The Global Digest

Asia Pacific Apr-Jun 2012

Security Police surround UBCV Pagodas as Buddhists prepare to demonstrate in Hue and Saigon

UBCV Member Bao Phuoc temple

PARIS, 30 June 2012 (IBIB) – Since early this morning, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) reports that Security Police have tightly surrounded the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) where the Patriarch Thich Quang Do is under house arrest, and the Giac Hoa Pagoda, Secretariat of the outlawed UBCV and residence of the UBCV’s Deputy leader Venerable Thich Vien Dinh.

Police reinforcements appeared after the UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do urged Vietnamese all over the country to stage demonstrations on Sunday 1st July 2012 to protest recent Chinese incursions on Vietnamese sovereignty. He announced that at 8.00 on Sunday morning he would lead a delegation of UBCV monks to the Chinese Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City where he would hand a letter to Kong Xuanyou, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Hanoi, before joining demonstrations in the city. Last year, on 5 June 2011, Security Police forcibly impeded Thich Quang Do and other UBCV monks from joining similar protests initiated by students, bloggers and academics against Chinese encroachments on Vietnamese waters and lands”.

“We are calling for peaceful demonstrations because it is the only way we can express our heartfelt concerns”, declared Thich Quang Do. “The press is muzzled, and all dissident voices are stifled. If the authorities take no action to protect our homeland, then the people must remind them of their duty. This is the responsibility of all Vietnamese citizens, including monks and nuns. Peaceful demonstration is a legitimate right. I urge my fellow citizens, do not be afraid!”

The UBCV’s appeal has been taken up by Buddhists at home and abroad. In Hue, a strong centre of Buddhist dissent, Venerable Thich Thien Hanh, UBCV Secretary-general and head of the UBCV Provincial Committee in Thua Thien-Hue, has called on UBCV Buddhists to gather at 8.30am on 1st July at the Monument of Buddhist Martyrs (commemorating those killed in Buddhist protests in the 1960s) in Le Loi Street, Hue. He urged Buddhist to carry placards with slogans such as: “No to Chinese encroachment on Vietnamese waters and land”; “We protest China’s call for bids on 9 oil and gas lots inside Vietnamese territorial waters”; The Paracels and Spratly’s belong to Vietnam”; “No to China’s Sansha City on Vietnam’s Paracel and Spratly islands”. Thich Thien Hanh urged demonstrators to remain peaceful at all times. If Police try to intercept any Buddhists on their way to the demonstration, they should stage peaceful sit-downs on the spot. The demonstrations should last until 10.00 am, after which UBCV monks will return to their Pagodas and hold prayer ceremonies for peace and security in Vietnam.

At the same time, on 1st July, UBCV monks, nuns and followers in the USA will stage simultaneous demonstrations outside the Chinese Consulates in Los Angeles, California and Houston, Texas.---

WORLD: Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives

Special Contribution
By Eric Bailey
Jun 28, 2012

The Book rleases related to Asia

I was amazed at how quickly the pieces of Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives fell into place, turning an idea for a magazine into a quality, finished product. When Nilantha Ilangamuwa, whom I’d previously worked with at the Sri Lanka Guardian, asked me to launch a magazine with him for the Asian Human Rights Commission, I knew I had to be a part of this project. Soon I was seeing articles and interviews from some familiar and well respected names and I knew this had the potential to be something great. Now on June 26th, the 14th annual International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we’re finally ready to share our work with the world.

AHRC-ART-057-2012.JPGThe principle behind this magazine and the general opposition to torture isn’t rooted in the idea that inflicting or prolonging pain on another person is morally wrong. That’s innately understood by nearly all people. It’s why you don’t kick a dog and why the kind animal owner will put down a creature that is suffering, rather than leave it in pain. No, there is a greater cause at the heart of opposing torture. That cause is liberty, the fundamental moral principle that no man may have total and unconditional control of another, that no man should be made to submit to being put in jeopardy of life or limb without due process of law, and that the individual has certain natural born rights that any just law must respect, which include the rights to life and property. It is towards the protection and expansion of liberty - for every member of every class of every society – that we must dedicate our efforts.

I was especially thrilled to work on the June issue, which covered human rights abuses in post-war Sri Lanka. It was during the Sri Lankan Civil War that Nilantha and I met and started working together to cover the conflict. That experience gave Sri Lanka a special place in my heart and has made the continuation of human rights abuses by a consolidated central government a subject of particular importance to me.

In this issue, Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives took an in depth look into Sri Lanka’s relationship with torture. Dr. UCP Perera’s essay on the history of torture in Sri Lanka really helped to establish the context in which to judge the current state of affairs and demonstrated that torture on the island wasn’t born from the Civil War, but has been a moral issue that the Sri Lankan civilization has been battling throughout its existence. This historical context finely complemented Dr. Laksiri Fernando’s analysis of the modern use of torture and terror in Sri Lanka to maintain or gain political power.

Dr. Daya Somasundaram’s academic study of the psychological consequences of torture and various available coping methods illustrated another side of torture, beyond the immediate act, or the politics and other motivations behind it, as well as cataloged what specific kinds of torture tend to occur in Sri Lanka. In the study, Dr. Somasundaram also pointed out one fact that is of particular importance in my mind: that, despite the continued instances of torture, abduction, and extrajudicial killings, the actual rate of human rights abuses has greatly declined with the end of the war. It’s easy to read about human rights abuses in a country and get the impression that things are as rotten as could ever be the case, but it’s important to know the truth of the matter – not to excuse current trespasses, but to understand them in their proper context.

I was also pleased when I learned that Basil Fernando, the AHRC’s Director of Policy and Programs, and a long-time contributor at the Sri Lanka Guardian, would be interviewed for this issue. In that interview, he provided important insights into the fundamental link between torture in a country and the lack of relatively free and transparent government. The necessity of having a strictly limited government and the natural curtailing effects this has on human rights abuses is the sort of big picture point I hope all our readers will take away from this magazine.

UBCV monk beaten by Police in Dong Nai Province

Jun 19, 2012

Thich Quang Thanh after his beating by police

PARIS, (VIETNAM COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS) - Buddhist monk Thich Quang Thanh, a member of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) was beaten by Police on Sunday 10th June in the southern province of Dong Nai. He was riding his motorbike on Highway 51 when he was intercepted by traffic Police for not wearing a helmet.

Thich Quang Thanh apologized and prepared to pay the fine which is the usual punishment for this offence. Instead, the Police threw his motorbike into their van and punched the monk in the face. They called for reinforcements, and together a group of Policemen pinned the monk down on the ground. One beat him on the head and neck with a truncheon whilst another trampled on him, and another pressed his elbow in the monk’s mouth to stop him calling for help. Passersby who tried to intervene were roughly pushed away. Police then dragged Thich Thanh Quang into their van, handcuffed him and took him to the People’s Committee office in Phuoc Thai village where he was held for questioning for several hours and eventually released.

On June 12th, Thich Quang Thanh sent a letter to UBVC Patriarch Thich Quang Do protesting against this rough treatment of a peaceful citizen by police officials and asking the UBCV leader to take up his case.

l Reports of Police assaulting and even firing on people for traffic offences are widespread in Vietnam, as well as growing cases of corruption. However, such incidents rarely lead to sanctions and journalists who expose them risk imprisonment themselves. Journalist Hoang Khuong, a reporter on the official Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, faces a prison sentence of six to thirteen years for writing a series of articles revealing bribes received by traffic police.

Although his articles proved to be true and led to the arrest of one policeman, he was arrested in January 2012 and on 15 June 2012 the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy formally charged him for “offering bribes” under Article 289, paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code. Whilst he admitted offering a small bribe to a police officer to obtain evidence for his reports, his articles revealed the existence of rampant corruption amongst traffic police in Ho Chi Minh City and the provinces, documented by photos and first hand testimonies. This disproportionately heavy sentence demanded against Hoang Khuong reveals Hanoi’s draconian control of the media and the risks faced by investigative journalists in Vietnam who delve too deeply into the Party and state’s affairs.

Joint Statement on current political situation and peace processes by community based organizations from Shan State, Burma Tuesday, 12 June 2012 14:40 SHRF/SWAN/Shan Sapawa

Jun 12, 2012

Shan State Army-South troops

On June 4 and 5, 2012, about 80 people from various community-based organizations, including women’s, youth, environment, community development, media, health, education, literature and culture groups, migrant workers groups, as well as monks and farmers from Shan State held a forum to discuss the current political situation in Shan State, especially the ongoing peace negotiation process.

Key concerns raised by participants about the current situation are as follows:
1. Communities remain in daily fear of the expanding Burma Army, which now numbers over 180 battalions in Shan State, a quarter of their total troop force. The twelfth Burma Army Regional Command has been set up in Shan State since the 2010 election. Despite recent ceasefire agreements, armed clashes continue, and the Burma Army continues to target civilians for abuse with impunity.
2. The 2010 elections, and introduction of “democracy,” have not improved the lives of the people of Shan State, as the 2008 pro-military constitution puts the Burma Army outside the law, and elected representatives have no power to curb the army’s abuses, or to protect the rights of local communities.
3. The current ceasefire talks with various armed groups in Shan State have not yet resulted in political dialogue to address the structural root causes of the conflict, specifically the lack of rights for ethnic peoples and continued Burma Army dominance. Dialogue addressing these issues is the only way that a sustainable peace can be achieved.
4. The structural political problems are directly impacting the economy of Shan State, particularly our most important sector, agriculture, as the majority of our people are farmers. The combination of the pervasive Burma Army presence and lack of power of the state government to protect farmers, their lands, and their freedom to farm is one of the main problems in Shan State. The current ceasefire process with the armed groups, where ‘development,’ i.e. large-scale economic investment, is being encouraged before a political solution, will further damage the agriculture sector. This is because investment without safeguard policies to ensure local communities’ free, prior, informed consent, and the protection of their livelihoods and environment, will cause more people to lose their lands to mega-development projects such as oil and gas pipelines and hydropower dams, as well as mining and other large-scale extractive industries. Such abusive investments will only further fuel conflict.
5. The drug production and abuse crisis in Shan State will also not be solved without addressing the Burma Army presence and the ongoing political instability.
6. The current government structure at the state level is also too weak to push for the right for ethnic languages and culture to be taught in schools in Shan State.
7. While efforts of the international community to support the peace process in Burma are appreciated, unfortunately current efforts so far are mainly aimed at pushing ethnic nationalities under the 2008 military-led constitution. As the constitution itself, which puts the Burma Army outside the law, and denies ethnic people equal rights, is at the heart of the conflict, such attempts to force ethnic people under this constitution will only perpetuate the conflict.
8. While Burma Army troops continue to commit human rights violations with impunity, it is not safe for IDPs and refugees to return to their homes in Shan State.
9. The huge presence of the Burma Army in Shan State, and their failure to withdraw any troops since the start of the ceasefire talks, are key factors preventing local communities and civil society groups in Shan State from taking part in the current peace process. As a result, peace negotiations have only been between armed groups. However, in order for genuine and sustainable peace to be achieved, communities and civil society groups must take a leading role in the process.

We therefore make the following recommendations to all stakeholders in the peace process:

1. The 2008 Constitution is an obstacle to resolving the social and political problems in Shan State and Burma. These problems can only be solved through structural political reform, resulting from negotiation between political parties, armed groups, and civil society.
2. The Burma Army should reduce the number of its troops and withdraw from conflict areas in Shan State, which will allow civil society to take a leading role in the peace process to ensure sustainable peace in our land.
3. Foreign governments and donor organisations wishing to support the peace process should be neutral, and should not use their funds to pressure ethnic groups to come under the 2008 constitution. Decisions about provision of humanitarian aid must be made together with local community-based organizations, and aid must be delivered directly to local communities.
4. The Burmese government and foreign investors must immediately stop all large-scale resource extraction projects currently underway in Shan State, including oil and gas pipelines, large hydropower dams, and mining and logging ventures. Only after there is a genuine political settlement of the conflict, and proper safeguard policies for local communities are in place, should such projects be reconsidered.

Signed by: (1) Koung Jor Refugee Camp Committee (2) “Lin Mawk Mai” (Land Regeneration) Group (3) Migrants Worker Federation (4) Shan Education Committee (5) Shan Farmers Groups (6) Shan Health Committee (7) Shan Human Rights Foundation (8) Shan Relief and Development Committee (9) Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization (10)Shan State Organization (11)Shan Women’s Action Network (12)Shan Youth Power Group (13)Shan Youth Network Group (14)Shan Youth Power (15)Workers’ Solidarity Association (16)Youth from Shan State

Media Contact:

1) Ying Harn Fah 089 – 262 7848 3) Nang Moan Kaein 081 992 1121 2) Sai Khur Hseng 081 – 672 2031 4) Nang Charm Tong 081 603 6655


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(
June 6, 2012

Two ladies Aung San Suu Kyi and Yingluck Shinawatra

Aung San Suu Kyi has just visited Thailand. During her trip she was once again treated with adulation appropriate for a queen, and to which she responded with queen-like vague but feel-good pronouncements. However, Daw Suu is no longer only a subject of idolatry; she is now a hands-on politician - an MP. It is not enough for her to make non-specific and hence empty statements. She has to convey clear policy points for the many critical problems facing Burma. This is her responsibility as a leader, and also the means by which the people of the country, now formally her constituents, will evaluate her performance and hold her accountable.

The most important policy issues are as follows:


The main purpose of her trip was to speak at the World Economic Forum, which is a collection of business leaders. Through this engagement, she effectively restated her support for ending economic sanctions against Burma’s military regime. It is critical to note that this specific policy position is at odds with much of the pro-democracy movement, including the ethnic nationality leadership in organizations such as the UNFC and KNU, which issued statements calling for a continuation of the sanctions.


Daw Suu’s remarks at the WEF sent mixed messages on the issue of development, specifically development by foreign corporations. Her participation at the event was obviously an affirmation of pro-development policy, and also her concern about joblessness in Burma. (It is extremely significant that she did not focus on human rights.)

On the other hand, she warned against reckless optimism, although this applied more to Burma’s overall supposed reform, rather than commercial development per se. About this statement, I must say that it demonstrates remarkable naivete. The reason there is great enthusiasm by international corporations about Burma, and by the corporations’ diplomatic promoters, is Daw Suu herself. In Bangkok she was therefore complaining about something for which she is personally responsible. Nothing has really changed on the ground. There are still Burma Army atrocities, political prisoners, religious persecution - the list goes on and on. The only true substantive event has been her change of heart, including that she trusts Thein Sein and is “happy.”

What is more sinister, though, is that Daw Suu backs Thein Sein’s policy to put development before a political solution to the country’s problems, meaning democracy and federalism. She has said that it will take a long time for the people of Burma to achieve their goal. By adopting this policy she is making her statement self-fulfilling.

She is also now directly in opposition to the ethnic nationality groups, and others, which have said that they want a political solution first. They recognize that development is driving conflict and human rights abuses, furthering corruption, and enriching the regime.

Moreover, it is notable that she is silent on major projects such as Myitsone, other dams, the huge Tavoy project, the Dawei port and pipeline, the Kaladan intermodal project, new resource extraction, etc. Indeed, the Thai authorities no doubt viewed her trip as support for Tavoy, which is being built by ItalThai. As far as development driven jobs are concerned, however, many people would agree that a better course would be to focus on the political solution, to free the country, after which the people of Burma can set up their own companies and work for themselves. This is far preferable to being exploited within their own borders by Thai, Chinese, Singaporean, Indian, Japanese, South Korean, European, Australian, and American corporations.

Also, the question should be asked: What is Daw Suu’s position on environmental conservation? Unfortunately, it seems that she is opposed to it, since the development path that is now underway in Burma will unquestionably continue the country’s legacy of ecological devastation.

Migrant workers

A related issue is the exploitation of the millions of Burmese who have fled to neighboring countries to work as migrant laborers, and who have been exploited terribly in the process, with many forced into nothing less than slavery. In Thailand she did visit with migrant workers, and expressed unease about their treatment to Thai government officials, notably Chalerm Yubamrung. Again, though, Daw Suu is naive, if not incredibly poorly informed, if she thinks that Chalerm, right-hand man of dictator-in-exile, Thaksin Shinawatra (who is pals with Burma’s still Senior General Than Shwe, and a secret promoter of Tavoy), has sincere concern for Burmese migrants. The Thais like having large numbers of foreign workers to exploit. The government will never give this up willingly, or even push for material improvement in their conditions. If Daw Suu wants to make this a signature issue, she will have to urge it again and again. Otherwise, her comments can only be viewed as self-serving, to make it look like she really cares.

Armed struggle

To-date, Daw Suu has been silent about Burma’s civil war. It was therefore extremely disappointing that she was not allowed to meet the ethnic leaders in Mae Sot. This would have given her the opportunity to explain her position on their struggle. Because of this, many questions remain unanswered, including:

Does she view a self-defense struggle as legitimate, or does she agree with Thein Sein that the ethnic resistance forces are terrorists?

Would she ever support a true liberation struggle, such as the one that freed Libya? (The answer here clearly is no.)

What is her policy on the war in Kachin and Northern Shan States and the associated humanitarian crisis? Does she believe that the Burma Army is to blame, or not?

Is she aware that the Burma Army is taking advantage of the Karen ceasefire to resupply and reinforce front line units, that human rights abuses in Karen State such as forced labor and land thefts are continuing, and that there have also been a few clashes with the KNLA? Does she support a pullback of Burma Army troops from the ethnic areas?

What does she think of the imminent UNFC June 10 deadline to reconsider their ceasefires if the Burma Army’s aggression against the Kachin is ongoing as of that date?

Why doesn’t she support an international inquiry and tribunal for the regime’s war crimes?


As with the migrant workers, Daw Suu also expressed concern about the refugees from Burma living in camps in Thailand. She admirably said that they should not have to return until there is peace, and implied that any such return should be voluntary. She further said that she would push for the recent reduction in their food rations to be restored. (Note: She has never discussed the Rohyinga refugees in Bangladesh.)

Here, she can have a direct and immediate impact. The cut in food rations has been implemented by Europe. A Norwegian deputy foreign secretary recently had to defend himself in Chiang Mai from claims by activists that Norway and other European donors are trying to starve the refugees out of the camps to pave the way for development and to force the ethnic resistance groups to accept the regime’s 2008 Constitution. Daw Suu, who frequently meets with European diplomats - she is traveling to Europe in just one week, can easily make the point that the rations should be restored, and that refugee resettlement has to wait until there is real and enduring peace.

This is actually a policy point over which she can be held accountable. If the refugee funding is not restored, it is clear that she does not truly consider the issue important, or that she has failed in her discussions with the Europeans.

The constitution and the rule of law

The only policy points that Daw Suu has articulated is that she is opposed to the 2008 Constitution, and that she supports the creation of the rule of law. However, these are vague, over-arching objectives that have imprecise benchmarks and long-term horizons. If she really does support these policies, and is not just announcing them to obtain good public relations, she should outline a timetable of specific steps to be achieved by which (1) the dictatorial 2008 Constitution will be revoked, and a new democratic constitution drafted, and then presented to the people for approval in a national referendum; and (2) a program is implemented to create the rule of law, including an overhaul of Burma’s current legislation, both criminal and civil, a complete restaffing of the country’s courts, and prisons, and the establishment of mechanisms by which such laws will be enacted in a fair and impartial manner so that no one is favored and all the people of the country enjoy justice.

Nuclear and ballistic missile programs

As she has never referred to the issue, the question should also be posed if Daw Suu is aware of the documentation that has been published that the military regime has a long-standing program to acquire nuclear weapons and related missile delivery systems. Further, as a specific policy point, she should state that the IAEA should be given permission to enter the country to investigate these claims, including the regime’s cooperation with North Korea, China and Russia.

Who represents the people

There are many civil society and resistance groups in Mae Sot (and elsewhere in Thailand) that Daw Suu should have met, and with whom she should have had long, detailed, consultations. Often at great personal risk, the officers and members of these groups have kept the flame of freedom in Burma alive, in particular during the years to which she was subject to house arrest.

A critical policy point is if she grants these groups any role in the present and future governance of Burma. After all, she and her associates in the NLD appear poorly equipped to deal with their new position as a formal opposition party. There are many pro-democracy groups that have worked tirelessly on innumerable issues, starting with drafting the text of a democratic constitution for the country. They represent a large reservoir of dedicated, well-educated individuals, who have years of experience in one problem area after another. To deny them a role is not only unfair; it is stupid.

Said another way, does she accept that any groups other than the NLD and the other parties that actually have seats in Parliament are stakeholders? Further, does she respect the UNFC as a legitimate ethnic voice and a partner in the future political development of Burma?

The only evidence on this issue is her statement on arriving in Rangoon that her trip was “very good,” “very successful,” and “very satisfactory.” This, ironically, is a bad sign. One would have hoped that the highlight of her trip would not have been speaking to a bunch of corporate executives, or talking with demonstrably pro-regime Thai leaders, but meeting - finally - the heart of the resistance at the border. Since it was denied, one would have expected - were these her sentiments - an expression of regret upon her return to Burma.

There was no such regret. We therefore must conclude that she does not believe that the border-based groups (even the UNFC) have a role to play. This is an extraordinary snub. She is back after the seven years of her latest house arrest, during which years the border groups kept the movement alive. Her change of tune has not only invalidated their work during those seven years, but everything that has been done since 1988. She has changed her mind and decided that the best approach is to rejoin the legal fold. Everyone else should either do the same, or go away.

Political prisoners

One group in Mae Sot that Daw Suu clearly should have met is AAPPB. The NLD’s dispute over the number of political prisoners is quite unseemly. AAPPB has assiduously documented this situation, and if it says that it has verified 471 prisoners, and that another 465 individuals may be prisoners of conscience as well, there is no good reason to dispute this.

Daw Suu has stopped talking about political prisoners. Since this was her focus for many years, it is surprising, to say the least, that she has dropped the policy point of pushing for their freedom.

Popular movements

There is a new wave of popular unrest in Burma, over such things as electricity blackouts and worker complaints. Daw Suu is on record saying that she was opposed to the Saffron Revolution. Yet another question is: Is this still the case? Does she support the demonstrations that are now taking place, or does she object to them? Even more, does she support the idea, or not, that these new protests can grow into a nation-wide movement along the lines of 1988 and Saffron?

The answer to this is unknown, but one suspects it is “no.” Even more worrying, the regime recently had a meeting with the parties represented in Parliament, including not only its ally the USDP, but the NLD as well. The purpose of the meeting was to obtain support against the demonstrators. If effect, Thein Sein is asking Daw Suu to negotiate with the protestors and to get them to stop.

If she assents to this, she can no longer hold on to any pretense that she is for democracy. Pro-democracy advocates protest dictatorship. Anyone who seeks to stop them is pro-dictatorship.

Aung San Suu Kyi as a leader

Since she has been released from house arrest, many aspects of Daw Suu’s leadership style have become evident. Unfortunately, the picture that has emerged is not flattering. To begin, her actions have not been transparent. No one knows what she said to Thein Sein, Hillary Clinton, Derek Mitchell, and the many other diplomats such as David Cameron that she met (including for the last the business executives who accompanied him “as tourists”). Her interview comment to the Wall Street Journal about the people of Burma, that “we’ve told them what they need to know,” still resonates.

Further, she is inaccessible. Innumerable people have tried to reach her, to no avail. This begs the question: What sort of leader doesn’t listen to her supporters? (The question should also be asked, who is funding the NLD, and Daw Suu’s foreign trips?)

It is also now clear that in her own way she is authoritarian. Within the NLD Daw Suu does not delegate, with the result that the party is badly organized. And, to paraphrase Animal Farm, her voice is more equal than others. She appears to be acting as the dictator of the NLD.

One aspect of authoritarian leaders is that they have enormous egos. All the adulation goes to their heads. Daw Suu now appears to suffer this as well. Her comment to Chalerm about the migrant workers, that “I will take all of them back home ...,” was astonishing. (The only alternative to viewing this as an expression of egomania is to suggest that she doesn’t choose her words very well.)

Finally, Daw Suu’s judgment is suspect, witness her use of traitors to the KNU to organize her trip to Mae La refugee camp, and she is intolerant to criticism. The latter is an essential test for a democratic leader, not only to endure criticism, but to acknowledge and respect it. Perhaps the ultimate question for her is as follows: Is she able to admit her mistakes, or does she think that she is infallible?

As if she needed any more evidence, Thein Sein’s and the Thai reaction to her trip is proof that the reform is false. For example, real peace in Burma is extremely easy to achieve. All that has to happen is for the Burma Army to withdraw from its camps in the ethnic areas, and to stop abusing the local people.

In an earlier article I wrote that appearances notwithstanding, Daw Suu didn’t want to be the dictator of Burma’s pro-democracy movement. I may have been wrong. So, in the last year and a half we’ve learned a lot more about her as aperson, the person she is now, post-Depayin, and even more crucially about her policy. The trip to Thailand was illuminating. She promoted development before democracy, and accepted being treated like a queen.

It is not enough that Daw Suu says she is for freedom. Her specific words and actions are more important. A concluding question, but this time for the people of Burma, is as follows: Do I still want her as my leader, given the specific policy that she is pursuing? Do I want to follow someone with whom I disagree?

Closing Note: Maybe it is time - even during her trip to Europe - that Daw Suu is greeted with something other than adoration.

THAILAND: Prominent activists and farmer leaders facing imprisonment for their role in leading Thailand towards important land policy reforms

The International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development held in Brazil 2006

HE Ms Yingluck Shinawatra,
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Government House, Pitsanulok Road,
Dusit District, Bangkok 10300,

Your Excellency,

We are extremely troubled by the intensification of prosecutions by the Thai State of Thai nationals who have conducted long-term, open and public-minded campaigns to secure land rights for the poor and to bring about national land policy reform.

Around the world, Thailand’s reputation and image are being eroded under the international spotlight that is drawn on these injustices. The decisions in the appeal cases of three prominent members of the Community Land Reform Movement in Lamphun province on 6th June 2012 will be an important signal of the Thai State’s approach towards civilians who have drawn national attention to critical reforms needed to resolve long standing land conflicts in Thailand. Their actions do not warrant public prosecution or other forms of State persecution.

We note that Thailand has made international commitments in support of agrarian reform, including at the high-level International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in Brazil in 2006. The Final Declaration, adopted by 92 FAO member states including Thailand, reaffirmed the fundamental importance of agrarian reform for the eradication of hunger and poverty, and of promoting wider, secure and sustainable access to land, water and other natural resources.

Agrarian reform is recognized around the world as a critical imperative to ensure the right to food, and a more just and equitable basis for sustainable development. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has repeatedly emphasised that secure access to land for smallholder farmers, and agrarian reform in particular, are key elements in ensuring the right to food. Hundreds of international experts involved in the International Assessment for Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) have highlighted the importance of a thriving small-scale production sector for society in reducing economic vulnerability, improving access to food, livelihoods and health, increasing equity, and have recognised smallholders’ contributions towards sustainable environmental management that is not only important for Thailand, but for the planet.

We have learned that land conflicts in Thailand stem partly from corruption and untransparent decisions in the past in the allocation and demarcation of state-owned as well as privately-held land. These long-term, unresolved conflicts must be resolved in a just and participatory manner without delay if Thailand is to fulfill its international commitments to human rights, sustainable development, and good governance.

The Thai Land Reform Network has put forward important proposals for reform including the redistribution of unused and idle lands, securing land titles for community groups, bringing in a fair and progressive land tax mechanism, and setting up a national land fund to facilitate the redistribution of land to the poor. We note that some of these proposals have been given recognition within government, but the pace of implementation of these reforms has been too slow.

Although Thailand has had a national land reform policy for over 30 years, the issue has been propelled as a national priority in the last ten years primarily through the campaigns and struggles of low-income and landless farmers. The Community Land Reform Movement took action since 1997 to occupy abandoned lands and make productive use of them for the benefit of poor communities in various parts of Northern Thailand. These reoccupied lands are now in full production, and providing incomes and food for small-scale farmers, their families and their communities.

The actions of the land reform movements were widely publicized in national and international media with the express intention to initiate public policy reform. Their innovative proposals for community tenure of land were the origin of the Community Land Title – which has been recognized in Thai society and in government as one of the most promising models for long-term security of land tenure. Without the actions of the Community Land Reform Movement, this important legal reform may never have surfaced.

It is thus shocking that members of this movement may now be facing long-term imprisonment for their role in the land redistribution. Such prosecutions do not serve any useful purpose for Thai society, and the repression of activists committed to progressive reforms that advance the public interest, paints a very negative picture of the Thai State in the eyes of the world.

We urge your government and the Thai State to stop prosecuting Thai citizens who are engaged in public campaigns for agrarian reform, and to give urgent priority to redistributive land reforms and equitable resolution of the land conflicts to ensure sustainable livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of smallholder communities throughout the country.

Yours faithfully and in solidarity with the Thai land reform movements...


Medha Patkar and Seven Others Arrested While Opposing Evictions

Mumbai's slum dwellers area

Women and Children Beaten and Harassed by Mumbai Police Force, Demolitions Continue in Sion Koliwada and Ambujwadi and so does Resistance

Mumbai, May 29 : In a brazen violation of the traditional rights of the fisherfolks in Sion Koliwada Mumbai police and BMC has started demolishing homes of the people since morning today. Amid heavy police presence they started demolishing the homes occupied by the Koli community. There has been court cases going against the redevelopment plan which is fraught with corruption and irregularities. False consent has been shown by the community, signatures have been forged of the people, who are not even alive and other such irregularities abound in the project. Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan have been opposing the plans for evictions and demolitions. The development project is being implement by builder Sudhakar Reddy, who is a prominent devotee of Baba Ramdev and are accused of colluding in the illegality along with BMC.

In morning when the demolition squads arrived accompanied by a large police force then residents came out in huge numbers led by Medha Patkar and stood in front of the JCBs and Bulldozers. Police beat up and harassed those resisting demolitions. Male police was involved in beating and molesting women protesters too. As we write this the demolitions continue and so does the resistance from people. Meanwhile, Medha Patkar and seven others have been arrested by the Mumbai police on charges of obstructing public officials.

At this time demolitions are also being fiercely resisted by people in Ambujwadi, Malad where many homes of were demolished earlier as well.

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan – NAPM have been leading the struggle for a long time now in Mumbai and more specifically in these areas. We are hopeful that the people's struggle will resist fiercely the land grab by the builders in connivance with the state machinery. We will expose the irregularities as we have done in the case of Adarsh Housing Society, Hiranandani Gardens, Golibar SRA by Shivalik Builders and others.

We condemn the arrests of the activists of the GBGB-NAPM and assault on the people by the police force who have been resisting peacefully the demolitions and striving to save their habitat and home.

Background :

Koliwada, indigenous fisherfolk Community have been living in the area from a long time on this patch of the land. In 1939 Britishers constructed NSP sheds for their own security purposes and they were asked to move to this. These NSP Sheds then were taken over by the Municipal Corporation after Independence. Even though these fisher people have lived on the land for more than a century they have been denied their "right to land", due to the policies of the Britishers as well as BMC. BMC now in the name of development is evicting them and giving away the prime property to the Builders.

For details and update call : Madhuri Shivkar 09892143242 / Madhuri Variyath 09820619174

THAILAND: Relatives filing a civil lawsuit to demand justice and damage claim for the death of Private Wichean who was tortured to death in a military barrack in Narathiwat Province

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University

May 24, 2012, at 10.00 am, representatives from the Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT), an attorney from Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and relatives of Private Wichean Phuaksom shall bring a lawsuit to the Civil Court in Bangkok against the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Thai Army, and the Office of the Prime Minister for damage claim stemming from the torture and physical assault by military trainers that has resulted in Private Wichean’s death. The new Private was found dead while training in a military unit in Cho Airong District, Narathiwat last year.

Prior to his death, Private Wichean Phuaksom used to get ordained as a Buddhist monk and studied until he completed his bachelor degree in Buddhist Study from Faculty of Buddhism, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University with first class honor and later completed his master degree from the Faculty of Social Work, Thammasat University with outstanding academic results. He was required to disrobe and was conscripted as a military draftee as per the Military Service Act and the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand. On 1 May 2011, Private Wichean got enrolled as a military draftee and trained at the Kromluag Narathiwat Rajanagarindra Military Camp in Cho Airong District, Narathiwat Province. Then on 1 June 2011, about ten military officers physically abused Private Wichean using very cruel methods to torture him claiming that he had evaded his military training duty. After suffering with severe injuries for three days, on 3 June 2011, the Military Unit has brought Private Wichean to the Cho Airong District Hospital in Narathiwat Province for treatment. It was deemed by the Hospital that Private Wichean suffered from too serious injuries and it was proposed that he be transferred to the Narathiwat Rajanagarindra Hospital in Narathiwat Province. Private Wichean eventually passed away on 5 June 2011 and his causes of death were sudden renal failure and severely damaged muscles.

Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, CrCF’s Director, and Advisor to the Project o Campaign for Laws to Combat Torture stated that “the act of the military officers which has caused Private Wichean’s death was unlawful and the perpetrators should be brought to justice. Also, the agency in charge has to provide damaged parties with compensation as per the Tortious Liability of Officials Act B.E. 2539 (1996). Their action could also be construed as a grave human rights violation.”

Though an inquiry had been conducted into the incidence by the instruction of the agency in charge and cases had been reported to the police and initial remedies had been provided for the surviving family, but the process to bring the perpetrators to justice has been sluggish. A complaint has been brought to an independent regular organization, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), and later the matter was transferred to the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) under the Ministry of Justice, and that has caused much delay to the investigation. It was expected that Private Wichean would become a breadwinner for his family after his graduation. The civil lawsuit filed is an attempt to demand justice and to bright light to truths concerning the death during the trial. Also, it aims to demand damage claim.

The deadly act was certainly a criminal offence and a breach on international standards including the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to which Thailand is a state party and is obliged to follow. Yet, torture is still not criminalized in the Thai law and legal revision has to be done to ensure compliances with CAT. In addition, Thailand’s 2007 Constitution also upholds the right to life and body and prohibits torture. The ordeal Private Wichean had to endure is a grave human rights violation that has to be effectively addressed by the agency in charge. Structural changes have to be made to ensure that such a tragedy shall not happen again with any military draftees in future.

For more information, please contact; Mr. Ratsada Manooratsada, Attorney, LCT phone 02 282 9906 Mr. Preeda Nakpuiew, Attorney, CrCF phone 02 693 4939


Bangladesh: I am ANTI STATE!

Special Contribution
By William Gomes
May 25, 2012

A cartoon of corruption in Bangladesh

Yes, I am! I am against the state, which runs on the bases of injustices I am against the state which comes out of killings I am against its every system I am against its governments I am against its Presidents, Prime Ministers I am against its criminal hierarchy I am against all those leaders of criminals in the parliament Yes, they are criminals!

They are the traders of injustice, They are the killers of justice They are root and reasons of injustices They are the creator of poverty They creates poverty They are traders of poverty

Yes! When people are poor, they are powerful Yes, they are powerful and I am poor! Yes, I am people!

They are running the corporate state of injustice They are traders of hatred, They sell hatred They sell riots!

They do everything for power! They are traders of religions They sells the ALLAH, RAM , BUDDHA , JESUS!

They have declared war on people They have declared war on peace I declared war on these criminals, I declared war on their System I declare that I am anti state For sure, I am for the people! I am people!

I will burn their RED and GREEN flag, I will burn the constitution of injustice I will burn down the parliament I will burn down all into ashes I dream no red and green flag

No traders of injustice But a place full of peaceful of people! No mater, if need to change the name of Bangladesh

I declare, I will change it! I will change for peace, for people I declare, I am anti state!



Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
May 13, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi(C), inside the Myanmar's Parliament

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has joined Parliament. Ok. I understand her reasons, even if I think the move was ill-advised. What I don’t get, though, is why she agreed to end the sanctions, to put development before freedom and peace. Why is she supporting the inroads into Burma by corporate labor exploiters, land thieves, and environmental rapists? There wasn’t any rush. It would have been much better to postpone economic development until there was real, irreversible, democratic change. To me, this is a monumental mistake.

Development before freedom is wrong. It will actually make freedom more difficult if not impossible to achieve. Every new foreign participant will instantly become a partner and ally of the military regime. Further, they will all have a major incentive not to see freedom achieved, ever, since this will bring uncertainty to their investments - which uncertainty businesses abhor. Just like in China, development and then freedom - yes, this is the same tired, pathetic and absolutely false “constructive engagement” argument - will result in development but no freedom.

Daw Suu has called for sustainable aid, which is what the the people of Burma really need. Well done. However, it is imperative that she correct her position on commercial development. Years ago, maybe ten or more, she said, in support of the U.S. sanctions, that there was no hurry to trade with Burma. The people of the country had much more pressing concerns, for freedom and to satisfy their basic needs. In response to her discussions with Hillary Clinton, Derek Mitchell, David Cameron, and all their diplomatic and corporate associates, however, she has apparently changed her mind.

Again, this is a huge mistake. Daw Suu, if you have the courage that we all hope and believe that you have, please correct it. Please make a clear statement to put the brakes on the Burma Gold Rush. It shouldn’t be that difficult. No Gold Rush in history has ever had positive long-term consequences. It is profiteering, pure and simple. Please oppose the profiteers that are now preying on Burma.

Closing note: I know it is almost impossible, since Daw Suu appears to be as cloistered as Senior General Than Shwe, completely isolated from personal appeals, but would anyone who is in a position to do so please forward her this statement. Burma’s social and environmental future is at stake. She is the only one who has the power to prevent the imminent ruination of the country.


Condemned the killing of officers in the Deep South should be condemned; Supporting NSC's policy; Promoting public participation; Preparing for ASEAN integration in 2014‏

May 7, 2012

Saiburi Kamnan

The Killing of Saiburi Kamnan and three other administrative officers should be condemned

On 3 May 2012, en route the Highway 42 between Narathiwat and Pattani, in Moo 6, Ban Bangomulong, Tambon Traobon, Saiburi District, Pattani, over five gunmen shot and killed Mr. Sangworn Suwanrat, 57 years, Kamnan (Head of Subdistrict) of Tambon Thungkhla, Saiburi, Mr. Preecha Thongead, 48 years, Deputy Kamnan, Mrs. Subhabhon Charoensuk, 45 years, Assistant Kamnan, and Miss Pornthip Phongern, 43 years, Assistant Kamnan, and took away their firearms and money. Such an incidence reflects how unrest has continued unabated and no one has come out to declare responsibility and give reasons why it had to be done so. The crime has cost invaluable losses and reflected failure of measures to ensure safety in life and properties. In many of such incidences, the state has failed to carry out effective investigation, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to ensure that effective measures be put in place to prevent it, and to enhance safety and security of people and public. We are calling for all concerned parties to support a strategic plan laid out by the National Security Council (NSC) to integrate all policies concerning Southern Border Provinces among various authorities. In addition, public participation should be promoted to get prepared for the Southeast Asia's regional bloc in 2014.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and the Hearty Support Group would like to offer our deepest condolences to the affected families in all cases and condemn any forms of violence. Such a crime, regardless if it has been motivated by criminal interest or insurgency, has contributed to immense losses, physically and mentally, and destroyed fellow human lives. It has compromised the effort made by all parties to put an end to the conflicts peacefully. It has led to great confusion and losses.

Unrest which has continued incessantly until early 2012 shows a worsening trend in the Southern Border Provinces. Affected people include Thai Buddhists and Muslims, government officers or civilians, armed security personnel and even children, women and older persons.

Nevertheless, it is important that every party clings on to the hope to solve the problems out through nonviolence and to affirm their determination to refrain from violence and to be complicit in any violent acts. The government should promote public dialogue and discussion on special administrative rule, the formation of the Southern Border Province Civil Society and to support implementation by local civil society organizations.

On 12 January 2012, the cabinet has approved a policy for the administration and development of Southern Border Provinces proposed by the NSC. It is a chance for Thailand to transcend conflicts and make strides toward peace as well as to prepare the region to serve the Southeast Asia's regional bloc in 2014. Every party needs to improve their action plans and guidance at the policy and local levels being guided by the policy for the administration and development of Southern Border Provinces proposed by the NSC.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and the Hearty Support Group would like to offer suggestions which may help to make the NSC's policy become effective including;

1. We support the government to initiate a workshop on 17 May 2012 in an attempt to integrate policies, action plans and budget plans among various government agencies to make them to comply with the policy for the administration and development of Southern Border Provinces proposed by the NSC for the period of 2012-2014. This will help the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC) and Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to act in compliance with the policy framework set out by the government.

2. May all local authorities immediately make their attempts to integrate their policies in light of the proposed strategic plan by NSC. Action plans should be laid out to encourage local civic groups to participate in any plans to promote the overall public participation.

3. May ISOC adjust its operational security plans to harbor peace including to consider demilitarization and reducing armed officers and to gradually review and revoke the enforcement of emergency situation and Martial Law in the Southern Border Provinces. Instead, normal laws enforced nationwide or appropriate security laws which are more appropriate to the situations should be put in place. The conflict ravaged areas in the Southern Border Provinces of Thailand are still subjected to the enforcement of severe emergency situation and Martial Law, and such legal provisions shall become a major obstacle to the preparation for the development to coincide with the ASEAN Free Trade Area in 2014.

4. May civil society organizations have a chance to review the implementation of NSC's policy by various agencies and that local communities are encouraged to take part in the planning and management of their local resources including capital and social capitals, among the Thai Buddhists and Muslims and Chinese Thais. This shall ensure the development of education, resource sharing, and employment opportunities among local people and will help to address social and economic inequalities and to enhance social and economic justice that suits the local way of life and culture.

5. May SBPAC set out compensation plans which ensure universal and equal access to redress and remedy with no discrimination and with an emphasis on promoting reconciliation and rehabilitation as well as with respect of human dignity. Such measures shall help to restore mutual trust between the state and the people.

6. May SBPAC set out concrete reforms for the justice process with regard to security related cases and ensure that measures meted out to suppress insurgency contain safeguards to protect human rights and liberty of the people. Meanwhile, attempts should be made to enhance the rule of law and to restore trust in the justice process and justice authorities including the police, public prosecutor, the Court and security agencies which are authorized to implement special laws.

7. May all parties including those claiming to harbor violence to demand justice change their attitude and thinking and adhere to nonviolence. Dialogue between the state and various groups should be encouraged at all levels without being compelled and threatened to do so. The list of people issued with warrants as per the Criminal Procedure Code and the Emergency Decree should be either reviewed or repealed to enhance trust and to encourage those innocent civilians to return home or to resort to a peaceful and democratic way to fight for their political cause. Measures should be meted out to ensure fairness in the justice system to avoid arresting the innocent; otherwise such a cycle of unfairness shall continually give rise to violence.

The policy for the administration and development of Southern Border Provinces proposed by the NSC may not end the unrest immediately. Such a framework has to rely on cooperation from all sectors including local people, and open-mindedness and creative communication has to be promoted to ensure its realistic implementation. The security agencies have to be patient amidst the violence and losses which still occur during the transformation from conflicts to peace. It shall bring about peace and security soon. Eight years of massive losses should give rise to a chance to pave the way for peace in the next three years to serve the cause of the Southeast Asia's regional bloc in 2014.

For more information about the administration and development of Southern Border Provinces from 2012-2015, please visit

For more information, please contact:

- Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), phone 086-7093000 - Anchana Hamina, Hearty Support Group, Songkhla, phone 081-8098609


UBCV Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do issues Vesak Message

Venerable Thich Quang Do

PARIS, May 2, 2012 (IBIB) – On the occasion of the 2556th Vesak, or anniversary of Buddha’s Birth, the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Supreme Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) has issued a Message to Vietnamese Buddhists urging them to keep up the spirit of freedom inherent in Vietnamese Buddhism, and pursue its tradition of engagement to protect the Vietnamese people and nation. The UBCV Patriarch, 84, sent the message from the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon where he is under de facto house arrest.

This year’s Vesak Day, which is celebrated in Vietnam on the 15th day of the 5th month of the Lunar calendar, falls on May 5, 2012. In the Message, Thich Quang Do stressed that the essence of Vietnamese Buddhism, which has been practiced in Vietnam for the past 2,000 years, is the implementation of the triple ethics of Compassion, Wisdom and Fearlessness, which have laid the foundations of Vietnamese civilization. Engagement in society to save others is the key, he wrote: “We do not focus on the individual, or the ego. Our vision is all-embracing, and our goal is to achieve the enlightenment and liberation of the community, the whole society and every sentient being. When oppressed by tyrannical dynasties or regimes that denigrate Buddhism, when faced with aggressors who violate our sovereignty or trample on the people’s freedom of opinion, we Buddhists are always on the front line of the movement to eradicate these threats”.

Throughout history, he wrote, Vietnamese Buddhism has been “inspired with a spirit of equality and freedom that has safeguarded our country from the domination of oppressive powers. We can truly say that Buddhism has laid the foundations of an integrated society in which the spiritual, cultural, economic and political domains evolve hand-in-hand for the development of the individual and the nation”. Thich Quang Do recalled that 22 monks, nuns and lay-followers had self-immolated in Vietnam to pray for religious freedom since the Communist Party took power in 1975. Whilst he did not encourage these tragic acts, he called on Buddhists in Vietnam and in the 3 million-strong Diaspora around the world to remember their sacrifice, and cultivate compassion, wisdom and fearlessness in order to pursue the UBCV’s engagement for freedom and social justice. (See full text below).


Supreme Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam “On behalf of the Bicameral Council of Institutes of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, I am happy to extend my warmest greetings to all respected dignitaries, monks, nuns and Buddhists at home and abroad on this Day of the Vesak, where we celebrate the birth of Tathāgata, the Enlightened One. “The Vesak is a blissful occasion for the whole world, for it was from this day on that humanity discovered the way to dissipate ignorance, the source of all suffering, and embark upon the path towards enlightenment and emancipation. “This is the 2,000th time Vietnamese Buddhists have celebrated the Vesak since Buddhism came to our country. Two thousand times over, we have reaffirmed the mutually-reinforcing virtues of Compassion, Wisdom and Fearlessness that lay the foundations of Vietnamese civilization. Thanks to the noble, Compassionate heart, we are not discouraged by the suffering of birth and death, and we never turn our back on fellow beings in need. On the contrary, we feel responsible for the welfare of others, and we strive to pay and repay the Four Great Debts – to our parents, to our teachers and friends, to society and the nation and to the Three Jewels. Thanks to Wisdom (Prajna), we know how to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong and walk forward on Lord Buddha’s path. Thanks to Fearlessness, we do not shrink back from danger; we are not afraid to be alone, and we bring our personal karma and force of enlightenment to overthrow the collective karma of craving, suffering and badness that afflicts humankind.

“The history of Buddhism in Vietnam reflects the continuous endeavours of Vietnamese Buddhists to realize the triple ethics of compassion, wisdom and fearlessness. We do not focus on the individual, or the ego. Our vision is all-embracing, and our goal is to achieve the enlightenment and liberation of the community, the whole society and every sentient being. When oppressed by tyrannical dynasties or regimes that denigrate Buddhism, when faced with aggressors who violate our sovereignty or trample on the people’s freedom of opinion, we Buddhists are always on the front line of the movement to eradicate these threats. “Although Buddhism came to Vietnam from the outside, it has harmoniously adapted to our peoples’ lifestyle, traditions and spiritual heritage. It has become a Vietnamese religion, inspired with a spirit of equality and freedom that has safeguarded our country from the domination of oppressive powers. We can truly say that Buddhism has laid the foundations of an integrated society in which the spiritual, cultural, economic and political domains evolve hand-in-hand for the development of the individual and the nation.

“Buddhists will never sever the bonds that tie them to the destiny of their country, of the world or of the Dharma. For if the Dharma is destroyed, our world will continue to subject its limited resources to serve the infinite ambitions of powers whose goal is the destruction of virtue and the extermination of human dignity. Over the past thirty seven years, if we rely on the figures available in our closed society where all information is controlled by the state, twenty-two monks, nuns and lay-Buddhists have self-immolated in the sole aim of protecting the Dharma. I mention this tragic image today [not because I am asking you for emulation], but because I want to remind you all that these are true Bodhisattvas, who have undertaken great vows, even the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of humankind. But at the same time, I want to hold up before Lord Buddha the noble spirit and purpose of these Buddhists of Vietnam on this sacred Vesak day. Through their example, in the coming days and months, I hope that all Buddhists will realize what they must do to help to spread Buddhism as if it was their own families’ affair, and work for the welfare of others as if it was their own profession. Only then can we hope to save those people who have mindlessly let their bodies become the lackeys of political powers, and their minds become slaves to fanaticism. “Vietnamese Buddhism has a life-span of 2,000 years. This 2,000-year heritage is an inexhaustible source of salvation and deliverance. On the day of Vesak, we should look back upon this long life-span and evaluate our spiritual heritage. What is Vietnamese Buddhism’s contribution? Only those who have realized in their lives the achievements that Buddhism has achieved over the past 2556 years can fully answer this question.

“It is in this spirit that Buddhists may reaffirm their faith in the Dharma, and realize the sacred mission of each one of us to save humankind in this era of conflict, darkness and violence in which we live. “I call upon all members of the Sangha and Buddhist followers at home and abroad to welcome Lord Buddha into your hearts and solemnly celebrate this sacred day”.


Reading Orwell in Hanoi: A judge reminds bloggers how Vietnamese “justice” really works

Special Contribution
By Vo Van Ai
Apr. 27, 2012

George Orwell, an English novelist and journalist

In further proof that irony is alive and well, Vietnam is a candidate for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2014-2016. What sort of human-rights watchdog would the government in Hanoi be? For a hint, consider the ongoing cases of three activist bloggers now facing a trial that harks back to an earlier, Orwellian century.

Nguyen Van Hai (who blogs under the pen name Dieu Cay), Phan Thanh Hai (who blogs as Anh Ba Saigon) and Ta Phong Tan (a former police officer and Communist Party member who wrote a blog entitled “Justice and Truth”) will soon face trial for “crimes against national security.” They are all members of the Club of Free Journalists, a group founded in 2008 to call for the right to create private media outlets and promote freedom of expression and independent journalism in Vietnam. In Hanoi’s authoritarian one-party system, such peaceful activism earns a charge of “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the penal code.

The charges are unfortunately not so far out of the ordinary. Dozens of activists and bloggers have been imprisoned on similar charges in recent years. But these cases are notable for the revealingly turn they took recently.

A judge in Ho Chi Minh City closely following the case (although not presiding over it) told members of the local legal community last week that the defendants would be wise to plead guilty if they wish to avoid harsh prison sentences. While he was not speaking directly to the defendants or their lawyers, he seems to have intended for the message to get back to them, and to other potential activists, on behalf of the regime. While there is reason to believe police frequently exert similar pressure on political detainees, this appears to be the first time someone in the judiciary has adopted the same line.

If the bloggers truly were guilty, and were being tried in a fair and transparent judicial system, that would be good advice—criminal defendants often plead guilty in exchange for lighter sentences. But neither of these conditions is true in this case. Under Vietnamese law, the judge has warned, innocence will not be enough to protect the defendants if they plead not guilty and go to trial. Any defendant “stubbornly” protesting his or her innocence will bring down a longer sentence.

The judge’s explanation for the delay in starting the bloggers’ trial—it was originally supposed to have opened last week—is equally revealing. The judge suggested the delay arose because the Public Security Bureau, the People’s Procuracy (prosecutorial service) and the court haven’t yet agreed on sentences for the “offenders.” The PSB is seeking extremely harsh terms of 14-16 years for Dieu Cai, 12-14 years for Ms. Tan, and seven to nine years for the other Mr. Hai. The other branches of the “troika” are seeking lighter terms. Guilty verdicts are a foregone conclusion.

The three bloggers can see examples of what will happen if they don’t follow the judge’s advice. Pro-democracy activist Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was sentenced to 16 years in Jan. 2010 for crimes against the state—among other things, he wrote articles on the Internet calling for political reforms—after pleading not guilty. At the same trial, other activists who pleaded guilty, including human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh, received terms of three-and-a-half to seven years.

If the fix is in anyway, why is the regime keen to encourage guilty pleas? Hanoi apparently believes that guilty pleas bolster its claim that there are no “political prisoners” in Vietnam since, as Hanoi argues, the defendants have admitted their guilt to serious charges. This disparity in sentences would be no light matter in any circumstances, but the consequences are especially severe in Vietnam given the way the regime treats such political prisoners after they’re in jail. All inmates, whether political prisoners or common criminals, must pay for many basic necessities out of their own pockets, including supplements to their starvation rations. But whereas common criminals are allowed to receive at least 2 million Vietnamese dong (around $96) each month from their families, these three bloggers have been allowed no more than 500,000 dong.

That’s barely enough for minimal survival. The police-set prices in prison canteens run to 400,000 dong for a kilo of sugar, 25,000 dong for a can of condensed milk, or 300,000 dong for a pound of pork sausage.

This disparate financial treatment further undermines Hanoi’s claim that there are no political prisoners in Vietnam. In reality, everyone knows exactly why people like Dieu Cay are in jail: His activism embarrassed Hanoi and its patrons in Beijing. He was first arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in 2008 after staging an anti-China demonstration during the Olympic torch relay. After imprisoning him for 30 months on trumped-up charges of tax evasion, he was re-arrested on the day of his release in October 2010 on charges of “spreading anti-socialist propaganda.” He has been detained incommunicado for the past 17 months.

Dieu Cay and the other bloggers are not guilty of any “crime” that would be recognized as such in a truly modern state. They have simply claimed the rights enshrined in Articles 69 and 53 of Vietnam’s Constitution, which guarantee freedom of expression and the right to petition the government. Hanoi should set them free. Other governments should insist Hanoi do so if it wants to assume any high-profile human-rights post at the U.N.

Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal Asia

THAILAND: FACT call to stand up for free speech at Somyot's lese majeste trial, starting on Wednesday April 18

Apr. 16, 2012

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk

You're invited! Come to support Somyot Pruksakasemsuk on these upcoming trial dates as trial observers. As much may be learned from prosecution witnesses as the defence.

The next trial date will start from Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Morning sessions start at 9:30am, afternoon sessions at 1pm.

Here are the dates for court hearings:

Prosecution witness hearings:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 Thursday, April 19 Friday, April 20 Tuesday, April 24 Wednesday, April 25 Thursday, April 26

Defence witness hearings:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 Wednesday, May 2 Thursday, May 3 Friday, May 4

On March 12 the court denied Somyot's EIGHTH petition for release on bail. The petition was actually submitted by the Rights and Liberties Protection Department under Ministry of Justice, the same ministry overseeing all justice matters, including the courts.

Somyot was arrested April 30, 2011 at the immigration checkpoint at Sa Kaew, while he was returning from Cambodia with a red-shirt tour group. He was charged with lèse majesté for two articles published in the Voice of Taksin magazine for which he was the editor.

He has been detained without bail ever since. From November 2011 to February 2012, he was taken to four provinces, including Sa Kaew, Phetchabun, Nakhon Sawan and Songkhla, where prosecution witnesses were registered when, in fact, all of them lived in Bangkok.

Somyot's trial begins Wednesday, April 18, at Bangkok's Criminal Court (San Aya), on Ratchadapisek Road opposite Soi 38, Lat Phrao MTR station.



For more information, please visit the following sites or contact

The Librarian of Bangkok Prison

IFJ- International Federation of Journalists- Calls for Immediate Release of Senior Journalist in Thailand

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson (Dictatorwatch)
April 13, 2012

Ex. Gen. Thein Sein and David Cameron (R)

Dictator Watch has dedicated itself to helping Burma one day unambiguously become free. Our dream is that the dictators of the country, the BSPP/SLORC/SPDC/NDSC, will fall, and never to be resurrected, as occurred with the German and Japanese regimes at the end of World War II. We planned to celebrate this event with the word “VICTORY,” in 96 point type, across the banner of our website.

Oh well. Burma is not there yet. The question is: Will Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy joining the rulers in Naypyidaw bring real victory and real freedom closer, or will it make them more remote? Only time, and the actions of Daw Suu, will tell.

Many critical elements of the Burma situation have now changed. It is therefore a good idea to appraise where we are. There are clearly winners, but also losers, from the new status quo. The jury is out on what the new situation means for the most important group of all - really the only important group - the people of the country.

Losers: The victims of Burma’s military regime

The biggest losers from the “New Burma” are the victims of the Burma Army (Tatmadaw), the police, and the other organs of the dictatorship’s oppression apparatus (i.e., military intelligence, swan-arr-shin, fire brigades, prisons and labor camps, etc.). Most directly this comprises all of the people who have been raped, assaulted, murdered, robbed, extorted, forced to labor, imprisoned, and tortured. Their victimhood is now compounded, because in the New Burma there is no chance that they (or their families) will ever receive justice. Daw Suu and the NLD made a political calculation that justice must be sacrificed, that there should not be an international investigation into the regime’s crimes against humanity, or a tribunal for them, much less the ability to bring a case to a local court.

The NLD talks about establishing the rule of law in Burma, but since it will take years to address the problems with the regime’s 2008 Constitution, which grants the generals and their foot soldiers immunity from prosecution, any possible investigations are probably at least a decade if not two decades away. It is noteworthy that the tribunal for the victims of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge also took decades to organize, and that due to this and the fact that Dictator Hun Sen, who was with the KR, did everything possible to impede it, this effort at national justice failed.

Through the process now underway in Burma it is inevitable that the Naypyidaw regime will preserve its own veto power and that its victims will also be denied justice. Almost everyone in Burma is a victim of the regime in one of these ways (directly or through immediate family members) as well as in others, including through having had to suffer enforced relocation, poverty, malnutrition, inadequate medical care, and the denial of education. In this sense then the entire country has lost through being refused justice. In recent years, though, the bulk of the regime’s victims who have suffered the worst forms of abuse have been members of the country’s ethnic minorities (aka the ethnic nationalities).

Three observations about this are as follows:

1. Daw Suu had no right to decide unilaterally that the people of Burma should never have justice. While she may have received near unanimous support in 1990, and this year from the country’s Burman majority, her support among the ethnic nationalities, who have their own leaders and who in some cases openly disagree with her, is less.

2. While I would hope this is not the case, the question should be asked: Did Daw Suu make this calculation because the greatest number of contemporary victims are from the ethnic groups, and that it is safe to ignore their suffering?

More generally, she has ignored the ethnic nationality plight for years. (She traditionally focused almost exclusively on the nation’s political prisoners.) Through doing this she turned a blind eye to what is Burma’s core social issue: Racism against the ethnic nationalities by the country’s Burman generals. (A credible case of genocide has been prepared.)

It is difficult to fathom her actions, but a number of explanations are possible, including: She didn’t know how bad the Tatmadaw was treating the ethnic groups; she was afraid to talk about the subject, fearing a reaction from the regime, so she censored herself; she thinks the problems that the ethnic nationalities have are their own fault (as many Burmans believe); she doesn’t want to upset those Burmans among her supporters who are racist (it is not only the generals who have an ethnic superiority complex); or, she noticed that since the international community ignored the atrocities it was safe for her to do so as well. (Of note, the United States, her close advisor, for two decades only backed her and refused to acknowledge the regime’s war crimes.)

I don’t know which one of these possibilities is correct. I’m assuming it is fear of the regime. Nevertheless, since this fear has subsided, she must - if she intends to represent all of Burma - concentrate on the country’s ethnic problems front and center.

3. The regime remains free to continue its crimes, as it has been doing, most notably against the Kachin and the Karen peoples, safe in the knowledge that it has impunity and will never be charged.

Many commentators say the reform is driven by the regime’s desire to escape from the United States’ economic sanctions, which is certainly true in part. However, it begins with this. Than Shwe, Maung Aye, Shwe Mann, Thein Sein and the other leading generals want a guaranteed amnesty for all of their past and future crimes.

The victims of Burma’s military junta are not unknown. Indeed, a few are as follows.

I want to start with Nan Bway Poung, whose story is described in the top center article on the Dictator Watch homepage. On June 10, 2002, now almost ten years ago, she was gang raped by some twenty Burma Army soldiers in Karen State. After returning home (many ethnic rape victims are murdered after they have been violated, but some are released), she announced: “I am not willing to live in this world anymore,” and committed suicide. Her final words remain an indictment of everything that is taking place in Burma, including Thein Sein’s “reform.” (They have been a personal goad for me.) Daw Suu does not have a right to deny Nan Bway Poung and her family justice. What is worse is that the lead perpetrator, Captain Ye Htut, of LIB 349, was clearly identified. Who knows, perhaps he is a Colonel or even a General now. He can and should be brought to trial for this crime and the no doubt many others that he has committed. It is intolerable that the thousands of Ye Htuts in the Tatmadaw can be given immunity. It won’t work in any case, either. If and when Burma does finally becomes free, the dictatorship’s victims will raise their voices and demand justice.

From last month:

A newly-wed Arakanese woman was gang-raped by one soldier from LIB 550 and two members of the swan-arr-shin, after she and her husband reported their overnight stay at her home village.

A Karen villager, Saw Lay La Thaw, was killed by MOC 9 troops while crossing a road. Northeast Regional Command troops in Shan State under Col. Tun Tun Nyi killed two Palaung villagers, Gawlai Hkam and Aik Chaing, while they were fishing.

Burma Army troops attacked the Kachin Independence Army’s 5th Battalion with chemical weapons, the latest in a series of attacks using the banned ordinance.

A Karen woman was sexually assaulted by two BA soldiers at Thay Baw Bo village.

Two Karen women were killed during fighting between the regime’s BGF troops and the DKBA. There have been tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of such victims in Burma since the massacre in 1988 (and of course many more before that), and for which not one person has received justice. For a record of the regime’s atrocities during the last year, please visit our Burma Death Watch blog -

I would strongly encourage everyone who has been victimized by the military junta to travel to the NLD office, 97/B West Shwegondine Road, Bahan Township, Rangoon, and file a grievance with their now duly elected Members of Parliament, providing as many details about the crimes as possible. (If a lot of people do this, maybe the Party will start to show more concern.)

The Burma Pro-Democracy Movement

In the years following the 1990 election, a major pro-democracy movement, one of the most substantial in the world, was created for Burma. It had many different elements, including:

- Ethnic and student armies, which sought to overcome the junta through force. - The NLD, which advocated pacifist tactics and which tried, repeatedly, to achieve positive change through “Burma’s legal system” (an oxymoron, if ever there was one). - Student activists inside the country, who led protests and organized other forms of dissent. - And manifold groups on the outside, including both free media and political dissidents, most notably in neighboring Thailand, the United States, Europe, and Australia, and organized both by exiles and foreign activists, which in innumerable ways documented the terrible crimes of the junta and sought to bring about its defeat.

The objective of this movement was always singular and clear: The end of the dictatorship and real freedom for the people of Burma, followed by the construction of a well-functioning system of democracy and then carefully planned and methodically implemented social and economic development.

This entire movement, and also its goal, are also losers in the New Burma. The reason for this is again quite simple. The movement existed to exert pressure against the junta. Daw Suu, with one sweep of her hand, decided that the correct course of action was actually to join the regime, to merge with it, and then try to change it from within. Pressure therefore was no longer necessary, or even desirable.

Through taking this step, she effectively became the Dictator of the Pro-Democracy Movement. She has even repudiated the idea that Burma should be a subject of pro-democracy activism and advocacy. Her astonishing decision has left everyone in disarray, wondering what, if anything, they should now do. Many different organizations that have worked hard for years are failing, their contributions are no longer desired. (If you are not going to prosecute crimes against humanity, why even document them?) In addition, particularly for groups outside of Burma, they are losing their funding. Funders are now redirecting their money to other groups inside the country, and which also have different missions, to set up a financial system, to lay the grounds for economic development, etc.

Now, all of this would be fine if we could be certain that the regime will carry through with its reform, that it will meet the basic demands of a free and open society.

1. To stop attacking the ethnic groups and establish a nationwide ceasefire. 2. To stop expropriations of villager land for economic development. 3. To irreversibly end the Myitsone Dam project, and to evaluate properly all other developments that will have a significant impact on local populations and the environment. 4. To put in place strong protections against corruption and bribery. 5. To release all the political prisoners. 6. To end the nuclear and missile programs including their cooperation with North Korea. 7. To allow political parties and the press complete freedom to operate. 8. To hold a free and fair general election in 2015, if not sooner. 9. And finally, to honor that election result.

This is what a real democratic transition would encompass, but there is already great evidence that it is not the regime’s intention. Most importantly:

Naypyidaw is continuing its policy of divide and conquer with the ethnic groups, currently through making all sorts of promises to the KNU while at the same time conducting a massive offensive against the KIO.

There has been no movement on the release of the remaining political prisoners, believed to number close to one thousand individuals.

The regime very carefully excluded the ethnic groups and also the 88 Generation student activists from Parliament. This has a number of consequences. First, it means the generals only have to deal with the tame NLD for at least the next three years. Secondly, it reinforces Daw Suu as Burma’s focal point, which responsibilities she is ill-equipped to deal with on a day-to-day basis, if only because there is so much to do. Daw Suu is being forced to act as an opposition Prime Minister, but without resources or staff, and also with no guarantees that her actions will be tolerated.

Furthermore, this has also reinforced the death of the Burma Pro-Democracy Movement. The movement has now been transformed into the Suu Kyi Democracy Movement, meaning that where democracy, human rights and environmental activists formerly targeted the regime and also the International Community, the activists that do remain must now press their cases directly with Daw Suu, as she is the only legitimate representative. She is now an advocacy choke-point, which is both a structural flaw and also an inappropriate role, given that she has so many demands on her time, and also that given her age, health, and inclinations she is not really suited for the role of a master hands-on administrator of all the issues that need to be addressed in Burma, and also all the area’s of regime activity, from military to political to economic, that need to be scrutinized.

The ethnic nationalities

The varied ethnic nationalities are also losers in the New Burma, because they allowed themselves to be out-maneuvered and out-negotiated. They fell victim to a decades-long series of divide and conquer entreaties, and were never able to create a unified military front, which with coordinated campaigns could have defeated the Tatmadaw. They also now have been excluded from Parliament for the next three years, and will therefore be forced to lobby Daw Suu as well, to press for their interests through her, even though she has never been their strong advocate.

Furthermore, taken one-by-one they are at the mercy of international corporations, which in partnership with supranational institutions such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank, and the trade representatives of the United States, the members states of the E.U., China, Thailand, Singapore, India, Japan, Australia, etc., are certain to create unbearable pressure to go along with poorly-planned, large-scale economic developments in their respective homelands.

However, the ethnic nationalities, even without representation in Parliament, are in no way powerless. They still control armies, and they should fight back against any regime violations of their ceasefire agreements, inappropriate developments including villager land expropriation, and also assist those groups such as the KIA against which the Tatmadaw continues to wage war.

In addition, even though the ethnic nationalities failed to create a working military front, they can create an effective political front, through the United Nationalities Federal Council. This organization is now well-established, and political cooperation is in many ways easier than military. (Burma’s geography always presented a huge hurdle to armed coordination.) Indeed, the UNFC is an excellent forum for the different ethnic nationalities to combine their common interests, to provide a balance to the NLD, and to ensure that their demands are both heard and satisfied, until they are in a position to enter Parliament as well (if and when the regime ever permits it).

Internal pro-democracy groups such as 88 Generation, ABFSU, ABMA, Generation Wave, etc.

The many different internal pro-democracy organizations, which operated clandestine, “underground” networks, dedicated to supporting if not actually organizing a new popular uprising, are also now left out in the cold in the New Burma. The common goal of these groups was to achieve a real freedom transition following the pattern of what has in recent years been accomplished by the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Serbia, the Ukraine, Georgia, Czechoslovakia, and Poland (among others - uprisings are also now underway in Syria and Bahrain). Daw Suu and the NLD, by joining Naypyidaw, ended - for the moment at least - any possibility of a new uprising for Burma. These groups have been sidelined, and it is difficult to see what they can do, what room for action they have, other than to serve a supporting role for the NLD and to patiently wait until 2015.

(The question should also be asked: Why did Burma’s massive pro-democracy movement, and which strove for twenty years, fail, when Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, etc., which had relatively microscopic movements, at least at the beginning, succeed, and all in a short period of time? Who is responsible for this?)

On the other hand, I do not mean to in any way underestimate the ingenuity of individuals such as Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, and their many colleagues. They are fearless, and will unquestionably make their voices heard through strong and varied pressure for a new, better, and ultimately free and democratic Burma.

The workers, natural environment, and future social make-up and character of Burma Countries are graded by the United Nations and other institutions. One measure is the Human

Development Index, and under this system Burma is ranked Low Human Development. A broader and in some ways less precise measure is simply “Development,” with countries split between developed, developing or less-developed, and least developed. This measure has an implicit bias towards economic indicators, and here Burma ranks Least Developed.

The first is an excellent guide. Every country should strive for high human development, since it encompasses such measures as life expectancy, literacy, education, standard of living, and quality of life. Development in the New Burma should focus almost exclusively on social development projects, beginning with education - schools, health care - clinics, and sufficient supplies of nutritious food and clean water; and political development, meaning real democracy and the rule of law, as these are necessary to ensure one’s quality of life. The quickest way therefore for Burma to escape from its Low Human Development level is to focus on social and political objectives.

The standard of living measure in the Human Development Index, and the overall Development characterization, concentrate instead on economic development, meaning the manner and outcome of one’s “employment,” as measured by such variables as personal income and also a nation’s gross domestic product. There is a bias here, though. More income and a higher GDP, and with both growing as fast as possible from year to year, is not only an unequivocal good, it is the goal. Standard development measures (based on the “neoliberal” development model, the idea that markets and corporations should be unregulated for the greatest economic growth to be achieved) assign no value whatsoever to whether a nation has a rich culture or collection of cultures, which prize their traditions and also the elderly; a high degree of personal morality and a correspondingly low crime rate; massive and intact areas of natural environment, in which other forms of life are free from hunting and other forms of abuse; a degree of social fairness such that there is limited income and wealth inequality and therefore personal inequality and class structure; and also that the overall society pitches in, through different mechanisms, to help the disadvantaged and disabled.

Paradoxically, many traditional societies, while at the mercy of annual weather and crop cycles, do an excellent job on all of these measures. They value their cultures, and establish communities with minimal inequality and where everyone who needs it is helped. They are, though, almost exclusively Least Developed, which to the greater world is an unacceptable stigma and which must be changed, no matter the cost.

Had Burma achieved real freedom, it could have used its Least Developed status, ironically, to its advantage. It could have worked to preserve everything that makes the country special, its rich array of cultures and extraordinary natural environment, while working on social and political projects to boost its human development index. Economic development, such as resource exploitation, industrial factories, etc., could have been pursued slowly and very carefully to ensure that the benefits went to all the people of the country and that the social and environmental costs were minimized if not eliminated.

This development course is now precluded, because the military regime remains in power. Three years from now, even if the election in 2015 is fair, the die will have been set. So much will take place in the interim that it will be impossible to redirect Burma back to the correct development course. Naypyidaw, working with the U.N., World Bank, ADB, IMF, and the U.S., Europe and Asia (all neoliberal true believers, at least as far as “primitive” countries like Burma are concerned), will shove large-scale economic development projects down the throats of the people (as is happening now with Tavoy and ItalThai). Let the Burma Gold Rush, the corporate rape of the natural environment and the exploitation of Burma’s workers, begin! For decades, young ethnic women have systematically been raped by the Tatmadaw, and Burma’s workers exploited in Thailand. Now the powers that be want to - they will - rape the environment in Burma on a scale hitherto impossible (shiploads of earthmoving machines will soon begin arriving at Thilawa Port), and exploit the country’s workers in new industrial estates full of sweatshops. Indeed, the people of Burma will work for less than the Chinese! It is impossible to understate how quickly this exploitation will ramp up. Corporate dealmakers are already signing contracts with regime officials at the Strand, Sedona and other top-end Rangoon hotels, greased by lucrative bribes, and there are absolutely no controls in place.

Years from now, when Burma’s towns and cities are monstrosities like those in Thailand, and there are no longer disparate peoples (as Thailand also once had), and the political economy is so stagnant and class ridden and corrupt that real democracy can never take hold and high-level criminals can never be held to account (again, like Thailand), and where the environment is destroyed (Thailand), everyone should understand that now, 2012, is when it all began.

Burma will have higher personal income and GDP, to be sure, but its quality of life, its overall quality as a nation, will be much lower.

Winners: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

The biggest winner by far in the New Burma is Daw Suu. She is back on the pedestal again and subject to wild public exaltation (at least in Burma’s major cities). She also has such prominence now in the eyes of the International Community that really, the Nobel Peace Prize does not do her justice. She is the Savior Of A Nation. In all of human history, very few individuals have ever been able to claim that accolade.

I do not mean to begrudge Daw Suu her due. She has suffered tremendously, including by being locked up interminably under house arrest. She also maintained her courage and commitment throughout years of hardship and sacrifice, and through this deserves unqualified respect.

The only concern that one might have is if she fully grasps not only the magnitude of the risk her strategic redirection poses for Burma, but also the risk that having everything channeled through her presents. She has to consider, and guard against, the possibility that she is being used not only by Thein Sein and Than Shwe, but also by the U.S., including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Derek Mitchell, as well as Europe, the U.N., etc.

Daw Suu should not want to be the dictator of the pro-democracy movement. She should work to ensure that other, younger leaders are given public prominence, particularly from among the ethnic nationalities. She should ask the diplomats of the world not only to speak to her, but to have regular communications with the leaders of such groups as the UNFC, KNU, KIO, RCSS, etc. At the moment, this is not happening at all. The international community has been very careful not to talk to the ethnic leaders or to show concern for their specific problems.

Although I hesitate to mention it, Daw Suu also cannot ignore the legacy of her father. The country’s premier national hero, Bogyoke Aung San’s career was ended by his mortality, and through this all of Burma plunged into dictatorship for over a half a century. The two greatest risks of leadership in the system of representative democracy are (1) poor leadership, and (2) a leader’s passing and the power vacuum this creates and which opportunists soon seek to exploit.

The leadership of a nation has to be diversified. For example, the ‘uncles’ of the NLD have been criticized for years for blocking the development of a new generation of leaders. Had this not been the case, there would now be a large group of middle-aged NLD members fully qualified to take charge at both the national and regional levels, and not only as politicians but as administrators. Indeed, the NLD is a beneficiary of the New Burma as much as Daw Suu.

Coming under increasing criticism in recent years for its ineffectiveness, it has now been revived.

As for policy recommendations for Daw Suu, this article is not the place for such an analysis. I can only suggest that as an MP she finally become specific, that she take clearly defined positions and push for them as forcefully and repetitively as possible. For instance, it is not enough to oppose the conflict in Burma, in general. She needs to acknowledge openly that Burma’s Civil War begins with the Tatmadaw. She also should very aggressively call for the cancellation of the Myitsone Dam. As a figurehead (or diplomat), you have the luxury of not being specific. This is no longer the case when you become a hands-on politician.

Daw Suu should announce, firmly and repeatedly, her opposition to uncontrolled economic development, including major projects such as Myitsone, Tavoy, Kaladan, and the Dawei pipeline. If she does not oppose these projects, she is sending a clear signal of what she thinks is important for Burma and how development of the country should proceed. She is saying that she fully supports the neoliberal model.

I can further comment that I have a number of friends who are pro-democracy activists for China, and they are very disappointed that Daw Suu on a number of occasions has said that Burma should have good relations with Beijing, i.e., the Communist Party. They think it would be much better if she supported publicly the democratic aspirations of the people of China, rather than implicitly back their oppressors.

The military regime

After Daw Suu, the biggest winner in the New Burma is the military regime, starting, of course, with Senior General Than Shwe. He can relax and enjoy his Asian-style elderly dictator retirement, still pulling the strings from behind the scenes as required. He will not be overthrown, or tried at the International Criminal Court. His family is protected. All is well.

All levels of the regime are in fact winners, and in multiple ways. The other top generals, who should also be tried at the ICC, as well as all the specific on the ground war criminal Tatmadaw commanders and soldiers, are now off the hook. The generals and officers, whether they retain their uniforms or not, will also cement their position as the new upper-class elite of Burma, as they become the part-owners and signatories to the new development deals. Not only will they not be charged for their crimes, they are being given preferred positions as the Gold Rush, otherwise known as the initial stage of astronomical corruption for the country, commences.

To them we can also add all the regime cronies and fixers, such as Tayza, Myanmar Egress, etc., Burmese and international consultants, and corrupt ethnic leaders and “pro-democracy” politicians, who are also well-positioned for the start of the nation’s degradation.

And finally, the rank and file soldiers of the Tatmadaw are winners. They had been under tremendous stress, with insufficient rations and through being ordered into one battle bloodbath with the ethnic nationalities after another. The peace is good for them. Except against the Kachin their lives are no longer at risk, and they will probably get more food. Development will also improve their lot. There will be a lot more money available for the Tatmadaw, even after the top leaders take their cut. The soldiers should beware, though, their respite may well be temporary. If and when Than Shwe decides that enough is enough, the nation-wide offensives and battles will restart.

The Obama Administration

Another big winner is the Obama Administration. The President has been roundly and properly criticized for having a weak and poorly conceived foreign policy (and which ignores human rights). Washington has struggled to respond to, much less anticipate, developments in Iran, North Korea, China, and the Arab Spring. Indeed, for the last Secretary Clinton backed the Arab world dictators, pushing for “peaceful,” negotiated transitions in which the dictators would both participate and be protected. The local peoples, though, would have none of it, and instead rose up. This forced Washington to reverse its policy, and it also created mistrust and suspicion among the Arab peoples that the United States was not really for democracy, at least as far as Muslims are concerned.

Because of Daw Suu, the U.S. was able to pursue its preferred policy in Burma. A new popular uprising was circumvented. Now there will be an attempt at a negotiated transition, which, even if it fails, still benefits the Administration. The U.S. has positioned itself well in the geopolitical game against China, and also India. Furthermore, U.S. corporations can now grab a share of the Burma lucre. Also, even if it everything falls apart, and Than Shwe’s stormtroopers at some point reassert overt control and even kill or imprison Thein Sein, regarding President Obama’s most important objective, his re-election, he will have a foreign policy victory to trumpet. Presuming he is re-elected, what happens later in Burma is irrelevant. He is limited to two terms.

We can prevent a complete betrayal by the U.S. by forcing it to pay attention to the real world, as Daw Suu in fact has done. The U.S. should not end its sanctions until all its benchmarks have been achieved.

The by-election was only the first of these (and as we anticipated, it was not free or fair but nevertheless the regime allowed the NLD to win). There are still three benchmarks to go: The end of the civil war; the freeing of all political prisoners; and the hidden issue, which is often ignored, the nuclear and missile program cooperation with North Korea.

If we, and Daw Suu, continue to demand that these benchmarks be met, we can force the U.S. to preserve the sanctions, and only eliminate them in response to demonstrable positive change.

There is also another issue about the sanctions which no one has mentioned. They do not “belong” to the U.S. government. Rather, the sanctions are “owned” by the many Burma activists who pushed for them, who pressed Congress and then the President to act. As one of those activists - in the Spring of 1997 I was doing a photo show about Burma at a series of U.S. universities, which installation called for sanctions, when President Clinton signed the first law, actually an executive order prohibiting new investment - I feel like they are “our” sanctions. We, the U.S. activist community (most of which was affiliated with the Free Burma Coalition), and other groups such as the NCGUB, pushed for them and got them enacted. I personally want them to stay enacted until their job is complete, until Burma is irreversibly on the road to democracy and a path of appropriate social, political and economic development.

(Of note: It is the new investment sanction of President Clinton’s executive order that the Administration announced the U.S.will now relax - ironically, by Bill Clinton’s wife, now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Administration is able to do this because this sanction is not part of a congressionally-approved law, i.e., the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act or the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act.)

We also need to guard against the Administration deceitfully dropping the nuclear/North Korea issue, which is actually, together with the geopolitical positioning relative to China, its greatest concern. To fully illuminate the depth of the deception that is now underway, I want to describe, once again, the State Department’s woeful response to my Freedom Of Information Act filing for the Report on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma required under Section 10 of the Tom Lantos Act, and which report must include whatever intelligence the U.S. has about the nuclear program and its North Korean links.

My April 2010 filing was accepted by State’s FOIA office that June, and it should then have been easy to fulfill. The Act requires that the report be prepared, for submission to the House and Senate foreign affairs and foreign relations committees, with an unclassified version to be placed on State’s website. Therefore, I was not asking for anything extra, something that would require a State foreign service officer to set aside time from his or her busy schedule to prepare. Under the FOIA, the agency in question has to respond within thirty days. I actually expected a response, but that it would say that my request had been denied. The FOIA allows a number of exemptions to information requests, the first of which is for “national defense or foreign policy.”

I expected State, specifically the East Asian and Pacific Bureau, to say that it could not satisfy my request, and also the provision of Section 10 which requires the report’s publication, because it would be detrimental to U.S. security. We believe that the report has been prepared, given to the Congressional committees, and that it describes relations between U.S. allies such as Israel and Germany, and the Tatmadaw. Revealing this would be embarrassing. By claiming the exemption, these links can be kept hidden (and perhaps also older military cooperation between the U.S. and Ne Win, not to mention China’s involvement in the nuclear program.)

EAP though refused to follow the law, indeed, both laws - FOIA and Tom Lantos. They just ignored the filing. I have had a series of discussions with officials at the State FOIA office, who have been very helpful. They have done everything in their power to get EAP to comply. Every month or two they send a “search tasker,” which request EAP then ignores. This month I escalated the process and a State FOIA officer talked to EAP’s Burma Desk Officer. This individual responded that the Burma department was busy and that they would need an additional six to nine months to release the report. (This after what is already now a two year delay.) This response, though, was a lie. The last BDO apparently never had time to satisfy the filing either. It is clear that what is really happening is that EAP Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell has instructed the department never to respond.

State’s FOIA office told me that my only hope is “judicial review.” What this means is that I must hire a lawyer and sue EAP to get it to comply, which step frankly I can’t afford. EAP therefore itself has immunity, from its legal obligations, and like the criminals in the Tatmadaw it too can act with impunity.

Does anyone think that any of this will change when Derek Mitchell, after Daw Suu, the biggest individual winner in the New Burma, is approved as Ambassador?

Total and Chevron

Probably what activists will regret more than anything is that the western oil companies Total and Chevron, who are clearly villains, absolutely culpable for the regime’s war crimes, are also winners in the New Burma. Starting with the No Petrodollars for SLORC campaign in the early 1990s, we tried - and failed - to force them to divest. Chevron, then Unocal, was given an exemption to President Clinton’s order, and the Tom Lantos JADE Act was postponed and then rewritten to protect it as well. The fact that these companies, like the regime, have gotten away with murder, is deplorable, all the more so because they can now expand their operations in Burma without restraint and exploit the country and the people even more.

If Burma had gone free, a new democratic government could have carefully evaluated all of the regime’s contracts with multinational corporations, and invalidated them where appropriate. This opportunity is now lost. Instead, these companies, which helped the regime block democracy in Burma for decades, now get to profit even more from the reform. This is disgusting.

The modern world, which Nan Bway Poung forsook, where the rich and powerful do everything they can to exploit the poor and weak, is truly a savage place. Right now, legions of corporate executives and bankers are drooling over Burma, like dogs around fresh meat. They have already begun to penetrate the country, as an invading army. Moreover, not only do they not care if it goes free, they prefer the status quo. Legitimized dictatorships are better for business.

If Daw Suu, the NLD, internal activists who are still willing to protest, and the ethnic armies don’t stop it, Burma is open for business, and Everything and Everyone Is For Sale.

Conclusion I’d like to conclude by saying that I hope I am wrong, about all of the above: about the New Burma, about Daw Suu, and even about deceptive and self-serving American diplomats. I’m a foreign activist who decided to dedicate his life to helping the people of the country. (There are lots of people like me.) I believe it is too early to tell if the reform is good or not, particularly for the ethnic nationalities. I dearly hope, however, that it does succeed and that in the coming months Daw Suu and the NLD make great inroads in Parliament on all of the above issues.

To recall her famous words, we should hope for the best but plan for the worst. (It is not hope for the best and be blind to the rest!) If Than Shwe launches a new crackdown, the people of Burma need to be prepared to rise up, and, Daw Suu should publicly support this. The ethnic armies should never surrender their weapons. They need to continue to improve their cooperation with each other, maintain their operational readiness, and fight against all Tatmadaw aggression.

Everyone needs to oppose the forthcoming corporate rape of Burma, including its diplomatic, media, academic, trade association, and economic consultant promoters. There is absolutely no need to rush. The people of the country do not need any new factories, mines, or pipelines this year or even next. Instead, they need food, water, schools, and clinics, and which the International Community should be prepared to help provide, and with no neoliberal economic development strings attached.


NBA salutes andolankari spirit of Kailash Mandloi and Janaki Jhadu

Apr. 8, 2012

Joy Hospital in Mumbai

It is with immense grief that we share with you all the news of the death of two very stoic persons in Chhota Barda village (Narmada river bank). Shri Kailash Mandloi, fondly known as Kailash dada or Master; father of late NBA activist Ashishbhai, passed away in the wee hours of 7th April, at Joy Hospital in Mumbai, after battling with cancer over the past few months. His health had become quite critical since mid-March and he was taken to Mumbai for further treatment, where he remained in an unconscious state, on ventilator. He was earlier hospitalized at the Cancer Research Institute, Ahmedabad for more than 2 months in late 2011. His wife, son Manish, Medha didi and Amulyabhai were constantly with him during the last hours. He is being brought back to his native village and the funeral shall take place today evening on the Narmada river bank, beside the place where Ashish was set to rest in May, 2010.

Shri Mandloi always exhibited a cheerful and loving approach towards one and all, even during the most difficult phase of physical pain and ill-health. He and his wife were active participants in all the programmes of the Narmada valley and had a mature political understanding of the ongoing struggle. Kailashdada’s family was a stop-over for everyone who came to Chhota Barda, over years. His greatest contribution was the fact that he lovingly encouraged both his sons to participate full-time in the Andolan for many years. While Manish was actively involved in the struggle in the early years, Ashish became a full-fledged activist and was involved in the struggle since the 90s upto May 20th, 2010, when he unfortunately passed away at a very young age of 38. Shri Kailash Mandloi is survived by his wife Vidyajiji, son Manish Mandloi, daughter Seema, son-in-law and of course, the entire NBA family and friends. We are indeed thankful to one and all in Narmada, Ahmedabad, Mumbai etc. who constantly stood by us and supported his treatment in various ways over the past few months.

Janaki Jhadu, loving called Janakijiji; one of the firebrand activists from Chhota Barda passed away on 28th March, 2012 at Vishwas Hospital, Indore, after battling sudden and intermittent heart strokes that attacked her thrice within 6 minutes, leading to a 10 mm hole in her heart. She was at the forefront of many struggles in the Narmada valley, especially the Manibeli Satyagraha, the Ferkuwa struggle with Medha Patkar, Baba Amte and thousands others (on M.P-Gujarat border). She also replaced Medhaji on fast at Bhopal and herself fasted for several days. Courting arrests and facing lathi charge willingly, Jankijiji played a key role in mobilizing the women from her village and the valley during every programme. She is survived by her husband Bhagwan Jhadu and three sons, Mahadev, Ganesh and Mahesh, who have all been actively associated with the Andolan in their own right. The 13th day ritual of Janakiji is to be held tomorrow i.e. April 9th at Chhota Barda. The family has resolved to make a contribution to the Narmada Jeevashalas (life schools) in her memory.

Chhota Barda itself has been one of the strongholds of the Narmada struggle, bringing to the fore the resilient spirit of a generation of activists, young and old, who stood against the might of State in the most trying times. We deeply mourn the loss of Kailashdada and Jankijiji and hope that the same spirit of struggle and sacrifice shall continue by the youngsters in the coming years.

All saathis from and with Narmada Bachao Andolan,
Ph: 07290-291464 | 09179148973 | 09753662279 | 09425311547

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