Sunday, October 21, 2007

From The

“Panties for Peace” Campaign Wins Wide Support
By Violet Cho
October 18, 2007

The “Panties for Peace” campaign aimed at Burma’s military regime is gaining momentum, with the establishment of a committee to drum up support in Thailand.

The campaign began on October 16, with women throughout the world sending packages to Burmese embassies containing panties. Burma’s superstitious generals, particularly junta chief Than Shwe, believe that contact with any item of women’s wear deprives them of their power.

“Panties for Peace” campaigns have sprung up in Australia, Europe, Singapore—and now Thailand, where a Lanna Action for Burma committee has been formed in Chiang Mai to support the feminine protest.

Ying Tzarm, a co-founder of Lanna Action for Burma, told The Irrawaddy that the campaign was aimed at undermining the superstitious beliefs of the military regime.

Liz Hilton, a supporter of the Lanna Action for Burma and a member of the Empower foundation, said that by sending underwear to the men of Burma’s overseas embassies women would be delivering a strong message to the regime.

“The SPDC is famous for its abuse of women, so this can be a very strong signal from women around the world supporting the women in Burma,” she said.

“Many feel there’s little we can do. It is like living next to domestic violence when we see the military government brutal crack down in Burma. We can hear that fighting in the next-door house or in the same village. We have tried to talk, we have tried to do many things. But we need to express our feelings.”

In another unusual popular protest action, people in Rangoon are hanging pictures of Than Shwe around the necks of stray dogs. It’s a very serious insult in Burma to associate anybody with a dog.

Graffiti anti-regime messages are also appearing on trains and buses in Rangoon. “Killer Than Shwe” is a popular slogan.

“The people of Burma are doing what they can inside [the country],” said Liz Hilton. “We should do whatever we can outside. Most of us are not politicians, we are not powerful people. But women do have the power of their panties—let’s use that.”

From :

Pants protest over Burma

WOMEN in several countries have begun sending their knickers to Burmese embassies in a culturally insulting gesture of protest against the brutal crackdown there.

"It's a strong message in Burmese culture," said Liz Hilton, who supports Lanna Action for Burma, an activist group that launched the "Panties for Peace" drive this week.

The group says the country's superstitious generals believe contact with women's underwear saps them of power.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

From Asia Sentinel :

Singapore and Burma: Such Good Friends
Eric Ellis
10 October 2007
The city-state’s diplomats may denounce the current crackdown, but Singapore is a crucial ally for the junta’s brutal generals

singaburWhen protesters dared to show up in Singapore’s Istana Park earlier this week to protest Burma’s crackdown, authorities promptly arrested them, a reminder that Singapore isn’t just skilled at mandatory executions of drug traffickers, running an excellent airport and selling cameras to tourists. It also does a very useful trade keeping Burma’s military rulers and their cronies afloat. The five, members of the Singapore Democratic Party, were arrested, police said, for staging an unlawful demonstration. Singapore and Burmese nationals, the police said, have been allowed to protest “in a lawful manner,” along with some expatriate women wearing red.

For all the attention placed on China and its upcoming hosting of the Olympic Games as a diplomatic pressure point on the Burmese junta, which hove back into the world’s view by violently squashed non-violent demonstrators led by Buddhist monks all across Burma. Government business-technocrats in Singapore were also closely – and undoubtedly nervously — monitoring the brutality underway in Rangoon. And, were they so inclined, their influence could go a long way to limiting the misery being inflicted on Burma’s 54 million people.

Collectively known as “Singapore Inc.,” they tend to gather around the $150 billion state-owned investment house Temasek Holdings, controlled by a member of Singapore’s long-ruling Lee family, Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Singapore companies have been some of the biggest investors in and supporters of Burma’s military junta, while its government, in the rare times it is asked, suggests a softly-softly diplomatic approach toward the junta. Tiny Singapore ranks alongside China and Thailand as Burma’s biggest trading partners.

When it comes to Burma, Singapore pockets the high morals it likes to wave at the West elsewhere. Singapore’s one-time head of foreign trade once said as his country was building links with Burma in the mid 1990’s; “while the other countries are ignoring it, it's a good time for us to go in….you get better deals, and you're more appreciated... Singapore's position is not to judge them and take a judgmental moral high ground.”

But by providing Burma’s pariah junta much of the crucial materiel and equipment denied by Western sanctions, Singapore has helped keep the junta and its cronies afloat for 20 years, indeed since the last time the generals opened fire on the citizens they are supposed to protect. Withdraw that financial support from Singapore and others and Burma’s junta would be substantially weakened, perhaps even fail. But after two decades of profitable business with the trigger-happy generals, that’s about the last thing Singapore is likely to do. There’s too much money to be made.


Much of Singapore’s activity in Burma has been documented by an analyst working in Australia’s Office of National Assessments, Canberra’s premier intelligence agency. Andrew Selth is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Burmese military. Now a research fellow at Queensland’s Griffith University, Selth has written extensively on how close Singapore is to the junta. Often writing as “William Ashton” in the authoritative Jane’s Intelligence Review, Selth has described in various articles how Singapore has sent the junta guns, rockets, armored personnel carriers and grenade launchers, some of it trans-shipped from stocks seized by Israel from Palestinians in southern Lebanon. Singaporean companies have provided computers and networking equipment for Burma's defense ministry and army, while upgrading the junta’s ability to network with regional commanders, crucial when protests spread, as they did recently, nationwide causing major logistical headaches for the Tatmadaw, Burma’s military.

“Singapore cares little about human rights, in particular the plight of the ethnic and religious minorities in Burma,” Selth writes. “Having developed one of the region’s most advanced armed forces and defense industrial support bases, Singapore is in a good position to offer Burma a number of inducements which other ASEAN countries would find hard to match.”

Selth says Singapore also provided the equipment for a “cyber war center” to monitor dissident activity while training Burma’s secret police, whose sole job it seems is to ensure pro-democracy groups are crushed. Monitoring dissidents is an area where Singapore has particular expertise. After almost five decades in power, the People’s Action Party, still controlled by the Lee family, ranks behind only the communists of China, Cuba and North Korea in dynastic staying power and skill in neutralizing opposition. “This centre is reported to be closely involved in the monitoring and recording of foreign and domestic telecommunications, including the satellite telephone conversations of Burmese opposition groups.” Selth writes.


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From Bangkok Post :

Dependent on Burma for our gas


Like it or not, Thailand does not have the luxury of pulling out of the oil and gas sector in military-ruled Burma, as advocated by activists in the wake of the bloody crackdown on peaceful demonstrations two weeks ago.

Thailand is facing a dilemma. While it frowns on the repressive Burmese regime, it has little choice but to be on good terms with them when it comes to natural gas supplies. The kingdom is and will remain heavily reliant on gas delivery from its western neighbour, particularly from the fields in the Gulf of Martaban, to meet its growing appetite for gas, needed for power generation. By 2012, Thailand will need to raise its gas supply by roughly 2 billion cubic feet (Bcfd) from 3 Bcfd currently.

Thailand's power demand is projected to grow by 5-6% a year, or an average of 1,400 MW a year. Thailand's most recent peak power demand registered on March 28 was at 21,896.4 MW.

Burma's proven gas reserves, at 19 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2006 according to the BP Plc, offer sizable energy supplies for Thailand than other possible indigenous and overseas sources currently identified. Furthermore, natural gas from the offshore Burmese fields offers good economic value and security of supply for Thailand.

The Burmese gas is of relatively good quality, competitively priced at least when compared to other overseas sources; being closer to us, it can be economically and securely piped to us for an extended period of over 20 years.

Other gas imports, in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), from Iran now under negotiation, will be at least twice as expensive as the Burmese gas when it reaches the shores of Rayong in 2012. LNG supplies from other sources such as Algeria, Australia, Qatar, Egypt and South Africa are no less costly.

Meanwhile, the chance of finding any more sizable gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand is limited, while there are uncertainties about securing substantial gas supplies from neighbouring countries including the huge Natuna gas field in Indonesia.

To bring to Thailand the Natuna gas, which is inferior to the Burmese gas due to its high carbon dioxide content (70%), a 2,000km pipeline needs to be laid at a cost of more than 100 billion baht, thus raising the question of economic viability for such an undertaking.

For these very reasons, which Burma knows very well, Thailand has to close one eye to the human right abuses and continue to engage in petroleum development in Burma, which activists say is providing funding for a repressive regime. Burma has been an important source of gas supply for Thailand for more than eight years now, with the offshore Yadana and Yetagun fields, in which Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production Plc has a stake, delivering about about 1 Bcfd, representing over 20% of the kingdom's current gas supply.

In fact, Burma would not really care if the Thai state-controlled energy firms PTT Plc and its exploration arm PTTEP, opt out from its gas scene, in the knowledge that companies from other countries including China, Burma's staunchest diplomatic protector and largest trading partner, and India are keen to take Thailand's place.

There are also firms from South Korea and other countries jostling for access to the country's hydrocarbon reserves to feed their growing thirst for energy.

In spite of the economic sanctions, several foreign oil firms are active in Burma _ nine are engaged in 16 onshore blocks, another nine international energy groups are operating in 29 offshore blocks.

There is no easy solution out of this dilemma for Thailand, which has no one but itself to blame for becoming too dependent on natural gas, which generates over 70% of all electricity. This reliance on gas for power generation could balloon to as much as 90% if the country does not seriously engage in conservation and continues to shun alternative energy such as coal-fired plants and nuclear power, which are being vigorously opposed by eco-activists.

Any move to curtail current and future gas supplies from Burma needs to be carefully considered, as it could jeopardise Thailand's energy lifeline.

Also, Thailand will need to play a balancing act between its economic interests, and politics which are sensitive to the global community's views regarding Burma.

Boonsong Kositchotethana is Deputy Assignment Editor (Business), Bangkok Post.

From The First Post :

Burma junta divided at highest level

E vidence is emerging from Burma that a split occurred within the ruling junta over how to handle the recent demonstrations and that the army was close to mutiny, waiting only for the word from its commander in chief, General Maung Aye.

Maung Aye (far right) is number two in the Burmese junta, second only to General Than Shwe (near right). A battle-hardened, no-nonsense general, he is nonetheless regarded as a realist who carefully weighed the pros and cons of using troops to suppress the monks.

Reports emerged at the height of the bloody crackdown in Rangoon, Mandalay and other cities that confusion existed within the army over how to deal with the demonstrators. Some units were said to have refused to open fire.

A clearer picture of what happened in those critical days is emerging

edward loxton examines reports that the army was close to mutiny during recent democracy protests

from sources contacted by the Thai based exile magazine, the Irrawaddy, considered to be one of the most reliable reporters on Burma.

'Sources close to the army' have told the magazine that Maung Aye issued an order for troops to hold their fire. He had earlier pressed Than Shwe to use only police and paramilitary units to clear the streets of demonstrators, but the junta leader had overruled him.

Than Shwe was supported by the number three in the junta, Thura Shwe Mann, deputy commander in chief of the army, who bypassed Maung Aye and gave the order to use force to end the demonstrations.


Even at the height of the bloodshed, say the Irrawaddy's sources, 'some regional commanders sent clear signals to Maung Aye that they were ready to obey any order he gave them, but the army chief did not make any move against Than Shwe.'

Some senior officers reportedly appealed to Maung Aye to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to engage her help in ending the crisis. Maung Aye is said to have increased the guard on her home, where she is under house arrest, to protect her from the armed pro-government thugs who roamed Rangoon during the crackdown.


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From CNN :

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. first lady Laura Bush -- in a rare foray into foreign policy -- called on Myanmar's military junta to "step aside," give up the "terror campaigns" against its people and allow for a democratic Myanmar in a commentary published in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.

U.S. first lady Laura Bush said Myanmar's junta should step aside to make way for legitimate leaders.

"Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies are a friendless regime," Bush said. "They should step aside to make way for a unified Burma [Myanmar] governed by legitimate leaders.

"The rest of the armed forces should not fear this transition -- there is room for a professional military in a democratic Burma," Bush said.

The humanitarian rights situation in Myanmar has been a cause for the first lady in the past few months as the crisis there has worsened.

Myanmar state media has reported that 2,000 people were detained during the demonstrations and the crackdown against them -- under an emergency law imposed on September 25 banning assembly of more than five people -- and that 700 of those people have been released.

The official death toll from Myanmar's leadership is at 10, but there are reports that hundreds were killed and thousands arrested in the wake of the demonstrations that peaked late September, which were led by Myanmar's Buddhist monks.

On Tuesday morning, Bush received a phone call from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to update her on the efforts of his special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari. A representative of the secretary general said the call was a follow-up to a conversation they had weeks ago.

Gambari met last week with the military junta leadership as well as with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aun Sung Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Yangon.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, told reporters that Laura Bush and her husband's administration believe that there is a "need to start preparing for transition" for Myanmar.

"We believe it is very important that progress be made and prisoners be released and conditions for Aun Sung Suu Kyi be improved [so] that she can prepare for participation for negotiations for a transition," he said.

In Wednesday's commentary, Bush called on Myanmar's military leaders to release Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders so they can meet with and plan for a transition to democracy.

"Meanwhile, the world watches -- and waits," Bush warns.

"We know that Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies have the advantage of violent force. But Ms. Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders have moral legitimacy, the support of the Burmese people and the support of the world.

"The regime's position grows weaker by the day. The generals' choice is clear: The time for a free Burma is now."
From :

Burmese diplomat quits London Embassy

By Our Foreign Staff
Last Updated: 1:50am BST 10/10/2007

A diplomat at Burma’s embassy in London has resigned to protest his country’s “appalling” crackdown on monks at the heart of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Ye Min Tun, a second secretary at the embassy according to British government records, said Burma’s military leaders had ignored the people’s wish to negotiate.

“I have never seen such a scenario in the whole of my life. The government is arresting and beating the peaceful Buddhist monks,” he told the BBC, adding that he had sent a resignation letter to the embassy in London.

The junta said 13 people were killed last month in a crackdown on peaceful protests led by monks in Rangoon, although many more are feared to have been killed.

Thousands of civilians and monks were rounded up afterwards and have “disappeared” into the country’s secret jails.

Mr Ye, who described himself as a “good Buddhist,” said the crackdown was “horrible” and voiced hope that the protests would force the generals to come to an agreement with the opposition.

“This revolution, this incident seemed to be the decisive factor that could persuade the government to go to the negotiation table... but actually the government ignored the reality,” he added.

Meanwhile, South African president Nelson Mandela withdrew an invitation to Gary Player to host a fundraising golf tournament because of the former British Open champion’s business links with Burma.

Mr Mandela was apparently responding to calls from former archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, who said people should boycott Player’s company because he had designed the Pride of Myanmar golf course which was favoured by members of the junta.

Nobel peace laureate and Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has called for an international boycott of foreign companies with business links with the regime.

Parents are "ill-equipped" to keep their children safe from violent and damaging influences on the internet, the Government said.

From Bangkok Post :

Lee Kuan Yew: Burma generals rather dumb

Singapore (dpa) - Singapore's senior statesman Lee Kuan Yew believes the ruling generals of Burma are "rather dumb" when it comes to managing the country's economy and will not be able to survive indefinitely, a published interview said Wednesday.

However, the Army must be part of the solution to the problems facing the country, he said. If the Army is dissolved, all of Burma's administrative instruments will go with it, and the country will have nothing with which to govern itself.

Lee, Singapore's founding prime minister and currently minister mentor, spoke with a columnist from the University of California's Los Angeles Media Centre and a new-media expert from the University of Southern California.

The contents were published in The Straits Times.

"These are rather dumb generals when it comes to the economy," he was quoted as saying. "How they can so mismanage the economy and reach this stage when the country has so many natural resources?"

Lee said that Singapore hoteliers who sunk millions of dollars into Burma on his advice have now found their hotels empty.

He has tried to advise the generals to take Burma out of isolation, referring specifically to former junta member Khin Nyunt, who is currently under house arrest.

"He's the most intelligent of the lot," Lee said of Khin Nyunt, who as prime minister and head of military intelligence was once part of a troika in the military junta, but apparently fell out with the current regime chief Senior General Than Shwe and was stripped of his posts in 2004.

Lee said he could not understand how the generals could believe that they could let Burma remain isolated, adding that even medicines were being smuggled from Thailand.

Referring to recent excesses by the junta, Lee said that the rulers must have pushed "a hungry and impoverished" people to revolt. Among the excesses were moving to a new administrative capital, Naypyidaw, complete with expensive buildings.

"We will see how it is, but whatever it is, I do not believe that they can survive indefinitely," Lee said.

Monday, October 8, 2007

From The Scotsman :

'Rubies are red with the blood of Burma's young'


THEY have decorated the headdresses of maharajas, the bellies of courtesans and the fingers of the world's affluent. The rubies of the Mogok valley in upper Burma are cherished for their clarity, quality and the lush red hue known as "pigeon's blood". Yet, as the trade funnels millions of pounds each year into the coffers of the military junta, campaigners now argue the rubies are red with the blood of the people.

While Leonardo Di Caprio and Hollywood have helped educate the public about "blood diamonds" - gems mined in war zones and sold secretly to finance insurgency or a warlord's army - there is a growing demand to have the precious stones of Burma rebranded as "blood rubies" and subject to the same boycott.

In light of the Saffron revolution led by Buddhist monks and the subsequent violent crackdown on the democratic movement by the military government, pressure groups outside Burma are critical of a trade they insist is built on the back of oppression and abuse. "It's said 95 per cent of all rubies come from Burma, so if you see a ruby in a shop, it's gone through the hands of the Burmese generals and is helping to pay for the soldiers and guns on the streets of Rangoon," Mark Farmaner, the acting director of Burma Campaign UK, said.

Debbie Stothard, of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, said conditions in the country's mining operations were horrendous, with owners hooking employees on drugs to improve productivity, and where shared needles are common and AIDS rife.

She said: "Heroin is given to people at the end of the working day as a reward. Young people go off to the mines with big hopes and dreams, and they come back to die. These rubies are red with the blood of young people."


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From FamilySecurityMatters :

Exclusive: You Can Still Save Those Who Crave Democracy in Burma

Author: Sandra Carney
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: October 8, 2007

While the atrocities in Burma rage on, there is one last hope to save the people there who yearn for democracy. FSM Contributing Editor Sandra Carney offers petitions and advice to those of us who, quite rightfully, care. Sign up!

You Can Still Save Those Who Crave Democracy in Burma

By Sandra Carney

The dictator in Burma Than Shwe appears to be floundering in the wake of modern technology. On August 8th, 1988, the world was ignorant of the murderous rampage in Rangoon as thousands of peaceful protesters were gunned down on its streets. Today, however, due to bloggers, the Internet and image & movie-taking cell phones, the military thugs have little place to hide. There is hope.

A few days ago a list of names of those who had been arrested has surfaced with some detailed information as to who they are. That list can be found here: Bloggers from within Burma are risking their lives to get this news out to the world, asking all whom they reach to spread the word. Coupled with this, there have been coordinated peaceful marches globe wide. “The London event was one of many planned for around the world, including rallies in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, India, the Irish Republic, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Thailand and the US.”

Yet even with this global assistance movement, a few unlucky souls already have vanished with no trace at all.

Reports are also surfacing of bonfires on the outskirts of Rangoon. Since hundreds remain unaccounted for, neither in jails or at their homes, speculation is rampant that the bonfires are actually bodies being cremated. As yet, these reports have not been substantiated as the areas are tightly guarded.


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From The :

Calling Burma Myanmar is insulting to the Burmese
Published:Oct 07, 2007

I write on behalf of the Free Burma Campaign (SA) . Your editorial “Zimbabwe of the East” (September 30), is welcome.

However, you call Burma “Myanmar” and add “or Burma as the UK and US insist on calling it”, as if it is just the UK and US being plain difficult.

Imagine if a German went around insisting that people who are communicating in English use “Deutschland” instead of Germany, or a Japanese person insisted on “Nippon”. Many people would find it silly, if not downright politically obnoxious. Likewise the insistence of Burma’s military junta on “Myanmar” shows their jingoism.

In contrast, Burma is the name used by the worldwide campaign to free the country from the junta’s brutal and inept rule.

Burma was a democracy from independence in 1948 until the military coup of 1962. It is the illegitimate junta that has changed its name. In 1990 the junta held elections to legitimise its rule. This backfired as the National League for Democracy won by a landslide. The stunned generals refused to recognise the results.

So to use Burma instead of Myanmar is to respect the democratic expression of Burma’s people. — David P Kramer, by e-mail

October 7, 2007

Secret cremations hide Burma killings

THE Burmese army has burnt an undetermined number of bodies at a crematorium sealed off by armed guards northeast of Rangoon over the past seven days, ensuring that the exact death toll in the recent pro-democracy protests will never be known.

The secret cremations have been reported by local people who have seen olive green trucks covered with tarpaulins rumbling through the area at night and watched smoke rising continuously from the furnace chimneys.

They say they have watched soldiers in steel helmets blocking off roads to the municipal crematorium and threatening people who poke their heads out of windows overlooking the roads after the 10pm curfew.

Their accounts have been volunteered to international officials and aid workers in Rangoon, Burma’s main city. The consensus in the foreign community is that the consistency of the stories makes them credible.

“There has been no attempt to identify the dead, to return the bodies to their families or to give them even the minimum Buddhist religious rites,” said a foreign official who has collated information on the toll of dead and injured from a wide variety of sources.

Horrifying rumours are sweeping the city that some of those cremated were severely injured people thrust into the ovens alive, but these have been treated with extreme caution by independent observers and have not been verified.

However, it is widely accepted that the cremations began on the night of Friday, September 28, more than 24 hours after soldiers opened fire on unarmed Buddhist monks and civilians demonstrating on the streets of Rangoon.

They have continued at intervals right up to the end of last week, according to local people. Taxi drivers refused to take a foreigner to the area, saying they were too frightened and that the army moved bodies after the shoot-on-sight curfew.


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From Sydney Morning Herald :

Untold story: how Burma brutalised its monks

Fight to survive ... a labourer carries debris from a building being demolished by hand. Many in Burma earn less than a dollar a day.

Fight to survive ... a labourer carries debris from a building being demolished by hand. Many in Burma earn less than a dollar a day.
Photo: Andrew Meares

Connie Levett in Rangoon
October 8, 2007
Page 1 of 2

THE mystery of what happened to Burma's saffron army, the thousands of monks who inspired a nation to rise up against a brutal regime, then vanished overnight, has been unlocked.

Taken from their monasteries in a wave of midnight raids, they have been held in primitive, humiliating conditions designed to break them down physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The account of an 18-year-old novice, who was taken from the Mingalar Rama monastery in Rangoon, reveals that while the military may be in physical control, the monks still wield a powerful spiritual weapon.

He said soldiers at the Government Technical Institute in Insein, one of four detention centres set up to handle the thousands of people arrested, broke down in tears when monks warned them they would go to hell for the way they had treated the detainees.

The treatment that has angered the monks includes lack of medical care, lack of sanitation, brutality in detention and disrespect for the Buddhist robes.

In seven days of detention, monks and civilians who were injured during the fighting received no medical attention, the young monk said.

"One monk from Nywe Kyar Yan monastery, you could see the bone in his arm but they never treated it," he said.

Another monk who had hurt an eye in fighting had now lost it. Three civilians who did not receive medical attention died at the technical institute, the young monk said.

The monk was taken by the junta at 4am on September 27. "The soldiers invited us to come and have breakfast with them. We knew it was not breakfast, but we did not fight them like they did at Nywe Kyar Yan," he said. The monastery's 99 monks were put in canvas-covered army trucks and taken straight to the Government Technical Institute, close to Insein prison, where political prisoners are detained for decades at a time.

Once there, the monks were put in rooms where they had to sit in lines, cross-legged without moving, hands clasped at the back of their necks, heads bowed in the submission pose.

They were beaten if they looked up or, as they became weaker, if they toppled over.

"Some soldiers were told by the monks, 'you are committing a very serious crime, serious enough to go to hell'. Some of them were crying, saying they were just doing what they were told," the young monk said.


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Saturday, October 6, 2007

From :

PM to keep up pressure on Burma

Press Association
Saturday October 6, 2007 10:28 AM

Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed to "keep up the pressure for change" on Burma as demonstrators marched to Downing Street as part of an international day of action.

Mr Brown said Saturday's events were "all about repeating a firm message: the world has not forgotten - and will not forget - the people of Burma".

And he repeated his commitment to secure tougher EU sanctions against the Rangoon regime and to support United Nations efforts in the country.

Demonstrators will wear red headbands in solidarity with Buddhist monks during marches in London and other cities.

Monks will lead a march from the Tate Britain gallery in central London to a rally in Trafalgar Square after tying headbands to the Downing Street gates.

Mr Brown said: "We have not forgotten their courage and dignity, taking to the streets in the face of a brutal regime.

"We have not forgotten the guns and batons, the arrests and murders, which met them.

"We believe that there have been many more killings than the regime admit. And appalling attacks on monks."

The PM said he had "very grave concerns" that the numbers of people who had simply disappeared could be in the thousands and cited "strong evidence" that many were in detention.

"I have asked my officials to continue monitoring this situation, and I encourage NGOs and other governments to do so too. The demonstrators who have made sacrifices, and the brave citizens and journalists who have risked so much to get images and information to the outside world, deserve no less."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2007, All Rights Reserved.

From :

EXCLUSIVE: INSIDE BURMA | World | A reporter's rare look inside Burma
A reporter's rare look inside Burma
Ignoring Burmese riot police, a defiant Buddhist monk rallies the crowd during the height of anti-government protests in Rangoon last month.

David Jimenez from Spain's El Mundo newspaper, one of the few foreign reporters to slip into Rangoon, witnessed the junta's brutal crackdown on monk-led Burmese protesters
Oct 06, 2007 04:30 AM


RANGOON–He is just a teenager, with his head shaved and his body draped in the red-saffron tunic that has given its name to the revolution. The monk gets up from the floor in a cloud of tear gas and picks up his glasses, broken by the impact of a rifle to his head. Disoriented, he asks me: "Who is going to help us?

"Do they know in your country what's happening here? Why is nobody coming to help?"

The rooms at monasteries around the main city are empty, a reminder of a lost fight. I go to visit the Chaukhtatgyi reclining Buddha in Rangoon. A military commander has come to visit the temple. He gives his pistol to one of his men, falls to his knees and starts praying to the big Buddha.

Is he feeling guilty for ordering the shooting of his sons? His expression gives nothing away. He gives some money as an offering and leaves with his soldiers, poised for another raid in the city.

When night falls over Rangoon, the darkness rolls in. From my hotel window on Sule Pagoda Ave. I can see trucks full of armed troops crossing the city for a new raid. They comb through a city under curfew, knocking on doors at midnight and carrying away people who dared to confront one of the world's most brutal regimes.

Now, the Burmese have accepted that their revolution was not meant to be. With no help from outside, and no escape possible, they have begun to pay the price for believing – for a moment – that there were possibilities.

Bravery and defiance have turned into fear. Hope into despair. Dreams of democracy into old nightmares of tyranny.

It was only a week ago that people were cheering those few journalists who sneaked into the country. Shopkeepers and housewives would give us food and water on the streets, asking us not to leave them.

"Please, stay," one lady in her `50s told me during one of the demonstrations. "We need the world to see what is happening."

Now that the end has come, they no longer look foreigners in the eye, haunted by the fear of being tainted, detained and made to disappear.

The fear is in their eyes.

How could it all go wrong so rapidly? The sight of the monks marching had given people, paralyzed by decades of repression, the strength to join a movement marching against all odds. For a time, their biggest fear was missing the opportunity of a lifetime – and the chance to change their lives and the lives of their children.

Then came the darkness.

The monks were corralled into their monasteries at gunpoint. And the people lost the inspiration of the monks' moral authority in a country where they represent the forces of purity against venality. The military regime knew that once it took control of the monasteries it had only to demonstrate its willingness to kill unarmed civilians – and prove it with bodies on the streets – to bring back the fear of the past.

It worked.

I was in front of the Sule pagoda the day of the biggest massacre by the junta. Soldiers had surrounded the temple and a few people showed them their indignation for the killing of five people the day before. "How could you shoot at our monks?" they asked. "Where is your compassion?" A few people soon mushroomed into hundreds. Then there were thousands.

I had to remind myself that I had come to Burma to report on a story and that I should distance myself from what I was seeing, so strong was the urge to join the Burmese in their march to democracy. They were mostly young people who had not lived under any other system than this harsh dictatorship but knew there had to be something better on the horizon. They decided to risk not only what they had lived so far, but for all that they still had to live.

A few monks came from nowhere and walked through the crowd, people opening up for them and getting on their knees with tears in their eyes. The monks got into the first line and ordered everyone to sit down and pray. So they did.

Then came the formidable enemy again: darkness.

The military from the 77th Battalion, one of the most ruthless in the country, arrived in trucks along the same path taken minutes earlier by the monks. No matter what they had done before and how much they had repressed their people over the years, I never thought they would shoot at those unarmed civilians confronting them just with their prayers. I heard a first round of shots and I still thought they had to be warning shots. Then I saw an injured demonstrator carried away by his colleagues. His chest was covered in blood.

I ran. People around me ran. The Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai ran. But he was delayed by the crowd running in front of him and the soldiers confronted him. One of them pointed a gun at his chest. Kenji Nagai opened his arms to show his camera, as if to say: "I am unarmed, see?"

He was executed at point blank range.

The soldier who killed him, and the generals who gave the orders, were treating Kenji Nagai as armed and dangerous. After all, no foreign TV crews had been able to enter the country and networks such as the BBC and CNN had been forced to report from neighbouring Thailand. But the junta could not stop the transfer of images from their crackdown.

Hundreds of Burmese had replaced the journalists who could not make it into the country using cellphones and the Internet to tell the world what was happening. In the eyes of the junta, a camera was, at that moment, a deadly weapon.

Nobody knows how many people were killed that day. I have no doubt there were dozens, but if it had been necessary to slaughter hundreds or thousands, the military wouldn't have hesitated. Forced to choose between shooting their own people or relinquishing power, the generals had decided in predictable fashion. But winning was never going to be enough.

A new crackdown was underway as soon as the soldiers had retaken control of the streets. Twenty thousand soldiers descended into Rangoon with orders to make sure there would be no more uprisings. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

Gun-toting soldiers were posted on almost every street corner, Internet links were cut and tourist visas were denied. They came looking for the few journalists reporting the story.

I saw soldiers trawl Rangoon street by street, throwing suspects into trucks and driving them away. Some were just teenagers.

People who lost their identification papers during the demonstrations, or were identified by spies who infiltrated the protests, were the first to be detained. Now anyone can join them in jails, which are beyond the reach of human rights groups. Some families do not dare call attention to the disappearances of their sons and daughters because they fear being taken away themselves. Burma's people are in a state of terror.

I can't help thinking of the lady in her `50s, and others like her, asking me to "please stay."

In a few days there will be no journalists in Rangoon and the eyes of the world will no longer be on Burma. The future of a whole generation could be thrown away without witnesses. The lives of thousands of people destroyed. The last time the regime confronted revolt in 1988 it responded by killing 3,000 on the streets.

But the worst was yet to come. Universities were closed, thousands were sent to jail and the country closed its doors for years. Now it seems the Burmese are about to be left alone once again to confront the darkness. Without the world bearing witness, the darkness will be all-enveloping.

Still, there are pockets of defiance. I watch a group of young Burmese tracking the troops from a rooftop: "There's a lot of them," says one, pointing to truckloads of soldiers. "Yes, too many," replies his friend, seemingly daunted. They make a quick calculation, opting to relocate their protest with another small band of protesters, none more than a couple of dozen, proclaiming: "Free our monks ... Down with the murderers of our people."

But two dozen seems a weak echo of the tens of thousands I saw at the start.

A monk sitting at the entrance to a pagoda tells me he cannot accept such a defeat for his people. The injustice cannot last forever, he insists, because the people will one day rise again. But will it be another two decades before the darkness lifts?

David Jimenez is Asia correspondent for El Mundo of Spain.
From BBC :

In quotes: UN Burma briefing

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari says there is consensus in the Security Council that Burma cannot return to the status quo after the recent crisis. Speaking at UN headquarters, he voiced concern at reports of continuing arrests and beatings. Below are reactions from around the world.


We must all be prepared to consider measures such as arms embargoes.


Pressure ... would only lead to confrontation, or even the loss of dialogue, between [Burma] and the international community.


It's important to really know how many victims there are since the authorities are trying to conceal their bloody repression from the world.


I must reiterate that the use of force against peaceful demonstrators is abhorrent and unacceptable.


No Security Council action is warranted.


They are asking [opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi] to confess to offences that she has not committed.


Sanctions against a regime that is ready to isolate itself are more likely to be counter-productive than effective.


With regard to the [UN] Security Council, its job is to continue lending political support to the efforts of [UN envoy Ibrahim] Gambari.

From Bangkok Post :

Burma protest movement 'remains strong'

Last week's brutal crackdown on protests in Burma will not stop the growing movement for reform in the pariah state, pro-democracy leaders in exile said Friday in Bangkok.

The unprecedented Buddhist monk-led protests ignited a fire among long-suffering Burmese that will not be easily extinguished, but the international community must pressure the military regime to avoid further bloodshed, the activists told a Bangkok press conference.

"Many people are saying the Burmese revolt is over, but that is not true," said Naing Aung of the Forum for Democracy in Burma. "A movement that brought out 1 million people willing to defy bullets cannot easily disappear."

Leaders of several groups said the images thousands of monks marching peacefully, and finally being beaten, had brought together both Burmese citizens and people around the world to stand up to the regime.


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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

From Newsweek :

A Shot in the Arm

Burma’s rebel fighters were conspicuously absent when monks and ordinary citizens took to the streets of Rangoon. But guerrilla leaders say the mass protests have helped unite their divided groups.

After the Crackdown: Soldiers have reopened the streets leading to two of Rangoon’s main pagodas
After the Crackdown: Soldiers have reopened the streets leading to two of Rangoon’s main pagodas

By Lennox Samuels
Updated: 5:05 p.m. ET Oct. 1, 2007

Oct. 1, 2007 - The men in the room look like a random gathering of office workers, managers and schoolteachers rather than people plotting to unseat a widely despised, illegitimate government. But they are here on extremely serious business: to put aside differences and find a way to rid Burma of its brutal military regime.

The group met close to the Burmese border today as the military junta continued to stall on meeting international demands for an end to the crackdown on prodemocracy protests. Dissident groups say that up to 200 demonstrators were killed and thousands were detained when troops and police shot into crowds of unarmed protesters last week; the regime puts the death toll at 10.

Based on the deference shown him, Chao Yodsuek, a bespectacled ringer for a bank clerk, clearly is the ranking person at the meeting, and he leads the discussion, speaking in the Shan dialect used by people just across the border from Thailand. Yodsuek is a colonel in the Shan State Army and a top official in an umbrella group, the Restoration Council of the Shan State (RCSS). The Shan are a Tai ethnic group who live primarily in the state named after them.

At a break in the talks an assistant distributes a statement from the RCSS, but it contains only seven rather predictable points surrounding the council’s support for “the people and monks of Burma.” Far more significant is the agenda the colonel lays out for ending his country’s four-decade nightmare of oppression and privation, including an imminent return to violence if attempts at “national reconciliation” fail.

“A political solution is the first priority,” says Yodsuek, a subdued but forceful figure in white dress shirt and dark trousers. “We’ll try to solve a political issue through political means. If that fails—armed struggle.”


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From :

Japan to press murder charges against Burma

This TV grab image from a video obtained from the Democratic Voice of Burma shows Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai lying dead on the street after being shot.

This TV grab image from a video obtained from the Democratic Voice of Burma shows Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai lying dead on the street after being shot.
Photo: AFP

October 3, 2007 - 5:14PM

Japan's police will seek to press murder charges against Burma troops who shot dead a Japanese journalist during pro-democracy protests last month, a newspaper reported today.

Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department will seek the prosecution of the soldiers who killed Kenji Nagai, 50, a journalist for the Tokyo-based video news service APF News, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

Nagai was killed in Rangoon on September 27 while covering Burma's military crackdown on mass anti-government protests.

Under Japanese law, police can seek the prosecution of suspects when a Japanese national is the victim of a felony crime overseas, although whether the suspects are extradited depends on whether there is a treaty in place.


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From :

Singapore, a friend indeed to Burma


Page 2 of 4 | Single page

Much of Singapore's activity in Burma has been documented by an analyst working in Australia's Office of National Assessments. Andrew Selth is recognised as a leading authority on Burma's military. Now a research fellow at Queensland's Griffith University, Selth has written extensively for years on how close Singapore Inc is to the junta.

Often writing as "William Ashton" in Jane's Intelligence Review, Selth has described how Singapore has sent guns, rockets, armoured personnel carriers and grenade launchers to the junta, some of it trans-shipped from stocks seized by Israel from Palestinians in southern Lebanon.

Singaporean companies have provided computers and communications equipment for Burma's defence ministry and army, while upgrading the junta's ability to communicate with regional commanders - so crucial as protesters take to the streets of 20 cities in Burma. The sheer scale of the protests is causing logistical headaches for the Tatmadaw, as Burma's military is known.

"Singapore cares little about human rights, in particular the plight of the ethnic and religious minorities in Burma," Selth writes. "Having developed one of the region's most advanced armed forces and defence industrial support bases, Singapore is in a good position to offer Burma a number of inducements which other ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] countries would find hard to match."

Selth says Singapore also provided the equipment for a "cyber war centre" to monitor dissident activity, while training Burma's secret police, whose sole job appears to be ensuring democracy groups are crushed.

Monitoring dissidents is an area where Singapore has expertise. After almost five decades in power, the Lee family-controlled People's Action Party ranks behind only the communists of China, Cuba and North Korea in leadership longevity.

"This centre is reported to be closely involved in the monitoring and recording of foreign and domestic telecommunications, including the satellite telephone conversations of Burmese opposition groups," Selth writes.

Singaporean government companies, such as the arms supplier Singapore Technologies, dominate the communications and military sector in Singapore. Selth writes: "It is highly unlikely that any of these arms shipments to Burma could have been made without the knowledge and support of the Singapore Government." He notes that Singapore's ambassadors to Burma have included a former senior Singapore Armed Forces officer and a past director of Singapore's defence-oriented Joint Intelligence Directorate. "It is curious that Singapore chose to assign someone with a military background to this new member of ASEAN and not one of its many capable professional diplomats."


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