Tuesday 23 December 2008

Burma One of the Worst Crises in the World: MSF

Source from Irrawaddy news, 22 Dec 2008

Military-ruled Burma is hosting one of the world’s worst humanitarian and medical emergencies, alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan, according to a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) report on Monday.

But whereas massive forced civilian displacements, violence and unmet medical needs were identified as causes of crises in many nations, MSF singled out Burma and Zimbabwe as having humanitarian emergencies in 2008 due to government neglect.

In its annual list of “Top Ten” humanitarian crises, the Geneva-based organization, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, stated: “In places such as Myanmar [Burma] and Zimbabwe—where governments fail to make health care a priority or view NGO interventions with suspicion—humanitarian organizations are either limited in the type of assistance they can provide or are left to deal with overwhelming health crises on their own.”
MSF added that hundreds of thousands of people in Burma are needlessly dying due to a severe lack of HIV/AIDS treatment as the Burmese government “does far too little to help its own people.”

The organization reported two specific humanitarian disasters in the country which it termed “critical”—the Cyclone Nargis disaster, which killed an estimated 130,000 people, and the HIV/AIDS problem, which was responsible for around 25,000 Burmese lives in 2007 alone.

“Governed by a military regime since 1962 and enduring low-intensity conflict in certain areas, the disaster was the latest blow to a people largely forgotten by the outside world,” MSF stated.

“Sadly the struggle to get an appropriate level of assistance for Myanmar’s most vulnerable people is one that extends throughout the country,” it added.
MSF said an estimated 75,000 people in Burma urgently need antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV/ AIDS, but less than 20 percent of those can get access to it.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Burmese Rohingya Refugees Submit A Memo At UNHCR-Malaysia

By NDPHR(exile),

Today morning 10am (Malaysiam local time), Rohingya refugees about 1000 from various areas (including women and children), approached for peaceful assembly in front of UNHCR office and submitted a memorandum to UNHCR office in Malaysia. 
Some who had arrived early and separated groups were forced to leave from near UNHCR area, and the others were not allowed to involved in peaceful assembly. Then, one of the bus with sixty refugees from five buses was forced to drive throughly to Brick-field Police station KL. 

The refugees marching to 1Km far UNHCR office as their buses were not allowed to drive
About sixty refugees who were lifted by bus to Brick-field police station, were released at 12:00pm after taken statement for clearance. 
According to the sources, it's UNHCR's plan to foil the freedom of expression, movement and the right to seek, instead of attention over our claimants and which made on the situation.

However, the rest from four buses and the others were came out together, about 400 and read out the two pages of memorandum by Mr. Habib at where they were stopped by police forces near UNHCR office. 
After that, the memorandum was received by UNHCR’s head of security officer Mr. Ibrahim. He also replied that he will passed to his chief officer.

receiving memo by UNHCR's head of security officer Mr. Ibrahim (right side of the white man, from center)
Receiving memo by UNHCR's head of security officer Mr.Ibrahim (right side of the white man, from center)

In the memorandum;
Date: December 03, 2008

We, on behalf of Burmese Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, would like to express our firm stand to ensure the basic and fundamental rights of Rohingya refugees in order to find permanent solution to their long standing problem.

It is well known to the world that the Rohingyas are the worst victim of human rights violations. They are educationally back warded, politically liquidated, culturally assimilated, racially discriminated, ethnically exterminated and religiously persecuted.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya were forced to scatter in various parts of the world through the ethnic cleansing pogrom of Burmese military rulers.

Parts of them have managed to reach Southeast Asian region, particularly in Thailand and Malaysia which is the allied countries of military ruled Burma. These countries are the main supporters of Burmese military together with Singapore, China and Russia in order to keep strong relation for the betterment of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and to achieve the goals of its allied member states.

With a view to achieve democratization in Burma, the state members of ASEAN have yet to give priority towards the will of the people.

Despite taking proactive step to find permanent solution for the Rohingya refugees¢ plights, the staffs of the UNHCR in Malaysia have been involved in gross human rights violation, practicing discriminatory role over refugee status determination, registration, resettlement, protection, assistance and etc that by virtue of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1951 Convention on the status of refugees and its 1967 protocol.

However, we have great expectation that UNHCR shall wake up by this call to sweep all those highhanded staffs from UNHCR office without further delay in order to prove the loyalty of UN Refugees Agency and to show her firm commitment on the implementation of the UDHR and Refugees Conventions.

We hope that the member states of the United Nations and signatory countries to refugee convention and its additional protocols will get accurate information in order to come forward for taking to measure to resettle the Rohingya refugees in respective countries. It will also help and in eradication of violation the roles of UN member states and parties to international instruments.

We are deeply shocked for unawareness of the matter and allowing the agency staffs for continuous human rights abuses, by means of marginalization, isolation, autocratic influence and deprivation of fundamental human rights of refugees.

According to Burmese democratic dissidents, the agency is giving priority towards the causes of ethnic minorities of Burma, ignoring the matter of ethnic Rohingya minority and pro-democracy activists who are the worst victims of human rights abuses not only in Burma but also in the whole region. This mode is life evidence that the UN Refugee Agency in Malaysia follows the policy of Burmese military rulers towards ethnic cleansing and instigating problems among the Burmese people.

However, we have been trying our level best to have a constructive discussion between UNHCR official and refugees communities, sending letters to UNHCR office. The agency is maintaining silence and ignoring the cries of refugees and asylum seekers. Besides, the agency staffs have threatened refugee representatives with fabricated accusations which may be considered as leading to conspiracy to foil refugee rights movements and to harass refugees as well.

By this peaceful assembly, we call upon the UNHCR that:-

1.       To provide adequate protection for Rohingya refugees in Malaysia in order to find permanent solution like non-Rohingya refugees who were recognized by the agency;

2.       To regularize Registration, Refugee Status Determination (RSD) and Resettlement (RST) process for Rohingya refugees without further delay;

3.       To declare the full refugee status of Rohingya refugees who are registered with UNHCR and holding UNHCR TP Card and to issue the card as equal as non-Rohingya Burmese refugees, removing sophisticated word (bin) from the card;

4.       To improve respect and implementation of basic human rights for the Rohingya refugees, providing foods, shelter, clothes, medication, protection, financial assistance and education as soon as possible as they are very vulnerable and desperate, which should be continued till their resettlement in a third country;

5.       To put an end to unethical, inaccurate and undue representation by the various quarters and eliminate improper sources providing, illogical exampling, undocumented responding and telephone threat to refugees, while eradicating the doubtful under table payments for UNHCR facilities;

6.       To uphold an international campaign for the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and to produce particular report on them in order to advocate the causes of forgotten Rohingya refugees and to find durable solution for them.

7.       To bring the issue of Rohingya refugees before the United Nations Meeting as the Rohingyas are the deserving refugees for equal treatment of UNHCR in Malaysia and in need of resettlement in third countries which is warranted by the situation here.

8.       To end the step of salvation in this modern world through finding solution of Rohingya refugees problem and concluding their illegal status in countries of non-signatories to refugees instruments.

9.       To immediately take steps to cause and effect release of Rohingya refugee detainees from detention centers who have been undergoing changes of victimization such as being sold to human traffickers, smugglers, modern slavery in fishing boats, plantations and other sectors;

10.     To immediately bring an end of UNHCR assistances towards Burmese military regime and its collaborators through registering, protecting and resettling them to third country under so-called prioritization for ethnic community as they persecute Rohingya people in Burma and conspire in exile.

In the light of the above circumstances, we hope that UNHCR would be able to understand our position in order to support our rightful struggle to ensure the rights of Rohingya refugees like others in Malaysia. Any proactive intervention, support or assistance and deliberation pertaining to this memorandum and the contents towards human rights and refugee rights activities would be highly appreciated.

Thank you,

Contact Person: Habibur Rahman, Tel: 0122595185

Copy to
1. Host Government (Malaysia)
2. All Concerned Diplomatic Missions
3. INGOs
4. Local NGOs   

Friday 24 October 2008

Memo to AI by Rohingya Refugees Committee from Malaysia

By NDPHR(exile), 24 October  2008…
A Memorandum
Amnesty International

We, the Rohingya refugees from different areas in Malaysia stress our great expectation over the Amnesty International (AI) Malaysia that the agency will pave a role to find durable solution for our plights which have been kept behind the bar and inadequate protection. It is also a decades of failure in the advancement of advocacy.

 Today, we wish to call upon Amnesty International (AI) Malaysia to take proactive steps to advocate the causes of marginalized Rohingya refugees and to encourage United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and world bodies to pay attention to the long standing problems of Rohingyas in order to ensure their basic and fundamental human rights which were set forth by the United Nations Charters and Conventions.

while submitting a memo by area base Rohingya refugees from Malaysia

We are the people who love peace, justice, freedom and harmony for the people of the world regardless of race, religion, color, sex and cultural orientation. But, the military regime of Burma made us as the worst victims of human rights violation, not only in Burma but also in its neighboring countries, particularly its allied states such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and etc.

Rohingya are oppressed, displaced, treated as intruders and pushed into danger of extinction. Rohingyas rights to citizenship were denied, lands and possession were confiscated, freedom of movement, worship, thought and assembly are restricted, rights of marriage and education are banned, arbitrary arrest, widespread, rape, racial discrimination, extortion, and forced labor, violence, torture and extrajudicial killings are very common against Rohingya. Due to such kinds of brutal behaviors, atrocities, ethnic cleansing and religious discrimination of Burmese military regime, we (Rohingya) were compelled to take refuge in different parts of the world. An unspecific numbers of Burmese Rohingya have arrived in Malaysia.

Despite being the victims of inhumane pogrom, our cases have been kept behind the bar, while discriminations from various quarters are triggered against our people as well. Meanwhile, we are living in sub-human condition. We don’t have food to eat, place to stay, work to employ, cloth to wear and medicine to treat. Our children are passing lives in extreme vulnerability. They are underway to unexpected exploitation. Our women are being marginalized. Many of our people are being trafficked by smugglers.

Due to unavoidable circumstances and deprivation of fundamental human rights of refugees, many Rohingya refugees have begun secondary migration to find a safe place, whether in the river, sea, ocean and mountains or jungles. Of them, some managed to reach in Australia whose refugee status were granted by the new Prime Minister of Australia and many are still remain missing on their way to destination of safe place.

On the other hand, many Rohingya refugees got arrested in hand of Malaysian authorities and were deported to Thai-Malaysia border under the Malaysian Laws. But these vulnerable souls were sold to fishing boat or trafficked in different places for slavery for whom no information is coming out at all.

Rohingya refugee patients are being treated as people of rich countries at Malaysian hospital, which is totally unbearable for them as they don’t have regular work or permitted works to earn money for their survivals. Their children are barred from going to public schools whose rights are neglected by concerned quarters as well.

Refugee Status for the Rohingya refugees is not determined as non-Rohingya refugees from Burma. Rohingyas are given Prima-facie status that is not eligible for resettlement to a third country. Besides this, the document that issued by UNHCR for the Rohingya refugees is mentioned as Artificial Temporary Protection Card, which is quite different from other refugees. It has also mentioned that they can go back in their country of origin, if there were peace. This card not used in Malaysia and not recognized by international agencies or refugee resettling countries.

Meanwhile, the Rohingya refugees are branded to those who do not fall under that group of people to whom humanitarian assistance would be provided and considered as those whose permanent solution should be sought.

However, the Rohingya refugees are sure that they cannot go back to their country, unless their fundamental rights to citizenship are ensured. It is well known to the world that the Rohingyas are the only people in South and Southeast Asia who are the victims of consecutive harassments.

Being a main regime of refugees, UNHCR in Malaysia plays discriminatory roles against Rohingya refugees and pushing them to an assimilative system of Malayzation with some baseless relationship with Malays and their religious belief. When Rohingya refugees face confrontation with Police, Rela and Immigration, the agency remain silent and when any refugee reports to UNHCR hotline about arrest, the receiver only says that report received and does not take any action. When refugees reach to detention camp, UNHCR ask refugees to provide detainee number and location, where refugee cannot access at all. It means that Rohingya refugees would work for themselves as UNHCR does not interest to protect them.

Questions may made here that if Rohingya refugees can access to get release of refugees and manage to fulfill their needs, what would be the role of UNHCR for the protection of Rohingya refugees and what are the roles of Amnesty International and other human rights groups in focusing insincerity of UNHCR officials in Malaysia and to find durable solution to the plights of Rohingya refugees.

It is true that the religious status of Rohingya refugees do not have similarity with Malays which is same similar to other religions such as Roman Catholic, Baptist and Seven-day Adventist in Christianity, Mahayana and Theravada in Buddhism, Brahman, Vishnu and Chuddar in Hinduism. Besides, these, the Rohingya refugees are adjustable and mixable with other people and culture, keeping their original tradition and standard. But, now, they are pushed by UNHCR to accept Malay tradition, standard and culture following religious sub-class.

It is also true that there is no law for the protection of refugees in Malaysia and thus the Rohingya refugees are facing security problems and passing lives in the circle of arrest, detention, deportation; and hopeless and hapless in the host country with various depressions. Although, Malaysia ratified two of UN’s conventions such Convention on the Right of Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the country has yet to plan to ratify refugee convention in order to avoid floodgate for illegal immigrants.

Under these situations, the Rohingya refugees are treated as illegal immigrants in Malaysia, while UNHCR is pushing us to find temporary solution like Pilipino Muslims in Sabah.

This example is strong life evidence that local integration is impossible for Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, while the result of human rights abuses in Burma is also the evidence that they cannot be repatriated to their country of origin. Meanwhile the only option of resettlement in a third country with full refugee status is left from the mandates of Refugees Conventions.

We also would like to express our concern over the deprivation of our rights to identification of our vulnerabilities and plights; and thus we are not given chance to meet our obligation, which was set forth by United Nations Resolution.

The United Nations resolution also declared that October 24 is United Nations Day. For the occasion of this respected day, we call upon the Amnesty International:-

  1. To encourage UNHCR to provide adequate protection for Rohingya refugees in Malaysia in order to find permanent solution like non-Rohingya refugees who were recognized by the agency;
  2. To put pressure on UNHCR to regularize Refugee Status Determination (RSD) and Resettlement (RST) process for Rohingya refugees without further delay;
  3. To mobilize UNHCR to declare the full refugee status of Rohingya refugees who are registered with UNHCR and holding UNHCR TP Card and to issue the card as equal as non-Rohingya Burmese refugees;
  4. To manage UNHCR to improve respect and implementation of basic human rights for the Rohingya refugees, providing food, shelter, clothes, medication, protection, financial assistance, protection and education as soon as possible as they are underway to danger of uncertainty, which should be continued till their resettlement in a third country;
  5. To encourage UNHCR to eliminate improper sources providing, illogical exampling, undocumented responding and telephone threat to refugees, while eradicating the doubtful under table payments for UNHCR facilities;
  6. To uphold an international campaign for the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and to produce particular report on them in order to advocate the causes of forgotten Rohingya refugees and to find durable solution for them.
  7. To bring the issue of Rohingya refugees before the United Nations Meeting as the Rohingyas are the neediest refugees for equal treatment of UNHCR in Malaysia and in need of resettlement in third country which is warranted by the situation here.

Thank you,


Mohammad Sadek Habibur Rahman
Program Coordinator General Coordinator
Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC)
Tel: 016 3094599 Tel: 0122595185/0166948977

Friday 10 October 2008

Secret file-Home Minister's briefing (excerpts)

Source from Mizzima, 8 Oct 2008

Though officially confidential, but widely leaked to the outside world, the following are excerpts of Home Minister Major General Maung Oo's briefing given during a recent departmental meeting. The speech sheds light on his – and the junta's – analysis of the world order and international relations, including views on the opposition in Burma, economic sanctions and the United Nations.
Police to the forefront

After the September unrest, the international community pointed out that the suppression of riots by the army ran contrary to international law. There used to be only three militarily ruled countries in whole world, Pakistan, Sudan and Myanmar. Now there remains only Myanmar. Under these circumstances, the Home Ministry is now solely responsible for the suppression of all domestic riots and maintaining law and order throughout the entire country. Thus we have to regroup, reconstitute and rearm the riot police battalions. I went to a shooting range in person and checked all the arms, ammunition, equipment and crowd control gear supplied to these forces. In the coming two years, we can say our Ministry will come to the forefront of crowd control and law and order maintenance. In the functioning and responsibilities of the Ministry, matters of law and order will be tackled by police and the General Administration Department (GA), economic offences will be handled by the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) and law enforcement will be addressed by the Prison Department. All of these matters are known by departmental heads, though female officers in our Ministry are presently uninformed.

The tight schedule of the Minister

I'd like to tell you my daily routine in the Ministry. I have to read all inward letters and clear them all starting from 5:30 a.m. Then I study what are the significant developments of the day. Then I go for a briefing and arrive back at the office between 1:30 and 2 p.m. In the afternoon I have to again go for a briefing and clear all letters received. In the meantime, I have to attend any meetings that might be scheduled. The cabinet meeting regularly convenes from 12:30-1 p.m.

International community impact on lay society

All of today's dynamics in international relations converge in Burma's domestic situation. All domestic movements regarding politics, economics, social policy, administrative issues and sports, to name but some, are based on these international ideas and philosophies. People of Burma (laymen) launch their movements against the government, in line with the international community, when accusations of the international community against the government reach them. Commoners (laymen) mean men, women, monks, nuns and workers. We need to know the basic international political situation to deal with all of these 54 million people, the population of Burma, as they are moving along these lines.

United States or China?

In today's world, you can see permanent U.S. hegemony and supremacy. In the U.S. camp we can find the U.K. and France. In the past, there was a Western camp led by the U.S., U.K., Australia and West Germany. Now there is a separate entity, the European Union, consisting, unlike the previous grouping, of 27 European countries. The E.U. joins a Western camp, now inclusive of Japan, led by the U.S.; a Russia group comprising the 15 new republics of the erstwhile former Soviet Union; the African Union in Africa, and; Middle Eastern Arab States. But there is also a new group comprised of India, China and Russia. This is a brief background of today's world order. You can see the E.U. has joined with the U.S. led camp. This is none of our business, but Myanmar has become a target, as our country is militarily ruled and they view our country as a cart. All issues can be put on it [the cart], meaning that Myanmar becomes a focal point for all of them. In other words, some people from the international community exploit this situation and use Burma as a scapegoat. As for ASEAN, China and India, they can't compete and challenge with the mighty U.S. in both politics and economics. Even China, Russia and India cannot individually challenge the dominating power of the U.S. So, these three countries join together to counter and balance U.S. hegemony. On the other hand, the U.S. camp consists of the U.S., E.U., Japan and Korea. In our vicinity, you can see Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, each a member of ASEAN, siding with the U.S. camp. Only Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam remain in line with us. So we must side with China. You might think that your Minister is talking of siding with China based on China's favor shown toward the ruling government and our good relations with China. No, in today's world, no country can stay aloof from other countries. In the U.S.'s plan to contain Burma there is the U.S. group and E.U. group. On the other hand, there is also an ASEAN group and Russia group. The U.S., England, France, Germany and Italy are included in the U.S. led Group. I'd like to explain to you briefly why we have to side with China. No nation can invade another country, regardless of her size, wealth and might. Such an action can be remedied by the U.N. There are 192 member countries in the U.N. and there are many councils and U.N. agencies as well. For instance, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), a social agency, labor issue agency and UNESCO for education. In other words, there are only three possible foundations for international motions, security, economics and social policy. Of these three motions, those who study the current world situation can see what motion the U.S. is playing against Burma.

Taiwan and China

The U.S. seeks to contain and encircle China by maintaining a naval base in Taiwan. Burma's official position is to recognize a One China policy, a single country including Taiwan. The main issue and permanent issue is the Taiwan issue. Japan, one of China's neighbors, also has a U.S. naval base. Japan is pro-U.S. and will do whatever is dictated to them by the U.S., black or white. In the Korean peninsula, there is a North Korea and South Korea. South Korea also has a U.S. naval base and is a pro-U.S. country. There is a U.S. Armed Forces headquarters based in the heartland of South Korea's capital, Seoul. Singapore is also pro-U.S. and a lackey of the U.S. Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand have U.S. bases on their soil too. Only Burma remains neutral from U.S. influence in the region. Bangladesh too survives with U.S. aid and support from the U.S. Navy.

India and the CIA

Bangladesh and India are non-left, non-right countries. Though they are democratic countries, there are no NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Pakistan is also a lackey of the U.S. and both India and Pakistan are nuclear power countries. Afghanistan became a foothold for the U.S. under the pretext of the War Against Terror. In adjacent Tibet, China wrested control and occupied the region after the Dalai Lama fled into exile. This region is always a hotspot for U.S. foreign policy. Another adjacent country, Mongolia, witnessed its first ever anti-China protest. We can say the CIA has infiltrated this country. I mean only Burma remains neutral in U.S.'s China containment policy, both economically and politically. Buying gas is also part of this game. Plans to build a Yunnan-Mandalay-India road and the construction of the Kyaukphyu deep water port are part of a scheme to improve access to resources throughout the region. We have agreed to build the Tavoy seaport, which links to Thailand. Burma becomes a target for some other countries because of these seaports and natural gas reserves. The current energy crisis is caused by the U.S. No matter what the oil production from OPEC and the Middle East, the U.S. is the only country exploring oil and gas, the U.S. is the sole country whose companies are extracting and refining crude oil. The marketing of oil and gas is also monopolized by the U.S. Frankly speaking the U.S. is engaged in speculating on both oil and gas. So, they are exploiting the current energy crisis for the benefit of national political interest, economics and the social privilege of established groups.

The 'Humanism' currently followed by the U.S. can be translated as individualism. They use this individualism for promoting human rights and democracy issues in the interference of other countries' internal affairs through the instigation of anti-government forces under the cloak of democracy and human rights.

Economic Sanctions

Under sanctions imposed by the U.S., there is a travel ban on us, a ban on the use of U.S. banks for money transfers and a trade embargo. All of these are the product of U.S. domestic law. We don't need to comply with these sanctions. We cannot use U.S. banks to transfer U.S. dollars to other countries for the purpose of payment. They ban exports to and imports from the U.S. All of these actions are made under U.S. law. We don't need to abide by these laws. But regarding the UNSC, there was a Presidential Statement issued on this issue. There are five permanent members in the UNSC. The 10 non-permanent members are from the 192 member states, minus the five permanent countries, and serve a two year term once in fifty years. One representative is assigned to be President of the Security Council for a term of one month at a time. The five permanent countries are the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China, which enjoy veto rights. The motions were timed to be submitted with this one-month Presidential post in collaboration with the International Labor Organization and UNESCO. Two Presidential Statements have been issued. Presidential Statements are non-binding and only urge, remind and warn member states of the duties.

Black sheep at the U.N.

Though it is not yet serious, they [U.S. led bloc] seek to take action against Burma, like a black sheep, through the U.N. mechanism. The end of our seven-step Roadmap will begin in early 2010, now only one-and-a-half years away. We must hand over power to a civilian government within this timeframe. We are facing pressure through the U.N. in this regard. Concerning international pressure, the government is facing a crisis. In the current policy objective, we will move in accordance with the changing situation, but we cannot change our policies and principles.

How we see NGOs

There are currently about 42 NGOs in Burma. We don't know what stuff they are doing and how they were brought into Burma without the knowledge of anyone. They imported six Toyota Land Cruisers but we don't know through which funds. A more serious matter is the importing of communication sets for communication with international bodies without the knowledge of the government. They must seek approval of the government by going through the Trade Council (TC) in bringing such equipment into the country. They brought in these cars and communication sets without permission. When the government exposed these violations and sought to seize all contraband items, they instead took them out of the country without surrendering the items to the government. Even diplomats imported tarpaulins without going through the TC. Sometimes they went through the TC in importing stuff, but claimed things as personal items which they then sometimes redistributed or resold. Yet they accuse the government of reselling relief supplies. In fact, according to the current situation, our country is self-sufficient in rice. According to the statistics given by our subordinates, the State can supply enough rice daily to over 60,000 people (61,699). But the international community didn't recognize this fact. They didn't accept it when we told them to stop providing instant foodstuffs, biscuits and drinking water. But no one came when we asked for building materials. All these expenses were spent by these NGOs at their own will, for which they submitted their accounts themselves. Yet when the government asked for badly needed building materials, they provided just tarpaulins.

What of the KNU?

The KNU can be merged into the regular army at any time. They have already drafted a constitution in accordance with federal principles and posted it on the Internet. And there is also an exile government established with Sein Win. The only thing they don't have is territory.

Intelligence agency under the Home Ministry

We are under the surveillance of the Military Affairs Security (MAS-former Military Intelligence) on all the news we supply. I want to say to all of you that we are under constant watch. We cannot hide from them in anything we do. Besides the four intelligence sources, merchants and traders also act as sources of information, as they might have some communication channels and access to cover (protection). They provide undercover intelligence input.

What is the NLD?

In the current domestic situation, I'd like to repeat that the opposition party NLD is holding a line of opposing the constitution being sponsored by the government. We don't care about the NLD, but there are three embassies – the U.S., U.K. and France – behind them. These embassies are providing them financial support, training and information, besides facilitating communication with the U.N. There are three different groups of NLD. The first one looks to establish a parallel party in accordance to and within the (approved) constitutional framework and relevant election laws. The second one is adhering to the 1990 general election result, maintaining an oppositionist stance. And the last one always assumes an anti-government posture. What happens next will be determined in the next one-and-a-half years. When an all civilian government has been installed in Burma, all those who are disliked (by the top brass) will be fired or forced to retire.

Thursday 18 September 2008

135 Muslim Arakanese Arrested for Traveling

 By NDPHR(exile),

136 Muslim Arakaneses were arrested in Kyauk Tan bridge area of Akyab, Arakan state, on 15 Sept 2008.

They were arrested at about 7:30 am of while they got in the cars which run to Rangoon. Authority suspected them as traveling to Rangoon therefore they were arrested and lifted by military lorries. Males were detained at no(1) police station lock-up of Akyab and females were detained in Central Jail of Akyab.

The source from Akyab said, “they all were sentenced to 6 months jail without court order, for their traveling from state to state. Since the military imposed restriction on the movement of Muslim Arakanese, their traveling is act like illegal”. Source also confirmed that some in the previous have been already passed more than 7 years in detention with no trail.  However, there is no such punishment for traveling in the legislation of country’s Laws..

He also added, “6 of 136 persons  who are believed to be agent or monitor, were lifted to Rangoon for the fulfillment of further punishment upon any-means of their relatives presently living in Rangoon”.

A confidential source from Rangoon said, “ we are worrying for reminiscence by authority. We have been settled in Rangoon for some decades. This is one of the unacceptable exemplary punishment on us. We were born and grown up in this country but no right to live like others”.

“The arrestee 136 persons are likely to be lucky compare to previous arrestees in Thaungup township who were killed by local Buddhist Rakhaings demonstrating anti-Muslims pogrom in Arakan region”. He further added.

“It is very hard time for us in Burma. We are not getting enough source to sustain and no right to move from one place to another. We need international intervention to free our lives”.  Said a spokesman from Islamic Affairs Council who declined to mention his named.

“Muslims are not our citizens. It is Buddhist country. If Muslims need to stay in our country, they would practice our customs. They would join in various Buddhist festival as well”.  Stressed a member of military from Tetma(1).

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Angry Reaction to Samak’s 'Suu Kyi is a Tool' Remark

Source from Irrawaddy news, 26 Aug 2008

Burmese opposition politicians and some political observers and commentators have strongly rejected Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s description of  Aung San Suu Kyi as a “political tool” of the West.

Samak made the controversial comment to UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari when the two met in Bangkok as the Nigerian diplomat was returning from his latest failed mission to Burma.
Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. (Photo: Reuters)
“Europe uses Aung San Suu Kyi as a political tool,” Samak told Gambari. “If it's not related to Aung San Suu Kyi, you can have deeper discussions with Myanmar [Burma].”Samak also told reporters after meeting Gambari: “Efforts to engage the military regime would be more productive if Aung San Suu Kyi was left off the agenda.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) rejected the Thai premier’s comments as inappropriate.
“As the leader of a country, he should not give such comments about the political affairs of other countries,” said NLD Spokesman Nyan Win.
Nyan Win accused Samak of favoring the Burmese regime and ignoring the Burmese people.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior editor of the Bangkok English-language daily newspaper The Nation said, “I think Samak’s comment is ridiculous. And he has tarnished Thailand’s reputation as the chairman of the Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). 

“He [Samak] doesn’t even understand the situation in Burma. He has a very sadistic attitude in attacking whoever disagrees with him. Look at the manner he attacks the Thai media everyday.”  
A Burmese ethnic leader, Cin Sian Thang, chairman of the Zomi National Congress in Rangoon, accused Samak of “insulting Burmese people.”

Cin Sian Thang charged that Samak “doesn’t support the formation of democracy in Burma.”
A well-known Burmese politician and former ambassador to China in the 1970s, Thakin Chan Htun, said in Rangoon that Samak’s remarks were based on Thailand’s business interests in Burma, which were more important to him than democratic reform.
Although Gambari failed to meet any top Burmese leader or Aung San Suu Kyi on his latest visit, the UN denied the mission was a failure.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s deputy spokeswoman,
Marie Okabe, said in New York on Monday: “One should not make a judgment on the process based on each individual visit.”
During his Bangkok stopover, Gambari urged Samak to continue his support for the UN mission to break the political deadlock in Burma.
Gambari is scheduled to visit Indonesia before returning to New York, where Okabe said he would report to Ban Ki-moon on his latest visit to Burma.

Friday 22 August 2008

Myanmar Mayaka seizes 280 acres of land in Buthidaung

source from kaladan Press, 21  Aug 2008 ,

Buthidaung, Arakan State: The Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC), or Mayaka of Buthidaung Township confiscated about 280 acres of paddy fields from farmers of Ngaran Chaung village tract recently. The confiscation was made on the allegation that the farmers did not comply with the order to grow paddy again, said a schoolteacher on condition of anonymity.   

Earlier, the TPDC authorities had ordered farmers to grow paddy again as part of the summer cultivation. Some farmers complied where natural water was available but some did not because water was not available. The ruling junta did not make any arrangements to supply water to villagers.

Farmers of the Ngaran Chang village and Kyinutthi villages have to give 15 Tans (one Tan=40.9 kg) or Kyat 3,000 per acre to TPDC officials and another 15 Tans of paddy or Kyat 6,000 per acre to the land-surveying department by the end of January 2009.  The farmers have to give paddy following the summer paddy cultivation.  As a result, a farmer has to pay 30 Tans or Kyat 9,000 per acre to the authorities at a time. If any farmer fails to give paddy or money, their farm lands would be confiscated.

The authorities have also said that if farmers give the paddy or money in time, they will be allowed to grow paddy in their fields.

The Tactical Operation Commander (TOC) of Buthidaung Town has been apprised but the Commander has referred the matter back to the TPDC office in Buthidaung.  An officer of the TPDC told villagers that the problem will be solved in the near future. But, authorities are not allowing villagers to grow paddy in the seized land during the paddy season. The paddy season will end shortly.

It is a strategy to seize land belonging to Rohingyas indirectly by demanding at a time   huge money from villagers, said a village elder requesting not to be named.

Meanwhile, some Rakhine men came to the villages from Kyauktaw and Maruk U townships and demanded Kyat 200,000 to 250,000 per Khani (0.40 acre) claiming the lands were owned by their grandfathers. They are being encouraged by U Aung Mya, the Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) Chairman of Ywar Thaya village of Ngaran Chang village tract, said a local trader. ##

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Rohingya shot dead in Maungdaw, Arakan

source from Kaladan Press , 18 Aug 2008

Maungdaw, Arakan State: A Rohingya was shot dead by a gang of unidentified miscreants when he was sleeping at home on August 11, at about 1:30 pm.  The gang fired on him from a window.

The victim was identified as Hafez Ahmed (42), son of Ali Ahmed from Mizzali Para of Fokira Bazaar in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State. He was an informer of Nasaka, Burma’s border security force.
After the incident, the police brought the body to Bawli Bazaar clinic for autopsy. In the evening, the body was buried in the local grave yard.  The following day, Md Ayas (35), son of Mohamudur Rahaman including two others from the same village were arrested by Nasaka personnel of Nasaka area No.2 in Maungdaw Township.

Some villagers said that he was killed by his rival because he was jealous of his wealth while some said he was killed for his proximity to Nasaka.
The arrested were sent to the Nasaka camp where they are being detained and interrogated.
Some people from the village said that he was a good man while some said that he was notorious who harassed villagers.

On August 16, some policemen went to the village from the Bawli Bazaar police station to search for the killers and arrested some villagers on suspicion but later released them after taking money.
Similarly, an informer Murtaza of Maung Nama village of Nasaka Director of Kawarbill was killed in June.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

3 Nasaka Deserters Arrive in Bangladesh

soure from Kaldan Press, 11 Aug 2008
Dhaka: Three men arrived on Friday in Bangladesh after deserting their posts with Nasaka, the infamous border security force based in western Burma.The three were identified as Thwe Naing, Private No. TA 360757, Zaw Myo Tun, Private No. 360756, and Aung Than Win, Private No. 353584. They were serving at Nasaka headquarters in Kyi Kan Byint in Maungdaw. Ko Zaw Myo Tun said, “We were tortured by officials in Nasaka and the officials also urged us to oppress the local people. We do not want to oppress people, so we deserted from Nasaka.”

The three men are now sheltering in Bangladesh and are preparing to apply as refugees with the UNHCR office there.
“We are preparing to seek safety as refugees with UNHCR if we have the chance, because we are worried about our security here,” he said.

According to a local source, most Nasaka men ranked as privates are facing hunger as their salaries are insufficient for their survival, and many men have deserted Nasaka due to this hardship.

He said, “The monthly salary is only 21,000 kyat for a Nasaka man, but in Maungdaw, the price of ordinary rice is 25,000 kyat a [50-kilogram] sack. All private Nasaka men are facing hunger due to their salary being inadequate for their daily survival.”
“[Hunger] is also another reason for us to desert from the law enforcement of Nasaka,” another deserter Ko Thwe Naing added.

Many Nasaka men on the western border are now involved in many sectors of corruption in order to get extra money from outside their jobs to maintain their daily life. #

Saturday 31 May 2008

The Depayin Massacre, Five Years Later

 Source from Irrawaddy news, 31 May 2008

May 30 marks the fifth anniversary of the Depayin massacre, one of the most notorious incidents in recent Burmese history.
Five years after this planned attack on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, Toe Lwin still can’t forget that horrific night when junta-backed thugs blocked their convoy and went on a murderous rampage.

Protesters from the National League for Democracy shout slogans during a rally calling for the immediate release of their pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi near the Burmese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on May 30. (Photo: AP)

“They blocked our vehicles. They tore clothing off of women and then beat them. They hit elderly people. I saw them collapse in front of me. I will never forget it,” said Toe Lwin, a survivor of the Depayin massacre who now lives in exile in Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burmese border.
“My duty was to protect Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I was standing beside her car for security. The attackers moved toward Daw Suu’s car, and soon there around 30 of them surrounding us. I told them it was Daw Suu’s car and asked them not to attack. I told them to stop beating people and asked them to go back.”

“Suddenly, they started to hit Daw Suu’s car. First I tried to cover it. Then they started to beat me. They hit my head three times and I collapsed. Daw Suu’s driver finally sped away and escaped,” said Toe Lwin.
There are many Burmese people who will never be able to forget the Depayin massacre, which left at least 50 people dead.

On Friday, about 300 members of Burma’s main opposition group, the National League for Democracy (NLD), gathered at the party’s office in Rangoon to mark the fifth anniversary of the brutal Depayin attack.
The massacre took place in Kyee village, on the outskirts of Depayin Township in Sagaing Division, central Burma.
Nyan Win, a spokesperson for the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Friday: “We held a religious ceremony at our office today. We offered food to the monks in memory of democracy supporters who died in the massacre.”
Members of the NLD in Mandalay also held a memorial ceremony in Burma’s second largest city.
The attack was launched by a pro-junta group consisting of members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association and the Swan Ah Ashin militia, who blocked the road to prevent vehicles from escaping the ambush. They also shone floodlights from trees lining the road, which was partially covered with barbed wire.

After the massacre, police appeared and rounded up the survivors. Men and women were detained separately on the night of May 30, and some of the women were raped by the authorities, claimed witnesses.
This incident is commemorated by Burmese democracy activists around the world. Many democracy supporters in South Korea, Japan and Thailand marked the fifth anniversary of the massacre with protests. 
On Friday, about 20 demonstrators gathered in front of the Burmese embassy in Seoul for more than one hour calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the Depayin massacre.
The protesters held the NLD flag, photos of Aung San Suu Kyi and signs calling for an investigation of the incident. The group also demanded that Burmese authorities take action against the perpetrators of the attack.

During the demonstration, the protesters shouted “Release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.” 
“Burmese authorities are worried about reprisals,” said Yan Naing Htun, one of the organizers of the Seoul protest. “If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is released, she will tell the truth. So the authorities continue to detain her.”
Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest period detention began in 2003; this week, she completed five years of house arrest. She was first detained in the run-up to the 1990 parliamentary election, which the NLD won by a landslide.

The military regime announced on Tuesday that Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention had been officially extended for six months, although several sources have claimed that the detention order was for one more year.   
Nyan Win also criticized the Burmese military government for extending the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The Burmese authorities have detained Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for five years. Legally, they can detain her for five years.
So the extension of Daw Suu’s house arrest is illegal,” said Nyan Win.  Under Article 10 (b) of the 1975 State Protection Act Law, a person can be detained without charges for a maximum of five years.

The party also demanded that the regime explain the extension and said it planned to appeal the decision in court.
World leaders and human rights groups have expressed outrage over the extension of Suu Kyi’s house arrest and have criticized the Burmese government for violating its own law.

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Myanmar police detain Suu Kyi supporters

Source from USA Today , 27 May 2008
Share on emailE-mail | Share on printPrint | Subscribe to stories like this
 Protesters shout slogans during a rally Tuesday, May 27, 2008, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.  Security was stepped up around detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house Tuesday as Myanmar's military junta faced a deadline to decide whether to release her or extend her house arrest for another year. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
by Sakchai Lalit, AP
Protesters shout slogans during a rally Tuesday, May 27, 2008, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Security was stepped up around detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house Tuesday as Myanmar's military junta faced a deadline to decide whether to release her or extend her house arrest for another year. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Police in Myanmar have detained more than a dozen members of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party.
The members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy were marching Tuesday from the party's headquarters to her home when riot police shoved the group into a truck.
It was not immediately clear where the truck was headed or exactly how many people were detained.
Suu Kyi has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years, mostly under house arrest.
Security was stepped up around Suu Kyi's home as the military junta faced a deadline to decide whether extend her current period of house arrest or release her.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday 9 May 2008

Relocation of Rohingyas in a Deserted Island by Thai PM

By Ahmedur Rahman Farooq

In 1852, the government of the French Emperor Napoleon III opened a penitentiary island known as "Devil's Island" which was used for the settlement of convicts ranging from political prisoners to the most hardened of thieves and murderers. More than 80,000 prisoners who were sent to the harsh conditions at the disease-infested Devil's Island were never seen again. The world history has recorded it as one of the most infamous prisons of the human society in the earth.
It was a rocky, palm-covered inescapable island which rises 40 meters above the sea level. Very few convicts managed to escape from this island by crossing the piranha-infested Moroni River via Dutch Guiana or overland to Brazil and then through hundreds of miles of swamp and jungle to the nearest settlement. A Dutch soldier, stationed on the Maroni River, once heard a piteous screaming from the river after dark and went to investigate.

About 25 feet from the bank he saw a convict struggling forward, with the water boiling beneath him. Fist-sized chunks of flesh were being torn from his arms, face and chest. The piranhas were skeletonizing the convict before the soldier's eyes and soon the convict sank screaming into the dark brown water. No one knows how many convicts fell victim to the piranhas of the Maroni, but even this horror did not prevent them from trying to swim the river to escape the dreadful incarceration.
And from here Henri Charrière, the author of Papillon who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the 1930's for a crime he did not commit, succeeded to escape by throwing himself into the rolling waves of the ocean from a cliff using a bag of coconuts as his raft which drifted him towards the mainland after four days and three nights adrift in the sea. In 1970 "Papillon", the autobiography of Henri Charriere, was published and it set the world on fire giving the horrific accounts of the misery and inhumanity of the French penal colony which was in use from 1852 to1946 and the book sold millions, becoming one of the best sellers of all time.

However, the distressed people of Rohingya ethnic minority community of Arakan State of Burma have been continuously trying to cross to the neighboring countries like Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India in search of safety and food. The military regime has closed all the doors for their easy survival, suddenly making them illegal immigrants in their own motherland where they have been living for centuries, through an an amendment in Burma's citizenship law in 1982. They are not permitted to move from even one village to another without the permission of the authority. The farming which remained as the only resource for their survival, is also being axed from time to time by the repressive machinery of the regime through so many restrictions that life has been made unbearable for the Rohingyas in Arakan. Today, being uprooted from their own motherland, over 1.5 million Rohingyas are roaming in different countries of the world including Thailand as status less gypsy human beings.

Last November 26, 2007, a trawler and two engine boats overloaded with Rohingyas while preparing to cross to Malaysia, sank in the Bay of Bengal off the Maungdaw township where only about 150 out of the 240 could swim to the shore and have gone into hiding to evade arrest, and the rest have gone missing. Later, only 5 bodies were recovered. Last Feb 03,2008, a boat packed with Rohingya refugees drowned in the Naaf river which runs in south-eastern Bangladesh forming part of the 320 km border between Bangladesh and Burma.

Later four bodies of the Rohingya women were found. On March 3,2008, the Sri Lankan navy rescued 71 people mostly the Rohingyas on board a 50-feet vessel which was found drifting in the Indian Ocean after its engine failed while the people were heading for Malaysia or Thailand seeking employment. Twenty other people died on board from a lack of water and food as the boat drifted for 12 days. The vessel was about 170 miles away from the eastern coast when the navy found it after being tipped off by fishermen.

These are a few which came to the notice of people, the concerned authority or the news media and there are many incidents which have slipped away unnoticed as the Rohingyas resort to unnoticeable routes in most cases to escape which are full of risks of life and death.Such episodes amply demonstrate the appalling conditions in Arakan which have been driving the people to such desperate attempts to escape.

However, on March 28,2008, the Prime Minister of Thailand Samak Sundaravej said that the Thai Navy is exploring a deserted island to place all the Rohingyas living in Thailand mostly as undocumented refugees. He made the statement after emerging from a two-hour long meeting of the country's National Security Council.
He expressed his intention to show the Rohingyas "life here (Thailand) will be difficult". But he could not show any single point of wrongs or crime that the Rohingyas have ever done in Thailand for which he has decided to banish the entire Rohingya ethnic community to a deserted island in violation of several UN and International laws especially the 1967 Protocol of the Geneva Convention regarding the statelessness.

The Thai Prime Minister is a staunch supporter of the Burmese ruling generals and he said he has new found respect for the ruling junta after learning that they meditate like good Buddhists should, turning a blind eye to the series of atrocities that the military regime has committed even against the revered monks who are the dharma sons of Buddha.
The Thai Prime Minister said," We want electricity. Burma has allowed us to build a dam. We want to sell goods there. Burma will build a port. Is that not good for Thailand?" So, in order to build up a celestial empire, the Thai Prime Minister wants to offer the innocent Rohingyas as the requiem in the altar of tyranny of Burma's military rulers by sending them to the island of Death where if the Thai forces can place the Rohingyas today, then tomorrow the Burmese forces will land in that island and thus massacre the entire Rohingya men, women and children who escaped before from the paws of the Burmese military junta, beyond the notice of the international community.

What is going to happen to the Rohingyas when they are abandoned on that island? What will be awaiting there for them? Presenting a cartoon idea regarding the aftermath of the ostracization of Rohingyas in a deserted island, Dr. David Law said: Frame #1 "Think of a small cartoon island -- a simple oval shaped piece of land with a couple of coconut palms surrounded by water. On the left side of the island is a Thai Navy boat forcing Rohingyas off the boat and onto the island." Frame #2 "On the next frame is the same island filled with Rohingyas. The Thai sailors have gone, but now the Burmese Navy sailors are landing on the right side of the island." and Frame #3 "On the third frame are the Burmese sailors shooting down the Rohingyas, there is a lot of gunsmoke and bodies on the island and floating on the water and blood is everywhere. On the foreground, in the water, a couple of fish are saying, "there are no witnesses except us".

In fact, the statement of the Thai Prime Minister rocked the world conscience. It has sent a wave of shock and grief among the whole Rohingya community. It has sparked outrage of the international peace loving community. Due to decades long political oppression, economic exploitation, social degradation and cultural slavery, the Burmese military rulers have turned the peace loving Rohingyas into a powerless, defenceless and voiceless crippled community.They are under the threat of extinction through a systematic genocidal operations of the Burmese regime. Rohingyas have been crying in corners and dying in silence decades after decades. Now, if the humanitarian people of Thailand as well as the international community can not stop the deportation of the Rohingyas to the island of death, it will just add another notch of genocide on the scale of man-made tragedies of Rohingyas.

However, the Rohingyas hope that the sympathy of His Majesty King of Thailand to their plight can bring a halt once and for all to such an inhumane decision of the Thai Prime Minister. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej who is the world's longest serving monarch, is revered as having perfect Buddhist qualities. In Thailand, His Majesty King is accorded an almost divine reverence, with titles like Phra Chao Yu Hua (Lord Upon our Heads) or Chao Chiwit (Lord of Life) who has an extraordinary bond with the people and remained as a reassuring anchor amid any whirlwind of the country during his six decades on the throne of Thailand reigning through 17 military coups and 26 prime ministers.

Ahmedur Rahman Farooq, Chairman, Rohingya Human Rights Council (RHRC).

Saturday 12 April 2008

Thailand's Crackdown on Burmese as Arrest Numbers Grow

Source from Phuket Wan, 11 April 2008
ALMOST as many illegal Burmese have been arrested on Phuket and trucked back to the border so far this year as in the whole of last year.
Construction worker Too Nu on Phuket with his worker ID
The total compares with 3622 for the whole of 2007, when the highest individual month was March with 560 arrests.

The Superintendent of Phuket Immigration, Police Colonel Chanatpol Yongbunjerd, told Phuketwan that the illegal problem had become greater this year.

''I am asking police in Patong, Chalong and Phuket City for help,'' he said. A comprehensive crackdown on illegal Burmese is planned after Songkran, from April 21 to 25.

The number of Burmese being arrested this year is placing pressure on the Immigration jail facilities, which are not built to hold large numbers of people for more than a few hours.

The deaths of more than 50 Burmese in a container on the back of a truck near Ranong on April 9 indicate more people may try to come by land rather than risk travelling by boat in monsoon weather.

It's a simple ID card, about the same size and shape as most driving licences. A permit to work in Thailand.

Hardly worth your life.

Yet increasing numbers of Burmese seem prepared to risk death to cross the border, where they can expect to find work doing menial labor.

Construction sites, fishing trawlers, plantations, home-help: the Burmese do all the lowly-paid jobs that Thais are sometimes reluctant to do, at least in sufficient numbers.

It's said the resorts along the Andaman Sea that were flattened by the 2004 tsunami have mostly been rebuilt on the backs of Burmese.

Burmese are now coming in such numbers that cross-border migration has become an issue of national security, with the Thai Navy exploring a top-level suggestion that an island detention centre would become a suitable deterrent.

The wealthy tourists who flock to Phuket in growing numbers drive past shanty towns composed of corrugated iron shacks where Burmese laborers live in primitive conditions under an 8pm curfew.

They are forbidden to own mobile telephones or motorcycles, blamed for almost every crime on the island, and suspected of spreading tuberculosis and HIV.

Phuket's foremost heroines, immortalised in one large statue on the main road from the airport, are a pair of sisters who helped to beat off a Burmese invasion of the island in 1785.

Ever since, it seems, the Burmese have been trying to creep back.

The Chief of Phuket's Employment Office, Nataya Anudit, told Phuketwan that 35,116 Burmese have the precious ID cards and at least 20,000 more work illegally on the island.

''Construction companies are always looking for more workers,'' she said. ''If they cannot get them legally, they usually find them illegally.''

The problem is mirrored in other provinces along the coast but Phuket, with its heady mix of wealthy tourists and a booming economy, is where the Burmese want to be most.

More are dying for the opportunity. It is the sudden increase in the arrivals of the Rohingya, a Burmese minority Muslim group, that has now caused a headache for the Thai military.

A boatload of about 80 recently arrived on Koh Kor Kao, an island not far north of Phuket.

They were reported to local authorities by anxious villagers, and told immigration officials that there had been deaths onboard on their 11-day voyage south.

Like all Burmese caught illegally along the Andaman coast, the Rohingya were trucked straight back to the border, where they will be refused entry because Burma does not usually allow illegals to return.

There are fears that unless an example is made, Burmese Muslims could link up with the southern Muslims who are being blamed for the deadly separatist unrest in Thailand's deep south provinces.

Those Burmese who do find legal jobs, like Too Nu, who works on a site in Phuket City, benefit from the minimum wage of 193 baht, which is about four times what laborers are paid in Burma, if they can find work.

Too Nu, 24, came legally nine years ago.

Another Burmese, a woman who came to Phuket illegally, told of having to pay police bribes to get into the country.

She now has a legal job as a housemaid, assisted in making her position legal by a helpful employer. Burmese who do win the right to work often prosper on Phuket.

But many others are arrested and trucked back to the border.

Laurence Gray, regional advocacy director, World Vision Asia Pacific, confirms that extortion is likely among vulnerable groups such as the Burmese in Thailand.

''Illegal migrants will often be made to work long hours or not paid wages at all,'' he said.

A World Vision survey of almost 1200 Burmese involved in so-called ''blind migration,'' the phrase for when people crossed a border without a job to go to, indicated about one in 10 were led into prostitution.

Friday 11 April 2008

Horror of Human Trade: 54 Burmeses Die in Phuket Bound Container

Source from Phuket Wan, 10 April 2008
The container was found open on the parked truck on the main road leading to Phuket, where the dead and 67 others who survived the ordeal hoped to start a new life.
The death toll includes 37 women and 17 men.

Nine of the survivors are being treated in the local Suksomlan Hospital. Another has been taken to Ranong Hospital.

Head of Suksomlan police station in Ranong, Phuwanai Wattasamai, told Phuketwan that the people in the container were being smuggled to the holiday island by road.

When the grisly cargo was discovered on Wednesday evening, police called a doctor who helped some suffering survivors and diagnosed that the dead victims had suffocated in the container.

Survivors were rounded up and most are now being held in cells in Ranong. The container was usually used for refrigerating fish.

The incident highlights the role of ''snakeheads,'' people traffickers currently said to be cashing in on the large number of Burmese seeking to leave the country.

Witnai Jurai, a police officer based in Ranong, told Phuketwan that the container filled with people had been carried to Ranong, on the Thai side of the border, by ferry from Victoria Point, the Burmese town across the mouth of the river.

''They mostly came from Motama, near Yangon in Burma, to Victoria Point,'' he said. ''Others joined them in Victoria Point.

''The driver of the truck picked the container up on the Ranong side. Soon after, he stopped the truck and opened the back to check on his cargo.

''When he saw what had happened inside, he ran away. Local people called the police.''

The driver, a Thai, has yet to be found.

One group of Burmese, the Rohingya, who are Muslims, have been fleeing south to Ranong, Phang Nga and Phuket in such large numbers that the Prime Minister recently supported a plan to create an island detention centre in the Andaman Sea as a deterrent to others.

The Third Navy, based on Phuket and Phang Nga, has identified several islands that would be suitable for such a centre.

The deaths in the containers are likely to throw the international media spotlight onto the issue of Burmese refugees seeking a better life in Thailand, especially in the Phuket and Phang Nga construction industries.

Some Burmese have legal status but the numbers are never sufficient for the large amount of new building, especially of tourist resorts as the region fully recovers from the 2004 tsunami.

The dead victims from the container were taken to a charity foundation. They will probably have paupers' burials, the fate of Buddhists who cannot afford cremation at a temple.

The newsagency AFP reports that the migrants were supposed to pay a Thai smuggling ring 6000 baht ($US200) each to transport them from the border to Phuket, about four-hours' drive south.

Once there, they hoped to find work as day labourers.