The Global Digest

Press Release

Conservatives Target Women and Girls at UN’s 55th Commission on the Status of Women by Lori Adelman on March 23, 2011

The 55th Commission on the Status of Women

As some of you may know, governments gather at the United Nations in March for the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). For two weeks, delegates meet to evaluate global progress on achieving the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action on gender equality, identify challenges, and formulate strategies to promote the advancement of women worldwide.

What you may not know is that at this year’s CSW, the sexual and reproductive rights of women and young people became the target of incredibly organized assaults by U.S.-based organizations.

Under the radar and over-the-top, these predominantly conservative and anti-choice groups descended upon the Commission and its participants in advance of the CSW to ensure that issues such as women’s rights, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and sexuality education, experienced major setbacks on the global scene.

Among the most blatant perpetrators was Family Watch International (FWI). Unable to wait until the meeting in March, they sponsored 26 UN delegates from 23 different countries to attend their first annual “Global Family Policy Forum” in Phoenix, Arizona. As their website proudly states, the January forum was organized specifically to provide UN diplomats that negotiate social and family issues at the UN two days of “expert presentations on family issues, briefing sessions and discussions on how to better protect and promote the family and family values at the UN.”

The content of the conference, which FWI lists on its website as “the single most important thing that Family Watch has ever done”, included sessions featuring “scientific and clinical evidence” that “homosexuality is not genetically determined” and that “in many cases, individuals who experience same-sex attraction can be helped by therapy”, as well as information on a searchable electronic database that would allow diplomats to quickly and easily access previously agreed upon “family-supportive language” from past UN documents. Much of the time was spent developing strategies; discussing anti-woman, anti-choice tactics for the CSW and similar upcoming conferences; and opportunities for the diplomats to network, schmooze, and sightsee (including a trip to the Grand Canyon). Conference organizers are already planning a similar event for 2012, which they predict could “easily include diplomats from more than 50 countries”.

As a result of this conference and similar initiatives, advocates and delegates who oppose women’s rights and health in the global sphere were well prepared for the 55th CSW. Although relatively few in number, reps from the Holy See, Benin, Iran, and Syria voiced strong opposition, while the usual progressive allies such as the U.S. and Europe were less vocal.

“As a result of strong opposition at the 55th Session of the CSW, both inside and outside the negotiation room, progressive advocacy efforts failed to achieve strong reference to concepts including women’s empowerment, gender equality, and human rights in the agreed conclusions,” said Sarah Kennel, Program Officer for the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

“Having participated in the CSW as a youth advocate on behalf of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, opposition groups both out-numbered us and out-powered us throughout the negotiation process. As a result of their strong presence, we were forced to fight for the inclusion of already agreed upon (moderately progressive) language, rather than breaking boundaries and advocating for the inclusion of truly progressive language, with a focus on gender equality and human rights.”

The “controversial” language Kennell refers to includes concepts such as “gender”, “gender mainstreaming”, “gender equality”, “gender based analysis”, “sexuality education”, “sexual and reproductive health”, “maternal health”, and “women’s rights”, which have longstanding precedent at the UN by virtue of their presence in a number of agreed-upon UN documents and treaties. A statement by the European Union (EU) delegation mirrors Kennell’s concerns:

“We note with disappointment the concerns expressed throughout the negotiations by some delegations with regard to concepts such as ‘gender’ and ‘gender stereotypes’. This language has been fully agreed in the past, including in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and is entirely consistent with efforts to promote the realization of gender equality. As such we were, and will remain, unwilling to go back to pre-Beijing concepts. Mr President, we hope that in the future, delegations can in fact move forward from agreed language and continue to further the overriding objective of the Commission, which is to accelerate and develop the full enjoyment and unhindered exercise of equal rights for women and girls all over the world.”

So what is to be done with the experience of this year’s CSW? We certainly can expect a bit of a bumpy ride.

“Looking ahead,” said Kenell, “it is clear that member states, NGOs and youth with progressive agendas will face increasing opposition when advocating for the inclusion of language related to gender equality, women’s empowerment, reproductive health and rights, comprehensive sexuality education and human rights.”

But the fight isn’t over yet. Reflecting on this experience, the progressive youth movement needs to be better prepared and better funded. For Kennell, this involves “knowing the issues, knowing how to use international agreements, treaties and declarations that support our issues as advocacy tools and knowing how and when to work with ally member states.” By establishing stronger links and connections among progressive organizations, individuals, and networks, a strong movement can be build to advocate for the rights of all girls and women. The upcoming Commission on Population and Development will be a crucial site for the continued development of these issues.

To learn more about IWHC’s work at the UN, click here. To download the Agreed Conclusions in their entirety, click here. To download the full EU statement on the Agreed Conclusion, click here.


RTE VIOLATED - Student Nand Kumar denied admission in class VI by Govt. Boys Sr. Sec. School Sadiq Nagar, New Delhi

Special Report
By Ashok Agarwal
Mar. 29, 2012

Government Boys Senior Secondary School in India

To, The Director of Education Government of NCT of Delhi Old Secretariat Building Civil Lines Delhi 110054

Dear Sir,

Ms. Archana Agnihotri, Social Jurist Volunteer, resident of N – 107, GK 1, New Delhi 48 (M-921205649) has complained to me that the principal of Government Boys Senior Secondary School (2nd shift) Sadiq Nagar, New Delhi 110049 has denied admission to Master Nand Kumar s/o Dashrath Mandal (M-931055772) in class VI in the academic year 2012-13 on the alleged ground that he is old for class VI. A copy of the complaint dated 29/03/2012 is enclosed hereto for your ready reference.

It is submitted that there is no legal justification at all on the part of the Principal of the Government Boys Senior Secondary School, Sadiq Nagar to deny admission to Master Nand Kumar in class VI because Master Nand Kumar had been earlier studying in MCD Adarsh Co-Ed School, Jamrudpur, New Delhi from where he has passed class V in the academic year 2011-12 and has also been issued a Transfer Certificate dated 24/03/2012 by the MCD school. A copy of the Transfer Certificate dated 24/03/2012 is also enclosed hereto for your ready reference.

Ms. Archana Agnihotri has also written in her complaint that she is getting several complaints from different people against the principal of the of Government Boys Senior Secondary School, Sadiq Nagar, New Delhi that he harasses poor parents and gives a hard time to students in admitting them. She has also written that Master Nand Kumar wants to study seriously and that his father and mother both are very poor. His father is a car cleaner and his mother a domestic helper. They are also uneducated, but it does not mean that anybody can exploit these poor and helpless people. She has requested me to help this boy to secure admission in this school because this is the closest school where the boy can go to study. It is needless to say that the boy and his mother have personally met me today.

That the denial on the part of the school Principal to admit master Nand Kumar in class VI on the alleged ground that he is old for Class VI is not only unconstitutional but also in violation of the express provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

You are therefore requested to look into this matter urgently and ensure that Master Nand Kumar is admitted in Class VI in the academic year 2012-13 in the Govt. Boys Senior Secondary School, Sadiq Nagar, New Delhi.

With Regards

Ashok Agarwal, Advocate Advisor- Social Jurist Mob no. 9811101923

Our stand Vindicated but not our demands: farmer suicides in India

Special Report
By Soheb Lokhandwala
Mar. 27, 2012

Dead bodies of farmers

Respected Prithviraj Chavan(CM of Maharashtra)

News carried by national daily DNA carrying report on farmers suicide where the onus has being put on BT cotton seeds failure is very shocking. This failure has lead to many suicidal deaths of farmers in Maharashtra&specially Marathwada region. The million dollar question is who will be held responsible for such failure of spurious seeds?

The report which we are demanding to be implemented includes supply of good seeds, that Government should supply good quality seeds to distressed farmers. All private seed companies should compulsorily get their seeds graded by the Government. The Government should fix the prices of the seeds supplied by the private companies. The farmers should be encouraged to develop their own seeds. Further the Graded Seeds Scheme should be expanded to cover land ownership at least upto 2 hectares. Immediate action should be taken against companies selling defective or spurious seeds. The Seed Control Order, 1983 should be strictly enforced and if necessary, selling of spurious seeds should be made cognizable offence.

We demand an inquiry which has lead to failure of crops in turn huge losses& finally farmer’s suicides. Therefore the seed company which has provided the seeds like Mahyco &others which are multinational-corporate brands must be held responsible and adequate compensation must be seek from these 'false seed'(BT cotton) providers. A strong legal case must be registered for selling such spurious seeds. We demand that Govt of Mah. must take swift& strong action against such seed companies.

Farmer's are backbone to economy,their life's are precious to be counted in & so losses are immense and irreparable to our Nation. Jai Kisan & Kisan Sangathna!!

Yours Sincerely

Soheb Lokhandwala MPJ.Mah.

Sri Lanka: Awakening Call from the International Community, UN Human Rights Council Adopts Resolution on Accountability and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna(R), India votes infavor of the resolution

(22 March 2012, Geneva/Bangkok) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights group with 49 member organisations in 17 countries across Asia, has welcomed the resolution on “promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka”, which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (Council) today with 24 States voting in favor, 8 abstentions and 15 voting against[1]. The resolution introduced by 40 co-sponsoring countries calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC); to initiate independent and credible actions to address alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law; and to present a comprehensive action plan towards both these ends. It also encourages the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and relevant Special Procedures to provide advice and technical assistance, and requests the OHCHR to present a report on its work in this regard to the 22nd regular session of the Council in March 2013.

“As human rights defenders, we look to the Council to complement the domestic accountability process, especially in view of the Council’s endorsement of the joint communiqué between the UN Secretary General and the President of Sri Lanka in 2009. We hope that the government of Sri Lanka will view the adoption of this resolution in a constructive light and work towards the effective implementation of the LLRC recommendations as an invaluable first step towards justice and accountability for both past and ongoing violations of human rights in Sri Lanka”, said Ms. Sunila Abeysekera of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Defenders Network. “We also hope that such a process will lead to an improvement in relations between the government and civil society actors, so that we may work together for genuine reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka.”

“The support of the international community through this resolution by the Council must enhance the space for those embattled Sri Lankan human rights defenders and victims to raise their legitimate concerns on justice and accountability without fear of violence and coercion”, said Mr. Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA. “We strongly urge the Sri Lankan government and State-controlled media to immediately end their systematic intimidation and threats against Sri Lankan civil society organizations that support this action by the Council.”

“We are extremely disappointed to find several Asian member States of the Council voted against the resolution, including Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, the Maldives, the Philippines and Thailand. However, India’s remarkable vote in favor of the resolution and the abstentions by Jordan, Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia indicate that the accountability measures undertaken by the government since the end of the war are far insufficient”, said Mr. Subodh Raj Pyakurel, Chairperson of FORUM-ASIA. ”We emphasize that all member States of the Council must exert their efforts in bolstering an environment where the government of Sri Lanka works with the OHCHR and Special Procedures in a cooperative spirit”, he added.

For more information or media interview, please contact:

In Geneva, Giyoun Kim / Pooja Patel, +41 22 740 2947, In Bangkok, Yap Swee Seng, +66 81 868 9178,


Letter to the Chief Minister of Maharastra

Special Report
By J.G. Prince
Mar. 23, 2012

Mumbai Harbor


1. The Chief Minister of Maharastra
2. The Commissioner of Fisheries, Maharastra.

Honourable Chief Minister/ Dear Commissioner of Fisheries,

Loving greetings.

I am very happy to state that, we people of Tamil Nadu were no way a threat for the people of Maharastra State, self-employed in various kinds of business related to trade and commerce at every districts of Tamil Nadu. We had never exposed any kind of discrimination on the basis of region, state, language, community and so on towards the people of Maharastra living at Tamil Nadu for their survival. Tamil Nadu is proud to state that it has given life to all people who came for survival from other states. The government officials and people of Maharastra should remember these facts and favour the poor innocent nine fishermen of Tamil Nadu, who were detained for a long period along with their boat from 08/Mar/2012 onwards.

Mumbai Collector has informed me, that the Commissioner of Fisheries wants to have a hearing by today, on the complaint by someone for the charges of selling fishes at local market by our nine fishermen. Also, he informed me that the Commissioner of Fisheries may impose penalty and release the nine fishermen and the detained boat. I am very sad to hear this.

In this case, these nine fishermen were innocent. The purpose of fisherman to reach Mumbai harbor is never to sell the fishes. As the boat engine faced technical problems, they were forced to move to shore, inorder to repair the boat engine. The receipt for payment of charges to repair boat engine from MK Electricals at Tharukan on March 07, 2012 is also already submitted to officials. Everyone is aware of the fishes available with fishermen is perishable and so they have to make use of those fishes before it gets damaged. So they have sold the fishes to the local people over there. The genuineness of this issue has to be understood. The fishermen were also human beings and they also need to have food for their survival. So they need money to purchase food. Whether the government officials of Maharastra, wants our nine fishermen to die on starving for food. The commissioner of Fisheries should understand the veracity of this case and should never impose any kind of penalty towards our poor innocent fishermen.

They have also got all the permits to do fishing all over India through MPEDA.

I hope that honourable Chief Minister of Maharstra and the Commissioner of Fisheries will favour our nine Fishermen of Tamil Nadu in such a way, without any break in relationship between the people of Maharastra and Tamil Nadu and maintain peaceful atmosphere among the fishermen and others of both states.

Thank you.

In Political Social Service of Indian National Congress,

J.G. Prince, Member of Legislative Assembly (Tamil Nadu), Colachel Constituency, Kanyakumari District.

Eelam Tamils’ position on the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council

At the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva

13 March 2012: Respecting the nationhood of Eelam Tamils, accepting the existence of their traditional homeland and facilitating their right to national self-determination are crucial to ending the ongoing genocide of Eelam Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka.

Given the recent increased international interests in the island of Sri Lanka, emergence of new evidence of most heinous crimes committed there and shift in global attitudes towards better human rights protection, Eelam Tamils expected a shift in policy by member states at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Encouraged by the March 2011 report of the UN Experts Panel and the February 2012 resolution of the European Parliament, both of which concluded that there should be an independent international investigation into recent war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the island of Sri Lanka, Eelam Tamils have engaged states and non state actors to bring about a resolution protecting human rights and promoting international law at the 19th session of the UNHRC.

On 7 March 2012 the United States tabled a draft resolution for the consideration of member states.

Eelam Tamils deeply regret the decision of the United States to show regard for the Lessons. Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was set-up by the very leaders of the Sri Lankan regime that is accused of committing grave violations of international law. We also note the decision of international human rights groups to boycott the LLRC because it failed to meet basic international standards for independent and impartial inquiries and proceeded against a backdrop of government failure to address impunity and continuing human rights abuses.

We are also reminded of the failure of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), a committee appointed by the international community to assist a Sri Lankan commission of inquiry address serious human rights violations, in 2007 because of interference from Sri Lanka's ruling regime, and in particular the then attorney general and current chief of the LLRC, Mr C. R. De Silva.

With experiences in mind, Eelam Tamils agree with international human rights organisations that the LLRC has been deeply flawed from its onset; on that basis, the LLRC has been unable to produce any credible or constructive recommendations.

Further, we are deeply concerned by reference to demilitarisation of the north of the island alone, when much of the east of the island, which together with the north makes up the Tamil homeland, is occupied under the pretext of high security zone by ever increasing numbers of Sri Lankan military personnel.

Devolution of power to provinces, which binds the Eelam Tamil nation to the unitary constitution of the Sinhala state, will leave the Eelam Tamil nation continually vulnerable to the ongoing genocide and, therefore, can never be contemplated of as a lasting political solution to the conflict.

Eelam Tamils urge the international community to respect our nationhood, accept the existence of our homeland and facilitate our struggle to national self determination, by way of ending the conflict on the island of Sri Lanka and ensuring stability in the region.

To this effect a coalition of Eelam Tamil organisations submitted a draft resolution aimed at “halting the genocide of Eelam Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka and implementing a permanent political solution to the conflict between the two nations on the island” for the consideration of member states at the 19th session of the UNHRC.

Signed By

National Council of Canadian Tamils Tamil Coordinating Committee - United Kingdom Maison du Tamil Eelam France Cultural Organisation of Tamils - Belgium Norwegian Council of Eelam Tamils Danish Tamil Forum Dutch Tamil Forum Council of Eelam Tamils in Germany Swiss Tamil Coordination Committee Italian Council of Eelam Tamils Tamil Coordinating Committee - Australia Tamil Youth Organisation - of all countries


UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issues conclusions on Vietnam

Mar. 15, 2012

UNPO Alternative Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

PARIS-GENEVA, The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights welcome the conclusions (1) issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) after examining Vietnam’s periodic report on its implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on 21-22 February 2012. The conclusions and recommendations by the CERD chided Vietnam for its “considerably overdue” report, in which Vietnam claimed that there was no racial discrimination, and provided no concrete facts on cases of abuse. The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights had submitted an alternative report (2) to the CERD detailing extensive cases of discrimination which were widely taken up by the UN experts.

The CERD countered Vietnam’s denials of the facts by evoking numerous reports of forced displacement of ethnic minorities (such as the Degars, Hmongs and Khmer Krom), “confiscation of ancestral lands without prior consent and appropriate compensation”, “double discrimination” (discrimination on racial and religious grounds), and forced repatriation of members of indigenous minorities seeking refuge abroad. Moreover, observing glaring disparities in the distribution of economic growth, the UN experts said they were “deeply concerned at the sizeable socio-economic gap between disadvantaged ethnic minorities and the majority Kinh, even when they live in the same mountainous area”.

The CERD expressed particular concern about “persistent reports of arrests, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in custody of religious minority groups due to their peaceful practice of religion and freedom of expression”, the “lack of effective investigation of those allegations and the lack of effective remedies provided for the victims”. They called for an end to these abuses of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief, and urged Vietnam to release all “those in detention for activities that would, under international standards, constitute the peaceful exercise of the aforementioned rights”.

The FIDH and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights regret that Vietnam’s very first gesture, following the publication of the CERD’s conclusions, was to condemn eight ethnic Hmongs on 13 March 2012 to prison sentences of two years to 30 months (followed by two years probationary detention) following demonstrations in the northern province of Dien Bien in April-May 2011. The Vietnamese authorities deployed special force units and armed helicopters to crush these peaceful protests of several thousands of Hmongs.

In their conclusions, the CERD noted that racial discrimination and inequality in Vietnam was not only due to lack of preventive action by the government, but also to the perpetuation of “negative societal attitudes and stereotypes against ethnic minorities”, as well as a whole arsenal of anti-human rights regulations and legislation, and the lack of an independent judiciary.

“Vietnam is as consistent in abusing the rights of its citizens as it is inconsistent in making sure its laws and practices comply with all the international human rights instruments that it ratified”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

The UN experts expressed particular concern about Vietnam’s “broad and imprecise wording of certain provisions” in the Criminal Code, such as article 87 on “undermining the unity policy”, and the “possible misuse of those provisions against some ethnic minorities”, or Article 91 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes fleeing abroad to escape persecution, which they said was “incompatible with article 68 of the Vietnamese Constitution”.

Concerned by widespread violations of religious freedom, the CERD denounced several provisions in Vietnam’s 2004 “Ordinance Regarding Religious Beliefs and Religious Activities “which appeared to be discriminatory on both ethnic and religious grounds” and “forbid religious activities deemed to “violate national security””, as well as Decree 22 (on the implementation of the Ordinance) which imposes strict controls on religions. They noted “numerous and consistent reports about discrimination and restriction on religious practices by some Christian and Buddhist denominations” through “legislation, registration requirements, surveillance and imprisonment”.

Other restrictive laws singled out by the CERD include Decree 38/2005/ND-CP on Public Order which bans demonstrations outside public buildings, Circular 09/2005/TT-BCA which bans gatherings of more than five people without a permit, and Ordinance 44 which empowers local Police and officials to detain persons for up to two years without any process of law. They called on Vietnam to revise these laws.

The CERD also called on Vietnam to revise the system of household registration or hộ khẩu which “results in discrimination against ethnic minorities belonging to ‘unrecognised’ religious groups, in the fields of employment, social security, health services, education and the right to freedom of movement”. The hộ khẩu, which contains details of the ethnic origins, religion, and previous political affiliations of all family members, is an essential requirement for travel, employment, marriage, births and gaining access to government services, and is used as a tool to control the Vietnamese population.

“In diplomatic but very strong terms, the CERD has asked Vietnam to do what all Vietnamese wish for deep inside – to dismantle the totalitarian and arbitrary state. The racial discrimination suffered by Vietnam’s ethnic minorities is extremely serious, and cannot end unless the mechanisms of state repression have been removed”, said Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights. “The CERD urged Vietnam to make their conclusions public and circulate them widely in Vietnam. It is doubtful that Vietnam, which takes its own denials for reality, will comply. We therefore rely on the international community, including the media, civil society and democratic governments to bring this information to the people of Vietnam”.

NFF Press Release on Marine and Coastal Protected Areas in India

Special Report
By R.K. Patil
Mar. 7, 2012

View point of Gulf of Mannar

A two day workshop titled Fishery-Dependent Livelihoods, Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity: The Case of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas in India was organised on March 1-2, 2012 by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF).

The workshop provided a good opportunity for dialogue between government agencies, fishing community representatives, non- governmental organisations, environmental groups and scientists. The fishing community representatives reported severe loss of livelihood in protected areas (PAs) like Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, Gahirmata (Marine) Wildlife Sanctuary and Gulf of Mannar (Marine) National Park and Biosphere Reserve. It was further observed that the small and traditional fishing communities are being increasingly marginalised due to exclusionist conservation measures in the protected areas and the destructive developmental activities all over the coast. Discussions led to an consensus on the need to balance conservation and livelihoods based on sustainable use of resources.

Based on the discussions at the workshop, NFF seeks the following actions:

Restoration of fishing rights in marine and coastal national parks and sanctuaries (PAs) established under the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972

Legal recognition of the rights of fishing communities to marine and coastal natural resources and to protect and manage them along the lines of the Forest Rights Act

Clear guidelines on operationalising the provisions in the WLPA related to protecting the occupational interests of fishermen and on the right to innocent passage in PAs till all fishing rights are recognised and restored under the WLPA

All future Marine and Coastal PAs not to be declared under present WLPA in view of its inappropriateness for the purpose and to consider other suitable legal instruments

Establishment of a formal coordination mechanism between the environment and agriculture ministries to ensure livelihood interests of fishing communities are protected in national parks and sanctuaries

A review by the environment ministry of the extent to which marine and coastal PAs are consistent with the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in particular provisions related to governance, participation, equity and benefit sharing, prior to CoP 11 in Hyderabad in October 2012

Putting in place, through a consultative process, an integrated, holistic framework for conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity that regulates particularly the large-scale environmental impact of ports, power plants, oil and gas exploration, tourism etc

R.K. Patil General Secretary, Pradip Chatterjee Secretary


Call to postpone destructive Chinese pipelines in Burma

Under construction of Chinese pipelines in Burma

U Thein Sein President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Nay Pyi Taw Myanmar
1st March 2012

Dear President U Thein Sein,

The undersigned are writing to express our concern about the Shwe Gas and Trans-Burma Pipelines Project led by Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and the Chinese state-owned China National Petroleum Company. There are a number of serious social, economic and environmental impacts of this project, including human rights abuses. We are calling for the government to postpone this project until rights are protected and negative impacts are prevented within a sustainable framework for national development.

The project is exporting valuable natural resources and missing an opportunity to contribute to national development while at the same time causing destructive impacts to local communities and the environment, including ruining livelihoods and increasing militarization and abuses. Several civil society organizations including the Shwe Gas Movement have documented these impacts.

Thousands of acres of farm lands have been confiscated in Arakan and Shan States and Magwe and Mandalay divisions to clear the way for the pipeline corridor and related infrastructure. The livelihoods of local fishing families in Arakan State have been destroyed due to development of offshore infrastructure for the project.

Militarization has been heightened along the pipeline corridor, causing internal displacement and sparking new resentment against the Shwe Gas Project and other natural resource exploitation projects like it.

We believe that Burma’s natural resources have the potential to spur the national economy without harming local communities. These projects should be based on a sustainable framework for development which includes meeting domestic energy needs instead of exporting valuable natural resources and protecting community rights to their lands and livelihoods through genuine consultation and free, prior and informed consent for projects that will directly affect their lives. In addition, any revenue from such projects must be used transparently for sustainable development of the country.

Your government recently announced the suspension of both the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam and the coal-fired power plant in Dawei due to the negative impacts of the projects and concerns from the people. Due to the harmful impacts of the Shwe Gas and Trans-Burma Pipelines Project, we call for a consistent policy of social and environmental accountability, and an immediate postponement of the project.

This project is risky business for all parties involved and has the potential to create and/or further inflame conflict in Burma. By acting now to postpone the Shwe Gas and Trans-Burma Pipelines Project and taking steps to deal with the problems listed above, the government will greatly improve its reputation among the citizens of Burma and internationally.

Sincerely, Shwe Gas Movement And Others.

Thai Civil Society and Human Rights Coalition urged the government to uphold Human Rights Standard and Obligations

Feb. 29, 2012

Yellow shirts protest in Thailand

Take a Positive Response at the Human Rights Council

Civil Society and Human Rights Coalition of Thailand (CHRC), comprised of more than 50 organizations, institutions and groups, is urging the Thai government to take a serious decision in response to the 172 recommendations made by international community other state members of the United Nations Human Rights Council - Working Group on UPR on October 5-7, 2011 in Geneva.

Earlier, the Coalition had submitted the joint statement as the stakeholder report to the Working Group on UPR through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights since March 2011 for attention. The statement addressed a broad range of concern issues and highlighted some priority list.

UPR is a great opportunity for the Thai government in an effort to boost its international confidence. Therefore, in order to take a further step before the forthcoming United Nations Human Rights Council Session in March 2012 in Geneva, the Coalition would like to recommend the following:

National Security Laws:

National Security Act, Administrative Decree on the Administration in the State Emergency, and the Martial Law Act remain problematic and contrary to the international Human Rights principles especially the Basic Rights and Fundamental Freedom of suspects and detainees as well as other ordinary peoples. This indicates that the authority is lacking of capability on the investigation until they cannot apply normal criminal procedure law which will worsen the deprivation of people’s welfare and liberty. Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly, free travel and transportation and communication are also being restricted. So the laws must be reviewed and repeal at the early stage. Besides, the ongoing violence and conflict in the southern part of Thailand is still at a stake. Justice and Human Rights Based Approach is the best way to resolve all existing conflict s and the chronic problems.

We call on the government to response to the recommendations from UPR Working Group positively.

Enforced Disappearances:

We congratulate the Thai government to sign the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on January 9. 2012. However, we are disappointed that the government failed to ratify this convention in the early day. The full commitment is really needed to bring about the new changes for justice and the sake of victims and their families. The government should ensure that a newly drafted bill and amendment of related laws will be tabled for parliamentary approval very soon. We asked the government to ratify the Convention as soon as possible as Enforced Disappearance is one of the worst forms of Human Rights violation and Crime against Humanity. Such protection must be in place.

Rights to Life and Capital Punishment: Death Penalty:

Moratorium and the acceding ICCPR Optional Protocol II as recommended by the UPR Working Group is a way to move forward a global effort to end capital punishment. However, we are concern that the government hasn’t taken a positive stand to join international community on this matter. We, therefore, call on the government to take the “YES” stand regarding the moratorium rather than “ABTAIN” at the United Nations General Assembly. The government positive role is so important and can indicate that the government shall attempt to develop the alternative means for the good sake of our society. So far more than 130 Countries had already ceased this inhuman sentence.

Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly

The government should ensure the open atmosphere for the protection of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The review and studies of outdated laws and orders (such as the Computer Crime Act, Security Laws, Penal Code article 112 and the like) related to basic rights and fundamental freedom in a regular basis will be useful for such democratic society. Besides, the growing “Hate Speech” is also one of the clear examples leading to further violation of human rights. We urge the Thai government to seek advice from independent expert on Freedom of Expression by inviting him for the visit as the matter of priority. The state should come out with an appropriate approach to deal with this problem rather than taking the criminal charge against those who exercise their basic rights in democratic society.

Combating Impunity

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is aiming to end the impunity worldwide since the Statute is covering the 4 key areas namely the (1) Crime against Humanity (2) Genocide (3) War Crime (4) Crime of Aggression. Thailand had already signed the Rome Statute in 2001 but not yet ratify.

We strongly urge the government to pay much more attention in joining international community to combat the serious crime against humanity and to end impunity. It’s also a moral obligation for the Thai government to be a party to the Rome Statute as soon as possible.

Migrant Workers and Non Discrimination

International Convention on the Right of Migrant Workers and their Families is an instrument to protect the basic rights of all migrant workers. Since Thailand is benefitting from the migrant workers both as the exporter and importer, to be a party to the convention will be a good opportunity for Thailand to manage the issue in the fair manner. Entering to this convention will be a significant step to prepare for the forthcoming ONE ASEAN Community by the year 2015 and providing equal opportunity to all concern citizen of ASEAN.

We strongly urge the government to ratify this international convention without further delay.

On Refugees and Stateless

The recommendations from the international community strongly encouraged Thailand to sign and ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol as well as the 1954 and 1961 Conventions on Statelessness must be positively considered by the Royal Thai Government in order to demonstrate Government's sincerity in advancing its efforts on the promotion and protection of human rights in Thailand. Failure to recognizing these two chronic human rights problem would undermine Thailand's commitment to be one of world's leaders in human rights.

Right to Development and Access to Justice

All the Mega Projects need the involvement of communities and peoples who are the key stakeholders in the decision process. Prior consent is the key concern which always undermined by the state in the past. Multi-Billions Baht Schemes have to be taken into account both positive and negative effects.

Treaty Bodies:

Besides the UPR process, the Thai government is still being late in submitting the State Report to the treaty bodies in the due time especially on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – (2nd report) and others such as Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Convention against Torture (CAT). Accelerating the preparation of the report and implementation of the Treaties will be useful for the improvement of Human Rights at national level.

National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP)

The National Human Rights Action Plan endorsed and approved by previous government in 2009 to cover 2009-2013. However, it is unfortunately that there is no progress at all since then especially after the new government taken over the state administration. The FAILURE in implementing this NHRAP might indicate that the government ignores the commitment in the promotion and protection of all Human Rights at the national and local levels. The government must take this policy mission seriously and ensure that all of its organs shall incorporate NHRAP into its plan of action to show that the government is sincere on the promise committed to general public both nationally and internationally.

Besides, the government should propose the draft bill on gender equality & protection from gender discrimination prepared by the civil society to the parliament since the said draft bill is in accordance with the human rights principle.

In conclusion, to regain the leading role of Human Rights and Democratic Development in the region, Thailand needs to take a pro-active role to fulfill the pledge made before the Human Rights Council in 2010. Fail to do so might bring back Thailand to the square one and lost the credibility internationally. In the worst scenario, Thailand might be also plunged into the level of failed state.

Civil Society and Human Rights Coalition of Thailand is looking forward to a strong commitment of current government to take Human Rights a top most agenda and immediately transform the promise into practice.

Take decision seriously to make a progress in Human Rights and Development

Co-Signed by:

Alliance Anti Traffick (AAT) Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR) Campaign for Popular Democracy (CPD) Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation (CPCR) Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) Foundation for Women (FFW) Friends of Women Foundation (FWF) Friends of Peoples (FOP) Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) Labour Protection Network (LPN) NGO Coordination Committee on Development (NGO-COD) Peace and Human Rights Resource Center (PHRC) Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR) Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) And the partners of Civil Society and Human Rights Coalition of Thailand (CHRC)

For more information please contact:

Boonthan T. Verawongse Secretary General, Campaign Committee for Human Rights + 66 81 866 2136


Special Report
By Roland Watson
Feb. 25, 2012

At the campaign, Aung San Su Kyi, the daughter of hero Gen. Aung San

Burma is holding a by-election on April 1st for forty-eight seats in Parliament (just over 10%). International observers view this as a significant benchmark in the country’s supposed reform to democracy. Both the U.S. and the E.U. have ended some of their sanctions, with the promise that more will be eliminated if the election is free and fair.

The judgment of free and fair, however, does not apply only to what happens on election day. It is the entire process that must be appraised, starting with the freedom of the candidates to campaign and to speak their mind. Considering the steps that the military-backed regime has thus far taken, the upcoming election is already fatally flawed.

Election-specific actions

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been campaigning throughout Burma. On a number of occasions she has been denied permission to use sports stadiums to hold rallies, with the result that she could not speak freely to local constituencies.

Much more importantly, though, and which few commentators have noticed, the regime continues to enforce the requirement (Union Election Committee notification No. 91/2010, imposed in advance of the fraudulent 2010 national election) that speeches by candidates must be pre-approved, and that they cannot “criticize the constitution, tarnish the image of the state or the military, or harm security.” Among other provisions, candidates have to anticipate the size of the crowds to which they will speak, and take responsibility for them. It is not permitted to shout slogans. (Notification No. 91/2010 has also just been reinforced by an election commission statement on February 17, which applies the same provisions to radio and TV broadcasts.)

In late January Daw Suu did in fact criticize the 2008 Constitution, and it was just after this that reminders of the requirement began to appear in pro-regime media. A careful read of this notice makes it clear that candidates cannot criticize or even comment upon, without fear of arrest or being banned from the election, the most important issues facing the country. It is notable that Daw Suu ceased talking about the Constitution after the notification was publicized. (She changed her focus to “jobs.”) It appears that she is censoring herself: Bending over backward so as not to anger the regime.

Alternatively, she may have made a tactical retreat, and will speak strongly on these subjects once in Parliament. Only time will tell. (It is difficult to see, though, why the regime will become more tolerant.)

Regardless of what Daw Suu ultimately ends up doing, if the candidates do not have freedom of speech, or freedom of assembly with voters, then the election is neither free nor fair. It doers not matter what happens on April 1st. The election is already discredited.

This is not the only condemnation that can be made. Even though there is still a month to go, the regime has taken the following dishonest actions:

After free speech and freedom of assembly, probably the most important factor for an election is freedom of the press. Notwithstanding some minor changes in the application of current press laws, e.g., images of Daw Suu can be shown, nothing material has changed. (Consideration of a new press law has been postponed until after the election.) Burma has an extremely repressive press environment. Journalists, like the candidates, are forbidden from discussing the country’s most important problems, including the Constitution, the on-going civil war and Burma Army atrocities, theft of land from villagers and bribery and corruption in development projects, etc.

And, along with the refusal to allow the use of sports stadiums, there is a growing list of other types of “dirty tricks.” Pro-regime militia in Shan State have ordered villagers to vote for the military party, the USDP. In the Irrawaddy region, local officials have been warned that they will be forced to resign if the USDP does not win. There are also reports of similar threats in the Dawei area, as well as demands by government officials there that the polls themselves be manipulated, i.e., rigged.

Considering all of this, and again with the proviso that there is still one month to go, we can already conclude that the vote will not be free or fair. While it might not be as openly fraudulent as the 2010 general election, and while most if not all NLD candidates will probably win their seats, the process by which this occurs will fail to meet democratic standards.

However, the anti-sanctions crowd, starting with the E.U., will no doubt ignore this and instead argue that since the NLD won that is all that is required. The end is important, not the means. It is interesting that the E.U. has said election monitors are not necessary. This, though, is not linked to a belief that there will be no problems at the polls. Rather, Europe, which is determined that sanctions end and massive development proceed, is itself trying to censor news of poll irregularities that would force it to delay or even terminate its anti-sanctions drive.

Other repression in Burma

The idea that free elections justify ending the sanctions is based on an implied assumption that other conditions in the country are satisfactory. As the following list makes clear, other than ingratiating itself with Daw Suu and the International Community, Burma’s military regime is still as tyrannical as ever.

The first issue here is not only freedom of speech for candidates, but for ordinary people as well. The monk Ashin Gambira was detained and is now being charged, reportedly for entering a locked monastery. But U Gambira has been outspoken about the lack of real democracy in Burma, how many monks are still being held as political prisoners, and how monasteries remain closed, now some four and a half years after the Saffron uprising. Similarly, another prominent monk, Ashin Pyinnyar Thiha, has been banned from preaching. Moreover, all of this has been accepted by the elders of Burma’s Buddhist council, the Maha Nayaka, who are blocking the re-ordination of the monks who have been released, and who seem determined to continue their long-standing support of the military regime.

Of course, even though many prominent political prisoners have been released, one thousand or more prisoners of conscience remain. Indeed, it is astonishing that the NLD has disputed the assessed totals of political prisoners tracked by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), which has assiduously worked to identify and help them and their families since 2000. Not every political prisoner is a recognized dissident. Villagers who stand up for their rights and are then arrested are political prisoners as well, as are any individuals who are detained by the regime for any reason other than overt criminal activity.

The fact that Burma has so many political prisoners destroys the argument that the NLD winning a few seats in Parliament will signal that democracy is truly on its way.

The most pressing problem, though, is the continued Civil War. It is impossible to accept that the by-election has positive significance when the regime continues to attack the ethnic minorities of the country. Thein Sein ordered the Tatmadaw to cease and desist, but the commanders have refused. Some commentators blame rogue generals - hardliners - saying that a power struggle is underway. More seasoned analysts, though, argue that the entire presentation is a charade. Thein Sein is a hardliner as well: Everyone in the regime, including in the Tatmadaw and Parliament, is a hardliner. All that is occurring is a sophisticated good cop/bad cop presentation, orchestrated by the only person in Burma who has real power, Senior General Than Shwe.

The puppet theater is being used to mollify regime opponents, and to provide support to regime apologists including Asean, the E.U., international corporations, biased academics and retired diplomats, and business press such as the Financial Times. The surface objective is to get the U.S. to end its sanctions, but the deeper goal is to create a drawn-out pseudo-democratic transition - commercial development before political change - that ensures that the generals and their cronies own all of the significant business interests in Burma, that such interests can never be seized, and, most critically, that they will never be tried for war crimes and other human rights abuses.

Right now the regime is fighting the Kachin Independence Army in Kachin State and northern Shan State, the Shan State Army in southern Shan State, the Karenni Army in Karenni State, and both the Karen National Union and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in Karen State and Tenassarim Division. (Even though the conflict has died down in a few areas, it can re-ignite at any time. The word out of Karen State is that Tatmadaw troops are acting like conquerers, and preparing for future offensives.)

All of this fighting has been accompanied by Burma Army-perpetrated human rights violations. Villages have been bombed and women have been raped, for the latter most recently at the Kachin front and in Karenni State. Many ethnic villagers have been detained. Returning to an earlier point, they are all political prisoners, as is KNU leader Mahn Nyein Maung. Indeed, the women who are known to be being held as sex slaves by Burma Army units at the Kachin front, and forced to undergo gang rapes every night, are the most persecuted individuals in the entire country. I would argue that their freedom is actually the most important issue in Burma. It is intolerable that anyone would be subjected to such unspeakable torture. The by-election should not even be held until their whereabouts are determined and they are freed, using whatever level of force is required.

The regime has responded to this by saying that it will not allow an inquiry into its atrocities in the ethnic areas, and further that its war with the Kachin may last three more years. The former is deplorable (as is the U.N.’s refusal to investigate), and the latter is ridiculous, considering that it is the Tatmadaw itself which is wholly responsible for the conflict. The generals are basically saying, we will continue to attack the Kachin for at least the next three years, or, more practically, until we defeat the KIA and our Chinese allies can restart the Myitsone Dam.

The only acceptable response is that the Tatmadaw immediately cease its offensives and dismantle all its camps in the ethnic areas. To local villagers these camps are terrorist outposts, akin to al-Qaeda camps. There is no solution to the conflict other than their complete removal.

Earlier this month, Daw Suu said that Europe and the U.S. should delay their decisions about the sanctions until after the by-election. She should in no way certify the regime’s fraud. Even more, she should stick to the position that the sanctions not be eliminated, or even reduced, until the Tatmadaw stops its war of aggression against Burma’s ethnic minorities, and frees all the political prisoners.


Deep sea fishermen at kavarati police

Special Report
By J.Vincent Jain
Feb. 23, 2012

Police patrol boat at the Kavarati

The Director of Fisheries Government of Tamilnadu Administrative Office Building Teynampet, Chennai

Dear Sir,

We would like to bring to you another plight of two deep sea fishing boats named “BIBLE” REG No. TN/15/MFB/049 and “AJISH” TN/15/MFB/733 after the open firing of Italian oil tanker “ENRICA LEXIE” at Quilon coast. The above said two boats had gone for fishing on 13/02/2012 evening from Cochin. On 5/02/2012 a group of Kavarati Police stopped the boats at thesea and taken them under their custody. Till date there is no charges framed against them by the said Police. As the police officers could not find any fish from the boat, they told the fishermen that they got complaint from local people that two boats created some problem with the locals.

They also told them they will be released soon, but till date they are not released from the police custody. There are 9 crew members in the boat BIBLE and 8 crew members are in the boat AJISH. Their family members are much worried about the news of the detention of their people at Kavarati. The delay of each day for the release of these fishermen will be a loss of fishing days which affect the total earnings of their families too.

We request you to take necessary steps to release the boats along with the crew members

Thanking you Sincerely Yours For Association of Deep Sea Going Artisanal Fishermen


People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

Dr. M. R. Srinivasan

Feb. 10, 2012. While the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) welcomes the State Expert Team set up by the Chief Secretary on behalf of the Honorable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, we are obliged to point out that Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, a member of the team, is a well-known pro-nuclear person. He is the former Chairman and a current member of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). He was also a member of the site selection committee in the 1980s for the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). He has been writing and speaking in favor of nuclear power and the Koodankulam project itself. Speaking to the press on November 13, 2011 in Chennai, Dr. Srinivasan claimed that when he had visited the Koodankulam area in 1984, there were no habitations there, nobody lived in the area and the whole region was vast seashore. This is a complete falsehood as Koodankulam and Idinthakarai villages have been in existence for centuries. He also requested Tamil Nadu Government’s full cooperation to the Central Government to open the Koodankulam project.[i] On December 15, 2011 Dr. Srinivasan spoke about the Koodankulam Project at an event in Coimbatore, claimed that “the dangers perceived by the locals were ‘imaginary’” and wanted the project to be commissioned at the earliest.[ii]

The people of Tamil Nadu had expected that the State Expert Team members would be neutral and independent but Dr. Srinivasan is neither. So it is hard for the PMANE to accept Dr. Srinivasan. Given this situation, the PMANE would like to request the Honorable Chief Minister to replace Dr. Srinivasan with another expert and expand the Expert Team with experts in Geology, Oceanography and Hydrology in order to deal with a few KKNPP-specific issues.

The former Chief Minister and DMK president Mr. M. Karunanidhi has claimed that it is mysterious on the part of the Government of Tamil Nadu to arrest a Madurai advocate who had accused the PMANE Coordinator S. P. Udayakumar of acting at the behest of a foreign power, instigating the Koodankulam struggle, and doling out money for the relay fast. This “Tamizhina Thalaivar” who has consistently compromised on the interests and welfare of the Tamil people both here in Tamil Nadu and there in Tamil Eezham, has no moral authority to criticize the Tamil people’s genuine struggle for life and livelihood. He and the non-functioning electricity minister in his erstwhile cabinet should explain to the Tamil people what all they together did to augment electricity generation in the state. They focused more on reaping monetary benefits from coal deals than generating more electricity from new and renewable energy sources. They never developed any original and sustainable plans and projects to face the power crisis of the State. They alone are responsible for the present sorry state of the power scenario in Tamil Nadu and hence forfeit their right to comment on our people’s struggle.

The PMANE members and our supporter Fr. Thomas Kocherry feel vindicated about our personal integrity and moral uprightness. Responding to the legal notice of S. P. Udayakumar on the false charge of having received Rs. 1.5 crores from abroad, Union Minister Narayanaswamy has retracted his story. And similarly, the Dinamalar daily has apologized to Fr. Kocherry (issue dated February 9, 2012) about its atrocious claim of his channeling money from Germany to our struggle. These ridiculous episodes prove that the charges against us are completely false and those who accuse us of these charges have no credibility.

Having failed miserably to allay the fears and concerns of our people, the Central Government and its intelligence agencies are now sending spies and agents into our villages to divide our communities, create fear and panic among the people and instigate violence. For instance, on February 8, 2012, three men had entered our relay fast site at Idinthakarai and loitering about the complex with a few bags and boxes. Our people drove them away and filed a complaint with the Koodankulam police. The PMANE condemns this kind of anti-people tendencies and approaches and requests the Central Government and the Congress Party to accept and respect our people’s spontaneous struggle to protect our right to life and livelihood.

The PMANE requests the Honorable Chief Minister to make the State Expert Team meet with our own experts, consider their findings and engage in a genuine dialogue with them. Shunning the usual public hearing model interactions, the Expert Team should visit the project-affected villages and hamlets individually, listen to the fears and concerns of the people and arrive at a conclusion in a democratic manner on the basis of majority opinion. Only such an action by the Government of Tamil Nadu will ensure the democratic and Constitutional rights of our people.

S. P. Udayakumar, Ph.D. Coordinator: PMANE Struggle Committee

THAILAND: Growing threats to political freedom in Thailand

Feb. 16, 2012

Mr. Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to bring the growing range of state and vigilante threats to political freedom in Thailand to the attention of the Human Rights Council. These threats have been concentrated around those who both express critical views of the monarchy, as well as those who express concern about these threats. In recent months, academic and human rights defenders who have called for reform of Article 112, the section of the Thai criminal code criminalizing speech about the monarchy, have become the target of ambiguous threats by high-ranking state and military officers in Thailand and explicit death threats by vigilante actors outside the state. While state and military actors have not threatened the lives of academic and human rights defenders calling for reform, the absence of state sanction of those who have explicitly done so, combined with the volatile political climate in Thailand, is a cause for serious concern.

2. Instead of using regular defamation law, the position of the monarchy within the polity, and the sanctions for the crime of lèse majesté are specifically described within Thai law. Section 8 of the 2007 Constitution notes: “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.” Article 112 of the Criminal Code then prescribes punishments for violations: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished (with) imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The 2007 Computer Crime Act, which has often been used in combination with Article 112, then prescribes penalties of up to five years per count in cases which are judged to have involved the electronic dissemination or hosting of information deemed threatening to national security, of which the institution of the monarchy is identified as a constituent part.

3. While Article 112 has been law since the last major revision of the Thai Criminal Code in 1957, there has been a dramatic increase in lèse majesté cases since the 19 September 2006 coup. Statistics provided by the Office of the Judiciary indicates a sharp rise in charges filed over the last five years, with 33 charges filed in 2005, 30 filed in 2006, 126 filed in 2007, 77 filed in 2008, 164 filed in 2009, to 478 filed in 2010. A lack of public, open information means that the outcomes of all of these charges filed is unknown. Any citizen can bring a complaint of alleged violations of Article 112 to the police, who are then obliged to investigate and decide whether or not to send the case to the prosecutor. The prosecutor then decides whether or not to bring the case to the Criminal Court. Combined with the vagueness of Article 112, these procedures easily lend themselves to abuse. Concerns about Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act have been repeatedly raised by Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression as well as by the governments of Spain, Switzerland, Slovenia, Canada, UK, France, Norway, and New Zealand during the Universal Periodic Review of Thailand’s human rights in 2011.

4. Several recent convictions indicate the severity of penalties that can be meted out under Article 112 and allied laws.

a. On 15 March 2011, Mr. Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul was sentenced to 13 years in prison under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for the alleged crime of posting online content with anti-monarchy messages and for not removing an anti-monarchy comment from a website he managed quickly enough. He reported being forced to confess by the police.

b. On 23 November 2011, Mr. Ampon Tangnoppakul was sentenced to 20 years in prison under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for allegedly sending 4 SMS messages with allegedly anti-monarchy content.

c. On 8 December 2011, Mr. Joe Gordon was jailed for 2.5 years under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for the alleged crime of posting a link to a translation of book published by Yale University Press in 2007 on a website that he managed while living in Colorado, outside Thailand’s jurisdiction.

d. On 15 December 2011, the 2009 conviction of Ms. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was upheld after the Constitutional Court concluded that a closed trial did not violate her basic rights. Her sentence has been reduced from 18 to 15 years, for conviction on three counts of violating Article 112 during 55 minutes of public speech in July 2009.

5. Within this context, in January 2012, the Khana Nitirat (which means “Law for the People” in Thai), a group of seven law lecturers at Thammasat University (Worachet Pakeerut, Jantajira Iammayura, Thapanan Nipithakul, Teera Suteewarangkurn, Sawatree Suksri, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Poonthep Sirinupong), and the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112, a coalition of intellectuals, media activists, human rights activists, and others launched a public campaign to amend Article 112. The Khana Nitirat drafted a possible amendment to Article 112, which leaves the position of the monarchy within the Thai polity as it is currently, but aims to reduce the potential for abuse under Article 112 in several significant ways. The proposed amendment would make the punishment for alleged lèse majesté proportionate to the crime, limit who can file a complaint to the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary rather than any citizen, differentiate sincere and truthful criticism from threats to the monarchy, and categorize violations of Article 112 as about the honour of the monarchy, rather than national security. Under the 2007 Constitution, if at least 10,000 citizens sign in support of a proposed amendment, the Parliament is obliged to examine it. Beginning on 15 January 2012 the Khana Nitirat and the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 began a nation-wide campaign to gather signatures.

6. In response to this campaign, there has been a backlash from many sectors of the government and armed forces. The elected majority Pheu Thai government has repeatedly indicated that they will not amend Article 112; Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and many Pheu Thai MPs have indicated that they will not examine the amendment should it enter Parliament. Deputy Prime Minister General Yutthasak Sasiprapa urged the leaders of the campaign to stop before they created division in the country. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander-in-chief of the Army, has accused the members of the Khana Nitirat of being un-Thai, suggested that those who want to amend Article 112 should go live abroad, and ominously warned, “If you guys play hard ball, I'll have no choice but to do so, too.” General Surasak Roonruangwong, commander-in-chief of the Navy, has suggested that the campaign is detrimental to national security. General Priewpan Damapong, Police commander-in-chief, has made a public statement indicating to the Khana Nitirat and their supporters that they are under close surveillance and will be prosecuted if they commit illegal acts. What is of particular concern is that a proposal to consider amending a law is being treated as though it is a threat to national security, an indication that the drafters of the amendment are not-Thai and do not belong to the polity. These statements by the leaders of different sectors of the security forces should be understood as threats to the political freedom of the members of the Khana Nitirat and their supporters.

7. Simultaneous to the public statements and threats by state officials against the Khana Nitirat, a wide range of citizens have harassed and made detailed vigilante-style threats against them as well. On 27 January 2012, a group who call themselves “Thais with Patriotic Heart” held a protest against the Khana Nitirat in front of the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University, burned an effigy of Professor Worachet Pakeerut, the leader of the group, and held placards calling for the members of the group to be executed. Since the launch of the campaign, many anonymous threats against the Khana Nitirat have been posted in the comments on the website of Manager (Phuchadkan) newspaper online, including calls for them to be beheaded and their heads placed on stakes outside the university gates and calls for them to be burned alive with their families outside their homes. While vigorous debate from all points of view enhances democracy and the exercise of human rights, making death threats is outside the purview of vigorous debate.

8. The implicit and explicit threats from inside and outside the Thai state represent a threat to the rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a State Party, notably article 19, and specifically that,

"1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

The allegations by state security officials that the actions of the Khana Nitirat pose a threat to national security are illegitimate and unsubstantiated. Discussion of a proposed amendment to a law is an ordinary part of exercising one’s civil and political rights. The statements of state security officials, as well as their lack of concern regarding the threats made against the Khana Nitirat, and tacit support of them as indicated by their own statements, therefore represent a failure to protect the rights guaranteed in Article 19.

9. The Asian Legal Resource Centre therefore wishes to draw the Council’s attention to the specific threats faced currently by the Khana Nitirat, as well as the broader deepening of the crisis surrounding political freedom and freedom of expression signalled by these threats. The Asian Legal Resource Centre calls for the Council to:

a. Urge the Government of Thailand, and particularly members of the state security forces, to cease threatening the Khana Nitirat and other citizens who are exercising their civil and political rights.

b. Urge the Government of Thailand to show its strong disapproval for the bodily and death threats made against the Khana Nitirat and other citizens who are exercising their civil and political rights.

c. Request that the Government of Thailand allow and support the full exercise of political freedom and freedom of expression at this critical time, including taking specific action to protect the members of the Khana Nitirat and others who have been targeted for doing so.

10. Recalling the recommendations to the Government of Thailand made by Brazil, Canada, France, Hungary, Indonesia, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, during the Universal Periodic Review concerning the freedom of expression, lèse majesté and/or the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, the Asian Legal Resource Centre urges the government to accept these recommendations and provide information on how it will address these issues as part of the Thai UPR report’s adoption during the Human Rights Council’s 19th session, including by issuing an invitation for the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression and opinion to conduct a country visit.

11. The fact that the government accepted the recommendation made by New Zealand to ensure “positive human rights outcomes in the areas of personal liberty, including freedom of expression and freedom from reprisal and extra judicial punishment,” is of particular significance given the current back-sliding that has been detailed above. The afore-mentioned states that have made relevant UPR recommendations are urged to press the government to accept these and ensure their implementation without delay.

Vietnam must free prominent Blogger Dieu Cay, detained incommunicado and feared to have disappeared

Feb. 13, 2012

Dieu Cay demonstrating during the Beijing Olympics torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), April 2008

PARIS, (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) - The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights is deeply concerned about the physical integrity of prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (alias Dieu Cay), who has been detained incommunicado for the past 16 months on charges of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”. His family has been denied all contact with him, and Police refuse to tell them even where he is detained. Dieu Cay’s wife, Mrs. Duong Thi Tan, has expressed fears that he may be gravely ill, or may even have died in detention.

“Vietnam must disclose the whereabouts of Dieu Cay and immediately release him” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “Incommunicado detention is cruel, both for him and his family, as well as totally illegal, and we have seriously concerns as to his physical integrity. Moreover, Vietnam’s Criminal Procedures Code (article 120) limits pre-trial detention to four months, extendable only for “serious” crimes. Dieu Cay’s detention breaks every letter of Vietnamese and international law”, he said.

Mr. Ai recalled that Dieu Cay was on a list of prisoners of concern submitted to the EU by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), urging the EU to raise them in the EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue in Hanoi in January 2012.

On January 17 and 20, 2012, Mrs. Tan was authorised to send food parcels to her husband for the Lunar New Year (January 23, 2012). On February 1, she went to the Ho Chi Minh City Security Police Investigations Department on 4, Phan Dang Luu Street to ask for a receipt signed by her husband, which is routine procedure for all prisoners’ families. Lieutenant-colonel Pham Van Tan, the officer in charge, would not receive her, and delegated a young police officer to take her complaint. When she explained the case, he went inside the office and returned with a signed receipt. However, the signature was definitely not Dieu Cay’s, she said. On February 6, 2012, she went to the People’s Office of Supervision and Control (the People’s Procuracy or Vien Kiem sat), to for ask news of her husband. She had written to the Office seven times before finally obtaining an appointment. However, when she arrived, they refused to receive her, and told her not to bother coming again.

Mrs. Tan has been worried about her husband’s health for several months. On July 5, 2011, Lt.-Colonel Dang Hong Diep of the Ho Chi Minh City Security Police Investigations Department inadvertently revealed that Dieu Cay had “lost his hand/arm” whilst in detention” (the Vietnamese expression is “mất tay”, which could mean losing either a hand or an arm).


Dieu Cay, a well-known blogger and founder member of the Club of Free Journalists, was arrested on 19, April 2008 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison at an unfair trial on trumped-up charges of “tax evasion” in September 2008. In fact, he had written articles calling for human rights and democratic reforms posted on the Internet, and staged demonstrations during the Beijing Olympic Games. In 2009, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Mr. Dieu Cay to be a victim of arbitrary detention (Opinion 1/2009).

Dieu Cay was due for release on October 19, 2010 after having completed his prison term. However, his family was then informed that he would remain in detention under the new charge of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code). Since this second charge was pronounced, Mrs. Tan and her family have been denied all contacts with him, and both the police and judiciary systematically refuse to give any information on his case. In 2011, she travelled thirteen times to the Xuan Loc Prison Camp in Dong Nai province where he was previously detained, but was turned back each time without seeing him. The prison wardens even gave back the food parcels she brought for her husband, stating that he “would not accept them” In a letter to the Ho Chi Minh City Police Investigations Department on 20 April 2011, she expressed fears for his security: “only dead prisoners refuse food parcels”, she wrote.

The VCHR has repeatedly called on Vietnam to provide information on the case of Dieu Cay but has received no response. On 10, February 2012, on the Geneva-based Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and the World Movement against Torture (OMCT) endorsed the VCHR’s concerns and launched an “Urgent Appeal” to the Vietnamese authorities, calling on them to “guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Dieu Cay as well as all other human rights defenders in Vietnam”, and to immediately provide information about him, “including his whereabouts and current state of health, and to respect his rights to receive visits from, and to communicate with his family”.


Update from Lokshakti Abhiyan in Goa

TB Cunha Memorial Hall

Pune, Feb. 10 : It was the second day of its engagements in Goa yesterday. The Lokshakti Abhiyan held a meeting with local activists and media persons at 10.30 a.m in TB Cunha Memorial Hall in Panjim, Goa. Medha Patkar, Swati an activist from Goa, noted environmentalist Praveen Shabnis, Frankie Monteiro, Zareen Dacunha, Abhijit Prabhu Desai and Rajendra Kapodkar were the main speakers at the meeting. Rajendra Kapodkar spoke about the disastrous impacts of mining on the environment part from affecting the water resources through contamination and the destruction of the soil and displacement issues, mining has grave implications in the economic front. Most of the iron ore resources are mined and exported to China from India.

Mines cannot be “owned” by anyone, it belongs to the public. This was upheld by a Supreme Court judgement in the Reliance Vs Government of India case dealing with rights over gas resources. The Court ruled that the government is only the custodian of natural resources and not the owner. The ownership of shared natural resources is with the public. In Goa, leases for mining are given free of cost, without even auctions. There are 91 mines in Goa making a profit of 20,000 crores in a year, whereas, the total budget of Goa is only 8000 crore for a year!There are 360 mines that are not operative all the time, but given on leases making the total number of mines in Goa close to 450!

Frankie Monteiro spoke about Special Economic Zones in Goa and the struggle that went into the government finally giving an order to scrap all SEZ projects in the State. In 2006, 3 SEZs covering three villages were allotted. Because of the non transparent way in which the allotment was done, people came to know about it only in 2007 after filing an RTI. There was a non violent agitation against this because of the fact that SEZs are autonomous bodies that have their own labour rules and hence gross violations of labour laws, uninterrupted power and water supply and are exempted from taxes. In short, SEZs are a free gateway for companies to strike deals with the government for robbing the country of natural resources in broad daylight. While the agitation against the SEZ allotments happened, the construction in the sites continued uninterrupted. The construction then had to be stopped physically by the people in the Andolan.

On 12th April 2006, 4 companies applied for SEZs and within 7 days the allotments came through. The speed with which the allotments were made shows the thoughtless anti people policies passed by the government. It was only in November 2010 that the High Court squashed the order on the allotments. But the land was still not given back to the people of the villages, without whose consent the allotments were made. The companies involved in this have challenged the High court order in the Supreme Court. The demands of the struggle are that the land should be given back to the rightful owners i.e, the villagers and strict disciplinary action should be taken against the companies to set a precedent and prevent this in future. FIRs were lodged in local police stations but not registered. For this, the local courts have been approached by the people fighting the struggle.

Micro Industrial Zones are also a cause for concern as is the issue of the privatization of health centres. In Panjim, the government hospital was shut down and the first medical college in Asia set up during Portugese rule is used only once a year for the International Film Festival! In Raibunder Maternity hospital has been converted into a management institute! It is clear from all these instances, that corruption is a reason and also an outcome of social inequalities and to fight for the right to health, shelter and life can be fought only by tackling all these issues together, through a combined struggle.

At 3 p.m, the Lokshakti Abhiyan went to Khandola and Medha Patkar and team had a small discussion with the farmers of the area who spoke about the issues of water pollution from factories nearby and the resultant low yield of agricultural produce compared to before in the area. Following this, there was a public meeting which was attended by a lot of women and agricultural labourers in which Medha Patkar lent solidarity to their struggle and also spoke about other similar struggles in different parts of the country.

At 7 p.m , The Lokshakti Abhiyan team went to Deen Dayal Hall in Bicholim, Goa for a public meeting where Medha Patkar spoke about issues of land acquisition, SEZs and slum demolitions in urban areas. The public meeting was attended by more than 500 people in Bicholim and ended on a high spirited note with everyone joining in on sloganeering for the victory of our peoples’ movements. Today the Lokshakti Abhiyan is holding meetings with activists and civil society in Pune and will proceed to Aurangabad in evening.

For Abhiyan Suhas Kolhekar, Suniti S R, Prasad Bagwe, Nagesh Tripathy, Seela Manswinee, Gee Ameena Suleiman


The Joint-statement on the 65th Mon National Day

Feb. 8, 2012

Mon traditional dance

Today, we, the Mon people around the world, stand proudly together once again to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Mon National Day. The Mon National day is celebrated annually on the 1st waning day of Mike (Mon Lunar Calendar) in commemoration of the foundation of Mon Kingdom, Hongsawatoi by the two Mon princes, Samala and Vimala, in 573 AD. It is celebrated with the aim of inspiring the national spirit, strengthening national unity, and safeguarding our identity and national heritage. On this glorious day, we salute Mon national flag and Mon patriots who have sacrificed and dedicated their lives in the past and those who continue to do so for the Mon national cause.

The Mon Kingdom, Hongsawatoi, was unfortunately occupied and ransacked by the Burman king, Alaung Paya in 1757 AD. Since then, the Mon lost their sovereignty and become a people without a country. The current political situations in Mon State and Burma are not improving much, either. Even though the military supported Thein Sein government has undertaken a window-dressing and superficial change in Burma, there is no fundamental and systematic change inside the country. Despite the release of some political prisoners in order to mainly get the sanctions on Burma lifted, there are still many political prisoners including Mon political prisoners Nai Yekha and Nai Cheem Gakao in Burma’s notorious jails. Despite the ceasefire agreements reached with the Chin National Front (CNF) and Karen National Union (KNU), there are still a full-blown civil war in Kachin State and other ethnic nationalities areas.

As a result, it is extremely essential to build and strengthen national unity in our Mon no matter where we are in the world, in Monland or overseas, in order to preserve our national identity and work toward our national sovereignty, and the rights to self-determination. It is also equally critical to build unity among our Mon political organizations, particularly between the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF) and the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP).

Encouragingly, Mon are now closely united than ever under the national-umbrella organization of Mon Affairs Union (MAU). Recently, under the sponsorship of MAU, the 6th Mon National Conference was successfully held on the Thai-Burma border from 18 January to 20 January, with the participation of over a hundred representatives from Monland, overseas and Thai-Mon community from Thailand. In that conference, it was agreed to upgrade the MAU as a Mon National Parliament to show that Mon are capable and ready to run their own state and govern their own people.

Finally, on the occasion of the 65th Anniversary of Mon National Day, we eagerly urge:

1. All Mon for a rock-solid unity and active participation in our national movements
2. The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) to stand together unitedly for the cause of ethnic nationalities, democracy and genuine federal Union in Burma
3. Thein Sein’s government for a genuine national reconciliation with the nationwide ceasefire, and a tangible timeframe for a political dialogue.

The Statement is jointly issued by:
1. Australia Mon Association
2. Mon American Association (formerly MRC-USA)
3. Mon Canadian Society
4. Mon Community of Europe
5. The 65th Anniversary of Mon National Day Celebration Committee, Malaysia
6. Mon National Day Action Committee, Sydney, Australia

Media contacts: Nai Siri Mon Chan (Australia): Tel: + 61 430136541.
Nai Chan Mon (Norway): Tel: 004747-644483


A Statement from Group of Thai Human Rights NGOs forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Feb. 6, 2012

Dr. Surapon Nitikraipot, Rector of Thammasat University

Concern among rights agencies regarding the stifle of the right to freedom of expression and the right to participate and propose legal amendments as provided for by the Constitution.

In pursuant to proposals by academics of the Nitirat Group and the campaign of the Committee for the Amendment of Section 112 to collect signatures of eligible voters who support the amendment of Section 112 of the Penal Code, aka “lèse majesté law” and that it has brought about extensive controversies and debate in society including those supporting and opposing the proposals. Venting different opinions is something normal in a democratic society as long as the exercise of the right is carried out peacefully and in compliance with legal procedure. The state is obliged to protect and defend the right and freedom that belongs to all people. But previously, opposition to the Nitirat Group’s proposals has been mounted in a manner that could be construed as an intimidation to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression by the Group. But instead of carrying out its duties, the State and some leaders in both the government and house of legislative have expressed their satire, intimidation and even threatened the exercise of the right and freedom by the Nitirat Group.

Thailand is a democratic society which embraces different political views. The different opinions expressed by the Nitirat Group is simply an exercise of their academic freedom and the right to freedom of expression as well as the proposition of legal amendment, an act of which is provided for by the Constitution. Therefore, any individual or any group who does not agree with the opinion and wants to offer a different opinion is able to do so by expressing his or her own opinions and debate the issues based on reasons and nonviolence. Respect of others’ rights and freedom has to be expressed to reflect the core values of democracy. Therefore, as the expression of different opinions in compliance with the constitutional and democratic procedure has drawn out the stifle of the right and freedom, the State is obliged to come out to defend the right to freedom of expression and the right of people to participate in the amendment and reform of law as such a right is provided for by the Constitution. Most importantly, the State shall refrain from acting to threaten the exercise or rights and freedom themselves. We demand that the government perform its duties in protecting the right to freedom of expression and the exercise of constitutional rights as well as to stop threatening the exercise of such right and freedom immediately and stringently.

In addition, an academic institution is tasked to promote academic freedom and people’s rights and freedom. In particular, Thammasat University is historically known not merely as a place that has bred many intellectuals to serve people and democratic society, but also an exemplar model of the struggle for rights, freedom, equality and justice. Thammasat has been providing a space to express rights and freedom. Therefore, that the University bans any activity by its own lecturers in the name of the Nitirat Group to campaign for the amendment of Section 112, which is done so according to the right and freedom the Group and any people are able to do and as provided for by the democratic principle, is a breach of the objectives prescribed for a state educational institution and noble tradition of a university to promote academic freedom and the right to freedom of expression. The subjugation of democratic and legal rights is therefore an act against the spirit of Thammsat University. We demand that the administration of the university review its order to prevent the Nitirat Group’s activities from taking place in the university’s premises as long as the activities are carried out peacefully and in compliance with human rights principle.

Please note that the right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right in a democratic society. A person who does not agree with another person’s opinion should make an attempt to defend the right to express opinion of that person.

Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF) Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR) Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Want Project (EnLaw)


An academic freedom restricted in Thailand’s Universities

Special Report
By Thomas Hoy
Feb. 2, 2012

Thammasat University, one of famous Thai's Universities

One of top universities in Thailand, Thammasat University, is officially banning an academic freedom in its university. Thammasat University is used to be known as popular in liberal art and freedom movement, but, now it is going to be restriction. An academic freedom becomes subject to restriction across the kingdom, similarly, many other universities will follow to it. It’s a shame.

Prof. Thomas Hoy wrote this letter to his colleagues in the English Department at Thammasat University about the rector's decision to ban free speech at this university.

Dear colleagues

You may have read this morning’s newspaper reports stating that the rector of Thammasat has banned the use of the university’s premises for any discussion of Section 112 of the Constitution. This is directed against the Nitirat group, largely comprised of lecturers from the Thammasat Faculty of Law who have proposed changes to Article 112. In other words, legal academics are being forbidden from discussing the law at this university.

I have previously had the unfortunate experience at this university of having been prevented from presenting a “sensitive” paper by a combination of delaying tactics, misinformation and a wall of silence. But at least I could content myself that my presentation was not officially banned. But I suppose, now that one topic of academic research and discussion has been banned because it is controversial, any other topic that someone somewhere doesn’t want to hear about could be put on the list.

This is, as Thammasat’s Kasian Tejapira, says a “tragedy”. It is particularly shocking that the university has caved in to a campaign of intimidation against the Nitirat group which included death threats and suggestions by the army chief that they should leave the country if they thought in ways that he did not approve of.

The university has signed up to a protection racket. Leave us alone and we won't let anyone say anything that upsets you.

If we accept this latest attack on academic freedom meekly, I believe we will have betrayed ourselves, our students and the best traditions of this university.

Thomas Hoy, Department of English, Faculty of Liberal Arts,Thammasat University Rangsit Center,


VALLAM RALLY (Boat Rally)IN RAMNAD DISTRICT supporting the Koodamkulam Struggle.

Jan. 20, 2012.

Vallam (boat) rally in Ramnad district of Tamil Nadu

The Vallam Rally and Vehicle Rally campaign will take place from 2-11 February 2012 from one end to another covering the whole district coastal bel t of Ramnad District, under the banner of Ramnad Fishworkers Union and Anti Nuclear Movement. Neeraj and Paulsamy are the coordinators.

Vallams from one village-(Ooru) to the next Village-Ooru fly through the sea to the next depending on the availability of time on each day. Each Ooru has the responsibility to the next and they go back. Only those who have forest passes will travel in the vallams.

Parallel to this, Vallam Rally, a vehicle rally will be going through Coast by road. All the national leaders will be travelling in the vehicle rally with a sound system. Each day the Village people will look after the food and stay of these national leaders. All the expenses towards vehicles, Bannera, Posters, reading materials and sound system will be looked after by the National Team headed by Neeraj Jain. Muthukrishnan, Pushparayan, and Sunder will look after Mass Media.

Each day mass signature will be taken in the Memorandum to the Chief Minister of Tamilnau. Udayakumar and team will prepare the Memorandum to the Chief Minister. 1000 MW Electricity should be released to TN from the Central pool. TN government should distribute CLF bulbs to every family in TN free of charge. Close down Koodamkulam Nuclear Plant. The fisher people should be free to fish for livelihood in and around MARINE PROTECTED AREAS. The ban on fishing SEA CUCUMBA (KADALATTA) should be lifted. A copy of this should be given to each one before we obtain their signature. The central team will distribute Muthukrishnan’s Book let, Story book, Songs and CDs against Nuclear Energy. A two page notice should be distributed why we oppose Nuclear Energy.

Vehicles, Sound system, Banners and reading materials will be looked after by the Central Team consisting of Neeraj, Banwarlilal, Udayakumar, Pushparayan, Muthukrishnan, Vaishalli, John Churchil and Thomas Kocherry. Neeraj Jain is the Convenor. These leaders will be arriving the Ramnad District Union office prior to the Rally. They are responsible for obtaining all the necessary Police permissions. On 12th February 2012, Union Leaders and the leaders of Anti-nuclear movement will be meeting the Chief Minister, Jayalalitha in Chennai.

Once this is over, we will be trying to implement the same campaign in other districts also.

About 150 leaders from all the 100 Villages assembled at the Union office at 3 pm on 18th January 2012 and took all the above decisions, in the presence of Dr. Udayakumar, John Churchil and Thomas Kocherry.

Neeraj: 09422220311, Udayakumar: 09865683735, Pushparayan:09842154073, Paulsamy: 08344068119. Thomas Kocherry,, +91 936 064 5772


Suggestions towards a more participatory and socially responsible Budget 2012 - 13

Jan. 18, 2012

Indian economic crisis

Dear Pranab Mukherjee Ji,

Namaskar !

This year we have completed two decades of the declared Economic Reforms in country. Even though there is growing unemployment, declining agricultural and industrial production, rising inflation, economic crisis and inequality as never before even then there is a sense of celebration amongst a minority. That minority is celebrating and playing the fact that India can achieve a double digit economic growth. The obsession with the economic growth has taken over every other social concern and concerns about a declining developmental state. In past twenty years, if a tiny minority has seen an explosion of choices of luxury and consumer goods then there is a vast majority, nearly 80% of the population lives on less than 20 Rs a day.

In order to include this population and the process of Budget making which in turn is related to planning development using natural and human resources and prioritizing in the favour of needy and deprived it is necessary that Artricle 243 is fully followed, making the state's enact laws and planning from community (Gram Sabha and Basti Sabha onwards). This should be based on communities right to resources and planning which can be legitimised through a Development Planning Act. Next Budget, therefore should reflect such bottom up processes and plans. This is particularly important in the context of the fact that malnourishment, hunger to inequitous distribution of income and development benefits continues to infest the country which is showing increasing percentage of GDP and growth but exhibiting growing injustice making it stay at 134th in the HDI. The Budget can answer these inequities to great extent if the constitutional Article 39 C is strictly followed.

Garibi Rekha Nahi Amiri Rekha

Any attempt at the remaking of a Budget would mean more fundamental changes at policy levels and a different approach to economy which will take us towards a more socially responsive, just and equal society. The expanding inequality forces us to rethink and demand a 'Amiri Rekha' rather than a 'Garibi Rekha'. Based on this also our taxation system need to change, the elite in India corner a large chunk of the benefits of the system provided. The system of direct taxation on income makes middle classes believe that they have a larger claim to the services but the fact remains that indirect taxes paid by everyone contribute the maximum, which has a wider coverage. However, indirect taxes raise prices, all other things being otherwise unchanged. They lower the real value of the earnings of the non-properties. Only the rich benefit since they have to pay much less of direct taxes. By raising the inflationary pressures these taxes have resulted in demands for subsidies in fertilisers, exports and food grains.

Incomes of the top 5% in the urban sector and 1% in the rural sector, who would also be above Amiri Rekha need to be tapped through direct taxes. There is a need to move away from the present structure of a high share of indirect taxes in the tax revenue to a high share of direct taxes. Today the collection from the wealth taxes are meagre and infact has remained stagnant over years now. Property tax needs to be resurrected so as to make income from work more desirable than mere inheritance. Hence, the property of those above the Amiri Rekha should be taxed and the direct and indirect tax burden on everyone else should be removed.

It is a worrisome sign that today 77% of our Ministers (59 out of 77) and more than 300 MPs are crorepatis based on their declarations to Prime Ministers Office (PMO) and to Election Commission. The average asset value of a minister's assets in the current ministry is Rs. 10,63,55,097 (Rs 10.6 crores). In 2009, the average asset value of a minister was Rs 7.3 Cr. This is not a healthy sign for Indian polity and democracy. This means many currents of thought do not find expression in our present political system and therefore in the Parliament. The political process is representing the power structure and reinforcing it; in the Parliament they only have formal representation. Neo-liberal reforms and policies illustrate the face of the non-representativeness of the parliament.

Comparing the situation then there is greater hunger, poverty, agrarian crisis of unprecedented dimensions causing number of farmers committing suicides and a financial crisis hinged on volatile multinational capital. It is now universally accepted that the 'benefits' of growth have been appropriated by an infinitely small privileged sections of the Indian society. However, instead of learning any worthwhile lessons from the imminent collapse of the neo-liberal 'reformist' programme (in the sense of moving further away from the declared and desired outcomes), this very failure is being used to push for more policies favouring big capital – both national and international (favouring both big capitalist conglomerates and highly capital intensive technologies).

One of the principle goals of the policies need to be universal employment in a short time frame, which can't and need not be limited to manual labour through NREGS. This would mean changes not only in economic policies but changes in many other policies and shifting our priorities as a nation. We will need to increase expenditure on social sectors, rural infrastructure, small scale sector, improved purchasing power of the poor etc. We also need to force the elite to move away from speculative activities and futures trading to productive activities and contribute to the all round development of the nation. The elite should prosper through the prosperity of the nation and not at its expense so as it does today through the black money and inflation.

With the reductions in indirect taxes on basic goods, the cost of inputs into agriculture will decline and farmers will have a greater quality of life. Increased expenditure in social sectors will help enhance the living conditions of the populace. Reduced speculative activities in real estate and lower land prices in rural and semi urban areas would lead to enhanced access to housing for the bottom 80% of the population in these areas. They would not have to be in squatters, living in various shades of illegality.

Reduction in waste by the top 3% of the population would release a vast quantity of resources for the other 97%. this would go a long way in improving the conditions by preserving forests, bio mass, rivers, and mineral resources, by reducing displacement etc.

But more importantly, the whole focus on planning need to be bottom up from the Gram Sabha in villages and Basti Sabha in urban centres and our Budget has to reflect this reality.

External Debts

We are also concerned about the fact that India has a huge loans and liabilities from multilateral donors like World Bank, ADB and other IFIs and an equally huge amount is paid towards payment of interests and commitment charges, see as under. If the government that has no money for a universal PDS or even an enhanced one and is moving towards a dangerous course of cash coupons, then the huge external debt and waiver of corporate taxes is a serious cause of concern. By governments own admission the daily average net per capita availability of foodgrain for the five year period 2005-09 is actually lower than it was in 1955-59 — half-a-century ago, this has to be addressed.

External debt (as per MoF, in reply to RTI questions, Aug 2011)

(INR Crore) Institution 2009-10 2010-11 World Bank 17979 23757 ADB 4036 5584 JICA1 11151 2557

Details of interest payable for such loans contracted from 2009-11 are:

(INR crore) Institution 2009-10 2010-11 World bank, 25.03 78.10 ADB 0.31 5.23 JICA 0.00 0.00

External outstanding Debt (to all bilateral and multilaters) as on 31st March 2011 on Government Account was USD 69,990.324 Million (Rs. 3,49,950 crores).

Rs. 27.28 crore and Rs. 18.63 crore has been paid to World Bank (IBRD) towards commitment charges (for not utilizing the sanctioned loan) for the year 2009-2010 and 2010-11

We urge you to bring a parliamentary oversight on these financial transactions. The parliament has a right to know about these transactions and so is its citizens.

Corporate Tax Waivers

We would also like to reproduce below an excerpt from an essay of P Sainath, on the waiver of corporate tax. This is something which we feel government urgently need to address. Since, increased spending on the social sector schemes is not undertaken due to lack of funds but corporates are being given such huge waivers

Parts of an article by Sainath on 2011-12 budget, as appeared in The Hindu, dt March 7, 2011

A staggering Rs. 88,263 crore tax waiver was given to the CEOs of the country in the 2011-12 Union budget. an increase of 155 per cent from 2005-2006, when the tax waiver was for Rs.34,618 crore.

In six years from 2005-06, the Government of India wrote off corporate income tax worth Rs.3,74,937 crore — more than twice the 2G fraud — in successive Union budgets.

In 2011-12 budget: while writing off this gigantic sum for corporates, slashes thousands of crores from agriculture. As R. Ramakumar of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) points out, the revenue expenditure on that sector “is to fall in absolute terms by Rs.5,568 crore. Within agriculture, the largest fall is to be in crop husbandry, with an absolute cut of Rs.4,477 crore.”

If we add to this corporate karza maafi, revenue foregone in customs and excise duty — also very largely benefiting the corporate world and better off sections of society — the amounts are stunning. Try diamonds and gold. This accounts for the largest chunk of all customs revenue foregone in the current budget. That is, for Rs.48,798 crore. Or well over half of what it takes to run a universal PDS system each year. In three years preceding this one, the customs write-off on gold, diamonds and jewellery totalled Rs.95,675 crore.

Total revenue foregone on customs duty in the 2011-12 budget: Rs.1,74,418 crore.

Revenue foregone on account of excise duty in 2011-12 budget: Rs.1,98,291 crore. Clearly more than the highest estimate of the 2G scam losses. (The preceding year: Rs.1,69,121 crore).

How much does revenue foregone under corporate income tax, excise and customs duty add up to across the years? Budget figures for six years starting 2005-06, when the total was Rs.2,29,108 crore. budget where it is more than double that sum at Rs.4,60,972 crore. Add up the figures since 2005-06 and the grand total is Rs.21,25,023 crore. Or close to half a trillion U.S. dollars. That is not merely 12 times the 2G scam losses. It is equal to or bigger than the Rs.21 lakh crore sum that Global Financial Integrity tells us has been siphoned out of this country and illegally stashed away in foreign banks since 1948 ($ 462 billion). Only, this loot has happened in six years starting 2005-06. The current budget figure for these three heads is 101 per cent higher than it was in 2005-06.


Every school in the country should be a model school in the lines of common school system. Free Education should be given to all up to 18 years of age. At least 6% of the GDP should be allocated for the School Education.

In year 2010-11, allocation for model School Scheme had increased from Rs. 350 crore in 2009-10 to Rs. 425 crore in 2010-11.Then the allocation was increased by 16.1% in year 2011-12 based on revised estimates. But allocations for Sarva Siksha Abhiyan was Rs. 21,000 Crores based on the revised estimates which was 10.1% higher than earlier. But still the long-overdue promise of raising government spending on education to 6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is yet to be fulfilled. At present, the country's total government spending on education is about 3.4 percent of GDP (as of 2008-09), which is way below the benchmark that had been recommended more than 40 years ago by the Kothari Commission Report.

Hence, the Union Government needs to take adequate measures towards increasing the country's total budgetary spending on education significantly. It needs to be ensured that the Right to Education (RTE) Act actually delivers on its promise of providing free, compulsory and quality education to all children. In 2011-12 the total budget allocation for education was increased to Rs. 52,000 cr but the more was increased in the higher education sector and even the government invited foreign universities to establish their India Campus. Hence, there is need for straightening our priorities.


The United Progressive Alliance government had made a commitment in 2004 to raise the country's total budgetary spending on health to 2 - 3 percent of GDP. However, even in 2009-10, India's total budgetary spending on health was only 1.06 percent of GDP. Hence, the Union Government needs to take adequate measures towards increasing the country's total budgetary spending on health significantly but with a aim to provide Universal Health Care (UHC) and not only provide incentives to promote the business of health and support medical tourism.

Our investments in the future generation depends on the adequate support to every child under six, who need be provided with adequate health, nutrition and pre-school education facilities. Schools and Health Care centres must have adequate number and variety of teachers and doctors, respectively. It is ironical that on one hand we have a huge unemployment problem and on the other shortage of teachers, doctors and other employees like the Village Development Officers, BDOs, etc., so crucial for development.

We urge that union Budget must try and achieve UHC with an aim to ensure equitable access for all Indian citizens, resident in any part of the country, regardless of income level, social status, gender, caste or religion, to affordable, accountable, appropriate health services of assured quality (promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative) as well as public health services addressing the wider determinants of health delivered to individuals and populations, with the government being the guarantor and enabler, although not necessarily the only provider, of health and related services.

Housing and Employment and Social Security in Rural and urban Areas

Every year the Budgetary provisions to programmes under Bharat Nirman, which includes Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY), Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojna, Indira Awas Yojana, National Rural Drinking Water Programme and Rural telephony. However, even then the total amount is not enough. The top down plan allocation continues to remain the problem, since the plan allocations are made at the level of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies but the actual implementation of these services and facilities are done at the local level by the lowest levels of bureaucracy and government institutions like Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayats and others who have no role in the overall plan development. They are at the end of this chain who are given a limited amount of plan money to implement the already sanctioned amounts from top.

The fact that affordable urban and rural housing still remains a dream for many the Union Budget must make higher allocations for these and more so under the Indira and Rajiv Awas Yojana. It is needed to meet the shortage in rural housing as per the estimates provided by the Working Group on Rural Housing, which is 474.3 lakh (estimated for the plan period of 2007-12). Also, housing provided should be compliant with environmental and health standards.

The allocations under the NREGS continue to increase over last five years but to keep the wages lower than the minimum wages makes no sense. We demand that let there be a Optimum Wages for each sector which is linked to the calorie intake and be comparable with the income of the organised sector employees in the related class category. Minimum 315 Rs. Per person per day in urban and Rs 250 in rural areas could be the starting point. Agricultural labour wages, for small farmers, should be paid through NREGS, till an equity is achieved between agricultural and industrial sector is achieved. The guarantee of wages should be to individuals and not to the entire family and should extend to all round the year.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour Introduced the following schemes for the Un-organised sector workers-

Social Security Schemes for the Unorganised Sector Workers

1. National Old Age Pension Scheme. 2. National Family Benefit Scheme. 3. National Maternity Benefit Scheme . 4. Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojana. 5. Health Insurance Scheme for Handloom Weaver. 6. Scheme for pension to Master Crafts persons. 7. Group Accident Insurance Scheme for Active fishermen. 8. Saving-cum-Relief for the fishermen. 9. Janshree Bima Yojana. 10. Aam Admi Bima Yojana. 11. Swasthya Bima Yojana.

But instead of implementing these schemes government of India in its budget in 2010-11 introduced the scheme of Swavalamban for the Unorganised sector workers which means to generate and save money for the future. But it was got relaxation in the next budget of 2011-12. National Social Security Fund for unorganised sector workers proposed to be set up with an initial allocation of Rs. 1000 crore in 2010-11 is nothing given the fact that they nearly contribute 65% to the total GDP. It should be atleast 30,000 Crore to start with as per the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

It is estimated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee that the workers in the unorganised sector constitute more than ninety-four per cent. of the total employment in the country. On account of their unorganised nature, these workers do not get adequate social security. Some welfare schemes are being implemented by the Central Government for specific groups of unorganised sector workers such as beedi workers, non-coal mine workers, cine workers, handloom weavers, fishermen, etc. State Governments are implementing welfare programmes for certain categories of unorganised sector workers and some Non-Government Organisations also provide social security to certain categories of workers. Despite all these efforts, there is a huge deficit in the coverage of the unorganised sector.


Agriculture should be given highest priority with preferably a separate budget. The difference between crop and non-crop agricultural loan should be abolished. The loan should be interest free. In no case the interest should be more than 4% and it should be simple interest. Compound interest should not be applied in the case of farmers. The approval of wife should be necessary if a man is applying for loan. In fact wife should be treated as head of the family, as is being proposed in the Food Security Act, for all schemes where family is the beneficiary. Minimum support price should be replaced by profitable price which should be more than the investment by the farmer. The prices of fertilisers, seeds and diesel should be under control or subsidised. Farmers should be encouraged to shift to organic farming so that their dependence on market reduces. Adequate storage capacity in the form of godowns, preferably in every Gram Sabha, should be created so that food grains are not wasted and the farmer can sell it when he/she feels appropriate. Agriculture based cottage industry should be encouraged to strengthen rural economy.

Allocations for National Agricultural Insurance Scheme was reduced to Rs. 950 crores in 2010-11 from Rs.1219 crores in 2009-10. In the year 2011-12 government allocation for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana was increased from Rs. 6755 crore to Rs. 7860 crore. On one hand government expects the agriculture sector to grow 5.4% in 2011 and on the other hand it acquires agricultural land for non agricultural purposes. Green Revolution to Eastern Region for Rs. 400 crore has been made. Allocation of Rs. 300 crore was made to promote pulses in villages in rain fed areas in 2011-12.

Allocation of Rs. 300 crore was made for implementation of vegetable initiative to provide quality vegetable at competitive prices. Government has planned to promote organic farming methods combining modern technology with traditional farming practices. In 2010-11 Rs. 5.02 lakh crore was given as tax exemption to the industries and provided another Rs 1,38,921 crore as corporate and personal tax exemptions in 2011-12 but in agriculture sector it only extended six months for loan repayment and interest rate to 4% who repays the tax in time. Since 2005-06, the total subsidy being showered on the industry and business sector amounts to a whopping Rs 16.45 lakh crore and the farmers in Vidarbha in Maharashtra and in many parts of Andhra Pradesh are committing suicide failing to repay the loan. Budget allocation should be made towards the dry land and rain fed agriculture lands.

For small and marginalised farmers simple and affordable loan system should be in place. Farmers should get compensation in cases of defective seeds. Traditional seeds should be encouraged rather than the seeds being sold by the MNCs. Government should buy the products from the farmers in adequate market rate. (See for details attached submission from our allied network ASHA)

Food Security

Universalised PDS should be enacted to secure food security for all.

In 2010-11 food subsidy reduced to Rs. 55,578cr from Rs. 56,000 cr. But in 2011-12 government had launched National Mission for Protein Supplements with outlays of Rs. 300cr. The Food Security Bill is still pending with the Government of India to be tabled. A provision of Rs. 300 crore was being made to promote higher production of nutri- cereals like Ragi, bajra to upgrade their processing technologies and create awareness regarding their health benefits. In 2009, the government had promised for National food security act and Universal ICDS by 2012 and 25 kgs of Rice and wheat at Rs. 3 per kg for the BPL families.

No food coupons, cash transfer should be implemented in any form since that will encourage betrayal of the poor by the Market.

Community kitchens, on the line of 'langars' in Gurudwaras, should be encouraged especially from religious and public places to take care of problem of malnutrition as a supplement to the government's Food Security Act. Food subsidy in the union budget should be increased significantly which has been reduced. Budgetary allocation for the village grain bank scheme should be increased. (See for details attached submission from our allied network ASHA)


The total budget allocation for Energy sector was Rs. 1, 26,225cr. in 2010-11 and Rs. 1,55,495 in 2011-12, where the allocation for Atomic energy was Rs.7628 cr. and Rs. 1,0012 cr. Respectively and for new and renewable energy the allocation was Rs.2492 cr. and Rs. 2150cr respectively in year 2010-11 and 2011-12. National Clean energy fund was still to be established. Instead of Atomic energy Solar energy and other renewable energy forms should be strengthened through maximum allocation. Performance by the energy sector in terms of electricity generation has been very poor in the years 2005-06. Total utility capacity of the sector is high but has serious regional imbalances. The government has been abdicating its responsibility to adequately invest in power sector and relying more and more on private sector initiatives. The government should ensure adequate power supply at affordable prices to the consumers all over the country.

Even while we do realise the need to provide energy sources to the whole country but the Integrated Energy Policy has miscalculated and exaggerated the energy requirements and as a result sanctions have been given to nearly 7,00,000 MW of electricity generation by now itself, whereas the total target projected by IEP is to have a capacity of 8,00,000 MW by 2032. This is taking away large chunk of financial allocation and putting a serious constraint on the natural resources of the country and is already causing environmental havoc and assault on the livelihood of millions of the farmers, dalits, adivasis, women and other nature resource based communities.


It is internationally known and concluded by research that ground water and decentralised water harnessing and management gives best results through efficiency and need based distribution. However, India has continued to follow centralised (large dams and water projects), which is wasting financial resources and degrading catchments to land in the command. This should be given priority in the Budget allocation. Planning Commission should be reviewing post facto, projects and schemes like AIBP as basis for further financial allocation in the water sector.

Defence and Internal Security

Every year the government spends around Rs. 90,000 crores of money on defence services which is nearly 2.5% of the GDP. But the fact remains that the money spent on the internal security remains even less than 1% of its GDP. If the responsibility of the government is to protect its citizens, then it simply needs to spend more on equipping, training, and undertake adequate reforms to achieve greater efficacy and ensure that worst policing has a more humane face.

These are some of the brief suggestions to some of the sectors. In short :

Most people live outside the budget and hence more than the Growth percentage social indicators, hunger index etc. should be the basis for planning the Budget. GDP was expected to grow by 9% but the actual growth is more in the 7% range. India escaped the worst effects of economic crisis of 2008 to the extent that it wasn't integrated into the world financial system

If RBI can intervene to contain currency volatility why can't the Govt. Intervene when basic food prices become volatile ? No hiking of indirect taxes (that affect the poor) while giving direct tax concessions that benefit the better off. We need to start taxing the property and over a period of time do away with the indirect taxes. Export-dependent growth is not sustainable and self-reliance in food and other social sectors should be the target.

Budgetary deficits need to be addressed but can't be sustained if government continues to give tax waivers & incentives to corporate sector and continues to undervalue the natural resources and mines and minerals of the country. Given the fact that Place of agriculture in GDP is falling there need to be a separate Agriculture Budget which preserves traditional seeds and knowledge, supports farmers with credit, prices of their labour provides promotion of organic farming and industrial policy which doesn't promote land acquisitions of farm land. Our aim has to be Universal PDS as against direct cash subsidy combined with exemplary punitive action against hoarding, speculation & corruption in the PDS system; universal Employment, Education and Health.

No FDI in retail

Public transport need to be supported and incentives to auto industry should stop, it is not going to help us meet the challnge of climate change in years to come unless we start planning from now on. An economy based on the oil imports will have serious consequence on the social indicators and marginalised sections of the society will be the worst victims of this process.

No tourism incentives – especially in tribal areas for the havoc they wreak (it is a State subject) Indiscriminate disinvestment in profit-making PSUs must not be allowed as it is like deficit financing. In the name of industrial and infrastructural development we are pursuing a policy of privatisation and Public Private Partnership which is only benefiting the corporations who are making huge profits. The 2G scam and many other scams are a result of these policies of indiscriminate privatisation and policy corrections need to be made.

We do hope that the new Budget will take in account our suggestions since the failing social indicators will have a bearing on the economic policies too. The writing is clear that the 'economic reforms' are not working for everyone and a tiny elite is largely benefiting from this. A serious policy course correction is the need of the hour and we hope Finance Minister will not let the country down.

Yours Sincerely,

Medha Patkar Sandeep Pandey Swami Agnivesh Prof. Arun Kumar, Roshan Lal Agarwal, Madhuresh, Anand Mazgaonkar, Geetha Ramakrishnan Sunilam


KNU leaders scare to make a ceasefire with the Burmese government

Jan. 14, 2012

Karen leader Gen. Saw Bo Mya and former Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt tied hands together

According to ( website, Karen National Union (KNU) denied that they had done ceasefire agreement with Myanmar military yet.

Although, military government negotiator ministry U Aung Min eagerly announced ceasefire agreement has done over the 60 year old civil war with KNU, the longest ethnic fighters against Burmese authority, except Kachin Independent Organization (KIO), another strongest ethnic armed group.

In the past, KNU made several negotiations with Burmese military government including their powerful leader General Saw Bo Mya, but the military government deliberately broke down agreements and attacked KNU back seriously.

At the moment, KNU is dealing a ceasefire process with Burma military government under highly pressure with scarcity. The situation is as a kind of “wait and see.” Furthermore, at the Karen website, Saw David Thrac Kabaw, KNU leader said no ceasefire agreement has yet been signed with the Burmese government.

For the Burmese government side, they want to finish signing up the agreement pack immediately, not necessary for ethnic rights but for merely an international showcase.


MPJ Press meet at Marathi Patrakar(Mumbai)- "National Food Security Bill

Press Note

Members of MPJ at the Press meeting

The National Food Security Bill is envisaged as a landmark legislation that will guarantee and legally admit the right for food for all citizens of the nation at all times.

The Saxena Report (Min of Rural Devp) of Aug 2009 strengthened this position by stating “We respect that all basic entitlements should be universal. We believe that the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution should never be compromised or undermined; instead they need to be realized, strengthened and further taken forward. Food for all, health for all, education for all – these should be taken as bottom line.”

Yet what has come out is just a repeat of the earlier fault prone, oft proven as wrong, divisive and one that contravenes the spirit of the Constitution, a “cereal centric” Targeted Public Distribution System which fares even weaker in guarantying complete food & nutritional security to all its citizen. Important aspect in the food life cyle i.e ensuring security in terms of food grain production is not even discussed.

Merely changing the nomenclature does not take away the fact that its an “old wine in a new bottle”. BPL and APL has been replaced by “Priority” and “General”, new terms of social division. All the concerns inherent in a targeted system will continue and common people will be once again mercilessly subjected to the interpretations of the bureaucracy depriving millions from their basic needs.

Movement for Peace and Justice (Mah) lodges it strong protest against the divisive framework of the Food Security Bill approved by the Cabinet.

We demand Universalization of PDS as done by Tamil Nadu & Chattisgarh and complete delinking of the Socio-Economic Caste Census (BPL census) with the National Food Security Bill.


Refugee Crisis: Kachin Refugees in Government Controlled Areas & KIO-controlled areas

Special Report
By Dr. Gerhard Baumgard
Jan. 7, 2012

Kachin Refugees on the way in the jungle

Last week we visited Myitkyina and Waimaw in Kachin State (Myanmar). All the Church compounds overflow with refugees from the area of fighting between the government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA/KIO). The plight and suffering of the refugees is immense; many are stuck in temporary and tarpaulin shelters for 6 months already. Up to 35% of the refugees are children under the age of 12; children and adults are traumatized from the fighting and destruction of their villages; the adults have nothing to do and long for the return to their home places.

Despite the order of President Thein Sein to stop the fighting, the Burmese army continues to assault military and civilian targets unabated. Reinforcements from Hpa-An, Pyi and Chin State have been transferred to Kachin State and the fighting leaves villages burnt and harvests destroyed. Since Wednesday December 28, 2011 Myitkyina is without electricity as the fighting towards the Chinese border took out some electricity lines.

In Myitkyina and Waimaw alone there are 7,799 refugees (or in legal terms: internally displaced persons (IDPs)) and in the government-controlled areas of Kachin State it is a total 15,067 refugees. In the KIO-controlled areas the numbers runs up to 45,132 (!) victims who have run away from the fighting to safer areas (number per December 24, 2011).

In Myitkyina and Waimaw UNHCR, UN OCHA and WFP provide some help but in the other areas, such as Bamaw and the KIO-areas along the Chinese border, the support depends largely on the Christian and other local organizations.

Little is known outside of the Kachin State about the true magnitude of this humanitarian disaster (60,000 refugees) as even UN OCHA does not distribute its reports widely.

Please distribute the numbers and reports as widely as you can. The visit of the British Foreign Secretary in Burma should give amble opportunity for the press to report on the plight of their former WWII-allies if they are provided with the proper information and data.

Unfortunately, the slow speed of the internet in Myanmar doesn’t allow to send photos. However, if you need more information, data or photos please do not hesitate to contact me, we will try our best.


Appeal to extend Solidarity with Narmada Dam-affected Adivasis on indefinite Zameen Haq Satyagraha at Jobat, Madhya Pradesh

Jan. 2, 2012

The oustees of Narmada Dams


It is more than 3 weeks, since the hilly adivasis displaced by the Sardar Sarovar (SSP) and Jobat Dam Projects have begun their indefinite ‘Zameen Haq Satyagraha’ in the biting winter cold, asserting their long-standing, legal right to land-based rehabilitation. Many of you are already aware that hundreds of oustees in the hilly areas of Alirajpur and Badwani districts have faced illegal submergence of their land, crop and houses since 1994, due to the SSP, but have not yet been provided cultivable, irrigable, unencroached farmlands and house plots in developed resettlement sites as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, M.P. Rehabilitation Policy and various Judgements of the Supreme Court.

For many years now, the oustees have refused to accept uncultivable / encroached land from the Government Waste Land Bank or meager cash compensation and have been demanding cultivable land and real rehabilitation, as per law. After numerous rounds of applications, litigation, court orders, dialogue, agitations, fasts, arrests, lathi-charge not leading to actual land allotment, the oustees have at last decided to ‘occupy’ government land at the Jobat Agricultural and Seed Production Farm and have begun cultivation on the same.

Notwithstanding binding legal and judicial directives and its own commitments before the Apex Court to purchase private land on priority and rehabilitate the oustees, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has not made any sincere efforts to provide cultivable land to the affected families. Having lost their main source of livelihood since 15 years and cut-off from mainland due to the huge reservoir, the hilly oustees have been living in a situation of acute poverty, deprivation, hunger, malnourishment and ill-health since a decade.

Except the District Collector of Alirajpur, who has been responding positively and has written to the higher authorities that cultivable land (other than Land Bank) should be offered to the oustees, with their consent, not a single official from the Narmada Valley Development Authority or the Narmada Control Authority has responded or visited the satyagraha site so far.

Fearing earlier High Court’s strictures for violating the ‘right to peaceful agitation’ of the oustees through brutal lathi-charge, the state government has so far not shown the temerity to use force or even any other means to ‘convince’ the oustees to vacate the land. All the same, the authorities have certainly not been supportive and have cut-off electricity and water supply inside the farm and are making cultivation unviable. But the oustees have staunchly decided not to relent and remain on this land until the concerned authorities in Indore, Bhopal and Delhi actually begin the process of allocation of cultivable land and comply with their legal commitments.

It is both legally mandatory and practically possible to include cultivable lands in the Land Bank; purchase and allocate them to the affected families. Rehabilitation, through Land Purchase Committees and participation of the oustees is happening in Maharashtra & Gujarat and there is no reason, why the same cannot happen in M.P. This Satyagraha seeks such a just rehabilitation process in Madhya Pradesh. Along with the adivasis displaced by SSP, the Jobat Dam-affected adivasis who have been cheated in the rehabilitation process and have been deprived of land rights in lieu of meager cash compensation are also sitting on the Satyagraha to demand land and fair rehabilitation. The young children from the Narmada Jeevanshalas in M.P. (life-schools) are also here, in the thick of the struggle, demanding land for their families.

This is an appeal to stand in solidarity with the hilly adivasis who, despite all odds, have remained resilient for the past 25 years; have believed in and actually lived the non-violent way of life and struggle. JUSTICE for them is not possible without your participation and concern. PLEASE DO ACT FAST, AS YOU ALWAYS HAVE.

Oct-Dec 2011


International Committee on Fair Elections in Taiwan


Lokpal or Shasakpal? Mockery of the People and Parliament need to Stop

ASIA: Torture prevention and rehabilitation in Asia, Obstacles in the implementation of norms & standards of rights in developing countries


Three weeks of indefinite land occupation by Narmada dam oustees; ‘Submergence without rehabilitation is a gross atrocity on adivasis’


The Irom Sharmila Solidarity Campaign culmination programme




Euro-MEPs should press visiting Vietnam delegation to free political prisoners and accept human rights control mechanisms in upcoming EU-Vietnam trade agreement


Ethnics group's petition to Mrs. Hillary Clinton




Status Quo Order of Mumbai High Court on Lavasa Hill City to Continue: No Work to Commence On the Project

OPEN LETTER on World Fisheries Day 21st. Nov 2011


The World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) condemned the brutal murder


The way GOI is handling the peoples movement against Koodamkulam Nuclear Plant (KNP)


Submission on Land Acquisition Bill to PSC on Rural Development


Human Rights Lawyers Association calls to observe first trial at Songkhla Administrative Court on torture case for compensation on 26 October 2011


DVC Dharna Day Four. 11 People Start Indefinite Hunger Strike


The Peoples Struggles against the Koodamkulam Nuclear Plant


RafiqNagar Govandi (Mumbai )Malnutrition Fact Finding Report


AHRC strongly backs UN call on lese-majesty


Statement on the Plan of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Mon State for Initiating Peace Talks with the New Mon State Party (NMSP)

Oct-Dec 2011

Jul-Sep 2011


Apr-June, 2011

Jan-Mar 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008