Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Laos hands over remains of soldiers to U.S.

The Lao government has recently handed over a number of remains of American soldiers who died during the Indochina War in the country to representatives of the U.S. government, for analysis and return to their families.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Arrests Continue Despite Government Pledge

Amnesty International has condemned the continuing arrests of political activists inside Burma despite what it says was the government's pledge to stop.

Burmese officials say 15 people were killed and nearly 3,000 detained in the September crackdown. Diplomats and human rights groups say the figures are much higher.

Burmese Refugees Find Home in Washington, DC

Most new arrivals come from refugee camps from countries bordering Burma where they lived illegally for years before being admitted to the U.S.

Hlawn Ceu says she and her businessman husband fled to Malaysia to avoid persecution by Burma's military rulers.

She says living in Malaysia for two years without documents was hard. She had to hide in a small apartment with more than 30 people and shared whatever food they could get. She also said there were constant fears among the refugees of getting arrested by the Malaysian police.

IRC officials say hundreds of thousands of Burmese have fled to countries neighboring Burma, but the Burmese population in the U.S. is relatively small. Still, the Washington area is emerging as a hub for ethnic Chin, a minority that speaks a distinctive language, practices Christianity and hails from western Burma.

Source, VOA News

Monday, November 12, 2007

Democratic Voice of Burma: Honoured monk flees to Thai-Burma border

U Seindiya, a senior monk from Aung Kaung monastery whose public service has previously been recognised by the government, has fled to the Thai-Burma border to escape arrest.

U Seindiya arrived at the border on 7 November having been pursued by government forces as he made his escape.

He was wanted by the authorities for leading other monks in his township in protests in September, and narrowly escaped arrest when Aung Kaung monastery in Kawkareit township, Karen state, was raided by troops from the ruling State Peace and Development Council and government-backed Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

The whole story is here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Boycott Chevron: Stand With Burma

by Bill Scheurer, Editor
November 7, 2007

Join the U.S. Campaign for Burma and people of good will throughout the world in a boycott of Chevron and Texaco, the biggest financial supporters of the Burmese military regime. Why boycott Chevron (and their Texaco brand too)? What does this have to do with the repression in Burma? Big oil and gas money prop up this corrupt dictatorship. Threaten the money supply, and the regime will cave. When we get millions of people to stop buying gas at Chevron and Texaco stations, big oil money and their friends in the U.S. government will begin pulling strings fast.

Read Amy Goodman's shocking expose on the connection between interational oil and gas money and the repressive Burmese military regime.

"Chevron's Pipeline Is the Burmese Regime's Lifeline" By Amy Goodman, Alternet

The barbarous military regime depends on revenue from the nation's gas reserves and partners such as Chevron, a detail ignored by the Bush administration.

The image was stunning: tens of thousands of saffron-robed Buddhist monks marching through the streets of Rangoon [also known as Yangon], protesting the military dictatorship of Burma. The monks marched in front of the home of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was seen weeping and praying quietly as they passed. She hadn't been seen for years. The democratically elected leader of Burma, Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since 2003. She is considered the Nelson Mandela of Burma, the Southeast Asian nation renamed Myanmar by the regime.

After almost two weeks of protest, the monks have disappeared. The monasteries have been emptied. One report says thousands of monks are imprisoned in the north of the country.

No one believes that this is the end of the protests, dubbed "The Saffron Revolution." Nor do they believe the official body count of 10 dead. The trickle of video, photos and oral accounts of the violence that leaked out on Burma's cellular phone and Internet lines has been largely stifled by government censorship. Still, gruesome images of murdered monks and other activists and accounts of executions make it out to the global public. At the time of this writing, several unconfirmed accounts of prisoners being burned alive have been posted to Burma-solidarity Web sites.

The Bush administration is making headlines with its strong language against the Burmese regime. President Bush declared increased sanctions in his U.N. General Assembly speech. First lady Laura Bush has come out with perhaps the strongest statements. Explaining that she has a cousin who is a Burma activist, Laura Bush said, "The deplorable acts of violence being perpetrated against Buddhist monks and peaceful Burmese demonstrators shame the military regime."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said, "The United States is determined to keep an international focus on the travesty that is taking place." Keeping an international focus is essential, but should not distract from one of the most powerful supporters of the junta, one that is much closer to home. Rice knows it well: Chevron.

Fueling the military junta that has ruled for decades are Burma's natural gas reserves, controlled by the Burmese regime in partnership with the U.S. multinational oil giant Chevron, the French oil company Total and a Thai oil firm. Offshore natural gas facilities deliver their extracted gas to Thailand through Burma's Yadana pipeline. The pipeline was built with slave labor, forced into servitude by the Burmese military.

The original pipeline partner, Unocal, was sued by EarthRights International for the use of slave labor. As soon as the suit was settled out of court, Chevron bought Unocal.

Chevron's role in propping up the brutal regime in Burma is clear. According to Marco Simons, U.S. legal director at EarthRights International: "Sanctions haven't worked because gas is the lifeline of the regime. Before Yadana went online, Burma's regime was facing severe shortages of currency. It's really Yadana and gas projects that kept the military regime afloat to buy arms and ammunition and pay its soldiers."

The U.S. government has had sanctions in place against Burma since 1997. A loophole exists, though, for companies grandfathered in. Unocal's exemption from the Burma sanctions has been passed on to its new owner, Chevron.

Rice served on the Chevron board of directors for a decade. She even had a Chevron oil tanker named after her. While she served on the board, Chevron was sued for involvement in the killing of nonviolent protesters in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Like the Burmese, Nigerians suffer political repression and pollution where oil and gas are extracted and they live in dire poverty. The protests in Burma were actually triggered by a government-imposed increase in fuel prices.

Human-rights groups around the world have called for a global day of action on Saturday, Oct. 6, in solidarity with the people of Burma. Like the brave activists and citizen journalists sending news and photos out of the country, the organizers of the Oct. 6 protest are using the Internet to pull together what will probably be the largest demonstration ever in support of Burma. Among the demands are calls for companies to stop doing business with Burma's brutal regime.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Crackdown in Tibet: Take Action!

Chinese authorities have initiated a serious crackdown in Tibet following the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for the Dalai Lama last week.

In many places including Lhasa, celebrations have taken place despite the overwhelming presence of Chinese military and police.

Monks at Drepung monastery were forced to stop whitewashing a section of the monastery which used to be a residence of the Dalai Lama. Approximately 3,000 armed police surrounded the monastery and at least three monks were arrested.

Read more and take action.

Junta trashes offer from UN

The military junta's rejection of three-way talks with a U.N. special envoy and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may reflect the junta's disdain for anything but its own widely derided "democracy roadmap", analysts and diplomats said.

Reuters quotes U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari, "There's no doubt in my mind that this regime has no intention of cooperating with Gambari or of starting a process of genuine political dialogue," one Yangon-based diplomat said. "It's beyond them."

The challenge for Gambari is to cut through the rhetoric and convince the regime that talks about political reform with Suu Kyi, whose party won a 1990 election landslide only to be denied power, could be in its own interests, Wilson said. (Full article)

Junta taking action against protesters

According to Time of India: "Myanmar's" ruling junta will "take action" against 91 people detained during pro-democracy protests whom it accuses of being involved in "violent and terrorist acts," state media reported on Wednesday.

At least 13 people are known to have been killed in the bloody crackdown but diplomats say the true toll is far higher.

The United Nations says there are another 1,100 political prisoners in Myanmar besides those involved in September's protests. (Full article)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

News on Burma

Unconventional wisdom on Burma
US intelligence believes Burma is seeking to develop nuclear weapons from technology provided by North Korea, according to two former senior US government ...

Flow-on effect for Burma
The two countries are heavily involved in developing hydro-electricity schemes on two of Burma's biggest rivers, the Irrawaddy and the Salween. ...

UN envoy back in Burma for talks
United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari has returned to Burma for a second round of talks with the ruling junta. Mr Gambari previously met with members of the ...

India's foreign policy pragmatism
Earlier this year Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited Burma and was questioned on India's growing economic and military ties with the authorities ...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Political prisoner's death appalling

Australia has condemned the death of a political prisoner in a Burmese jail, with diplomats to protest to the country's military rulers.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he was "saddened and appalled" by the death of Thet Win Aun - a student activist jailed by the junta.

Amnesty International revealed the man died in a prison in Mandalay, in Burma's north, two days ago, where he was tortured and may have been denied treatment for health problems including malaria.

He was sentenced to 59 years in prison in 1998 for his part in organising student demonstrations that called for improvements to schools and the release of political prisoners.

The United Nations estimates about 1,100 political prisoners are held in Burma, which has been under military rule for almost 45 years. (More)