gunmen at his residence in the Thai-Burmese border town of Maesot. However, five months on, the culprit behind the murder is still unknown.

Zoya said, "Though we know that it is the work of the Burmese military junta, there has been no official announcement and we are sad about it."

The British MPs also condemn the Burmese military junta for its terrorist act in organising the assassination, and call on the British government to take action to stop attacks on the Karen and other ethnic civilians.

In loving memories of their father and in order to continue his works, Zoya said she along with her two brothers and a sister had established the 'Phan Foundation'.

"Through this foundation, we aim to preserve the Karen culture and also help Karen people in their education," Zoya said.

Mahn Sha elected as general secretary in December 2006 of the KNU, which has been fighting for self-determination for over half a century.

Majoring in history at the Rangoon University in 1962, he joined the Karen movement in the jungle soon after he complete his studies.

A highly respected figure among both ethnic and Burman allies the Burmese military regime also see Manh Sha as a strong leader in the KNU.

He was 64 years old at the time of his death.

NOTES: Zoya Phan, daughter of Mahn Sha, is a campaign officer at Burma Campaign UK. When she was 14 years old she had to flee from her Karen village in Burma when the Burmese army launched a mortar attack on the villagers without any warning. She spent over 10 years living in a refugee camp along the Thai-Burmese border. After the cowardly murder of her father Zoya Phan and her brothers and sister set up a fund in his memory to raise money to tackle poverty and provide education in Karen State: The website for donations is here:

Video of Zoya Phan presentation at the Conservative Party Conference 2007 following Saffron uprising
Video of Zoya Phan interview on Frost over the World - Burma - 28 Sep 07 during Saffron uprising


By Roland Watson
June 26, 2008

We have new, disturbing, and detailed intelligence about the assistance Russia is providing Burma’s dictatorship, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), on its nuclear program and more generally its military modernization. This new information both confirms earlier intelligence that we have published, and expands what is known about the overall program.

Nuclear reactor and uranium mining

It has been widely reported that Russia is going to provide Burma a nuclear reactor, for so-called “research” purposes. We have received information that the SPDC has now purchased the 10 MW reactor. It is not new, but is reportedly in good condition. It is being dismantled, transported to Burma, and rebuilt. While we cannot confirm that it has arrived, our sources say that installation is due to be completed by December this year. (We have previously reported that North Korean technicians will assist with the construction.)

The reactor will be built at a site some ten kilometers from Kyauk Pa Toe, in Tha Beik Kyin township, approximately one hundred kilometers north of Mandalay near the Irrawaddy River.

In return for the reactor and other services, a Russian government mining company has received concessions to mine gold, titanium and uranium. There are two gold mining sites: in Kyauk Pa Toe; and in the mountains to the right of the Thazi-Shwe Nyaung railway line from Mandalay Division to Southern Shan State in the Pyin Nyaung area.

Titanium is also being mined, or derived from the same ore, at Kyauk Pa Toe.

Uranium is being mined at three locations: in the Pegu-Yoma mountain range in Pauk Kaung Township of Prome District (aka Pyi); in the Paing Ngort area in Mo Meik Township in Shan State; and at Kyauk Pa Toe.

The reactor site has been chosen because of its proximity to the Tha Beik Kyin and Mo Meik uranium mines. It is likely that the gold mining operation at the former will be used as cover, to conceal the nuclear facilities.

We have previously reported, from different sources, that the SPDC has a yellowcake mill somewhere in the Tha Beik Kyin area. Now we know the exact location (or at least enough information to find it with satellite imagery).

The reactor has been publicized as being for research purposes, meaning research on nuclear power generation. We believe that the SPDC has no real interest in generating electricity, or at best that this is a secondary consideration, and that the primary purpose is atomic weapons development. Our sources say that the SPDC expects to have full nuclear capability within ten years.

Russia is presumably supplying the reactor fuel as well. While Burma has uranium ore, and mills to convert it to yellowcake, this must be enriched to create the fuel, typically using cascades of gas centrifuges. We have received one report that the SPDC has begun a centrifuge program, at the South Nawin Dam, but this is unconfirmed. Barring this operation, the source of the fuel therefore must be Russia.

Note: Locating the reactor at Kyauk Pa Toe really only makes sense if there are plans to build an enrichment facility there. This way you would have the full industrial cycle in close proximity: mine, mill, enrichment, and reactor.

What is perhaps most disturbing about Russia’s program with the SPDC is that it is identical to the Soviet Union’s assistance that propelled North Korea to become a nuclear power. Why, with the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, is Russia still helping rogue regimes proliferate? The surface answer of course is money, in this case in the form of natural resources, but the deeper question remains. Russia is considered to be a democracy. What would the people of the country think of their leaders giving such help to the likes of the SPDC and Than Shwe?

In 1965, the Soviet Union gave North Korea a 2 MW reactor, which was upgraded in 1973 to 8 MW. It also supplied fuel through at least this period. North Korea then went on to construct a much larger reactor, and in the 1980s began weapons development. This included building separation facilities to obtain plutonium, and high explosives detonation tests. (We have received reports that the SPDC has already conducted such tests, in the Setkhya Mountains southeast of Mandalay.) At some point North Korea also began its own uranium enrichment program, to produce weapons grade material, and the U.S. confronted the country about this in 2002. This means that the North has two different sources of fissile material for weapons, reactor plutonium and enriched uranium.

The North detonated a small atomic weapon, with a yield of less than one kiloton, in October 2006, using some of its plutonium. It is now reportedly about to disclose its nuclear assets, and also destroy its plutonium producing reactor, but the sticking point has been the enriched uranium. The North appears unwilling to discuss this (and at this point to disclose its weapons cache), which means that even with the destruction of the reactor and the plutonium stockpile (for the latter the size of which is subject to serious dispute), the North would retain the ability to produce weapons with the uranium. At the moment the U.S. appears willing to accept partial disclosure, i.e., of only the plutonium.

In addition to Russia, North Korean technicians have been helping Burma with its nuclear ambitions (and other weapons programs), and we have received information that the SPDC has given the North refined uranium in return, which may be destined for the enrichment program.

This is all very disturbing, all the more so because of the apparent weakness of the Bush Administration, which has been unwilling to press the North, and which refuses even to mention Burma (its nuclear program). It took North Korea forty years before it detonated a weapon. It will likely take the SPDC only a fraction of this period. Once the Burmese junta has atomic weapons, its rule will be entrenched, and its neighbors, foremost Thailand, will be seriously endangered.

Precision-guided munitions

We have also previously reported that Burma has a wide variety of missile installations, including large quantities of land-based SAMs; ship-launched missiles, both surface to air and surface to surface; weapons for its MIG 29s; and even short range ballistic missiles. We have now received information that while Burma formerly bought anti-aircraft weapons from the Ukraine, in 2007 it purchased four shiploads of such weapons from Russia. We have also learned that the SPDC has multi-tube mechanized rocket launchers from North Korea. (Note: these may be for use with the ballistic missiles, and if so they confirm our earlier intelligence.)

Moreover, Burma is researching the production of guided missiles, and with Russian assistance intends to build a rocket factory in Thazi Township. This will mark the latest step in a well-recognized proliferation of Russian precision-guided munitions in the Asia Pacific region. This class of weapons includes surface to air, to attack jets, and surface to surface to attack land-based targets and also ships. Cruise missiles fall within the category. We do not know which specific PGMs the factory intends to produce, only that they will be medium range guided rockets and that production is scheduled to begin within five years.

It is clear that the SPDC is intent on developing a strong defense against an international intervention, including foreign jets, helicopters and ships. Perhaps one reason why the U.S. and the French balked at dropping relief supplies following Cyclone Nargis was the risk of missile attack on their helicopters and ships.

Military modernization

We have previously noted that the Burma Army is weapons-deficient. It is clear that the extensive procurement program underway with Russia, as well as China, North Korea and others, is intended to rectify this. During the era of Ne Win and the BSPP (Burma Socialist Program Party), the junta established six weapons production facilities. There are now twenty-two, and clearly more are planned.

Coupled with the materiel acquisitions is a major educational program. There are more than 5,000 State Scholars in Russia, all of whom passed their Defense Services Academy class, a nine-month program in the Russian language, and an entrance exam in their specialty. (This is an increase from the 3,000 we previously reported.) They are candidates for either a masters (2 years) or doctorate (4 years – we previously reported 3 years for this degree). They study in Moscow or St. Petersburg, in the former in a suburb at the Moscow Air Institute. There are additional State Scholars from Burma in China, North Korea, Pakistan and India.

One of the more recent groups of scholars, Batch Seven, included 1,100 DSA officers. Their majors are as follows:

250 Nuclear science
100 Tunneling science
200 Rockets
100 Electronics
200 Computer science
100 Aircraft construction
150 Artillery

The students also learn other military subjects, including: tanks; maintenance; anti-aircraft training; ammunition production; fighter pilot training; naval craft construction; naval craft captaincy; and anti-terrorist training.

While it is clear that the overall modernization program will improve the SPDC’s preparedness against attack, the junta still has a significant problem with soldier morale. Many of the state scholars, who are an elite in the Tatmadaw, are not motivated and would seek asylum given the chance. Their stipends barely cover their expenses. The Russian language and their training programs are difficult. They are overworked and separated from the civilian population. Their visas prohibit them from buying air, train or long-distance bus tickets. When they return to Burma, some are used as Russian language teachers or as instructors at the SPDC’s Central Research and Training Unit, but many are sent to the front lines.

As an example, in January this year one scholar fled to the border of Finland, but was arrested by Russian intelligence agents when he used his cell phone to call his contact on the other side. There is widespread dissatisfaction at all levels within the SPDC, except perhaps the very top – although there is reportedly a split there as well, between Than Shwe and Maung Aye. While the new weapons systems improve the junta’s defense against an intervention, they still need operators. The SPDC is poised to fall, through an internal coup, and it is subject to a renewed popular uprising as well.

Acquiring a nuclear weapon would alter this equation somewhat, but really only by creating a new defense against an intervention, and this is as yet some years away, unless the SPDC acquires a warhead directly from North Korea. Still, any such development has to be prevented, which raises the question, yet again: what is the U.S. doing? Under geopolitical realism, the only concerns are national interests. On a superficial level, for the U.S. and Burma, these are limited to Chevron’s investment in Burma’s natural gas production and pipelines. A secondary interest is the concern of U.S. citizens of Burmese origin, but since this group is small it can effectively be ignored. It would seem, therefore, that all the Administration bluster notwithstanding, its only real policy objective for Burma is to protect Chevron, which corporation to bolster its case also makes large campaign donations.

The real direct national interest of the United States is to deny Burma nuclear weapons. It is not only North Korea, Iran and Syria that America (and the world) must contain. Having a nuclear-armed SPDC is an unacceptable risk. This trumps the need to assist a domestic corporation. Further, since Chevron is also a major cash source for the junta, which uses money as well as the direct transfer of natural resources to pay its weapons suppliers, it demands that the company be forced to divest.

NOTES & COMMENT: Neighbouring Thailand already plans to build 2 nuclear power stations by 2021 in agreement with the IAEA. Several ASEAN nations, including Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, have also begun developing nuclear energy in the region. Malaysia is apparently planning a facility to monitor nuclear technology developments in Southeast Asia and to help keep the region free from weapons of mass destruction If Burma developed uranium enrichment facilities it would be a major concern to neighbouring countries, but it is possible for Russia to help Burma build nuclear reactors for energy that can't be easily adapted for weapons development. The irresponsible nature of the regime does cause concern over the safety and environmental aspects of nuclear power and any uranium mining. The IAEA should monitor developments in Burma, but it was hard enough for the UN to even agree cyclone aid and foreign aid experts with Burma.

US lawmakers ease pressure on Chevron in Myanmar

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US lawmakers have dropped plans to impose sanctions that would have pressured US energy giant Chevron to pull out from a gas project in military-ruled Myanmar, congressional aides said on Tuesday.

Sanctions that would end tax write-offs enjoyed by Chevron were part of a package of new US measures passed by the House of Representatives last year aimed at punishing the military junta for its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

But in a compromise this week, legislators from the House of Representatives and Senate removed the provision after Chevron argued that other firms from nations such as China and India could easily take over its stake if divested, congressional aides said.

“One of the things it does is it removes the part about tax incentives that affect US companies who might do business in Burma (Myanmar),” a congressional aide told AFP in describing the compromise resolution that was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The new legislation, which is also expected to be cleared by the Senate, merely urged “investors” in the gas project “to consider voluntary divestment over time” if the junta did not embrace reforms.

Under the previous plan, “no deduction or credit against tax shall be allowed” for Chevron on revenues from the Yadana gas project.

Chevron could also have been barred from making any payments to the junta from its joint venture with French oil giant Total, Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, and Myanmar’s Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise operating the lucrative Yadana gas fields.

Under Myanmar law, if Chevron sold its stake, it might have to pay the military junta much of the company’s capital gains on the project — estimated to be around 500 million dollars.

Chevron’s vice-chairman Peter Robertson defended Chevron’s investment in Myanmar at a congressional hearing in May, saying the company had helped victims of a recent deadly cyclone that ravaged Myanmar.

“Our plan is to stay in Burma … If we sell our interest, we would pay a large capital gains tax to them (military junta),” he said.

“Any way of extracting us would be a benefit — a windfall benefit to the Burmese government.”

NOTES & COMMENT: Chevron (Texaco in UK) is an investor in the Total led Yadana Gas pipeline in Burma. Total is the lead operator for the pipeline and offshore gas platform, that pipes gas to Thailand. Chevron gained it's interest through the takeover of Unocal in the US in 2005, immediately after Unocal settled out of court with Burmese villagers over forced labour charges during construction of the pipeline and military camps around it. The Total operated Yadana gas pipeline earns the brutal Burmese dictatorship approximately 900 million dollars a year. This does not benefit the Burmese people, it pays for weapons from China and Russia for oppression of the Burmese people.

The current US legislation against the trade in gemstones and hardwood timber from Burma, was threatened by Chevron lobbyists unless proposals for removing Chevron's tax credit for its investment was dropped. Chevron's claim that selling its interest would result in a large capital gains tax to the military junta, underscores that their Burmese investment is significantly funding the brutal junta (tax is only part of the annual payment to the regime from the gas field).

Chevron will have to pay this "large capital gains" at some stage. The junta has been asking the international community for $11 billion dollars for cyclone relief. Why can't Chevron settle its capital gains tax now so that these huge gains could be taken into account and be monitored by the UN for use in aid to Burmese cyclone victims and reconstruction ? Instead Chevron will most likely make an even greater payment at a later date, giving foreign currency for the junta to finance its military dictatorship and upgrade weapons for its army (see above article).

Gas from Burma is exported to neighbouring countries, currently Thailand but increasingly in future China. The brutal Burmese regime needs collaborating non-neighbouring foreign companies like French Total and Korean Daewoo International (for the upcoming Shwe Gas field) as lead operators, both for their technical expertise and to avoid a conflict of interest in having neighbouring countries be both lead operator and main customer of the gas pipeline. If China was both lead operator and main customer, the Burmese regime would be in an extremely weak negotiating position. Similarly Thailand is unlikely to want neighbouring China to be lead operator of its major gas supplies from Burma for strategic reasons in the event of any dispute with China.

US House vote to bar Burmese gems

New Delhi - In a renewed pressure, United States' House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to block Gems and Jewelries from Burma to enter into the US.

The vote, which ban Burmese Rubies from entering the US, is aimed at punishing the Burmese military regime for its failure to help its citizen recover from a Cyclone that swept the country in May and for its brutal crackdown on peaceful monks' protest last year.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman said, the law discussed in the House on Tuesday is aimed to hit the Burmese regime 'where it hurts — in the wallet.'

Berman said blocking the import of Burmese gems into the United States and expanding financial sanctions, will substantially reduce hundreds of millions of dollars of the regime's income, which are used to continue suppressing its own citizens.

The bill, after the House has voted, will be sent back to the Senate, which in 2007 voted to bar Burmese woods and timbers to be imported to the US.

Tuesday's vote to bar gems from Burma is part of the US's economic sanctions against the Burmese military regime.

The US along with the European Union had further tightened economic sanctions against the Burmese regime following the brutal crackdown on Burmese monks' protest in September last year.

Forced labour on road reconstruction

Jul 18, 2008 (DVB)–Residents and criminal suspects awaiting charge have been forced to do hard labour to repair the Butheetaung-Maung Taw highway in Arakan state, locals said.

The road was destroyed earlier this month by heavy rain.

A local resident said about 500 people had been made to work on the road reconstruction.

"About 500 detainees from Butheetaung prison, including criminal suspects who had not yet been charged, were forced to work on the reconstruction of the highway," the resident said.

"Nearby villages were also asked to contribute 10 people from each ward and those who could not go had to pay 2000 kyat."

Butheetaung-Maung Taw highway was destroyed by a mountain landslide early this month due to heavy rain in the area.

The road is a vital border trading route between Burma and Bangladesh and local authorities were ordered by the government to get it repaired as soon as possible.

Monks continue regime boycott

Jul 16, 2008 (DVB)–Buddhist monks across Burma have said they are continuing their boycott against government officials by refusing to accept donations or passing them on to needy people.

A monk taking part in the boycott from Kaw Thaung, Tenasserim division, said his monastery had not been able to refuse donations outright.

"Our Pattaneikkuzana act against government members is still ongoing – we have been giving away donation items we received from government members to other people,” he said.

“We had to accept these items because they will pressure us if we refuse them."

NLD members charged with causing public alarm

Jul 17, 2008 (DVB)–Fourteen National League for Democracy members arrested in front of the party headquarters on 19 June made their second appearance before Bahan township court yesterday.

The group has been detained in Insein prison after being beaten up and arrested by Union Solidarity and Development Association and Swan Arr Shin members while peacefully celebrating detained NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday.

Ko Aung Soe Min, the son of Ton Tay township NLD leader U Chin Khin who was among those arrested, said the 14 have been charged under sections 143 and 505(b) of the penal code, for joining an unlawful assembly and causing public alarm.

If they are found guilty, the defendants could each face up to two and a half years in prison.

Aung Soe Min said one member of the group, who is more than 80 years old, has been sent to the prison hospital after having health problems.

NLD warned not to celebrate Martyrs' Day

Jul 18, 2008 (DVB)–National League for Democracy members in Magwe and Mandalay divisions have been warned by authorities not to plan any events to commemorate Martyrs’ Day on 19 July.

Ko Tint Lwin of Yaynanchaung NLD in Magwe said the authorities had told them the government would not mark the day.

"We were warned by local authorities not to do any of the usual activities we usually do on Martyrs’ Day every year, such as providing meals to monks and merit making,” he said.

“They said the government has no plans to celebrate the day and we would not be allowed to either."

Daw Khin Saw Htay, the leader of Magwe Division NLD’s women’s wing, said the government’s warnings would not deter people from celebrating the day.

"Martyrs' Day is the day we remember our leaders who brought independence to us and barring people from celebrating such a day is very narrow-minded act,” she said.

“We don't care if they arrest us, we will do what we do every year."

Taung Twin Gyi NLD member Ko Bo See said he had his colleagues were told to sign an agreement promising not to plan any activities on the day.

Low expectations for Gambari visit

Jul 17, 2008 (DVB)–Opposition figures and a political analyst have expressed doubts over whether the planned visit of United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Burma in mid-August will bring about any positive outcomes.

U Nyan Win, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy, said the party did not have high expectations for the envoy’s visit.

"The only thing this shows is that Mr Gambari's role, as a negotiator for national reconciliation in Burma on behalf of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, still exists," Nyan Win said.

"Whether or not this will be a successful mission doesn't depend on the UN's efforts alone,” he said.

“But we can still hope for the success if everyone starts participating – Mr Gambari, the UN and everyone who has a concern.”

U Chan Htun, a veteran politician and former Burmese ambassador to China, said the government had approved the trip in order to push its own agenda on issues such as the constitution and 2010 elections, and to press Gambari to encourage opposition groups to participate in the elections.

"They invited Mr Gambari because they have confidence that they can get something they want,” he said.

“Our government doesn’t do anything without being sure of the outcome; they know only what they want and they do not care about anyone else."

Armed Burmese Uprising Morally Justified: Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, one of the most well-known political and social critics in the world, said an armed uprising against Burma’s military regime is morally justified for the hardships inflicted upon the Burmese people.

However, he cautioned that it is not his role to tell the people of Burma what to do.

Chomsky, in an interview with the Bangkok Post published on Monday, said, “An armed uprising would have to evaluate with care the likely consequences for the people who are suffering.”

The ruling generals have “a good thing going for themselves,” he said. They have nothing to gain by yielding power, and they appear capable of holding on to their power.

“So that’s what they’ll probably do,” he said.

“On the other hand, the military leaders are aging,” he said, “and there may be popular forces developing that can erode their power from within.”

“Mass non-violent protests are predicated on the humanity of the oppressor. Quite often it doesn’t work. Sometimes it does, in unexpected ways,” he said.

The choice of a violent or non-violent mass uprising depends on an intimate knowledge of a society and its various constituents, Chomsky said.

He said, “I suspect that now it [a popular uprising] would be a slaughter.”

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chomsky said it’s appropriate for people to rise up against a brutal government, “but it’s not for me to tell people to risk mass murder. “

As for assassinating leaders, the question is very much like asking whether it is appropriate to kill murderers, said Chomsky, who will turn 80 in December.

“They should be apprehended by non-violent means, if possible,” he said. “If they pull a gun and start shooting, it’s legitimate to kill them in self-defense, if there is no lesser option.”

Chomsky said, “China would likely tolerate, maybe even welcome, the overthrowing of the junta.”

Looking back over US involvement in Burma, he recalled that as part of US cold war policy, the Eisenhower administration supported thousands of Chinese nationalists [Kuomintang] troops when they invaded northern Burma.

As a result, the Chinese armed and supported insurgent groups in the region which led to a 1962 coup and the shift of power to the military, he said.

He said the US, Britain and Israel later sold weapons and invested in oil production in Burma to strengthen the military government.

“These matters are unreported and unknown in the US, apart from specialists and activists,” he said, “because they interfere too dramatically with the doctrine that ‘we are good’ and ‘they are evil,’ the foundation of virtually every state propaganda system.”

Seeds of further uprising amid the fear and intimidation
Clancy Chassay in Rangoon The Guardian, Saturday July 19, 2008

In Rangoon, Burma's former capital, an atmosphere of fear and intimidation smothers the city. Since September's failed uprising, when thousands of people were beaten and arrested, security has been tightened. The ruling junta's vast network of informants and plain-clothes police officers watch everything.

But the crackdown has not extinguished the flame of protest. Members of Burma's battered and disparate opposition are growing disillusioned with the old methods of the pro-democracy movement and are seeking ways to escalate their struggle.

Out of earshot, in the back of a taxi hurtling through the city's crumbling streets, one of the organisers of last year's protests spoke freely. "There is a very real debate among us about how to begin a more sustained armed struggle," he said. "We are ready for that kind of action, if we can get the supplies and training that we need."

The destination was a teahouse on the outskirts of the city, frequented by opposition activists - "one the government hasn't discovered yet", he said with a hollow laugh. After checking that all the adjacent rooms were empty, the activist began to talk in detail about the desire among a new wave of opposition activists to intensify their actions beyond protest and civil disobedience.

He had been an organiser during the September uprising, training monks in how to mobilise. Now he is looking for a reliable way to get arms into the country. With the opposition in tatters, younger groups, affiliated to the 88 Generation group which initiated the fuel and food price riots in August and September, are looking for new ways to bring down the regime.

"The problem for us is that this regime has too many options. When China doesn't defend them, they begin trade deals with India. And the Asean nations, despite what they say in public, are always willing to deal with them. It's all about trade. It's difficult to see how international pressure can have any effect here," he said.

Some 200 miles away on the lush Burma-Thailand border, Soe Aung, the chief spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella group representing nearly all facets of Burma's opposition, echoed the change in mood. Speaking from exile, he said he had witnessed a significant shift in public attitude across Burma.

"After the September uprising and then the terrible cyclone response, the anger is surging. Some are considering violent means ... The Burmese people are not that kind of people, there has been a real change," he said.

Like many in the opposition, Soe Aung favours a non-violent strategy, and believes an uprising like the one last September could easily happen again.

A lean, bespectacled intellectual, he spoke openly of how covert western support, primarily from the US State Department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary, the International Republican Institute (IRI) had been key to the success of the uprising. "The August/September protests were a real test of the training, and we were able to see how effective it has been," he said.

Soe Aung described mobilisation through Burma's monasteries and religious institutions. "The US is certainly doing the most for the opposition. There has been real success in training and forming an underground movement through religious organisations and monastic organisations. These provide the best cover inside Burma. The monks can spread their training very effectively," he said.

According to Brian Joseph, who is in charge of the group's Burma project, the NED gave $3m to Burma in 2007. "We would send more, but there is a limit to what you can do in Burma," he said.

Opposition activists inside and outside Burma said improvements in political awareness and spread of information were thanks in large part to NED-funded projects, but also to the introduction of the internet to Burma in 2003.

"We could see in September how the advances were utilised. It wasn't just the monks but a massive increase of awareness among Burmese of all types. This was thanks largely to media organs, the [NED-funded] Democratic Voice of Burma, satellite TV and, of course, the internet," said Soe Aung.

Some are more cynical about the support from Washington. "They use their funds to manipulate the situation, they want a situation they can control - not too much independence. They're just interested in limiting the spread of China's power," said the organiser on the outskirts of Rangoon.

The old guard of Burma's official opposition, which is allowed to operate tightly monitored offices in Rangoon, is also wary of talk of violence. "Armed struggle can't be successful because the army is very well trained and the people are not," said Nyan Win, senior spokesman for the National League of Democracy. Nyan Win, in his mid-sixties, voiced widely held frustration at the lack of political progress. "We're exhausted; we have been struggling for democracy and human rights for 20 years and we have nothing to show that things are improving," he said.

He said the party had received no message from their leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. "The generals won't let us talk to her, to find out if she's okay." Last month a group of younger generation NLD activists were imprisoned for protesting outside the home of Suu Kyi on her 63rd birthday.

Despite the harsh sentences that answer any dissent, Nyan Win remains optimistic about fresh protests.

Anger has been boiling across Burma since Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster in Burmese history, struck on May 2, leaving more than 140,000 people dead or missing. Many Burmese believe the regime grossly mishandled the immediate relief effort.

Its aftermath also revived some of the national fervour of the September protests and gave new life to a long dormant civil society through widespread private relief efforts.

In Rangoon, a western diplomatic source said the increase in private activities had weakened the regime. But the military government of Than Shwe remains in firm control of the country. Under the 400,000-strong army's rule, brutal campaigns against ethnic minorities continue in most of the border states, and the military continues to manipulate the political situation to ensure its control.

Frustrations have sharpened after a fresh series of arrests in the aftermath of Nargis decimated what was left of the opposition leadership.

"We lost a lot of activists during Nargis. They didn't want to hide any more, they had to try to help the people, so they rushed to the areas, and many never came back," said Aung Kyaw Oo, a former student leader of the famed uprising of 1988, who campaigns for the release of Burma's political prisoners.

Many of them are now in Burma's notorious Insein prison, according to Aung Kyaw Oo, who spent time there.

The mass arrests since September have spurred a new radicalism among some of Burma's monastic community. It is the only viable national institution after the army and the only organised force in the country that remains relatively intact after opposing the regime.

Buddhist monks are at the core of Burmese society. Most Burmese men spend at least a year in monastic training and many re-enter the monastery later in life. Since September's uprising, monks in Rangoon are reluctant to speak. But in Mandalay, Burma's religious capital and home to more than 70,000 monks and novices, they are quick to express their anger.

"We feel very angry when we see what they did to the monks," said one Buddhist student activist. "If I had had a gun I would have shot back at all the ones who shot at us."

In one of the largest of Mandalay's 100 Buddhist monasteries, the monks say they are preparing for a new uprising. "There is so much anger here. We are preparing, we hope, for an uprising in the coming September. We are ready," said a senior instructor.

He described how Americans and Europeans have been training groups of core monk activists in basic civil disobedience tactics, as well as advising them in crafting an overall strategy.

Since the cyclone, the monks have played a central role in the private relief effort, defying the government's ban on unsanctioned assistance by funneling in aid from Thailand across the south.

In hiding in the lush green hills along the Thai-Burmese border, Abbot Nat Zaw, the last remaining of the six leaders of the September uprising, described running regular trips into Burma from Thailand to coordinate the opposition monks' relief effort. The abbot, in his early forties, was responsible for drafting the now famous September 17 statement demanding the reversal of fuel and food price rises, the release of Suu Kyi, and the start of a dialogue to end military rule.

"An uprising is coming soon. The root causes haven't gone away, if anything they have been aggravated. We cannot talk about the details now but preparations are under way," he said.

Thai Embassy Raises the Bar for Burmese Seeking Visas

The Royal Thai Embassy in Rangoon has made it more difficult for Burmese nationals to visit Thailand, say recent visa seekers.

“It is difficult for first-time applicants,” said one Burmese man who recently applied for a visa. “They have to submit information about everything they own—their homes, their cars, even their phones.”

In the past, applicants only had to show that they had US $600; now, he said, “If you want a Thai tourist visa, you have to show that you have assets valued at 1.8 million kyat ($1,525) or more.”

Junta officials, two Chinese teak traders killed over unequal division of loot

Two junta officials and two Chinese teak traders from Taunggyi were killed by each other in Kholam, Namzang township, after quarreling over the division of the proceeds from teak trading, according to SHAN sources.

By Hseng Khio Fah
17 July 2008

The shooting took place on13 July, at 18:00, between Deputy Commander, Major Aung Thiha and Capt Aye San Win from Infantry Battalion#66, based in Kholam and two Chinese teak traders U Soe, 54, and Zaw Htoo, 50, at U Soe’s house. They died instantly, said a source.

U Soe and Zaw Htoo were from Taunggyi and bought a house in Kholam during the trading of teak, according to a source.

“Before U Soe and Zaw Htoo were to have their dinner, the officials went to ask for their shares and quarreled with them,” a villager told to SHAN. “One of U Soe’s followers started to shoot at the officials and the officials shot back.”

There was no one providing security for the officers and the officers themselves were wearing plain clothes, according to another source.

There had been no other casualty.

Before the event took place, local authorities in Kholam had banned teak trading from the Keng Tawng forest, Mongnai township, Langkhur district, according to sources.

Breaking news of the shooting was reported by SHAN on 14 July. However, SHAN then had reported that the 4 men had been killed by others.

[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:

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2nd - 8th November: Wrexham, Wales, UK & Everywhere: Week of Action Against the North Wales Prison & the Prison Industrial Complex. Cymraeg: Wythnos o Weithredu yn Erbyn Carchar Gogledd Cymru

Ongoing UK
Every Tuesday 6pm-8pm, Yorkshire: Demo/vigil at NSA/NRO Menwith Hill US Spy Base More info: CAAB.

Every Tuesday, UK & worldwide: Counter Terror Tuesdays. Call the US Embassy nearest to you to protest Obama's Terror Tuesdays. More info here

Every day, London: Vigil for Julian Assange outside Ecuadorian Embassy

Parliament Sq Protest: see topic page
Ongoing Global
Rossport, Ireland: see topic page
Israel-Palestine: Israel Indymedia | Palestine Indymedia
Oaxaca: Chiapas Indymedia
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