Mar 26, 2008

The more than 30 different Chin tribes form the population of Chin State in North West Myanmar.

The differences between the groups are mainly in the spoken language and different custom.
-Chin, Chin state, chin tribes, Myanmar, Burma, chin new year festival, ethnic groups of Myanmar Burma-.
Chin State is one of the least developed in the country, thus on the other side, makes it very interesting for an exploration trip, since this is a really exceptional experience.
Chin State has a very rough topology, almost no infrastructure and most of the people walk over unpaved road when they have to go somewhere.
Chin State Myanmar has borders with Bangladesh and India at the west and Myanmar’s Rakhine state at the south, Myanmar’s Magwe and Sagaing divisons are at the eastern front. Mountain, Hills, deep valleys and no plains or plateaus are visible. Elevation goes up to 3100 m at Nat Ma Taung or Mount. Victoria in southern Chin state.
Water comes in from India via the Manipur river, the river joins Myittha river in Magwe division who finally end up in the Chindwin river in Sagaing division.
The Chindwin river is the main tributary to Myanmar’s lifeline the Ayeyarwady or Irrawaddy river. All rivers in Myanmar Chin State are full of rapids and navigable by small boats only.
A pretty lake called "Reh" near to the Indian border can be reached from Falam by a four wheel drive off-road vehicle.
The border pass at Chikha is for local people only. Shifting cultivation and some attempts to terrace cultivation can be spotted. Rice, corn, wheat and coffee beans are raised. Oranges, apples and other fruits suitable for this climate are grown. Chin textiles are very well known in Myanmar and have a good reputation for their excellent quality. Sometimes hand weaving is still used.
Ethnic groups of Chin state are Chin, Bama, Lai, Cho, Siyin, Matu , Simbhrin, Kumi. The major income source is agriculture but since this is developed on a very low level only life is hard in Chin State.
Somehow luckily the rough terrain makes it difficult for poachers to cut the trees that means there is still some forest left and not so heavy cutting has been done like in other areas of Myanmar. Teak and other hardwoods are below about 1000 meters. Above are oaks and pines. Since the people are dependent on wood for cooking –there is no electricity or gas- the forests degrade continuously.
Roads are cut into the mountain sides and the rugged nature of the landscape makes difficult anyway to move around easily.
Chin people usually walk, I would say all guys and gals from the green movements all over the world would be at the right place here, but had ever saw any of the green bla bla maker do life what they are preaching to other's ? We call this people, they preach drink water but they drink wine. To reach Palatwa town in the southern Chin from Rakhine state is by small boats only via the Kissipanadi river. There is a road from Kyauk Taw (Rakhing state) but only suitable in the dry season and the vehicle should be at least a trucks. Kanpetlet in the south (Nat Ma Taung or Mt. Victoria national park), Mindat and Madupi can be accessed from centralMyanmar. A north-south road connects Chikha in the North (near to the Indian border) to Ton Zang, Tiddin, Falam, Hakha, Aika and Madupi.
Kalay in Sagaing division is the gateway for trucks moving passengers and goods. Tourism is by tour operators, check with Myanmar Explore in Yangon, they have lots of experience and are good connected, actually some of the employees are Chin and Naga.

Chin State

The mountainous state is bordering with Bangladesh and India on the west, and Rakhine state on the south, Magwe and Sagaing divisons on the east. The whole region is made up of high hills and deep valleys, and there is hardly any plain or plateau. The average elevation varies between 1500 and 2700 meters, the highest being Nat Ma Taung or Mt. Victoria in southern Chin state at 3100 meters above sea level. Manipur river flows from India into Chin state from the northern tip, passes Ton Zang, Tiddim, Falam and then turns to the east to the low land to join Myittha river in Magwe division. Myittha river in turn flows into Chindwin river in Sagaing division. Near Falam there is a hydroelectric power station. Other important rivers are Kissipanadi or Kaladan river, and Laymyo river both of them flow southward to Rakhine state and later empty themselves into the bay of Bengal (Indian ocean). The rivers in the state are full of rapids and white waters, and thus not suitable for navigation. Only small boats and canoes can travel in certain sections, mostly downstream. Ethnic groups living in Chin state include Chin, Lai, Simbhrin, Kumi, Cho, Siyin, Matu, and Bamar. Majority of population is Christian. Major occupation is agriculture, however it is not well developed due to the scarcity of large valleys and plains. Shifting cultivation is still prevalent. Terrance cultivation is slowly being introduced along the hillsides. Due to difficult terrain human labour is the main driving force of work done. Mountain rice, wheat, maize, coffee, orange, damson and apple are grown. Chin textiles especially blankets and Yaw Longyi (circular ring of cloth worn at the waist to cover the lower part of the body) are famous. Many Chins still use the traditional method of hand weaving. Teak and other hardwoods are found at elevation below 900 meters. Above 900 meters there are oaks and pines. Teak, pines, canes, resin and turpentine are important forest products. Since electricity is not available in most villages people depend on the wood for cooking. Travel and tourism Travel to Chin state is mainly by car on poor roads cut along the mountain sides and valleys. Very rugged nature of the landscape makes travel difficult, and land slides are not un-common. In certain areas cars have to carry shovels and garden hoe to clear the land slide and stones cover. Normal Chin villagers would travel daily on foot from village to village and to and from the farms. Palatwa town in the southern Chin state could be reached from northern Rakhine state by Kissipanadi river. It is possible by only small motor boats. The road from Kyauk Taw (Rakhing state) is good only in the dry season for rough trucks. The other southern towns such as Kanpetlet (where Nat Ma Taung or Mt. Victoria national park is), Mindat, Madupi could be reached from the central plain region. The roads are not so good, however they are in so so conditions. The only north-south highway within the state connects the northern border town of Chikha (close to Indian border) to Ton Zang, Tiddin, Falam, Hakha, Aika and Madupi. From Kalay (Sagaing division) both large and small trucks carrying passengers and goods travel to Tiddin, Falam and Hakha daily in summer (February - July) and winter (October - February). Tourism is by permission. Climbing the peak of Mt. Victoria is usually done from Bagan. In Kampatlet there is (January, 2004) a lodge offering basic bungalow style accommodation. In other towns tourists have to use government guest houses since small private hotels do not have basic tourist facilities. There is a beautiful heart shape lake called "Reh" close to the Indian border, which can be reached from Falam by jeep. The border check point at Chikha is opened to local people only.

Mar 24, 2008


Independent Day ( 1948 )


NanDarHlaing( Actress )

US Congressmen propose rejection of junta's constitution

United States lawmakers on Friday proposed a Congressional resolution urging the President to call on the United Nations to reject the Burmese military junta's constitution and not to recognize its efforts to legitimize it through a referendum in May.
House Concurring resolution 317 was introduced by Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ), Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 14, 2008.
The resolution, which is now referred to the House Committee of Foreign Affairs for consideration, calls on the President "to call for the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution," on Burma, which will instruct the Burmese regime to comply to the calls made by the United Nations and the international communities.
The resolution denounces the one-sided, undemocratic, and illegitimate act by the Burmese military junta to legalize its rule with a constitution drafted with its hand-picked delegates and criticizes the junta's scheduled referendum in May.
It also urges the President to push for a comprehensive arms embargo against the Burmese junta at the United Nations Security Council so that weapons produced by foreign countries, including Ukraine, China, and Russia, who currently sell weapons to Burma's military regime, can no longer contribute to the atrocities committed by Burma's military regime against civilians.
The resolution also urges the Burmese junta to comply fully and immediately with the recommendations made by the United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari and the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement issued on October 11, 2007.
The concurrent resolution, however, is the first step of the legislative process, and will require deliberation, investigation, and revision by the House Committee of Foreign Affairs before it can go for a general debate.
The resolution was introduced a week after the UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari concluded his last visit to Burma on March 10.
Gambari, who has visited the Southeast Asian nation for the third time since the ruling junta brutally suppressed protesting monks and laymen in September, suggested to the junta to make necessary changes to be more inclusive.
But critics view Gambari's mission a failure as he was not allowed a meeting with the junta's head Snr Gen Than Shwe and all his requests were flatly rejected by the junta's officials.
The Burmese junta has announced holding a referendum on its draft constitution in May and general election in 2010, and told Gambari that the process of its roadmap is already inclusive and needs no modification.
The junta in 2003 first announced a seven-step roadmap to democracy and started kicking off the process with a 14-year long National Convention, which claims to have drafted the principles for the future constitution.
Burma's main opposition political party – National League for Democracy – led by detained Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi initially joined the junta's National Convention but walked out in 1996, saying the process is not transparent and is made to rubber stamp the junta's policies.
Meanwhile, the US Campaign for Burma, a rights group, in a statement welcomed the Congressmen's proposal saying it reflects the will of the Burmese people.
Aung Din, Executive Director of the USCB, in a statement expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Congressmen who proposed the resolution saying it is an important initiative not to recognize the military junta's illegitimate constitution, which is designed to perpetuate military rule in Burma by vesting supreme power in the hands of the Chief of the military, Commander-in-Chief.
"People of Burma are determined to reject this sham constitution at any cost, which will make them slaves of the military for generations," Aung Din said.
On Friday, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Burma, who visited the country in November to investigate the junta's brutal crackdown on protesters in September and October, criticized the junta and condemned its continued arrest and detention of activists and dissidents.
Pinheiro, at a news briefing at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva ridiculed the Burmese junta's planned roadmap saying, "if you believe in gnomes, trolls and elves, you can believe in this democratic process in Myanmar [Burma]."
While the international community including the United Nations called on the junta to make its plan more inclusive, neighbouring countries including Thailand has been supportive of the junta's move.
Thailand's newly elected Prime Minister Samat Sundaravej, who recently came back from Burma, praised military leaders as strong devotees of Buddhism giving the impression that killing and suppression in the country are normal.
"Tragically, like the Thai Prime Minister, there are some governments in Asia and Europe who believe in myths. We need similar actions from other Members of Parliament around the world to urge their respective governments to reject the junta's sham constitution and to apply more pressure on the Burmese military junta," Aung Din said.

Naypyidaw’s Oscar Event

This year’s Burmese version of the US Academy Awards was held for the second consecutive year in Burma’s new capital, Naypyidaw.
A topical film about people living with HIV, “Hmyaw Lint Gyin Myar Swar” (“With Much Hope”), won the prize for best Burmese picture at the colorful event, while its director, Maung Myo Min (Yin Twin Phyit), won the best director award.
Nandar Hlaing won the best actress award and Yan Aung was chosen best actor.
In a speech at the awards ceremony, Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan called for the adoption of digital filmmaking in order to penetrate lucrative foreign markets.
However, critics point out that Burma’s film industry is in the doldrums, with very few profitable films, cinemas struggling to survive and artistic standards at an all-time low.

Than Shwe Watch

As the rule of Burma’s paramount leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, drags on and Burma sinks deeper into crisis, the behavior patterns and political moves of this aging despot are the subject of increasing attention and speculation. The very fate of Burma is linked to Than Shwe, whose manic, xenophobic and superstitious character bode ill for a country that needs to pull itself into the 21st century and into the international community of democratic nations.
Since the start of 2006, The Irrawaddy has been keeping a special file on Than Shwe, and it forms the basis of a new online feature, the Than Shwe Watch. We shall be following his movements, his decisions, statements, and also carrying anecdotes and grapevine news about this enigmatic figure. Perhaps this chronology will yield clues about the future course of Burma.
Than Shwe Watch
December 14, 2007
Than Shwe Opens 'Cyber City'
Burmese junta head, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, visited Yadanabon Myothit, Burma’s Silicon Valley in Pyin Oo Lwin (formerly known as May Myo) Township in Mandalay Division, to attend the opening of Burma's first "cyber city" on Thursday. Than Shwe also visited the elite military school, Defense Service Academy (DSA). Than Shwe was expected to watch the SEA Games Football final on Friday— the competition was between Burma and Thailand, its historical rival.
December 04, 2007In a message on the 87th anniversary of National Day, Snr-Gen Than Shwe exhorts the people to join with the government in implementing the seven-step roadmap to building a democratic state with patriotic spirit, nationalism and union spirit.
November 30, 2007Snr-Gen Than Shwe sees off Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein who leaves by air for Cambodia at the invitation of the prime minister of Cambodia Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.
November 19, 2007Snr-Gen Than Shwe sees off Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein who will attend the 13th Asean summit and related meetings to be held in Singapore.
November 16, 2007Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the patron of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, addresses a speech at the annual USDA meeting held at the University of Veterinary Science on Yezin University Campus. In a speech, he stresses that the Seven-step Road Map is the only means to a smooth transition towards a new State, and they have started to implement the third step of the Seven-step Road Map towards democracy.
November 15, 2007Snr-Gen Than Shwe meets the Chinese government’s special envoy, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, in Naypyidaw with other senior members of the SPDC, including Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, Gen Thura Shwe Mann, Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein and Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo. On this occasion, Wang calls on the junta to speed up democratic reforms, state-run media reports.
November 08, 2007Snr-Gen Than Shwe sees off Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein who leaves by air from Naypyidaw airport on a state visit to the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
November 02, 2007Snr-Gen Than Shwe meets Yasuaki Nogawa, the newly accredited ambassador of Japan, for the first time since a Japanese journalist was killed during the September protests.
October 24, 2007In his message to the 62nd anniversary of United Nations, Snr-Gen Than Shwe warns that an unsustainable environmental poses a threat to global security.
Than Shwe appoints Lt-Gen Thein Sein to head the cabinet as prime minister and also assigns duties to hardliner Lt-Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo as Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council.
October 14, 2007Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his wife, Kyaing Kyaing, attend the state funeral for the late prime minister, Gen Soe Win, held at Mingaladon Defence Services General Hospital.
Together with his deputy, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, and other top brass, Than Shwe is photographed at the funeral shaking hands with diplomats. The state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, devotes a front page report to the event.

How Will the Burmese Armed Forces Vote in the Referendum?

The Burmese military rank and file may not vote as a solid block in the May constitutional referendum, even though officers have ordered the troops to vote “Yes,” according to military sources.
An order has been issued informing members of the military and their families—estimated to number about 1.2 million—to vote “Yes,” but many will vote “No” if they are allowed to vote at polling stations outside military compounds, sources say.
Burmese soldiers march and sing at the 60th anniversary ceremonies of Armed Forces Day. (Photo: AP)Referendum observers say the May vote may not provide the approval the junta is counting on to continue its rule, and the armed forces vote could be crucial.
A sergeant stationed with the Central Command in Mandalay said, “Our officers have ordered us is to vote ‘Yes,’ and they have taught us how to vote in the referendum.”
“If I have a chance to go to a polling station out of the army compound, I will vote ‘No,’” he said, “but if the voting is held in my battalion, I have no choice but to vote ‘Yes.’”
Observers in Rangoon noted that Burmese military personnel, like the general public, have almost no detailed knowledge about the draft constitution. In addition, many in the military are involved with businesses, often illegal, run by ranking officers, or they are involved in kickbacks or bribes, which can create loyalty within the ranks.
Another factor is income and priorities. “The lower ranks in the military earn too little to provide even a meager living for a family,” said a source. “And Burmese soldiers who work with outlaw businesses, I don’t think they will make their bosses angry by voting ‘No.’”
The son of a Warrant Officer 1st Class at Rangoon Command said, “I am thinking of which way to vote, but actually I have not read about the draft constitution yet.” Actual details of the constitution have still not been published, and the exact date of the election has not been announced.
“I just want changes,” said the officer’s son. “We have suffered for years under the military dictatorship, and recent generals haven’t taken real responsibility for the troops. They are below standard.”
A doctor who has a clinic located near a battalion stationed in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy on Sunday that he sees little interest in politics among the military.
“They are not interested in the referendum as much as they concerned about the struggle to provide for their family because of low incomes,” he said.
Of all the branches of the armed forces, the air force may have the most independent-minded troops, say observers.
“The officers’ orders on how to vote are not as important as our discussions with one another,” said a corporal at Meikhtilar Air Base in Mandalay Division.
Speaking for many of his comrades, he said, “We can not accept the draft constitution which, if approved, would result in a long-term guarantee for military rule.”
During the 1988 uprising, some troops stationed at Mingaladon Air Base and Hmawbi Air Base took part in demonstration, and they were active in the 1990 election, voting for National League for Democracy (NLD) candidates. Troops stationed at Mingaladon, Hmawbi, Dagon, Maymyo, Meiktila voted in favor of the NLD, but the junta ignored the 1990 election results when it was clear the NLD had won by a landslide.
A retired sergeant in the Burmese navy, said, “I understand the referendum will allow the Snr-Gen Than Shwe to become U Than Shwe (U designates a civilian).” Many people believe Than Shwe will assume the leadership role in a civilian-led government, although it is expected to be packed with former military officers who would hold key posts.
“I think it [a civilian government] would not be different from what we have now,” he said.
Observers speculate that Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s speech on Armed Forces Day on March 27 could include important comments about the referendum and the general election.

Hundreds of Burmese Migrants Rounded Up in Malaysia

Hundreds of Burmese illegal migrant workers were rounded up on Saturday by Malaysia’s “People’s Volunteer Corps,” the feared RELA.
The Burma Workers’ Rights Protection Committee (BWRPC) said the Burmese, who included individuals recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were among more than 500 undocumented migrants arrested in a RELA crackdown. They included some 200 Rohingya refugees, pregnant women and about 50 children who were participating in basic education classes organized by the UNHCR.
Ye Min Tun, a leading BWRPC member, said the RELA crackdown was terrorizing Burmese undocumented migrants in Malaysia, who feared for their security.
The RELA crackdown came shortly after the release of a report by two human rights organizations criticizing the Malaysian government’s policy towards migrants.
The report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) lamented the lack of protection for refugees and asylum seekers. It accused employers and agencies of exploiting and deceiving migrant workers.
FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said migrant workers accounted for up to half Malaysia’s labor force, and they included about 5 million undocumented migrants. “In spite of the important contribution that this represents to the Malaysian economy, the authorities have not put in place any consistent national immigration policy,” he said.
According to the report, apart from temporary residence permits, the state legislation does not give specific protection for refugees, asylum seekers or trafficked persons. No protection is afforded refugee children.The activities of RELA also come in for criticism in the report, which says its 400,000 members lack training and supervision, despite working for the Malaysian immigration authorities.Swee Seng Yap, executive director of SUARAM, charged: “RELA carries out raids against migrants, without distinction between undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and with unnecessary use of force. The Malaysian authorities should immediately cease the use of RELA officers in the enforcement of immigration law.”Ye Min Tun also claimed RELA members abused and beat arrested migrants.FIDH and SUARAM recommended the Malaysian government to reconsider its position on the ratification of the Refugee Convention and to review government department activities related to immigration and employment.The report also documented the poor conditions of detention.The FIDH urged the Malaysian authorities to abolish whipping as a punishment, saying it was prohibited under international human rights laws. Cynthia Gabriel, vice-president of FIDH and a board member of SUARAM, said: "Up to now, the government has been adopting a punitive approach to the issue of migration: the poor conditions of detention of migrants in the immigration detention centers and the fact that they can be condemned to corporal punishments (whipping) are part of this policy.”And she added: “The time has come for a comprehensive policy on migration, based on international human rights standards.”

Mar 15, 2008

Burmese Ambassador Visits Bangladesh-Border

Dhaka: The Burmese ambassador to Bangladesh, U Nyan Lynn, has been visiting the Burma-Bangladesh border along with four other foreign diplomats since last Saturday, according to an official Bangladesh report.
The report said the four ambassadors from Burma, Singapore, Brunei, South Korea, along with the commissioner from Turkey to Bangladesh, started their private visit to the border area on Saturday, after first visiting the Bangladesh port city of Chittagong and Ramgamati District Town in northern Chittagong Hill Tract.
On Sunday, the diplomats visited Bandarban Hill District town and a border town of Cox's Bazar near Burma.
The report said the diplomats a visited the island of St. Martin on Monday, which is located in the mouth of the Naff River on the border between Bangladesh and Burma.
The visit of the five ambassadors is private but related to economic purposes because they are visiting the border area on the invitation of the Chittagong Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry's president, Manowar Hakim Ali.
Manowar Hakim Ali told the news agency that she wants to promote the business sector in the port city of Chittagong, so she invited the five ambassadors to visit Chittagong and nearby areas to share the economic experiences of Singapore and Brunei.
The visit of the five ambassadors is reported to be concluding today.

Mar 10, 2008

WLB Bangladesh Marches to Burmese Embassy in Dhaka

Dhaka: The Women's League of Burma in Bangladesh staged a demonstration in front of the Burmese embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Saturday to mark the date of International Women's Day.
About 40 Burmese democratic activists including women and children marched to the front of the Burmese embassy in Dhaka and staged a demonstration there by shouting out many anti-government slogans.
Daw Saw Mra Razarlin, former president of the WLB, said during the demonstrations, "We have no right to celebrate the day for women inside Burma, so we came here to hold the ceremony."
During the demonstration, participants shouted many anti-military government slogans, and the diplomatic area was covered with anti-referendum and anti-election materials and slogans.
Ms. Mra Razarlin said, "We also came here to share our voice on the government's referendum for the constitution, because we are unable to accept the one-sided constitution drawn by the military government. The constitution is totally against the democratic process and there are no opportunities for ethnic nationalities in Burma. So we strongly oppose the referendum and election."
All the demonstrators wore red headbands and held portraits of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The demonstration lasted about two hours, but there were no problems or disturbances during that time.
"Our demonstration ended peacefully and we were happy because we had to reveal our desires on the forthcoming referendum that will be held in May, and the election in 2010, to the Burmese embassy," said Ms Mra Razarlin.
Before concluding the demonstration, Daw Mra Razarlin went to the front gate of the embassy and handed over a letter from the WLB to an embassy representative. #

Mar 9, 2008

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi meets UN envoy

The Burmese pro-deBurmese government made it clear that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cannot participate in the 2010 election Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has met the United Nations envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, who is visiting Burma to press the military government for reforms.
Ms Suu Kyi was taken from her home - where she's been held under arrest since 2003 - to a state guest house for the meeting. No details of the talks have been released.
It's the third time Mr Gambari has met the opposition leader since the military crushed widespread anti-government protests last September.
So far on his latest visit to Burma the envoy has been denied access to the country's top military leaders.

Burma rejects independent observers

Burma rejects independent observers
Burma's military government has rejected a call from the United Nations for independent observers to be allowed to monitor a referendum on the new constitution due to take place in May.
Burmese state television said such a move would infringe the country's sovereignty. The rejection is a further blow to the United Nations envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, who offered UN observers and technical assistance for the referendum when he held talks with Burmese officials on Friday.
He met the detained pro-democracy leader,Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, earlier on Saturday, but has so far been unable to meet Burma's military leaders during his latest visit to press for reforms.


The following article is compiled from a number of sources. None of the specific items described, though, has been confirmed by additional independent sources. Nonetheless, we judge the information to be credible.We would have liked to provide a smoking gun: an irrefutable document or photo. However, it would be extremely dangerous to attempt to secure such proof, and in any case we do not have the necessary resources.Journalists would probably not run this without confirmation. We appreciate that, but we are not journalists. We are advocates, for freedom and democracy in Burma and against the military junta that rules the country, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). We have this information; we are confident it is correct; so we published it. The world needs to know.The SPDC as international threatBurma and the SPDC are a threat to international security and peace on many grounds, including that the country is one of the largest sources of refugees and human trafficking, and narcotics, and through both of communicable diseases and other public health and law enforcement problems. All of these undermine security and social order, particularly in Burma’s neighboring nations.The country therefore was legitimately discussed in the United Nations Security Council, but the resolution against the SPDC that was prepared by the United States was vetoed by China and Russia, and also voted against by South Africa. These nations applied an outdated definition of international threat, one limited to military conflict and terrorism. They did this, for China and Russia, because they are the SPDC’s allies, in return for the right to pillage the nation’s natural resources (and for other reasons); and for South Africa, as a favor to China, befitting its similar status as Beijing’s client.Burma is a threat to international security and peace for the above reasons, and also because of military and terrorist threats, as this article will describe. Our objective is to provide information that the United States can use to reopen the Security Council debate and to get China and Russia to back down.Uranium traffickingWe have previously reported that the SPDC has a major program underway to exploit Burma’s reserves of uranium ore, including through its processing into the refined form known as yellowcake. This is being bartered to North Korea and Iran for their respective enrichment programs (in contravention of the Security Council sanctions on these nations). It is also likely being bartered to both China and Russia, in return for weapons from the former and weapons and nuclear assistance, including a reactor, from the latter.For North Korea, while the country has made a commitment to close its reactors and end its atomic weapons program, the extension of this commitment to its secret but nevertheless well-established uranium enrichment activities is unclear. The U.S. itself has said that the shutdown will be a long, arduous process. There is no reason to expect that enrichment in the North will cease anytime soon. (Also, even if it did, Kim Jong-il would still have an interest in stockpiling yellowcake supplies.)It is public knowledge that the SPDC wants to increase its hard currency inflows. (Its barter arrangements with Russia will not be sufficient to pay for the reactor.) It would therefore not be surprising if the junta seeks cash-paying customers for its uranium. Also, the market price is skyrocketing. It is now approximately $135 a pound, up from $7 in 2000. The nuclear power industry is also growing (unfortunately!), so this trend is unlikely to reverse. Some thirty countries now have nuclear power plants. An additional forty have research reactors. Thirteen are known to have enrichment facilities. This is an obvious business opportunity for the junta, which it clearly would not want to miss.Dictator Watch has received first-hand information that SPDC representatives are looking for industrial customers for yellowcake in Bangkok, and that large quantities are available. This certainly represents a business that Thailand would prefer not to host. Furthermore, while the intended customers, power utilities, are in a sense legitimate, there is no guarantee that small quantities will not be diverted. For the right price, the SPDC would no doubt happily sell to terrorists. While yellowcake is not an ideal substance for a dirty bomb, due to its low radioactivity, it can be used for such a purpose, and anywhere in the world. The impact of a well thought out attack would be incalculable.Missile launch facilitiesDictator Watch has further learned that the SPDC has constructed launch facilities for surface-to-surface missiles of North Korean origin. The sites are spaced along the Thai/Burma border, from archipelagoes in the Andaman Sea to Shan State. We are able to conclusively identify two of the sites:1. Maung-ma-gan Islands, about 20 miles off the coast of Tavoy.2. Ka-la-goke Island, about 18 miles north of Ye.Construction of these facilities began in 2002-2003. Some are complete but others are still in progress. The sites contain launchers, storage buildings, a communications center, and air defense radar.The missiles are surface-to-surface, with a maximum range of 300 miles (500 kilometers). We believe at least one if not two of the sites are already fully operational. The missiles are targeted at Thai air bases including in Bangkok, Phitsanulok, and elsewhere.An April article in Asia Times said there were reports that the SPDC was interested in acquiring from North Korea the Hwasong SRBM (short range ballistic missile), a SCUD-type missile with a range of 500 kilometers (the Hwasong-6). It is likely that this is the missile that has been deployed.The secret of the cargo in the North Korean ships that have been visiting Burma is now at least partially revealed. (We have also received information that North Korean ships, after docking at Thilawa Port in Burma, continued on to Iran.)The Hwasong-6 is twelve meters tall and weighs 6400 kilograms. It carries a conventional high explosive warhead of up to 800 kilograms, although it is also capable of being armed with chemical or biological agents. North Korea reportedly has several hundred. The missile was first developed in the mid-1980s, tested in the early 1990s, and then phased out of production in the mid-1990s as the manufacturing of the longer range No-dong was scaled up. Hwasong-6 generally come in groups of four, one on the launcher and three on a reload carrier. They can also be launched from ships.As we understand it, the SPDC’s military strategy is as follows. During the time of Ne Win and the BSPP (Burma Socialist Program Party), China was considered the main enemy (other than the people, particularly the ethnic nationalities). This changed in 1989, after the collapse of the Burma Communist Party. The designation of main enemy then shifted to Thailand, because of its alliance with and extensive materiel supply from the United States.The Thai Army is well equipped, but it is not considered to be a serious threat because topographical features – the nature of the terrain – would prevent a deep penetration into Burma. The Tatmadaw also has large supplies of anti-tank weapons including SAMs and possibly TOW missiles. (Also, as we recently reported, the SPDC is working with North Korea to create a domestic production capability for 120 mm rockets.)This confidence does not extend to the air. Burma has only two squadrons of MIG-29s, and its pilots are under-trained. Thailand has a large fleet of fighters, including some sixty F-16s and thirty F-5s. The F-16s are stationed in Khorat and Nakhon Sawan. They are also equipped with deadly ordinance, including AMRAAMS (advanced medium range air-to-air missiles), and their Thai pilots are highly skilled. In any combat, it would be a mismatch. The missiles are therefore viewed as an offset. In case of war, they would be fired at the Thai air bases in an attempt to disable the fleet.One problem with this strategy, though, is that ballistic missiles have only limited accuracy. When launched, they initially follow programmed guidance but then continue to the target through a free fall trajectory. They are not capable of making flight adjustments en route, as with cruise missiles. The Hwasong-6 CEP (circular error probable) is not known, but it is estimated at 1-2 kilometers. CEP is the radius of the circle around the target in which fifty percent of fired missiles will land. This is of insufficient accuracy to effectively attack airbases – to be certain of damaging the runways – unless large quantities are used.The missiles also have strategic implications beyond the possibility of conflict with Thailand. The SPDC has two main fears: a popular uprising, and a foreign military intervention led by the United States. For the first, they have imprisoned the democracy movement’s charismatic leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (who could instigate such a rebellion were she free and so inclined), and also other potential uprising leaders. The junta has further created local paramilitary forces, including the Swan Arr Shin militia, to brutally suppress mass popular expressions of discontent. Further, as we have also reported, the SPDC has a plan to initiate a military incident with Thailand, to create a distraction in the event of such an uprising.For the second, and taken together with the SPDC’s nuclear aspirations and our recently announced news that again with North Korea it intends to produce sea-mines to have the ability to mine nearby shipping lanes, it seems clear that the junta is taking very seriously its defense against a possible U.S. organized intervention. To this we can add the emplacement of ballistic missiles. Viewed this way, the missiles are not only a defense against Thai unilateral action. More realistically, their basic function is to intimidate Thailand, to dissuade the country from offering meaningful assistance to the United States.When combined these different items create a picture of a fanatical SPDC leadership that is prepared to go to any lengths to retain power. (Those people who are still calling for dialogue would be well advised to consider this fact.) Burma under the SPDC is unquestionably a threat to international security and peace, which threat must be addressed in the Security Council.Political implications for ThailandAs with the trade in refined uranium, Thailand should not stand for being the target of ballistic missiles. The SPDC has taken advantage of the country. This has particularly been the case during the last five years, since Thaksin Shinawatra put his personal affairs above the interests of the nation. (One wonders if Thaksin even had a business involvement in the communication systems for the missile installations, which, if so, would make him a traitor.) Thailand needs to bring this to an end. These are real defense and internal security issues. It is completely unacceptable that Burma target Thailand with North Korean ballistic missiles.This, and Thai relations with Burma in general, over refugees, migrant workers, narcotics, the Salween dams, etc., should be major issues in the upcoming Thai election. Every candidate, beginning with Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, should be questioned about his or her intended Burma policy, especially in light of these revelations.Thailand has historically pursued “Bamboo diplomacy.” This policy stresses flexibility (the analogy is the ease with which bamboo bends) if not, as with Switzerland and Sweden, neutrality. One positive consequence of the policy is that Thailand has never been colonized. On the other hand, the country immediately capitulated to the Japanese (just as Sweden did to the Nazis). By doing so, however, it suffered only minimal damage during the war.Flexibility is an excellent approach for many international policy concerns, but its utility is questionable in the face of distinct and direct threats. Should Thailand accept SPDC intimidation, and the never-ending stream of problems from its neighbor? We would argue that even bamboo diplomacy has limits, and that the targeting of ballistic missiles is one of them. Thai relations with Burma should be completely reevaluated. The best policy for Thailand would be to assist the movement for freedom and democracy in every way that it can. (This extends to India as well.)ConclusionThe information above is not the type of thing that is normally made public. Even when such situations are known, they are usually kept under wraps. This is the province of diplomats and the intelligence community, and they can handle it. They understand what’s best. The people do not need to know.We beg to differ. Diplomacy on Burma has achieved nothing since the massacre in 1988, which drew the world’s attention to the country. It is difficult to envision how this nineteen-year record of failure is going to change. For the intelligence community, we would not be surprised if it is completely aware of the substance of this report. Will the spies of the world and their political masters use the information to create pressure for change? While we would certainly hope so, please excuse us if we harbor doubts .In a democracy, the people have a right to know everything. The basic reason for this is that democracy is a system predicated on and designed to protect human rights. There must be full disclosure, so the people in society can ensure that their various rights, starting with the right to life, and to equality and freedom, are in fact being protected.In addition, democracy is being applied around the world in its representative form, but it remains government by and for the people. For the people to make the best decisions about whom to elect as their representatives, they must have access to all information that pertains to this choice. They must know everything about the current state of society, and government, so they are able to ask of the candidates for office what they intend to do.John F. Kennedy saw fit to reveal the presence of missiles in Cuba to Americans and the world. In our own small way, we are trying to do the same thing.Also, we are only the messengers. Please don’t shoot the messenger. Particularly for Thailand, this is an opportunity to get your foreign policy in order. Please grasp it!For Burma and diplomacy, we are decidedly skeptical of the appointment by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of Ibrahim Gambari as special advisor. It is difficult to see how this will accomplish anything. If Mr. Gambari presses, publicly, for Security Council action on the basis of the above information and arguments, we will applaud his appointment. But if, as is most likely, he continues the party line that the U.N. itself has no real power and must defer to the member states on all issues, then his involvement is a waste of time.This means, yet again, that it falls to the people of Burma, and their international supporters, to instigate change. The people of Burma are ready to go. There is great dissatisfaction inside the country, and a readiness to revolt. The open question though is of timing. All sorts of preparations are undoubtedly in place, but the people are waiting for the right opportunity, for the right time. To this we can only say that there is no need to wait for the death of Than Shwe, or even freedom for Daw Suu. Anytime – Now – is the right time!Outside of Burma, a decisive timing opportunity is at hand, which the people of the country also can grasp. China is the main supporter for the SPDC. It is clear that if China were to relent in its support, freedom would be much easier to achieve. A worldwide boycott of the Beijing Olympics is going to be launched on August 8th, to press for change on a wide variety of issues (China’s backing of the Sudanese dictatorship and its culpability in the genocide in Darfur, its conquest of Tibet, human rights abuses in China itself, the environmental destruction caused by Chinese consumption of tropical hardwoods and endangered species, etc.). This is one year before the Olympics themselves open, and it also happens to be the anniversary of the 1988 massacre in Burma. Everyone in the pro-democracy movement should join this boycott. While Dictator Watch does not ordinarily organize protests, we are calling for a Worldwide Day of Action, of protests at Chinese embassies in as many different countries as possible, on August 8th. We hope that other Burma organizations will join us in this call, and on the protest line. Boycott the Genocide Olympics!(Please see importantly, if we make enough noise on the outside, perhaps the people inside Burma will decide that the time is finally right as well and launch their own revolution for freedom. Daw Aye! Daw Aye! Daw Aye!

UNHCR Dhaka Office Issues New IDs to Urban Refugees

Sunday,09 Mar,2008
UNHCR Dhaka Office Issues New IDs to Urban Refugees
Dhaka: The UNHCR Dhaka office has been issuing new five-year identification cards to Burmese urban refugees in Bangladesh since 5 March, 2008, said one Arakanese refugee.
He said, "The UNHCR official issued me a new ID card on Wednesday, but the card is different from the previous one because it is nicer and is also good for five years."
Previously, the UNHCR office in Dhaka issued only one-year ID cards to urban Burmese refugees, requiring the refugees to visit the office in Dhaka to obtain a new card on a yearly basis, and incur the costs of traveling to the capital.
"I heard that is being issued by the UNHCR for better refugee security, and it is also arranged for urban refugees who are staying in rural areas. Some refugees in rural areas of Bangladesh are unable to come to Dhaka to change their ID cards yearly because of lack of funds for the traveling expense," he said.
After issuing the five-year ID cards, Burmese refugees will not need to visit the Dhaka office in person every year to renew their cards.
UNHCR officials first issued the new ID cards to urban refugees in the Cox's Bazar area near the Burmese border.
There are over 200 urban Burmese refugees in Bangladesh; most are Arakanese and Chin nationals who are fleeing from oppression in Burma and are living throughout Bangladesh outside of any refugee camps. #