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Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP), India

Jun 12, 2015

The 1998 Pokharan nuclear tests

We are shocked at the level of jingoism being peddled by the ministers of the Modi government, members of the ruling BJP and sections of the mainstream media in India over the recent action by the Indian army in Manipur.

While several questions are being raised and newer facts are emeging as the details still unfold – whether or not it was a cross-border case of hot-pursuit, whether it was a retaliatory or a pre-emptive action etc, the manner in which this action is being linked to a general justification of such hot pursuit vis-a-vis Pakistan and China is deplorable and dangerous.

India and Pakistan are both nuclear-armed nations, with such close geographical proximity that a nuclear exchange between both would lead to large-scale devastation and irreversible climatic changes. And as the post-Pokharan history of South Asia suggests, the rhetoric and escalation of conventional war has a real potential to lead to nuclear sabre-rattling.

The fact that this action was carried out against India’s own alienated citizens and not some external enemy itself is far from being a cause of jubilation. For real peace in longer term, we demand that the Armed Forces Special Power Act(AFSPA) must be removed immediately from the North East and Kashmir and sustained and open dialogue with people in the regions be initiated at the earliest.

For CNDP Achin Vanaik Praful Bidwai Lalita Ramdas Anil Chaudhary Abey George Kumar Sundaram
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Vietnam: Visiting UN Secretary-General must press government on human rights



Ban Ki-moon

PARIS, 21 May 2015 (FIDH & VCHR) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must press the Vietnamese government to address serious human rights violations during his upcoming visit to the country, FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today. Ban Ki-moon will visit Vietnam from 22-23 May at the invitation of President Truong Tan Sang. “The Secretary-General must use the UN’s moral authority to demand that Hanoi urgently address serious human rights violations and release all political prisoners,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. FIDH and VCHR are particularly concerned over increased police brutality and acts of harassment and intimidation against civil society activists, bloggers, and human rights defenders. In recent months, plainclothes police and hired thugs have repeatedly attacked activists on the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. On 19 May, plainclothes police beat blogger Dinh Quang Tuyen in Ho Chi Minh City after he denounced similar brutality against activists Nguyen Chi Tuyen (Anh Chi), Tran Thi Nga, Trinh Anh Tuan, Truong Minh Duc and others on his Facebook page. On 11 May, Anh Chi was attacked with metal pipes by unknown individuals near his home in Hanoi. He was involved in a successful campaign against a tree-cutting plan in Vietnam’s capital.

Authorities have also continued to harass bloggers and activists. On 18 May, authorities at Ho Chi Minh City International Airport prevented prominent intellectual Nguyen Hue Chi from travelling to the US to visit his wife and daughter by confiscating his passport. Nguyen Hue Chi is one of the founders of “Bauxite.VN”, an influential dissident website that criticizes government policies. On the same day, authorities at Hanoi International Airport briefly detained blogger Mai Xuan Dung shortly after his return from Singapore, where he had attended a workshop on citizen journalism. Many activists remain detained under vaguely-worded ‘national security’ provisions in the Criminal Code, such as Article 88 (‘disseminating propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’) and Article 258 (‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State’), and are subjected to harsh prison conditions. Nguyen Kim Ngan, 66, who is serving a five and a half year prison sentence in Thanh Chuong Prison Camp No. 6 in Nghe An Province, has been denied the right to receive visits from his wife since September 2013. Activist Pham Minh Vu, sentenced in February 2015 to 18 months in prison for taking photos of anti-China protests, is detained along with common criminals in Xuan Loc Camp, Dong Nai Province, where he has suffered repeated beatings.

Freedom of religion is seriously threatened by a new draft Law on Belief and Religion that imposes even harsher controls on religious communities and their activities than current legislation. Activities conducted by independent religious groups not recognized by the government are outlawed under provisions that strictly prohibit anything deemed to “affront the religious beliefs of members of religious organizations recognized by the State.” The 4th draft of the law has sparked deep discontent among many religious communities. “Instead of protecting freedom of religion or belief, this proposed law would put a muzzle on independent religious groups, in gross violation of Vietnam’s obligations under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.

Religious repression against independent religious communities continues unabated. Since 2003, Patriarch Thich Quang Do, leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), has been under house arrest without charges at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. He has spent more than three decades under various forms of detention. Dozens of Catholics, Protestants, Hmong Christians, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Khmer Krom Buddhists remain imprisoned solely because of their peaceful religious beliefs. FIDH and VCHR call on the UN Secretary-General to demand the immediate and unconditional release all political prisoners in Vietnam, the repeal of legislation that runs counter to the country’s obligations under international law, and an end to ongoing restrictions on freedom of religion and belief.

Press contacts FIDH: Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok) FIDH: Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33672284294 (Paris) VCHR: Penelope Faulkner (French, English, Vietnamese -Tel: +3345983085 (Paris)
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THAILAND: Four-year anniversary of imprisonment of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk



Somyot Prueksakasemsuk

Last Thursday, 30 April 2015, was the four year-anniversary of the imprisonment of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a longtime labour rights activist and human rights defender. On 30 April 2011, Somyot was arrested on allegations of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He was held for six months of pre-trial detention and then hearings in his case were held between 12 November 2011 and 3 May 2012. On 23 January 2013, the Criminal Court in Bangkok convicted Somyot Prueksakasemsuk of two violations and he was sentenced to ten years in prison in this case, as well as to one year in prison in relation to a prior case. The Appeal Court upheld the original decision on 19 September 2014. At present, Somyot is further appealing his verdict to the Supreme Court. Since he was first arrested and placed behind bars, like the majority of detainees under Article 112, Somyot has been consistently denied bail, despite 16 bail applications being submitted. The Asian Human Rights Commission calls for the immediate release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and all others imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Although this measure has been part of the Criminal Code since its last revision in 1957, there has been an exponential increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; this increase has been further multiplied following the 22 May 2014 coup.

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is a long-time labour rights activist and human rights defender in Thailand. From 2007 until his arrest, he was the editor of Voice of Taksin magazine. In Somyot’s case, the Article 112 charges stemmed from allegedly allowing two articles with anti-monarchy content to be published in Voice of Taksin magazine. The prosecution argued that his work in printing, distributing and disseminating two issues of the magazine which contained content deemed to violate Article 112 was itself an equal violation of the law. As in other lese majeste cases, the Court’s decision turned on the issue of intention. In the abbreviated decision released on 23 January 2013, the Court offered this interpretation of Somyot’s guilt: “The two Khom Khwam Kit articles in Voice of Taksin did not refer to the names of individuals in the content. But were written with an intention to link incidents in the past. When these incidents in the past are linked, it is possible to identify that (the unnamed individual) refers to King Bhumipol Adulyadej. The content of the articles is insulting, defamatory, and threatening to the king. Publishing, distributing, and disseminating the articles is therefore with the intention to insult, defame, and threaten the king.” The implication of the Criminal Court’s argument here is that anyone involved in the editing, publishing, disseminating, or distribution of material that is judged to have the intention to defame, insult, or threaten the monarchy, is criminally liable.

At the time of the initial decision, the Asian Human Rights Commission warned that it was an ominous warning to anyone involved in publishing, distributing or selling print or other media (AHRC-STM-027-2013). What made the conviction particularly important was that it demonstrated how the enforcement and interpretation of Article 112 was both uneven and highly political. Writers and publishers would not know that they have crossed the invisible line demarcated by the law until the police knock on their doors to take them away. The decision heralded the creation of an atmosphere of fear and a new set of limitations on the free expression and circulation of ideas, particularly those deemed to be critical or dissident. More than two years after the decision, and over eleven months after the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order, this atmosphere of fear has been consolidated.

Four years – 1460 days -- have passed since Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was arrested. This is 1460 days too long. The Asian Human Rights Commission calls for the immediate release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk while his case is pending at the Supreme Court. The AHRC further calls for the immediate release of all other individuals facing charges or convicted of violating Article 112 and related laws. Until this happens, the AHRC will continue to closely follow all other cases of alleged violations of Article 112 and encourages all others concerned with human rights and justice in Thailand to do so as well.
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A PHILIPPINE LADY JOURNALIST KILLED IN A BROAD DAYLIGHT

By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
Apr 20, 2015

Mei Magsino, a lady journalist ambused recently

ANSAN, South Korea - "The list of murdered journalists here is too long. I have to survive. I don't want to become another statistic." Mei Magsino said in her statement in 2005 about the statistics of journalists killed in the Philippines before she was ambushed in a broad daylight by unidentified riding in tandem hired killers. Throughout the world, the Philippines is the third most deadliest nation for mediamen with 77 victims, following Iraq and Syria with 116 and 80 slain journalists respectively as of March 5, 2015. These three nations have armed conflict caused by extremist or terrorist groups like rebel or islamic armed group and ISIS.

The lady journalist victim, Melinda "Mei" Magsino, a former reporter of Philippine Daily Inquirer, was shot and massacred in Batangas City on April 13, 2015, the newest victim and another name to the list of journalists killed in the country where justice has never been served and the masterminds had never been brought to prison or execution. Killing of a lady journalist is a coward and condemnable act using villain hired armed assassins while the victim's business is only keeping the people informed and revealing the truth and whose weapon is a piece of pen and wisdom. Prior to her death, Magsino was a former correspondent of Inquirer in 2005 who exposed a provincial governor to illegal gambling and the fatal ambushed of the resident ombudsman. She also likewise linked the incumbent mayor of Batangas about corruption. And the lady reporter was no free from death threats. According to reports, after the league of mayors declared her persona non grata and receiving text's death threaths that two convicted murderers had been released to kill her, she immediately fled with her family to avoid the evil plot against her.

In 2009, the massacre of 58 people, 32 of them were journalists took place in Maguindanao province in Mindanao, Philippines which is still holding the record for the "most deadliest killing of mediamen in the world." After more than five years the bereaved families still got no justice in the regime of Aquino, whose administration assured the victims' families of justice but to no avail. Meanwhile, Mr. Conrad de Quiros, one of Magsino's former colleagues lamented by saying, "what has happened to us as a nation?" He also said that no citizen, man or woman, deserves a fate like this, deprived of home or hearth for being willing to bear witness to the truth. More so, no journalist deserves a fate like this, being hunted down like a dog for having the courage to unravel the truth." he added.

Killings of journalists are rampant because the government cannot bring the masterminds or the coward killers into justice and cannot protect those who are gunless and helpless. In the Philippines, the justice and power were on the side of rich and the oppressor, while the justice for the victims and oppressed were deprived. Clearly, the present leaders of the Philippines like the president himself cannot defend and protect his people against the hired murderers and lawless criminals and the number of slain journalists in the country is increasing and can overcome Syria (with 80 slain journalists) as the second most dangerous nation for the media workers with only three shy from the Philippines. The government of Aquino must be more sensitive and vigilant against the executioners of journalists in the nation, while the group of journalists in the Philippines and the bereaved families of victims are condemning the cruel and evil acts against the culprits and lawbreakers.
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BURMA/MYANMAR: Government does not recognise detained students from UDE as students



Students protest in Myanmar

Since 10 March 2015, the Burmese government has detained 70 students and their supporters in Tharawaddy Prison. Out of the 127 students arrested and detained, 70 are still being held in detention. These arrests were part of a crackdown to quash the student protest march against the National Education Law that was passed on 30 September 2014. Out of the students arrested, 27 were released without charge and 30 students were released on bail. The case against students will be heard tomorrow at the Letpadan Township court.

The government has leveled the accusation that many of the students in detention are, in fact, not students since they are not attending regular university. The students however alleged that they are students at the Open University undertaking distance education. In Burma 60% or more students attended college through the University of Distance Education constituted under the Ministry of Education. This is because many students cannot afford full time courses, as they are poor. Poverty also forces students from far-flung areas of Burma to rely on distance education because they cannot afford to stay in towns where educational institutions are located. Many youths also resort to distance education as this allows them to keep a day job to supplement their family income.

By labeling students undergoing distance education as non-students, the government is trying to create an impression that the student protest was organised by non-students, motivated by political agents against the government. In fact, if the government were to argue that distance education is not education this would imply that 60% or more of Burmese youth are uneducated or not attending college. Burmese government is not new to fabricating charges and manipulating records to detain persons in custody and subdue all forms of protest against the government. The fa├žade, of what is known as the judicial process in Burma, is often merely the rubber-stamping of military policies rolled out as government action. The judge in question might well have been instructed on how long the students must be detained by the government. Such pre-trial detention could be for a long period and in inhuman conditions.

The new law enacted by the government affects day scholars as well as students undertaking studies under the distance education program. The AHRC has already called upon the government of Burma to recognise and respect the constitutional rights of every Burmese, under Article 354 of the Burmese Constitution, upholding their freedom of expression and opinion exercised through peaceful assembly. The students who were brutally attacked and later arrested, of which 70 are remain in detention, were only exercising their constitutional rights. The students did not resorted to any form of violence during the protest, yet the government chose to use brute force when undertaking the arrests. It is the right of the students who are now under detention to seek and obtain bail. Even if the government may claim that those under detention are not students, these individuals were only participating in peaceful protest, which is the right of every Burmese citizen. So, whether those in detention now are students or not, it is the responsibly of the court to recognise their constitutional rights and, at the very least, release them on bail.

Any further detention of the students will curtail their prospect of further education, for which they have worked hard; it will destroy their future. Perhaps, this is what the government wishes for those that it has kept under detention. The AHRC strongly condemns the government actions and calls upon the government of Burma to release the students unconditionally. The AHRC also calls upon the international community to work closely with the government of Burma and ensure that the students are released. The AHRC further urges the governments to withdraw sections of the National Education Law against which the students have been protesting.
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44 SPECIAL ACTION FORCE COMMANDOS OF PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE RECEIVE NO JUSTICE FROM THE HANDS OF TERRORIST GROUP AFTER THE MASSACRE

By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
Mar 29, 2015

Massacred elite Phillippine policemen

ANSAN, South Korea - After killing one the most wanted terrorists in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province, Mindanao Philippines, 44 organized elite and trained policemen of Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police were not able to come back with their families as they were massacred by the combined rebel groups of Moro National Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Massacre Armed group or Ampatuan private Armies. The three groups were alleged terrorist group which coddling the Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli Bin Hir known as Marwan and his protegee Filipino bomber, Abdul Basit Usman which also included in US FBI list as most wanted terrorist.

The bereaved widows and families of 44 victims of carnage asked the government for "All out Justice" but to no avail as the President insisted that the government and rebel group MILF is underway of peace process and said that the incident was just "misencounter". The Board of Inquiry (BOI) of Philippine National Police has submitted its more than a month investigation to the office of the President and showed to the media that more than 20 of the policemen suffered head fatal shots as they were inhumanly killed in a close range. According to Autopsy report, Chief Inspector Pabalinas for example suffered 16 total gunshots and died due to fatal shots in the head. "That was overkill" lamented General Espina, PNP Officer-in-charge. BOI added that President Aquino as Commander-in-chief has violated the ”Chain of Command”as he did not inform the other parties together with his suspended PNP Chief Purisima such as Secretary Mar Roxas, Secrtary of Department of Interior of Local Government (DILG), Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Catapang, Voltaire Guzmin, Secretary of Department of Defense and General Espina, OIC of PNP. These four officials were not informed about the High Value Target Operation or “Oplan Exodus Operation.” There was no reinforcement came when the combined groups of MILF and BIFF unexpectedly ambushed the government troopers after killing the Malaysian terrorist Marwan.

On the other hand, The Senate held its own hearing about the Mamasapano incident headed by Senator Grace Poe and after the investigation she has concluded that the killings of 44 elite commandos was a massacre and 20 Senators agreed with the findings of the Senate Inquiry. In the Photo below, 22 of the 44 dead policemen were not recognized after the carnage, uniforms, personal belongings were robbed like cell phone, wallets and others. Worse, bullet proof vest was removed from the body and was repeatedly shot again by the terrorists. Prior to the results of Senate and BOI investigations, MILF made his own investigation and returned some of the rifles and guns of the victims that were taken by the rebel’s armies. In the video showed in Social Media and Youtube uploaded by the unidentified uploader, a member of PNP-SAF, named Joseph Sagonoy was still alive when he was shot twice in the head in the terrain of the rebel groups which made the family, the people and lawmakers outrage and groan.

Because of this incident, the Congress and Senate have decided to postpone the hearings of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a passage of peace agreement between the Aquino adminstration and MILF. However, the BBL was criticized by Senators and other lawmakers as the revolutionary group blamed the government troopers for having no coordination with them before the high target value operations had been done. Meanwhile, General Getulio Napenas, former head of PNP-SAF corroborated that if the Mamasapano operation or Oplan Exodus has coordination with the AFP and other parties the said operation will be compromised as the previous operations became unsuccessful as the high value target have been alerted.

The nation has only few and brave Senators who fought the country from being ruined, we give big credit to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who insists that the MILF faction and the alleged group ambushed the galant SAF 44 has a connection with the international terrorist Marwan based on the information he gathered from US intelligence and emails between the terrorist's brother and exchanging messages with the 118th MILF commander. Another patriotic and iron lady Senator who believes that negotiating with the MILF by Aquino government with the passage of BBL is unconstitutional and will be a "Betrayal of Public Trust." Millions of Filipinos are against the belief of President Aquino to pass the BBL just to end the conflict in Mindanao between the rebel groups and government. BBL if passes will create own territory of MILF in Mindanao and will have their own police organization, own Commission of Audit and more that 500 Billions of pesos from the National Budget and many others granted by Aquino government and his peace negotiators which was criticized by Senators for giving excessive grants to extremist group which brutally killed the policemen of the Filipino civilians.

Senator Cayetano, on the other hand castigated the government chair of peace panel, Miriam Ferrer for having no knowledge on terrorism policy whether to negotiate with terrorist or not, Ferrer could not able to answer the young and courageous Senator who apparently received death threat for exposing the connection of MILF faction to terrorism. Filipino netizens and journalists across the globe support the advocacy of Senator Cayetano to terminate the government negotiators immediately for the nation is in trouble with their trust with the MILG negotiator. Despite an ally of Aquino administration, Cayetano stands firm and persists that MILF is connected with international terrorism.

Mrs. Pabalinas, the wife of one of the casualties during a Mamasapano operation has asked the President for justice during the necrological service. "Mr. President please help us to attain justice," she lamented and amazingly her only 3 year old daughter told the people during the interment of her husband, "My father is a hero" said the three old fatherless girl. President Aquino was criticized by millions of Filipino for insisting the BBL than to seek justice for the fallen 44 and intimidated the opposers that if the BBL for MILF will not pass expect more body bags to happen. One netizen told the Aquino, "why you are terrorizing us Mr. President?" Even former President Fidel Ramos, a former presidential bet of the late President Cory Aquino and mother of incumbent president, criticized Aquino to apologize over the Mamasapano mission and told to act as presidential man.

Several groups across the country, including priests in the Catholic Church have asked and rallied President Aquino to step down for mishandling police operation and violated the chain of command of PNP that resulted the loss of 44 SAF-PNP commandos Likewise, the netizens have outraged and condemned two government negotiators, Chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles for being traitors and shameless to the nation and they have become the defenders of MILF and they showed no mercy and concern to the victims' death and did not also show outrage or anger against the MILF after the bloody killings.

Alas, the Philippines today has the leader who has no compassion to his people, mostly to the poor and the oppressed, and those 58 victims of Ampatuan maasacre in 2009 which until now the bereaved families received no justice under the Aquino's regime. In fact, the primary problem of the nation is not the peace with rebels but first and foremost the undying poverty and lately the landgrabbing of China in the Philippine owned territtory thus, President Aquino cannot handle because his mind and heart went and more focused to MILF which believed was Malaysia based group and alleged informal army of Malaysian itself.

The real and million of Filipinos condemn terrorism in their own sovereignty as they also condemn the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law and unitedly calling for the nation to have “One flag, One Armed Forces and One Nation”. Another Senator also reacted that Plebiscite on BBL should be national not just limited to Bangsamoro. The envisioned Bangsamoro political entity in the BBL will receive more than 528 Billion Pesos in funding from the National coffers oversix years. "The plebiscite on the BBL should be on national scale," Senator Recto said.

President Aquino's incompetence, haughtiness, arrogance and stubborness made him failed to bring the nation in progress and the country is divided due to political turmoil. He insisted that the opposers did not see the economy' s development in his governance. According to the house speaker, the rich business was the one who gained more the most from Philippine growth. Some political experts say that danger and terror awaits the nation if BBL will be passed because President Aquino did not consult the people and his two negotiators were also criticized for representing the other party or MILF whose main camp or office is in Malaysia than working for the sake of the people and government. Aquino was tagged as reduced a lame duck. Another treacherous negotiation was that MILF negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal uses fictitious name where Chairwoman Ferrer allowed him to use a pet name. Ferrer believes anyone can use a pet name in negotiating peace process with the government by which made the Senator Cayetano of Taguig and people in social media in fury.

The bereaved families of the fallen 44 never forget the absence of compassionless President Aquino during the arrival of the dead bodies of commandos in Villamor Air Base, instead the Commander-in Chief attended the inauguration of a new car plant. Aquino is liable for the Mamasapano carnage, according to his former political ally. Remembering in 2013 when Typhoon Haiyan devastated Leyte province, Aquino then gave no mercy and pity to the victims and survivors despite huge financial assistance from allied nations the victims are still living in tents and cheap bunkhouses nowadays. And now here came the untimely death of brave 44 policemen who risked their lives to chase the terrorists who kill thousands of people in Indonesia bombings as well as in other parts of Mindanao but they received no care and reinforcements during the time they needed from the father of the nation. In the end of the day, the murderers who got the lives of Filipino heroes 44 will be given attention and billions of funds from the taxpayers money and remittance of Overseas Filipino workers. Why justice is paralyzed in the Philippines? Why the father of the nation did not defend his lost sons but protected the welfare of enemies and made peace with terrorists? Finally, Aquino boastful alleged right path accomplished nothing and condemened by the poor, oppresssed and victims of injustices.
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BURMA: A PLAN FOR FREEDOM

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(DictatorWatch)
Mar 7, 2015

Burmese police attacked students and activists

This is a big year in Burma, with a supposedly democratic election coming at its end. But, there is so much happening already, including open warfare in the country’s northeast; a failed nationwide ceasefire negotiation; student protests; villager and worker protests; and re-energized repression by the military dictatorship including extensive crimes against humanity. What is one to make of it all; and, how can any election be held, much less a vote that is free and fair?

The confusion and chaos in Burma is easy to grasp if you begin at the beginning, with the dictatorship itself. The ruling generals, in uniforms or civilian clothes - it makes no difference, have precise goals, and if you start with these everything else falls into place. Their first goal is simply to stay in power. Related to this, their second goal is never to be tried for their many, many crimes, nor to lose the wealth of the nation that they have already stolen. Instead, they want to retain the ability to steal even more, on an unprecedented scale, actually, in league with unethical international corporations.

Documented evidence of the first goal, which is of course also self-evident from a thousand different regime actions, was provided in February 2014 by Shwe Mann, former number three in the dictatorship when it called itself the SPDC, and now Speaker of the Union Assembly. As reported at the time in the publication Eleven, he stated at a public meeting, “The previous military regime could only transfer power to the new government after it made sure that the one-sided constitution guaranteed their life security,” and “No one would dare transfer his or her power to others unless life and property could be kept safe and sound.”

Fears of the military dictatorship

Of course, just saying something - including writing a Constitution that enshrines it into law, is no guarantee that it will happen. Even with its massive power the dictatorship is still prey to the same forces that are able to overcome dictatorships everywhere, and not only political. Specifically, Burma’s generals are afraid of the people of the country, meaning a popular uprising; military defeat at the hands of the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs); and severe pressure if not military intervention from the International Community.

For the first, documented evidence of this is also available, this time from Irrawaddy, again in February 2014, in the form of a secret order from President Thein Sein (aka Lieutenant General), which - as Irrawaddy phrased it - commanded his “ministries to prepare for riots.” While the directive clearly applied to the at the time upcoming national census, whatever plans that were prepared are undoubtedly still in place.

Regime tactics against an uprising

The dictatorship is using a number of tactics to prevent a widespread uprising. The most important of these is a strict law that bans unapproved gatherings, with - if such gatherings are held - arrest and imprisonment of the leaders and protestors. It is through the application of this tactic that the population of political prisoners is once again on the rise. However, the genie is out of the bottle, and more and more protests are being held across the country. It seems clear that the dictatorship is unwilling to renew mass oppression for fear of igniting overwhelming and coordinated public outrage. This is a critical point - even with the regime’s extensive security apparatus, the real balance of power in Burma is shifting to the people.

In the face of this, which the generals recognize only too clearly, they are implementing a second tactic to divide the public, which they have already successfully applied to the EAOs. They are splitting the general public of Burma, by separating the Rohingya Muslims - and all Muslims in general - and defining them as a people to be reviled and persecuted. This has the effect of redirecting public anger about themselves to a small and easily-targeted group.

This has been accomplished (1) though State-level policy, including the denial of citizenship, the right to vote, and now even the right to have children (through the Population Control Bill); and (2) through direct repression using regime security agents and allied general population racists. Most of these racists are actually Buddhists, an amazing pattern of behavior given the well-recognized precepts of the religion, but perhaps not so surprising when one considers that the racism is itself encouraged by Buddhist monks and leaders, all the way up to the country’s Sangha. This in turn is merely a new manifestation of Burma’s senior Buddhist clergy’s long established pattern of backing the ruling generals.

Finally, in what can only be termed a serendipitous development for the regime that I imagine has shocked even Senior General Than Shwe, the generals have the support of “pro-democracy” leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Operating as the effective dictator of the NLD, she has been firm in her opposition to all protests, and through her silence and inaction she has supported the repression of the Rohingya people as well. For the former, she has expelled young and energetic voices from the NLD, more recently a senior officer who sided with student protestors, and just this week apologized for a play put on by a local NLD office that reenacted Burma Army atrocities. It is still baffling that she would so willingly speak in favor of the generals, and ignore their daily crimes. Her lust for power (or her inability to acknowledge a mistake) is apparently without limit.

Controlling the ethnic armed organizations

For the second fear, the pro-democracy armies of the ethnic nationality peoples, the main tactic as always - and which I referred to above - has been divide and conquer. In practice, this is simply the favoring of some groups over others. Different groups, or more specifically their leaders, are given direct financial and also business deal inducements, and allowed to function as local warlords. In the 1990s, this pattern extended to the groups that arose out of the collapse of the Burma Communist Party, among them the KIO and UWSA. The Kachin leaders were allowed a free hand at resource exploitation, including jade and timber, in league with local regime officers and Chinese partners, while the Wa enjoyed the same approach, this time with narcotics. These deals in turn freed up military resources which were directed against southern EAOs, notably the KNU and the KNPP.

The regime, however, and even with a ceasefire in place, attacked the KIO in June 2011 when it refused to reorganize as a Border Guard Force under Burman officer command. This meant that for a time the Burma Army faced determined opposition both in the north and the south. The result was a massive increase in regime casualties, including thousands of its soldiers killed in the following year. Troop moral reached an all time low - local commanders begged the EAOs not to attack them, and a coup at the top of the dictatorship became a distinct possibility.

Facing this risk the top generals reinvigorated their approach, this time targeting the southern groups. In this effort they further secured as allies - this will be reviewed in the next section, Germany, Norway and Sweden, with their assistance channeled through Shan collaborator Harn Yawnghwe’s Euro-Burma Office. Through a concerted effort, and with disgruntled former Karen leader Htoo Htoo Lay as co-conspirator, they were able to convince the KNU - under its fraudulently elected leadership, to abandon the Karen people’s 65 year old Revolution, and they also appear to have recruited the leadership of the Shan State Army-South as well. Still, this left most of the EAOs in active opposition, so more divide and conquer was required. The dictatorship’s ultimate goal, of course, is to get the EAOs to surrender, or at least to agree to an event that can be portrayed as a surrender. To this end, the dictatorship together with Harn and a number of diplomatic and NGO carpetbaggers and peace prostitutes began to push for a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. No matter the conditions on the ground, an NCA could be used to get the EAOs to stop fighting for their people, and open the door to large-scale development.

The problem was that the EAOs formed an alliance, the UNFC, which though containing some members that seemed susceptible to regime lies, if not actual allies (DKBA, Karen Peace Council), had firm top leadership and policy. The UNFC would not abandon the goals of real peace for the ethnic nationality peoples, and their right to self-determination through a truly democratic and federal form of governance. The dictatorship and its backers quickly recognized the key weakness of the UNFC, which was money - its limited funding. Through the efforts of Harn, a separate unit - the NCCT - was set up, which would have sole - at least initially - negotiation responsibility, and which would be well funded. Harn then attempted to take control of the NCCT, using his power of the European purse, but he has never been able to accomplish it. The KNU even abandoned the UNFC, to eliminate strong Karen leadership from the organization, while at the same time appointing a Karen traitor to the NCCT. Still, the UNFC - and the NCCT overall - has held firm, and no surrender, meaning a defective NCA, has been signed.

Finally, to get some sort of victory the dictatorship pressured the EAOs to agree to a bland “promise” - a Deed of Commitment - to sign an NCA in the future. But the UNFC, anticipating this, instead proposed a clear and firm pledge to implement federalism, which the dictatorship - its supposed acceptance of a federal system notwithstanding - refused to sign. The UNFC language which the generals rejected is as follows: “The two parties agree to establish a genuine federal union based on national states having full guarantee for democracy, national equality and self-determination rights. In accordance with the said agreement, the two parties firmly vow to endeavor and continue to realize the nationwide ceasefire agreement.”

Instead, a ludicrous signing of the dictatorship’s Deed of Commitment was held, on Burma’s Union Day. While there were supposedly four EAO signatories, two - the DKBA and the Karen Peace Council, as they have been allies of the Burma Army for years - don’t count. They shouldn’t even be in the NCCT. This leaves General Mutu of the KNU, and General Yawd Serk of the SSA-S. Mutu is clearly corrupt, and will no doubt benefit handsomely now that the huge Dawei deep water port and industrial development project, which will be a disaster for local villagers and the natural environment, is proceeding. It is difficult to see what Yawd Serk had to gain, though. Perhaps he was ordered to sign by Thailand, to keep his supply lines unhindered. In any case, the Deed of Commitment was a charade. This time the regime’s divide and conquer failed. Therefore, the renewed offensives in the north are not surprising. Indeed, more should be expected. The generals, like spoiled children, didn’t get their way, and now they are lashing out.

Of note, the aggressor Burma Army is beginning to present itself as the victim in media propaganda. The generals have begun to openly agitate to get the country’s Burman population to hate all its other groups, just as they themselves do. This is an incredibly dangerous tactic - and also a sign of desperation. It has the potential to fatally undermine the nation’s cohesiveness. At present the ethnic nationalities would like their homelands to remain part of a unified, federal Burma. If they ever become the victims, as Muslims now experience, of widespread and overt racism and abuse, they may come to see a separate identity as their only possible peaceful future. This in turn would follow the precedent set in Yugoslavia, the repressive and racist European dictatorship that was ultimately split into six distinct and now peaceful countries. It’s not the best outcome for Burma, by any means, but it’s not impossible, either.

Legitimization of the dictatorship by Barack Obama

The final risk for the country’s dictatorship was the possibility of a military intervention by Western countries, as occurred for example in Libya. Indeed, this was probably Than Shwe’s greatest fear, and it lay behind his nuclear and ballistic missile cooperation with North Korea, China and Russia, and which cooperation is unquestionably still ongoing. (The programs have been mentioned repeatedly in U.S. announcements, both from the Administration and Congress, who clearly have access to credible intelligence sources.)

Burma, though, at least formerly, following its takeover by Ne Win, had constant support from the West, as a bulwark against communist China. This support never wavered, even in the face of his countless crimes, until the 8888 massacre and the subsequent regime rejection of the 1990 election. Even Western geopolitical cynicism couldn’t stomach that. It’s worth noting that Than Shwe’s paranoia since then has actually been unfounded. Even though a number of U.S. Presidents spoke strongly about Burma, and imposed a few sanctions, there was never any chance that this would extend to military force. The United States has never had the goal of democracy - a successful democratic transition - as its policy objective for Burma.

Therefore, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, when they implemented the “policy shift,” were really only acknowledging publicly what was actually a long-standing U.S. position. It was nonetheless a terrible decision, since the dictatorship seized upon it to embark on renewed repression and crimes against humanity. Burma was touted as Barack Obama’s one unequivocal foreign policy success, at least in the first two years immediately following the shift. Now that the Burma Army has re-energized its colonial war of aggression against the ethnic nationalities, and initiated a coordinated, slow-burning genocide against the Rohingya people, both of which the intelligence analysts who brief Obama understand only too clearly, the Administration is no longer so anxious to take credit.

As for Europe, what can you say? The E.U., following the continent’s long and self-generated history of horrific wars, and which spread around the world, is now determinedly pacifist. It won’t even act decisively to help its neighbor Ukraine, in the face of conquest by Russia’s new Stalin, Vladimir Putin. Europe, certainly Northern Europe, is for business not human rights, and this has infected its Burma policy for decades. Following 1990, E.U. policy was set by the French oil company Total, just as U.S. policy followed the wishes of Unocal - now Chevron. Europe wasn’t even willing to impose real economic sanctions, and now European businesses are leading the corporate pillage of the country. It’s therefore not surprising that European policy foundations, including through NGOs like EBO and MPC, have fulfilled the parallel role of attempting to organize the surrender-ceasefire that the commercial exploitation requires.

What is most despicable about Europe’s policy, though, is that within its own borders it is the most advanced region on earth. The natural environment, worker’s rights, and women’s rights are diligently protected. But for its economic colonies, such concerns are abandoned. One can conclude that Europe, through its commercial imperialism, is no less racist than Germany was under Hitler. They really haven’t learned anything at all. Returning to the fears of Burma’s generals, we can see that their worry about the West is no longer justified, if - as I have demonstrated - it ever really was. But, the fears of unrest, and of combat with pro-democracy rebels, are certainly real. Burma Army soldiers are dying in conflict, and thousands of people are taking to the streets. We - everyone who is truly a supporter of freedom for Burma - should do everything we can to see that the dictatorship’s fears are fulfilled!

Encouraging unrest

In writing about last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, I noted that a successful uprising requires three factors: fierce leaders, a growing population of protestors, and international backing. Hong Kong had fierce leaders, among the students that were involved, but affiliated protest groups were led by weak individuals. Even more importantly, while the demonstrators quickly jumped to hundreds of thousands, they did not continue to rise. The number plateaued and it was at this point that the Communist Party counterattacked, using agent provocateurs. Thirdly, the Hong Kong protestors had no international support. The U.S. and the West, fearful of angering the CCP, were silent.

This pattern matched Burma’s 2007 Saffron Uprising. In this case the initial leaders, 88 Generation students and younger NLD members, were fierce. They were quickly arrested, though, at which point undoubtedly brave but somewhat less fierce groups of monks took over. Most importantly, the numbers in the streets also plateaued, at about one hundred thousand in a number of cities. Everyone else in the country just watched. Finally, the West offered only condemnation, on the first crackdown on the students and on the second on the monks, but no real support. A related factor was the set of grievances driving the protests. The Hong Kong protests were pro-democracy - they had a democratic goal, that of ensuring a fair and open election in 2017. However, the Burma demonstrations were not. The initial street marches by 88 Generation were about a sharp rise in energy prices, and the monks decided to join to protest regime assaults on their own brothers, the monks of Pakokku. The Saffron Uprising was never really about freedom and democracy, and this was perhaps the main reason why more - many more - people were not persuaded to join.

Returning to China, I’ve mentioned in other writings that the CCP now allows protests around the country over particular issues, such as corruption and environmental crimes. Protests happen in China now all the time. However, demonstrations based on a call for democracy are banned. It is easy to see why. The CCP allows the smaller, issue-specific protests to act as a release valve on public pressure. Anything that would actually unite and grow public outrage is forbidden, and reacted immediately to with arrests. Burma is in an identical position at the moment, with protests about education, land thefts, working conditions, environmental issues, etc. Just as Burma’s EAOs need to unify behind the common goal of freeing their homelands from the invading Burma Army, so too the general public needs to unite around a call for real democracy - as in Hong Kong, and not just local issues. This is the only way to organize the public successfully and to generate so much pressure that the goal is achieved.

A further critical issue, and which I have also noted about Hong Kong, is that responsibility for increasing the protest size needs to be a clear and delegated objective by its leaders. The top leaders will be busy speaking and organizing and participating in marches and meetings (and getting arrested). Teams from their respective groups should be assigned direct responsibility (before the arrests!) to get as many members of the public to join the protests as possible, day after day and week after week, including through social media and neighborhood canvassing. The essential truth of a popular uprising is that the pressure - the number of protestors - has to grow until it reaches the dictatorship’s breaking point. Anything less, as in Hong Kong and with Burma’s Saffron, will fail.

Barriers and triggers

There are other challenges that the protest organizers must deal with as they strive to create a massive rally cry around national freedom and democracy, and not only more parochial issues. First, and as I just mentioned, the dictatorship will crack down on the leaders, with arrest and imprisonment, which in Burma is already happening. There needs to be a plan in place for this contingency, so the demonstration doesn’t stall. Secondly, the movement must counter regime propaganda. The biggest regime lie is that its reform is real and that everyone should simply wait. People need to be angry to be motivated to take to the streets, and the dictatorship is basically saying, over and over again: “Everything’s OK, don’t worry, and don’t get upset.” This is its most powerful strategy, and its effectiveness has been magnified by the fact that Suu Kyi is promoting the exact same message. She has said that democracy will take a very long time to be achieved, and that the people should not rise up; instead, everyone should just follow the rules - the dictatorship’s rules, and be patient. Through doing this, she has become the generals’ most influential propaganda organ.

Fortunately, the public has begun to reject Suu Kyi. People saw her failure at the Letpadaung copper mine. More and more villagers and townspeople are protesting around the country, regardless of her calls to cease and desist. Even more advantageous is that there are a series of events planned for this year, which will provide rallying triggers, and which the dictatorship will find difficult to control.

The first of these is in fact already underway: the student protests for education reform. It is clear in the negotiations that have taken place that the regime has been lying to the students and does not accept the idea of such reform at all. The students should therefore continue their protests, and - I would argue - expand their subject to that of freedom and democracy. After all, you can never have real educational reform without freedom and democracy. The shift in objective should further be accompanied by a call for the general public to join in. (The idea of a general strike should be considered.) Secondly, many people have missed the potential impact of the national census, for which ethnicity population data was to have been announced in May. In February, Eleven published a statement from the Ministry of Information and Population that release of the ethnic census data would be postponed until after the election. This was a quiet attempt to remove one potential uprising flashpoint.

The census has actually trapped the dictatorship. If it announces that Burmans make up say a fanciful 70% of the population, this will set the stage for a USDP election victory. But, it will outrage the ethnic nationalities, who might even choose to boycott the election as a result. On the other hand, if the accurate data that has been compiled is published, which may well show that the ethnic nationalities as a group, including mixed group individuals, comprise over 50% of the total population of the country, this will not only infuriate Burman racists and ultra-nationalists, it will make it impossible for the regime to say that an election result giving a majority to the USDP isn’t rigged. If it tries to do so, this too could cause wider rebellion among the ethnic nationalities.

Facing this trap, the regime chose the logical path, to postpone the census release, thereby preserving its ability to rig the election. Frankly, even with all the money that Europe has spent funding the census, and all the crimes that have accompanied the data collection (the census is still underway with the Rohingya, who are facing daily horrific abuse, including arrest, rape, extortion, torture and murder), I don’t think the detailed ethnic breakdowns for Burma will ever be published. Thirdly, the dictatorship has announced that it is willing to amend the constitution. Given Shwe Mann’s quote at the beginning of the article, though, real amendment - much less a redrafting - will never happen. The issue will be postponed, with minimal debate, until after the election, at which time it will be dropped.

Finally, there is the general election itself, now scheduled for November - just eight months away. There are only two possible outcomes here. The first is that election will be held, and rigged to protect the generals’ power, as occurred in 2010; or it will be postponed - even cancelled - using some manufactured excuse. Both eventualities could also serve as the triggers for large popular uprisings. The military dictatorship has imposed its roadmap to “disciplined democracy.” We are now at the end of this map, and as the situation make clear, the generals’ grasp on power is becoming more and more fraught.

Strategy for the Ethnic Armed Organizations

The NCA negotiations are to proceed in a week. This itself is surprising, given that the Burma Army has been on a rampage in Shan and Kachin States, including murdering over 100 civilians, and that none of the ethnic nationality core demands have been satisfied. As with the Deed of Commitment, this too appears to be for show. The NCCT negotiators probably feel that since Japan is paying for the plane tickets and hotel rooms, they might as well go and talk. The dictatorship, its international allies, and its agents in MPC clearly hope that with enough meetings they can wear the NCCT down and get it to sign a surrender. To guard against this, the NCCT has to recognize that this is a historic situation for Burma, and that they will be reviled forever if they abandon their people. Furthermore, the UNFC and the EAOs themselves have to be prepared to reject any ridiculous deal that the NCCT might accept. It is not enough for the NCCT negotiators to sign a piece of paper. It has to be ratified by the armed groups themselves. If the worst happens, not only will the NCCT surrender, they will set a date for the signing as well. The EAOs need to reject this - they have to be prepared to say that they need time to understand any putative deal, including through presenting it to their respective peoples for feedback. If the real goal is for Burma to become democratic, this should begin by allowing the ethnic nationality peoples to have a say in the ceasefire. If they are not allowed this say, not only will they reject their leaders and the ceasefire, new breakaway armed units will likely be formed and take up the fight.

The Federal Army

Leaving the NCA issue behind, the obvious strategy and goal for the EAOs is to unite and cooperate not only in meetings, but more importantly on the battlefield. It is therefore very positive that the groups in the north have been working together. Powerful armies, including the KIA, TNLA, SSA-N, AA, ABSDF, MNDAA, NDAA and even the USWA, have all cooperated if not fought together.

What this means is that the Northern Command of the EAOs’ Federal Army, although not formally organized with its own headquarters and uniforms, is planning and fighting as a unit. While the northern fronts have seen a few Burma Army victories, when the EAOs withdrew from outposts under assault, the ethnic soldiers are again showing their excellence at guerrilla warfare, and inflicting the invading and terrorist Burma Army soldiers with large casualties. One can only hope that the ethnic defenders will continue to prevail, and impose higher and higher attrition rates on BA units, including through offensive actions.

Of course, were the Southern Command to achieve the same effect as the Northern, and even more-so go on to work together, this would return the Burma Army to the defensive posture and losses it experienced starting in 2011. Another key regime propaganda lie is that the Burma Army is invincible. This is hogwash. Coordinated action by both the Northern and Southern Federal Army commands would not only trigger massively rising BA casualties, it would also lead to large-scale desertions; an unwillingness to obey orders and to fight; and even the renewed prospect of a real-pro-democracy coup. Neighbor Thailand has accomplished its own pro-democracy coup, to oust the non-democratic Thaksin regime. Pressure from Burma’s EAOs can achieve the same: encourage junior officers who are secret democracy sympathizers to take out the recidivist top generals. In such an eventuality, Burma would be free overnight.

The KNU problem

Unfortunately, the idea of unified ethnic nationality action has been sabotaged by the KNU’s corrupt leadership. They are preventing a combination of Karen armed groups under the banner of the Kawthoolei Armed Forces, and they have opposed the Federal Army in its entirety thereby making it extremely difficult to establish its Southern Command. The Karen traitors are not only the driving force behind trying to get the NCCT to surrender, they are holding up the ethnic defense as well. What Mutu Say Poe, Saw Johnny, Kwe Htoo Win, Htoo Htoo Lay and their clique have done is no less treasonous to the Karen cause than when Buddhist KNLA soldiers broke away in 1994, in the process revealing the defense secrets to the KNU’s stronghold Manerplaw. This betrayal cannot stand. These individuals need to be stopped.

Mutu and his partners have committed three offenses, any one of which is sufficient grounds for expulsion. They fraudulently stole the election at the last KNU Congress. They signed the preliminary ceasefire agreement in Rangoon, even though the Central Executive Committee forbid it. And, they signed the Deed of Commitment, in this case with the Central Standing Committee forbidding it. They even appear willing to sign a comprehensive ethnic surrender at the first opportunity. They are nothing less that rogues!

The Palaung experience

The current situation with the KNU is similar to what happened to the Palaung/Ta’ang people in Shan State. The Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) signed a ceasefire in 1991, and then went on to surrender its arms to the dictatorship in 2005. In 1992, in response to the ceasefire, Palaung leaders who thought it was a mistake broke away and founded the Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF). Their associated army, the TNLA, was established at their third Congress in 2009. They took up the job of self defense of their people, and then, in 2011, began to work in the defense of their allies, starting with the KIA. (Source: Burma Link interview with Ta’ang leader Tar Aik Bong)

Given the corruption of the top leaders of the KNU, the lower level officers and rank and file soldiers should implement a similar strategy. Of course, agreeing to the Federal Army Southern Command and the KAF initiative does just that. However, as yet these moves have not been translated into action, because of pressure from the corrupt leaders. It appears that everyone is waiting for Mutu and Johnny to retire at the next KNU Congress in 2016, although I would caution that this may be an unrealistic hope. Mutu may well try to stay in power for another term through once again rigging the CSC election, including by bribing a majority of the CSC members to back him. With the KNU leadership corrupted, there needs to be a split. The only thing in question is when it should occur. One thing that is certain, though, is that if the Revolutionary Karen leaders acted against Mutu, and refused to follow his orders, the great majority of the KNLA rank and file soldiers, who have witnessed the corruption and the increasing Burma Army repression of Karen villagers, would gladly change allegiance. Just as the Burman generals need to be pressured - thrown out, so too this must be accomplished with Mutu and his gang of traitors.

Conclusion

To sum all of this up, the people of Burma need to unite and agitate for freedom and democracy. In the process, they need to continue the now established trend of rejecting Suu Kyi’s “leadership.” She too is corrupt and should no longer be followed. The ethnic nationalities in turn need to back their armed organizations, which too should unite into a coordinated Federal Army force. As with Suu Kyi, corrupted leaders such as Mutu should be dealt with. 2015 is a banner year for Burma. So many things are happening, and most if not all of them can be clearly directed to the only real goal that the people have, freedom and democracy. This article examined the issues that are involved. Hopefully the people, and their leaders, can use it as a template to finally free their long-suffering nation. Burma can have real democracy, and considered and proper development that protects the natural environment and which is shared among the entire population. If enough people work together, this can be achieved.

There is a famous idea that if you communicate a lie often enough, it is accepted as the truth. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, phrased it like this: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” For Burma, the big lie is that the nation is undergoing democratic reform. This belief is completely false. Even after three years, there is no democracy in the country. The few freedoms that have been allowed can be taken away at any time. Many already have. The lie is being spread by the dictatorship; its cronies; corrupt and softheaded international parties, including Barack Obama, the E.U., and innumerable NGOs and media outlets; and by corrupt and soft-headed “pro-democracy” leaders, including Mutu and Suu Kyi.

However, this idea has a corollary - one that is rarely noticed. If you state the truth often enough, it can be preserved. The people will see through the lies. The pro-democracy movement has striven for decades to keep the truth of Burma alive. This was a relatively straightforward job following the 8888 massacre, and then as documentation abilities were established to record the dictatorship’s crimes. Now, though, we are faced with the lies not only of the regime, but of former allies as well. Nonetheless, we can keep the truth alive. There are many individuals, groups and forums that do their best to illuminate the real Burma, and if we all dedicate our goal to freedom, and take the necessary steps, the country and its people can finally be free.
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Protect human rights defenders in Udon Thani

Mar 05, 2015

A lake in Udon Thani

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Udon Thani Environmental Conservation Group about the intensification of ongoing threats and surveillance of human rights defenders who are members of the group. They have been engaged in a long-standing struggle for community participation in decisions about potash mining in Udon Thani province. Similar to the situation of other communities since the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), members of the Conservation Group and groups who support them have faced increased threats because state authorities are failing to protect them as they oppose private corporations which would like to profit from resource extraction. The AHRC is gravely concerned about the safety of the members of the Udon Thani Environmental Conservational Group and the E-san Human Rights and Peace Information Center, and is further concerned that the state’s failure to protect them will also serve to make other human rights defenders feel unsafe.

Surveys for potash were first carried out in Udon Thani province in 1993 and the Thai Agrigo Potash Company (TAPC), which later became the Asia Pacific Potash Corporation, or APCC) began to acquire land and begin to work towards acquiring a mining concession. Soon thereafter, community members and human rights defenders began raising questions about the environmental and health impacts of any potential mining project, and often engaged in extended protests to ensure that their voices and demands for participation were heard in public. In the latest period of struggle, in April 2012, a joint committee was set-up between the Department of Primary Industry and Mining (DPIM) and the Conservation Group in order to investigate the social and environmental effects of the potash mining project; in 2012, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) called on the Ministry of Industry to suspend the issuance of a mining license to the APCC pending the joint committee’s findings. Mrs. Manee Bunrood, a leader of the Conservation Group and a woman human rights defender, represents the community on the joint committee. Up until the present, the joint committee has not issued a public report on its findings.

On 29 January 2015, the DPIM issued an order to halt the joint committee's work with Udon Thani Environmental Conservation Group. This decision removes the community’s ability to participate in decisions that will affect their environment, health, and livelihood. Upon hearing this news, members of the Conservation Group went to meet with the deputy government of Udon Thani, Mr. Chaicharn Eamjaroen. At his office, they also met with officials from the DPIM, the police, the 24th Military Division and the Nongprajak sub-district head of Nongprajak sub-district.

The Conservation Group requested a copy of the DPIM’s letter halting the joint committee’s work and further asked for clarification on upcoming planned public hearings the authorities plan to organize. The Conservation Group maintained the importance of ensuring that the public hearings are held in a transparent and fully open manner. Over the long period of struggle by members of the communities, the state authorities have failed to demonstrate and give credence to the concerns of the community about potash mining. On the same day that the DPIM halted the joint committee’s work, a soldier from the 24th Military Division visited a temple Ban Nonsomboon village, one of the affected communities, during a religious ceremony. When questioned by the villagers, the soldier said that he was there to monitor the ceremony as it was a public gathering, which is restricted under martial law, which has been in force since 20 May 2014, two days prior to the coup. On the evening of 25 February 2015, the village committee also announced that the Army would continue to visit the village to for monitoring purposes. Sources close to the Asian Human Rights Commission have also indicated that key members of the Conservation Group and the E-san Human Rights and Peace Information Center have their electronic communication monitored by the military authorities. The proximity of the increased military presence in the community and ongoing surveillance following the termination of the work of the joint committee, and the Conservation Group’s concerns over this, is a clear instance of intimidation that seems designed to ensure that members of the Group do not protest the termination.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has two related concerns about the recent events in Udon Thani. First, by halting the work of the joint committee, the Thai state authorities have eliminated the official channel for members of the Conservation Group to provide input on potash mining. Given that public protest has been criminalized under martial law following the May 2014 coup, members of the community are therefore also unable to use demonstrations to communicate their concerns to the state authorities and raise awareness in their community and to Thai society as a whole. Second, the increased intimidation and surveillance of members of the Conservation Group coincident with the elimination of pathways of participation into decision-making about potash mining in Udon Thani raises concern about the overall safety of the human rights defenders who are members of the group. This concern is further underlined by the summoning shortly after the May 2014 coup of sixteen community leaders and activists in the areas affected by potash mining and a history of threats against human rights defenders working on this issue; on 24 March 2012, the APPC sent surveyors to inspect land defended by the Conservation Group. The surveyors called for police assistance to disperse villagers blocking entry onto the land. Following this incident, five leaders of the Conservation Group received death threats from representatives of the APPC.

The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the 22 May 2014 coup in the strongest terms possible and views the events in Udon Thani as another example of how human rights suffer under military rule. The AHRC calls on the Thai state authorities to ensure the safety of members of the Udon Thani Environmental Conservation Group and the Conservation group and member of the E-san Human Rights and Peace Information Center. The Army should cease visiting the affected communities and cease their monitoring of the communications of human rights defenders. The work of the joint committee should be resumed and the Thai state authorities should take active steps to listen and respond to the concerns of affected communities about the potential environment, health, and livelihood effects of potash mining.
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Myanmar activists protest on Union Day in Seoul

By Salai Thang
Staff Reporter
Feb 15, 2015

Members of All Ethnic Democracy and Human Rights Network

We are a group of ethnic people from Myanmar and a collection of other human rights activists. Today, we are holding a democracy and ethnic freedom rights demonstration in front of the Myanmar Embassy. This is in commemoration of Union Day, which started in Panglong Town, Shan State, Myanmar on February 12, 1947.

The “Union Day” is the birthday of the Myanmar nation, which was formally formed a multi- nations state for the first time. On this day, 23 representatives from four territories, which comprised of the Shan state, the Kachin state, the Chin state and mainland Burma, signed an agreement in Panglong to form the Union of Myanmar. To honor this historical agreement, all Myanmar people celebrated the day as a “Union Day” across the nation on February 12th every year. This day is the most important day in modern Myanmar’s history.

These four territories are also representative of almost the entire territory of the current Myanmar region as drawn in the country’s map. Not only did the Panglong agreement pave the way for the formation of the Myanmar nation, it also enabled the country to gain independence from the British emperor.

Significantly, the Panglong agreement guaranteed the people freedom in both the ethnic minority territories and mainland Burma, and included such things as equality and justice, unity and sharing together resources for the country’s prosperity. The core issue of the Panglong agreement was to setup “a multi-nations state” to be a peaceful and prosperous country.

However, the country’s successive rulers, Myanmar military governments, have never implemented the Panglong agreement and have not respected the “Union Day” since 1962, when the country fell under the military government’s rule completely. From that time, the military abolished the Panglong agreement and the “Union Day” has never been honored in its original spirit since then. Instead, the military government wrongly represents “Union Day” and misleads the people from the real essence of its goal.

In 2008, the military government deliberately drafted constitution in order to keep military control over the country, which is against the principle of the Panglong agreement, such as a 25% limit on seats for the military in parliament. Several ethnic groups requested that the draft constitution be a genuine one ahead of its creation. However, the military government flatly rejected this proposal. Military and its party, current government, continued conflict with ethnic minority in peripheral areas and human rights violation. It is clear that the Myanmar military’s attitude has been shown to be deceitful with regards to its country’s people and before the international community.

Therefore, we, the All Ethnic Democracy and Human Rights Network (AEDHRN), demand that the Myanmar military backed current government: 1. Stop the military interfering in civil government. 2. Eradicate the constitution which guaranteed 25% military representation in the parliament and amend the constitution according to democratic and international human rights principle. 3. Immediately cease its human rights violations and religious repression in the peripheral of the country. 4. Provide humanitarian assistance to ethnic minority in conflict zone. 5. Relief the country from economic oppression. Furthermore, we ask that the Korean people and the international community show staunch support the end of ethnic repression in Burma/Myanmar.

Furthermore, we ask that the Korean people and the international community show staunch support the end of ethnic repression in Burma/Myanmar.
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NE India celebrates R-Day defying militant’s threat

Special Contribution
By Nava Thakuria

Protesting against the ‘colonial Indian government’

Whenever we approach the national festivals like Republic Day and Independence Day, some separatist elements try to dictate the people of northeast India to avoid the celebrations. But their domination have slowly evaporated as more and more patriotic citizens of the insurgency stricken region start pouring in the celebrations where the national flags are hoisted with the patriotic fervor.

The 66th R-Day functions also attracted the residents of the land-locked region to join in the celebrations though they carried the persistent militants’ threats over the celebrations. Defying the diktat of some separatist militants, they thronged to the government sponsored and community celebrations on the occasion and paid homage to the martyrs of India’s freedom struggles.

Over the years, it has become almost a reflex action for various banned militant outfits of the region, to call for boycott of the R-Day and I-Day programmes, protesting against the ‘colonial Indian government’ allegedly exploiting the resources of the region. This year too was no different, but the people responded to the boycott call with near total indifference.

The auspicious day began with at least six blasts in Manipur and Assam, but the patriotic citizens ignored the caveats, issued by few banned armed outfits of the land-locked region, and joined the nation to hoist the Tricolour that symbolizes the supreme sacrifices of all the known and unknown martyrs of India’s independence movement.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who unfurled the national flag in absence of Governor PB Acharya (also in-charge of Nagaland and Tripura) in Guwahati, asked the armed militants to shun the path of violence and join in the peace talks. The veteran Congress leaders however warned that the government would never tolerate the unlawful activities engineered by the revolutionary turned terrorist outfits. Announcing various welfare schemes for the benefit of needy families of Assam, Gogoi also declared about a new scheme ensuring free medical treatment to the below poverty line families. He also promised of new initiatives for working on the sanitation programmes.

Governor Acharya, in a message on the propitious occasion, emphasized on the protection of one-horned rhinos in various forest reserves of the country. Mentioning about the pre-historic animal, which is Assam’s State symbol, the Governor insisted on the collective responsibility for the preservation of all wildlife in the bio-diversity hotspot region.

Unfurling the Tricolor in Kohima, Governor Acharya also highlighted the necessity of maintaining peace in the region, which is surrounded by many foreign countries state. Talking about the ongoing peace talks between militants and the government, the Governor expected an amicable settlement of the issue of insurgency.

Compare to other States in the region, Manipur witnessed the mixed response of the boycott call and general strike by the banned armed outfits. But R-Day celebrations were also reported from various parts of the State, where the chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh hoisted the national flag in Imphal. Ibobi Singh too reiterated that that violence would bring nothing good for the people but endless suffering and miseries.

Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar also pointed out that terrorism must be curbed for the development of the nation. Hoisting the Tricolour in Agartala, Sarkar also cautioned that militants taking shelter in foreign soil (read Bangladesh) would however try to destabilize the region till their resources are not curbed. Attending the R-Day function in Tura, Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma declared few welfare schemes for the development of the hilly State. Sangma also launched the Destination Meghalaya plan with emphasis on education, healthcare and harnessing renewable energy for each and every family of the State.

Mizoram Governor Aziz Qureshi hoisted the national flag in Aizawl and disclosed the commitment of the State government to root out corruption from all sectors. The Governor emphasized on promoting trade relationship with Burma (Myanmar), which adjacent to the Southeast Asian nation. Sikkim Governor Shreeniwas Patil unfurled the Tricolour in Gangtok and Arunachal Pradesh Governor Nirbhoy Sharma hoisted the national flag in Itanagar, where both the Governors urged the people to pursue democratic values & principles rising above selfish interests and also join hands in the prosperity of the region.

The journalists and conscious citizens of the pre-historic city of Guwahati, as they did earlier years, assembled in Guwahati Press Club to hoist the national flag. Hoisting the Tricolour, senior journalist Pramod Kalita called upon one and all Indians to remember and pay respect to the spirit & sacrifices of numerous freedom fighters. Kalita pointed out that India, unlike many of its neighbouring countries, has maintained the spirit of democracy since the days of Independence in 1947. He however cautioned that every Indian must be cautious against anti-national elements and also some veiled entities pretending to be progressive, secular and patriotic.

Earlier, senior journalists Rupam Barua described how a section of journalists took the challenge to defy the diktat of separatist militants in 1998 and hoisted the national flag in the press club and continued the spirit to observe both the Republic and Independence Days. The participants then took out a procession chanting patriotic slogans.
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WITHDRAW THE GALLANTRY MEDALS FOR THE POLICE WHO KILLED INNOCENT ADIVASIS IN ODISHA



Dead bodies of adivasis

To, Shri Pranab Mukherjee President of india
We, the undersigned with utmost urgency request you for your immediate intervention in this matter, with respect to the conferment the Gallantry Medals for the Police from Odisha. On 14th August 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India announced police medals on the occasion of Independence Day -2014. Out of the total 15 recipients for President’s Police Medal for Gallantry, eight police officers from Malkangiri, Odisha were recommended to be awarded. The awardees are Satya Sundar Behera (Habildar), Manoj Kumar Parida (Constable), Moti Singh Nayak (Constable), Tribijay Khara (Constable) and Sanat Kumar Patra (Constable).

Under Police Medal for Gallantry Santosh Kumar Mall (Addl. Superintendent of Police), Pabitra Mohan Nayak (Constable), Dibyalochan Raj (Sub-Inspector), Chitta Ranjan Jena (Constable), Samodar Kulusika (Constable), Jayanta Kumar Naik (Sub-Inspector), Satyajit Kandankel (Sub-Inspector), Niranjan Sarangi (Constable). The names of Akhileswar Singh (Superintendent of Police), Pabitra Mohan Nayak (Constable) and Siva Sankar Nayak (Constable) were announced under President’s Police Medal for Gallantry and Police Medal for Gallantry.

On 13 September 2013, 14 innocent Adivasis were killed in a staged encounter in Malkangiri and the matter is pending with the National Human Rights Commission bearing NHRC Case No. 3324/18/29/2014-AFE, 2171/18/29/2013-AFE. It is also to be noted that Mr. Akhileswar Singh, IPS has been transferred to Sambalpur. It is also learnt that unfortunately one Raju Saha was killed on 2nd October 2014, in a staged encounter by a team led by Superintendent of Police IPS Akhileswar Singh which is also pending with National Human Rights Commission bearing multiple petitions at NHRC vide case details: 4491/18/13/2014-AFE, 4353/18/13/2014-AFE, 4217/18/13/2014-ED and 4144/18/13/2014-AFE. As

per Supreme Court guidelines, cops should not be honoured with awards if they are involved in encounter. However, the state government recommended the names of cops without ascertaining the veracity of the encounter. Observing this, a petition was filed and challenging the state government’s announcement of names of police personnel for gallantry awards. Justice Biswanath Rath issued notices to the home secretary, director general of police, Sambalpur superintendent of police and Centre seeking reply within 10 days.

It is indeed a shame and we as responsible citizens do not want to see this blunder committed yet again by the state rewarding the killers of its own citizens, as was done in the case of Ankit Garg who also was conferred the Medal of Gallantry where innocent civilians were also killed in the midst of an encounter led by him as well as he being the main orchestrator of inflicting third degree torture on Soni Sori, an Anganwadi teacher in Chattisgarh. We would like to seek your urgent intervention to immediately withdraw the conferment of the medals bestowed over these police officers with immediate effect
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2015 New Year’s message from Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders

Jan 06, 2015

Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan

As Chair of The Elders, Kofi Annan has released a New Year’s message on behalf of The Elders. He reflects on the events of 2014 and looks towards 2015, saying: “Today more than ever, we need far-sighted leaders who can see beyond their national boundaries and beyond the next election.”

The text of Mr Annan’s full message is as follows:

“When Nelson Mandela founded The Elders in 2007, he urged us to “support courage where there is fear”. Looking back at the events of 2014 and ahead to the global challenges we confront in 2015, it can seem that our world is almost paralysed by fear. “There are those for whom fear is a daily reality – people who fear for their lives and those of their loved ones; people who face the constant threat of violence, disease, or hunger. “But there are also fears that have less basis in fact – fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of ‘the other.’ Often irrational, these fears can lead us to retreat behind barricades, turn our backs on those in need, and persecute those we see as a threat. We see this in our reluctance to give shelter to those who flee violent conflict; in the rise of aggressive nationalism and identity politics; and in growing religious extremism and sectarianism.

Far-sighted leaders

“And then there are the fears we all too often see in our political leaders – the fear of losing face, of losing popularity, of losing power. These concerns may seem trivial, but when our leaders are in the grip of such fears, the prospects for our world are dire indeed. “All too frequently, leaders will concern themselves with matters that are closest at hand, while the most serious issues are often more distant –geographically or in time. For example, if we fail to tackle climate change the worst effects will be suffered by future generations and by poor countries far from global power centres. And I have to ask whether we would still be struggling to find effective treatment and vaccines for Ebola if it had been a problem in the cities of Europe or North America rather than in Africa. “Today more than ever, we need far-sighted leaders who can see beyond their national boundaries and beyond the next election. “Looking back at the world’s most distinguished and respected leaders, it was never their ability to deliver tax cuts, impose strict immigration policies, or launch acts of armed aggression on other countries that earned our admiration. It was their wisdom, their integrity and their compassion for their fellow human beings.

A unique position

“As Elders, we understand the constraints that can inhibit our political leaders. Several of my fellow Elders have held political office at the highest levels and are well aware of the pressures that leaders can face. This understanding, coupled with the freedom of no longer being in office, puts us in a unique position to support and encourage today’s leaders to take the courageous decisions the world desperately needs. “For example, in the past year, we have travelled to Iran and Myanmar to offer whatever help we can as these countries’ leaders take the often precarious path towards reform, greater openness, and ultimately, a more peaceful existence. The Elders have also spoken out about the need for governments to provide greater protection for women and girls, and take a stand against the violence, discrimination and oppression they suffer in many societies.

Shared vision

“2015 will be a crucial year in the battle to avert a climate change catastrophe, and in the run-up to December’s Paris summit, we will be supporting efforts to secure a bold new binding agreement to cap carbon emissions. We are calling for an equitable agreement under which the world’s richer countries support the aspirations of other nations to follow a sustainable development path. Such an agreement is clearly in the interests of our entire planet but it will require far-sighted courageous action on the part of our political leaders.

“They would do well to recall the words of Franklin D Roosevelt in his inaugural address as US President in 1933: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which parlayzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” “But Roosevelt went on to say that courageous leadership requires the understanding and support of the people. We need to make clear to our leaders what we expect of them; we need to hold them to account; but we also need to let them know that if they have the courage to do the right thing, then we will support them. We need to help them overcome their fear; share their burden; and be willing to pay the price of progress. “For progress rarely comes without a price: social change means being prepared to share; a just and ordered society means accepting constraints on our behaviour; and making peace with our enemies means being open to compromise and forgiveness.

Progress means participation

“As we begin another new year, I am confident that it will be the power and willingness of ordinary citizens – especially young people – to catalyse positive change and support courageous, compassionate leadership that will make a difference. Everyone can play their part – whether it is through participation in democratic processes, through peaceful protest against injustice, through harnessing the power of social media and new modes of communication, or simply through offering support and solidarity to those in need. “This is where my greatest hopes lie for 2015. On behalf of all the Elders, I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful year.”

About The Elders, The Elders are independent leaders using their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007.
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