Thein Sein and China must stop pipeline project to prevent escalation of conflict in northern Shan State
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 17:20 Shan CBO
Press release by Shan community based organisations
Shan community based groups warn that recent Burmese government army attacks in northern Shan State, causing displacement of over 3,000 villagers, are directly linked to China’s oil and gas pipelines, and urge Burmese President Thein Sein and China to stop the project immediately before violence escalates even further.
On May 9, Burmese troops launched a fierce artillery assault on a Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) base only one kilometer from where the pipelines cross into China, causing over 3,000 people from 32 villages to flee their homes. About 2,000 crossed into China, and 1,000 fled to the town of Namkham.
Over 100 mortar shells were fired by Burmese troops right across the pipelines, from south of the Mao (Shweli) River towards the village of Nawng Ma Tar, near the SSA-S base. On May 13, two civilians were killed and three injured, including a woman, when an unidentified armed group began shooting at a pipeline vehicle depot south of Namkham. There are several resistance armies active along the pipeline in this area, as well as various pro-government militias.
The latest attacks, launched before gas is due to start flowing next month, could derail the fragile peace negotiations between the Burmese government and the SSA-S, one of the largest resistance groups in Shan State.
“Villagers feared more Burma Army attacks and abuses along the pipelines, and that is exactly what is happening,” said Sai Khur Hseng of Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation. “Thein Sein and his Chinese business partners should immediately stop this pipeline project before the violence and suffering spreads even further.”
Many displaced villagers are still too afraid to return to their homes, as the Burma Army continues to sweep through villages on the Shan-China border to drive out resistance forces. A displaced villager was beaten to death by Burmese troops on May 10.
Shan community groups have been calling for a moratorium on large scale development projects in Shan State until there is a negotiated resolution to the political issues at the root of the decades-long conflict.
Shan community groups include: Shan Human Rights Foundation, Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, Shan State Development Foundation, Shan State Organisation, Shan Women’s Action Network, Shan Youth Network Group, Shan Youth Power
A map and summary by the Shan Human Rights Foundation of the recent Burma Army attacks and displacement near Namkham can be viewed on www.shanhumanrights.org
Ying Harn Fah +66 89 262 7848
Sai Khur Hseng +66 81 672 2031
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 13:17 S.H.A.N.
“The ceasefires with armed groups have made the land more accessible to commercial interests backed by the central government and military,” says Access Denied: Land Rights and Ehtnic Conflict in Burma, prepared by Transnational Institute (TNI) and Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN).
A representative of a Karen civil society organization agrees. “Because of the conflict the original population has fled and their land has not been used for a long time,” the representative says. “The government realizes this, and companies have started to apply for permission to use this land. Villagers coming back find their land occupied.”
In some cases, as in Karen State as well as Shan State, land is being confiscated also by groups that had made peace with the central government, like the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) in Karen and PaO National Army (PNA) in Shan.
To make things worse, few farmers in non-Burman ethnic areas have formally-recognized land titles, not to mention identity cards. “Indeed, the new laws do not recognize customary and communal rights at all.”
- The Farmland Law (passed in March 2012)
- The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law (passed in March 2012)
- Foreign Investment Law (passed on 1 November 2012)
Moreover, the Union Government, it points out, does not need approval from state/region governments for large-sized investments within their jurisdiction, although they have to be informed.
The situation, it warns, unless addressed is “setting the stage for further social and political conflict in the years to came.”
It has accordingly made the following recommendations:
- Recognition of existing customary and communal tenure systems
- Land grabbing and unsustainable business practices must halt
- Decisions on the allocation, use and management of natural resources and regional development must have the participation and consent of local communities
- The new land and investment laws must be amended to serve the needs and rights of farmers, especially in ethnic regions
“Land rights must be the cornerstone of the peace process,” it concludes.
The framework for political dialogue, drafted by the Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC), has outlined 19 dialogue issues, one of which is the land issue. It has proposed to discuss with the government and other stakeholders on 3 points:
- Land ownership
- Land tenure system in accordance with customary laws
- Review of new land laws
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 15:54 KP
The ABSDF peace delegates arrived in Rangoon from its headquarters based on Thai-Burmese border on 19 May to meet the Union Peacemaking Working Committee, Maj Min Htay from northern region base told SHAN.
“The Central Executive Committee of ABSDF, appointed a 5 member delegation, 1 from each of northern and western regional bases and 3 from southern base for the peace talks in Rangoon. But we were informed that the government could not provide a travel arrangement for us. That’s why we have decided not to attend the peace talks,” Maj Min Htay explained.
Maj Min Htay further added: “That means, if you want to attend the peace talks, you have to go by your own arrangement. And no other assistance and security will be provided. It is likely that the government does not want us to attend the peace talks.”
“Based on our experience and assessment, we don’t think the government is sincere and has real intention to achieve a genuine peace for the country. The peace process so far is due to pressures from the international community and what the government is doing is just for ‘show’. The government policy is very clear that they don’t really have a genuine heart for peace, as the army is continuously fighting with ethnic armed groups. They [government army] make ceasefire with one group but fight against the others. Ceasefire has to be done for the whole country with all armed groups. Further troop reinforcements and strategic military movement must also be stopped officially,” said Maj Min Htay.
Meanwhile, in the frontline at KIO controlled areas in and around Laiza on the Sino-Burmese border, the Burma Army has been continuously reinforcing its troops, deploying tanks and armored vehicles, news sources say.
Ko Aung Ye Maung Maung from VOA Burmese service has reported that peace talks between ABSDF and Burmese government took place at Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) on Monday, 20 May.
Leaders of ABSDF Central Executive Committee reportedly told U Aung Min, Vice President of UPWC and other government peace officials that “all the atrocities, hostilities and harassment by the Burma army in the country as a whole should be stopped.”
Kyaw Ko, a Central Execitove Committee member, told Mizzima: “From the ABSDF perspective, peace and national reconciliation are the most important tasks for the country”.
Following two sessions of peace talks between the two delegations: “We have emphasized political dialogue must emerge in the country. And in the evening during informal talk, we focused what should be discussed and in what form,” U San Ni, general secretary of ABSDF told VOA News.
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 13:36 BFL
We have several upcoming events in Chiang Mai to let you know about, but first we'd like to share details about a very important campaign...
As many of you know, the staff and volunteers of The Best Friend Library in Chiang Mai have worked incredibly hard over the past four years to sustain our programs with small donations and the slight profits received from selling our fundraising items. We are now ready to launch our first-ever, large-scale fundraising campaign, and we need your help to make it a success!
We firmly believe The Best Friend continues to play essential role in working for continued positive change in Burma. Not only does the large migrant and refugee population remaining in Thailand continue to depend on and benefit from our education and social welfare projects, but our libraries continue to be important centers for an increasing number of members of the international community. In addition, we are extremely excited about the potential of our new Green Training Program and library in Shan State, Burma.
The aim of our ambitious fundraising campaign is to secure the future of our programs, keep our classes, workshops, and awareness-raising events free-of-charge for all, expand our 'Compassionate Care' projects for migrants and refugees experiencing extraordinary difficulties, and build our Green Training Program. We are attempting to raise a total of $20,000 U.S. (600,000 baht). The campaign will run through the end of June 2013, and has several components, including a great new video about our projects, a gala fundraising evening in Chiang Mai, a fundraiser in Mae Sot, and an online Indiegogo campaign.
Here's how you can help...
- visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/burma-library to learn more and make a donation. Check out all of the perks that we are offering for supporters!
- purchase a ticket for our big 'Burma in the Spotlight' gala evening in Chiang Mai on 1 June
- contribute online: just visit www.paypal.com and send a donation to firstname.lastname@example.org with a note indicating your contribution is for our Chiang Mai/Shan State campaign
- contribute in person: stop by our library in Chiang Mai any time to donate, or bring a donation to one of our upcoming events
- SPREAD THE WORD -- share the links to our Indiegogo campaign page and our new video with all of your friends and colleagues! Send an email to all of your contacts with a note about how important you believe our projects are! Start an office pool to help The Best Friend Library. Follow our Facebook page to stay up-to-date with Burma news and project updates!
In the early days of this campaign, something incredibly important that you can help us with is building momentum and raising awareness. This absolutely does not require a large financial contribution on your part -- even a small donation on our Indiegogo page shows others that we have lots of supporters who believe in our work. Sharing the links and asking your friends to learn more about The Best Friend and consider supporting us may take a few minutes of your time, but no money at all!
Every single donation, no matter the amount, will do much to encourage us and further our cause. All proceeds raised from this campaign will go directly towards helping with The Best Friend's modest operating expenses, staff salaries (all Westerners working with the library are volunteers; three staff members from Burma receive remuneration), and various 'extra' costs, such as new, high-quality learning resources for our students, new materials for our libraries' collections, and coordinating timely and informative community events.
This campaign continues for the next 44 days, and and we will be sending periodic updates about how everything is going. As of today, we have raised 2.5% of our total goal from four donors; let's work together to have that number increase to 25% from dozens of supporters in the next week! Please help!
'Surviving: Living on a Rubbish Dump', Thursday 23 May, 2–4 p.m. @ Chiang Mai University (free)
In Mae Sot, six hours south of Chiang Mai, hundreds of migrants from Burma have been surviving for years on a large rubbish dump. They have fled decades of turmoil in their own country, and now struggle in a makeshift community of their own creation with access to few services.
Fred Stockwell, founder of the small non-profit organization Eyes to Burma, will join us at Chiang Mai University to discuss what is driving these people to the dump, what is happening, and what can be done. Eyes to Burma is one of the very few organizations working directly on the dump, and has done much to gain the trust of the people living there in the past five years, including opening a community center and clinic. Come to learn more about Eyes to Burma's powerful work.
This presentation and discussion will start at 2 p.m. on Thursday 23 May at Chiang Mai University's Faculty of Social Sciences Building 4 in the First Floor Meeting Room 4107. This presentation is free and open to the public.
'Life Amidst the Rubbish: Hour-by-Hour with a Burmese Migrant Community' photography exhibition, 21 May–12 June, Pongnoi Community Art Space, Chiang Mai (free)
'Life Amidst the Rubbish' is a chronological, hour-by-hour window into the daily life of Burmese refugees living on a rubbish dump located on the outskirts of Mae Sot, Thailand, a stone's throw from the Burmese border.
There are at times more than 30 families residing there. Seemingly abandoned by the larger society, they ironically have few alternatives to living off of the material waste created by a consumer culture. Living conditions there are bleak, to say the least. Minimal access to basic needs such as healthy food and medical facilities – as well as the constant breathing of toxic fumes – is resulting in widespread illnesses, sometimes death.
The fundamental purpose of this exhibition is to cultivate awareness, of course. It is also about demonstrating the beauty, dignity, honor and diligent strength of human beings who have been rendered sociologically marginalized – existing downstream from an ever-growing, worldwide culture of capitalist consumerism.
Join photojournalist Jeffrey Warner at the opening of the exhibition on Tuesday 21 May starting at 6:45 p.m. at Pongnoi Community Art Space off Suthep Road in Chiang Mai. The exhibit will run through 12 June and is free and open to the public.
'Burma in the Spotlight: Gala Charity Dinner and Dance', Saturday 1 June, 5:30–11 p.m. @ Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, Chiang Mai
We have already shared the details about this very special gala evening in support of The Best Friend Library, which will include an expansive Burmese buffet dinner, live music, cultural performances from Burma, great door prizes, and so much more. We have been so fortunate to receive tremendous support and backing from many in the community, and we are thrilled that tickets are now 65% sold!!
If you will be in Chiang Mai on Saturday 1 June, you definitely won't want to miss this great evening! To avoid disappointment, you can purchase your tickets (850 baht each; discounts for tables of 10 for current library members) now at the following outlets:
- The Best Friend Burmese Library, 302/2 Nimmanhaemin Road, Chiang Mai
- Rimping Supermarkets in Chiang Mai (all branches, at customer service desks)
- The Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, Chiang Mai – reception desk
- Hillside Condo 4, Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai – reception desk
More details here, and join the Facebook Event here.
We sincerely hope that you do not mind our asking for your assistance at this time. The simple truth is, we need your help at this time to be able to continue supporting migrants and refugees from Burma and to serve non-Burmese who are interested in learning more at our libraries and public events.
Stay tuned to www.thebestfriend.org and facebook.com/burmalibrary for all the information, and please visit our libraries often. Hope to see you soon!
Don't forget to check out www.indiegogo.com/projects/burma-library also!
all of us at The Best Friend Library
Garrett KostinThe Best Friend Library – Chiang Mai
www.thebestfriend.org • www.facebook.com/BurmaLibrary
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 13:11 KP
“Democratic political system reinstated in the country is still in its early infancy. Most people lack even basic knowledge about what the principle of democracy is. That is why I have been saying ‘PR system is not suited for the country’. But I am not saying for the lowland people who speak and use Burmese as daily language”, said Sai Ai Pao, who is also Minister for Shan State Ministry of Mines.
It has been reported that when the next parliamentary session is called, the current Myanmar government may legislate the PR system, some MPs have been quoted as saying.
Sai Ai Pao reasons that: “United Kingdom, France and Germany have been democratic countries for more than a half century. We are just at starting point. We even have very little experience of running elections. That is why I am in favor to go with the PR system. We can’t accept it at least for the time being.”
Proportional Representation or PR, he explained, is a system in which electoral vote is distributed in ratio. For instance, in an election, there are 5 political parties with 10 candidates. Say, an A party won 50% of electoral vote, the other 2 parties: B and C won 30% and 20% respectively. In this example, A has won 50% of electoral vote which legitimizes it to elect 5 MPs; while B 30% with 3 MPs and C 20% with 2 MPs have to be elected accordingly.
The SNDP, also known by its party symbol “White Tiger”, is reportedly recruiting young educated people, 5 in each townships where its party is active and enrolled its candidates to compete with other political parties in 2015 general elections.
Friday, 17 May 2013 14:37 S.H.A.N.
Guatemala, a Latin American country neighboring the better known Mexico, is in many ways similar to Burma, according to a Spanish academic from The Netherlands based International Institute of Social Studies.
- 24 peoples speaking 24 languages
- 6 armed movements fighting against the central government
- 36 years of armed struggle which recorded 250,000 killed and 50,000 disappeared, prompting the UN to accuse the rulers of practicing genocide
- 1 million IDPs
- The peace process lasted 10 years (1987-1996) when 20 agreements were signed between the two sides
“The armed movements had formed an alliance, the Guatemalan National Unity, to negotiate with the government,” Alberto Alonso Fradejas told listeners from Burma who were meeting in Chiangmai. “And although the agreements were signed only by the government and the rebel alliance, lots of civil society organizations had participated from the outside to bring the peace process to a successful conclusion.”
The agreements signed include:
- The creation of a National Reconciliation Commission (1987)
- Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights (1994)
- Resettlement of displaced population (1994)
- Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (1995)
- Definitive Ceasefire Agreement (1996)
While Burma’s peace process began with ceasefire agreements, Guatemala’s had ended with one. “The two sides fought while they talked,” he explained. “Each thought it would get a better deal by getting the better of the other in the battlefield.”
Burma’s peace process began on 19 September 2011 when the nominally civilian government of U Thein Sein invited the country’s armed groups, more than 20 of them, some of which have been fighting since 1948.
To date, 13 ceasefire agreements have been signed, but the Burma Army is still waging war against 3 major movements: Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) that has yet to sign a ceasefire and the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) both of which have signed ceasefires.
Friday, 17 May 2013 15:02 KP
During the shootout, 2 policemen and a man died at the spot, and 3 others sustained injuries. It is not known as to who the culprit behind the incident, as no one claims responsibility. But the Panhsay militia could have been involved in the attack, said some locals.
“Police were on duty for security on the highway in which logging trucks owned by Panhsay militia were passing through. The shootout took place after negotiations between police and militia failed to reach agreement. Another shooting incident also occurred at a Shwe gas pipeline project site. Although no one has claimed responsibility, people say it could have been the same group as in the first incident. They want to make it look as if a certain armed group has done so,” said local news sources in Namkham.
“The incident site is on a highway passing through Namkham from Mankawn to the Chinese border; this highway is used to smuggle logs to China owned by the Panhsay militia group,” said another local man from Namkham.
“According to some eye-witnesses it was the Panhsay militia men that started the shooting. A moment ago, there was negotiation for a deal for using the highway as logging trade between police and the militia men which lasted for 5 minutes. The shooting incident took place as the deal could not be reached. The Panhsay exports the logs using this highway. The police force are collecting taxes from a betel shop on Wipula Road. The Panhsay militia men do this logging business. U Kyaw Myint, leader of the Panhsay People’s Militia Force (PMF) and Shan State Assembly MP, and his brother Kyaw Htwe are the bosses in the business. All the log produced from Mankwan are monopolized by the two brothers,” said another local news sources.
At the shooting incident, Sai Sar Aung, a brother of an MP, People’s Assembly, died and policemen Aung Myint, Pha Aung and Matan suffered injuries.