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).