Friday, April 28, 2006

Over 11,000 Displaced, Killed in Latest Burma Attacks

The latest attacks in Western and Northern Karen state by the Burma army has caused the displacement and deaths of more than 11,000 Burmese civilians in recent weeks.

Reports indicate that homes and rice barns have been burned and landmines laid to prevent people from returning to their villages, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide on Apr. 26. Moreover, bodies of several victims have been found, some severely mutilated, including the body of a beheaded middle-aged man.

At least 11 civilians were shot and died. One survivor said, “The Burma Army waited in a prepared position to kill villagers. They waited until they were only 10 yards away and opened fire on a man carrying his mother, as well as the families and children behind him. What kind of people, what kind of system can do this?”

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “The situation in Karen State is clearly deteriorating into a humanitarian crisis. The Burma Army is hunting down and shooting innocent civilians and, as a result, thousands have been displaced.

“The international community must not stand idly by and allow this to continue. The United Nations Security Council must address the crisis in Burma urgently, and use its power to require the Burmese regime to stop the slaughter and engage in tripartite dialogue with the democratic and ethnic groups. The international community should also find ways to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance to those trapped in the conflict zones, so far unreached by the major aid agencies and unreported by the world’s media.”

The media and some so called "Christians" have continued to ignore the plight of these innocent people and spreading lies about who and what they are. Let God be the judge. (Source)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Caught Between Bird Flu and Burma's Junta

Southeast Asian governments are caught between tackling bird flu and Burma's secretive junta, which is keener on strengthening its iron grip on power than addressing a possible global pandemic.

On Monday last week, UN officials offered Asean governments a picture of how rapidly the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus had spread in Burma in under a month. “Up to now, there are over 100 outbreaks, mainly in two districts, Mandalay and Sagaing,” He Changchui, head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation's Asia-Pacific office, said at a press conference here.

Part of the problem, he added, was a lack of awareness among communities breeding poultry that have been affected. “The information is not that comprehensive.”

That is no surprise for governments of Asean which, besides Burma, include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In mid-March, when word first got out that Burma had become the latest country hit by avian flu, it was revealed that the increasingly secretive and paranoid junta had kept the public in the dark for days, with no mention of the outbreak in the state-controlled media.

For Burma watchers, a meeting of Asean foreign ministers in the Indonesian resort of Bali on April 17-18 would offer a useful occasion to warn Rangoon about the health consequences of its brutal grip on power. “You cannot separate the two. The politics and the health issues are linked,” Soe Aung, spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella organization of Burmese groups in exile, told IPS.

“Health has never featured prominently on the Asean agenda, but bird flu calls for change,” he added. “This is a trans-boundary issue, and it can affect Burma's neighbors.”

“The threat of bird flu spreading in Burma should be discussed by the foreign ministers without delay,” Teresa Kok, a Malaysian opposition lawmaker who is part of an Asean inter-parliamentary caucus on Burma, noted during an interview. “It is not the time to be soft and be humiliated like (Malaysian Foreign Minister) Syed Hamid (Albar) was by the junta.”

Syed Hamid visited Burma late last month, to assess the country's progress towards political reform and democracy, but he had to cut short his trip—which had already been delayed by Rangoon—after the junta refused to let him meet pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, currently under house arrest. He is expected to deliver a report of his visit at the Bali meeting.

The threat of bird flu spreading in Burma comes at a time when Southeast Asia has already gained notoriety as the epicenter of the lethal virus that, if not contained, threatens to mutate into a strain capable of causing a global pandemic, which could kill millions.

Countries already hit by avian flu-related human deaths over the last two years include Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The global death toll stands at 109 out of 192 reported cases.

The challenge faced by the Burmese junta is seen in a scathing report released in late March by medical researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Government policies in Burma “that restrict public health and humanitarian aid have created an environment where AIDS, drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria and bird flu are spreading unchecked,” states a media release that accompanied the report.

“Health expenditures in Burma are among the lowest globally, including an annual budget of less than US $22,000 for the prevention and treatment of HIV among a total population of 43 million,” it adds. “Much of the country lacks basic laboratory facilities to carry out a CD4 blood test, the minimum standard for clinical monitoring of AIDS care.”

Burma, which has been renamed Myanmar by the junta, has an estimated 170,000 to 620,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. It is also classified by UN agencies as being among the world's 22 “high burden” countries with tuberculosis, due to the 97,000 new cases reported every year.

“In 2005, thirty-four percent of tuberculosis cases in Burma were resistant to any of the four standard first-line drug treatments, which is double the rate of drug-resistant cases in neighboring countries,” the report by US researchers reveals. “Nearly half of all deaths from malaria in Asia occur in Burma.”

To compound that problem, the junta has placed severe travel restrictions on international humanitarian agencies working in the country, prompting some to leave. In August last year, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international body set up to boost grassroots efforts in combating the three pandemics, quit after Rangoon's many roadblocks. In March this year, Medecins sans Frontieres was also forced to depart after “the military authorities had imposed so many travel restrictions.”

The junta, however, appears unruffled by outside critics as it spends more on strengthening its 400,000-strong army and improving the new administrative capital it has unveiled in Pyinmana, north of Rangoon.

Leading UN officials say that the bird flu outbreaks in Burma appear to be beyond what the junta can handle. “We are going to be focusing on Myanmar a lot in the next few days and weeks, trying to make sure that the authorities and civil society in that country are able to cope better,” Dr David Nabarro, the UN’s point man on bird flu, told reporters here last week.

The Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Bali offers the first forum to gauge what the region's governments may do to deal with their stubborn partner. - Inter Press Service (IPS)

Thai police arrest 17 Asylum Seekers from Burma for Joining Protest at Korean Embassy

Thai police arrest 17 Asylum Seekers from Burma for Joining Protest at Korean Embassy

Banyol Kin, IMNA
April 18, 2006

At least 17 activists from Burma were arrested in Bangkok on Tuesday during a protest in front of the South Korean embassy to pressure Daewoo International to leave Burma.

The demonstration was led by Aung Mung Oo, Director for the Shwe Gas movement based in Mae Sot. More than 50 activists joined the protest but only the people who were holding identification cards issued by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) were arrested. The other protesters were holding migrant workers' permits and were not arrested.

Asylum seekers holding UNHCR cards are not allowed to move around freely in Thailand , where they are usually restricted to refugee camps along the border. Thousands of people have fled to Thailand due to human rights abuses committed by the Burmese military regime.

The protesters held posters and shouted “Daewoo out of Burma, no way no Shwe, Daewoo stop investing with the Junta” in front of the Korean embassy in Bangkok.

“A Korean embassy official came out and received a copy of the statement that we distributed, and he said he will report it to the Korean government,” said Aung Mung Oo.

The Shwe Gas movement is against the exploitation of natural gas resources in Arakan state, in western Burma , due to the potential financial gain for the military junta that could lead to more human rights violations.

“I think this case is connected to all the people who live in Burma so we all have a responsibility for that,” said an activist who participated in the protest.

The demonstration was held for about one and half hours, after which the police asked the protesters for their identity documents.

“They said that they will put those who were arrested in jail for three days and then send them back to Mae Sot,” said Aung Mung Oo, who is from the Arakan ethnic group in Burma .

“We will request the Thai police not to send them back to Burma , and if they (demonstrators) want to go to Mae Sot, we will inform the UNHCR office in Mae Sot so they can collect them,” said a UNHCR officer responsible for refugee protection.

Last week, the Burmese regime and the Indian government signed an agreement for the construction of a pipeline passing through Bangladesh that will transport natural gas from Burma to India . Daewoo International is the majority shareholder in the natural gas project. - Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand

Playing the Games...

Burma, a fellow member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations whose military rulers claim to be on a path towards democracy, although the facts belie this. The Malaysian foreign minister today said Burma has for months been dragging down the whole region through association, but during a visit to Rangoon last month Mr Yudhoyono did little to suggest that he feels the junta needs to inject urgency into its democratic timetable. Read the whole article.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Junta isolates itself further by rejecting NLD offer

The Burmese military junta is further isolating itself in the international arena by not responding to the National League for Democracy's national reconciliation offer, said the Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) and Free Burma Coalition-Philippines in a join statement today.

The NLD's offer, the deadline for which expires today, called on the junta to convene a 'peoples parliament' with the winning representatives of the aborted 1990 elections and promised to recognize the junta as Burma's de jure government.

Nyan Win, spokesperson for the NLD in Rangoon today told Mizzima that the party has not received any response from the junta.

"As a political party... we have offered what it should be and what it could be. And we will continue with our planned strategy," said Nyan Win. However, he declined to elaborate on the party's "planned strategy."

While there are wide spread speculations over the NLD's next move in response to the junta's silence, U Win Naing, a veteran politician in Rangoon said, as the junta has clearly indicated its motive, the people of Burma must think of a consolidated way to break the political deadlock.

"Leaving everything aside, politicians and the people of Burma must think of just how we can move ahead politically," said U Win Naing, who is called Amyotharye given his nationalist spirit.

Nyo Ohn Myint, In-charge of exiled foreign affairs committee of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) said the junta is missing out on a good opportunity by not responding to the NLD's offer.

"The deteriorating situation for the people and political pressures are dangerous for the military junta. The NLD has made this offer in consideration of the peoples' suffering... and it is not final or the end but I believe it is only the first step of the peoples' movement," said Nyo Ohn Myint.

"Now it's up to the junta to decide. If they remain silent on this issue, it is a loud indication of their lust for perpetual power. But the efforts of the international community and all democratic forces will not end unless meaningful reforms and genuine peace and justice are achieved," said Gus Miclat, regional coordinator of APSOC and convener of the FBC-Phils.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Burma—Kipling’s ‘Land of Dreams’ No More

“On the road to Mandalay, where the flyin’-fishes play, an’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay….by the old Moulmein pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea, there’s a Burma girl a settin’, an’ I know she thinks of me

This was Rudyard Kipling’s Burma: a land filled with all the romance of the mystic orient of the 19th century.

In 1885 the British invaded Upper Burma, annexed it, and made it a part of India. The last ruling king, Thebaw and his Queen, Supayalat (along with her scheming, power hungry mother, Queen Alenandaw), were exiled to India.

In 1948, Burma got her independence from Britain. But prior to this, there were Round Table conferences in London, Paris, and Simila, where delegates from Burma, fought fiercely for Burma’s proper recognition by Britain as an independent country from India, and an acknowledgement of its ethnic groups, including a new race, the Anglo-Burmese, who were the children of British and Burmese unions. (The Anglo-Burmese, proportionately were the largest ethnic group of volunteers in both the World Wars).

The massacres at the Mandalay Palace in 1885 were just a shadow in Burmese history as compared to the thousands upon thousands who have vanished from the land of dreams, under the oppressive boot of Myanmar’s socialist agenda.

Burma is now on President Bush’s list as a terrorist nation--and Kipling’s Burma, where “temple bells [were] callin” has vanished like ether, into the mists of time. -

Burma's Almost Forgotten

Burma's Almost Forgotten - Christians find themselves battered by the world's longest civil war and a brutally repressive regime. From Christianity Today online magazine. Link to article.

Nasaka authority seizes mobile phones on border

Nasaka authority recently seized a number of mobile telephone sets that were being used around Maungdaw Township, Burma. The mobile phones were taken from Bangladesh illegally by telephone holders in Burma, said a mobile phone holder.

Last week, Nasaka authority seized 20 mobile telephone sets from Nga Khura village tract under Maungdaw Township. In March alone the authority seized about 700 mobile phone sets throughout Maungdaw Township. All were taken from Bangladesh illegally, said an official from Nasaka.

A mobile phone holder confirmed that his mobile set was also seized by Nasaka authority last week but it was an old one. He in fact had two mobile sets. He luckily concealed the newer mobile set in his house.

At present, over 5000 mobile telephone sets taken from Bangladesh are still being used in Maungdaw but people are secretly using mobile phones in Maungdaw in order to avoid arrest by the authority, the phone holder said.

A mobile phone selling manager from Teknaf told Narinjara yesterday that he knew that Burmese people are using mobile phone sets from Bangladesh and confirmed that there are over 1000 mobile phones in Maungdaw Township alone.

Burmese people, therefore, have been buying mobile telephones for about 100000 Burmese kyats from Bangladesh, and people living in the border area are widely using mobile phones from Bangladesh.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Media Group Calls for Release of Burmese University Students

Two media rights organizations have voiced outrage at Burmese authorities for arresting seven university students for writing and publishing a pro-democracy poem.

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association issued a statement Wednesday calling for immediate release of the students, who attend the University of Pegu north of Rangoon.

The two organizations say the students were arrested in late March after publishing a poem that referred to the fighting peacock, a symbol of Burma's pro-democracy movement.

Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrest and prison sentences given to two other Burmese journalists for filming in the new capital, Pyinmana.

The group called the three-year prison sentences imposed on the men - Ko Thar Cho and Ko Kyaw Thwin - a travesty of justice. It said Burma's military government uses the law to crush any attempt at journalism.

The journalists were arrested in late March after filming and taking photos of the new capital. Voice of Burma.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

10 Myths about Burmese Christians Debunked

10 Myths about Burmese Christians Debunked

On a free "encyclopedia" website that allows anyone with an internet connection to add or remove information, one person who claims to be a "Buddhist Christian Noahide Muslim Messianic Jew" and another person claiming to be a "Christian" decided to vandalize the pages and report false information and tried to spread progaganda about Burmese Christians and about the Church of Jerusalem.

This page shows the fallacy of their false claims.

Claim 1: One person who claims to have once been a member of the Church of Jerusalem said: "This church has used many other aliases, such as Malakara Iberian Orthodox Church...Hebrew Catholic Church, and now The Nestorian Orthodox Church - Church of the East & Abroad."

Debunked: The Church of Jerusalem has never been known as "Malakara Iberian Orthodox Church" and the name "Hebrew Catholic Church" is not an alias of the Church of Jerusalem. It is an exarchate in South America, and it itself is not the Church of Jerusalem but is in affiliation with it.

Claim 2: The so called "former cleric" said: "In the USA they are not registered as non-profit religious organization, but they do take donations and sell various products."

Debunked: The Church of Jerusalem is a not-for-profit organization and is registered with the Internal Revenue Service. And the Church does take donations from its members by way of tithes, like most Churches do. That is a Scriptural practice. The Church of Jerusalem uses an independent business, not owned by the Church, to sell printed materials such as Bibles, books, tracts, etc. Just like most religious organizations do.

Claim 3: The so called "former cleric" claims: "Their membership numbers have never been given, so it can be assumed that they are a very small association of small communities world-wide."

Debunked: If this was a real cleric of the Church of Jerusalem, he would know that the Patriarchate of Jeruslaem publishes a census list of the membership every three years with detailed statistics about language, ethnicity, etc.

Claim 4: The same "cleric" said: "The church claimed that the Desposyni were leaders of a Jewish community which has moved to Mesopotamia during the second century, while keeping a formal obedience to the Patriarch of Antioch. In the sixteenth century the center of the church became a Burmese community. In the last century, the church sources claim that their see moved to India, then to Portugal, and later to the USA."

Debunked: That's all news to me. I've never read that in our history book published by the Church. "See of Antioch"? "Sixteenth Century"?

Claim 5: The former "orthodox cleric" said: "Currently its leader, +Mar Michai, who lives at Mishqana, a private property ...Tennessee."

Debunked: Another lie. The Catholicos lives in Jerusalem Israel. In fact, it is widely known that he lives in Pisgat Ze'ev, a community north of Jerusalem.

Claim 6: Believers held that he is above all human judgement and they have to sign a Loyalty Oath to him and his family, under the punishment of excommunication.

Debunked: Both Nazaraeans and Assyrians hold the same belief that their Patriarch can only be judged by Messiah. That was a formal ruling back in the 400's or 600's AD. And members are not required to sign an oath of loyalty unless they are clergymen and its not under "punishment of excommunication".

Claim 7: The so called former "clergyman" said: "It is said that in 2003 some 1000 Burmese christians joined the Church of the East & Abroad, and were granted the name Burmese Orthodox Church of the East."

Debunked: The Church in Burma is known as "The Burmese Orthodox Church". According to sources outside of the Church of Jerusalem, there are over 100,000 Christians living in the area.

Claim 8: The former "cleric" says: "Subsequently, on 22 May 2004, the church's patriarch declared himself king on an area in Burma, along the border of Thailand extending from Laos to the Adaman Sea, which he calls Nettara and which is under rebel control. The church claims that the area hosts about 25,000 Christian refugees."

Debunked: The Catholicos did not claim himself to be a king of anything. The people in the area call him "Byanma Min" which means ruler and rightful successor. The Catholicos is the religious and spiritual head (ruler) of the Church of Jerusalem under the authority of the Messiah. If this was real cleric of the Church of Jerusalem he would have known this.

Claim 9: The former Western "cleric" says: "It is also said that on 9 November, 2005 the church formed a Sanhedrin of 70 secret rabbis, whose location is not declared."

Debunked: "9 November, 2005"? Where did this date come from? The Sanhedrin is called the "Beit Knushta" which means "House of the Assembly" as is the same name which the Jerusalem Council of 50 AD is referred.

Claim 10: The man who claims to have been a former "cleric" with the Church of Jerusalem said: "There is no independent confirmation about any of the previuos statements, and the church seems to be small and to have been established in the 20th century."

Debunked: There is plenty of information about the plight of all denominations of Christians in Burma and Thailand and Laos. The former "cleric" to have said that the Church was established in the "20th century" is a very "far fetched" since the Church's letters date back to centuries ago and since independent historians speak of the Church of Jerusalem all the way back to the first century.

Major dire crisis may result in Burma

Burma’s Committee Representing People’s Parliament (CRPP), warned that there could soon be a major dire crisis resulting from current social, economic and political problems in the country. The comment of the CRPP came after assessing current social, economic and general political problems during a meeting held on 3 April in Rangoon, which was attended by all its 13 unfettered members except Thein Pe and Yan Kying Maung. When asked how the CRPP managed to come to the conclusion that the country is heading towards a major crisis, its secretary Aye Tha Aung said: “Currently, we see that inflation in Burma has affected the survival of the majority the population and caused general commodity prices including basic consumer goods to rise with speed. The impacts of the rising commodity prices are affecting ordinary class and middle class very badly. We are not in a position to help them effectively on this matter. As a responsible organisation, the current ruling government is not in a position to take effective action either and we discussed that we are very, very concerned on behalf of the people.” Aye Tha Aung added that lawless behaviours and extra-judicial killings of civilians by the authorities are increasing in the country during this year, referring to recent murders of civilians by the police and uniformed authorities. “It is very important that there is a rule of law in a country.

According to the situations in what had happened, the personnel who are upholding laws themselves are not acting in accordance with the laws, and moreover, their lawless and callous (behaviours) are very dangerous to the public and (opposition) politicians. Therefore, it would (not) be possible to say that those attended (the meeting) will not be subjected to the callous actions, and we discussed how to avoid these callous actions as much as we could.”
Aye Tha Aung also said that the remark of the generals which said that Aung San Suu Kyi is not relevant to the situation in Burma anymore, shows that the junta has no desire to negotiate with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic national parties which were elected by the majority of the population. - Democratic Voice of Burma

Monday, April 03, 2006

Burma: 3-Year sentences for pair who took pictures

Press Release: Reporters Sans Frontieres

Three-year sentences for two journalists who took pictures of new Burmese capital

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association voiced outrage today at the three-year prison sentences imposed on journalists U Thaung Sein and Ko Moe Htun for photographing and filming in the new capital, Pyinmana, and thereby allegedly violating article 32 (A) of the Television and Video Act.

"It is a disgrace to see journalists arrested and sentenced just for taking pictures on the streets of Pyinmana," the two organisations said. "This new evidence of paranoia by the military regime jeopardises the possibility of the Burmese and international press working in the new capital. We call for their release."

Also known as Thar Cho, U Thaung Sein, 52, is a photojournalist for several Burmese publications. Ko Moe Htun, 42, who is also known as Ko Kyaw Thwin, is a columnist for the religious magazine Dhamah-Yate (The Shadow of Dhamah).

They were arrested on 23 March while driving around Pyinmana, filming and taking photos. They received their three-year sentences the following day when they appeared before judge Daw Mi Mi Maw of the Yamaethin district court.

Their lawyer, U Khin Maung Zaw, announced his intention to appeal. "They should be freed because the Television and Video Act does not forbid taking pictures in authorized areas and states that such pictures may be used for private purposes," he said. His clients were just using a small amateur camera, he added.

As far as Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association know, this is the first time that Burmese citizens have been given the maximum three-year sentence envisaged under the Television and Video Act, which was adopted in July 1996.

U Thaung Sein and Ko Moe Htun are currently being held in the Yamaethin district prison north of Pyinmana.