- Suu Kyi disappointed by quadripartite meeting
- Bullet Points: 31 October 2014
- KNU, DKBA ‘support’ Kawthoolei Armed Forces
- Activist to serve fourteen years behind bars
- Thein Sein orders investigation into Par Gyi’s death
- WFP cuts aid to Meikhtila IDPs
- Slain reporter’s widow calls for inquiry
Posted: 31 Oct 2014 06:48 AM PDT
Representatives from the Burmese government, parliament, military and political parties held quadripartite talks today at President Thein Sein's residence in Naypyidaw. Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been urging the government to hold a quadripartite meeting for a long time now, but it wasn't until this week that Thein Sein announced his decision to host the four-party talks.
In a press conference following the meeting, Information Minister Ye Htut said the discussion was designed to address political issues—including democratic reforms; constitutional amendments; and the ongoing peace process between ethnic groups and the government.
Ye Htut also said that President Thein Sein prioritized three key issues at the meeting.
"The president prioritized three topics during the meeting: first, to ensure the continuation of democratic reforms…and develop an open and independent Burmese society; second, to ensure a lasting national reconciliation based on positive developments that have already been achieved in the peace process; and third, to maintain the country's current political stability and ensure a successful general election in 2015, which is an important step in Burma's democratic reforms."
With regard to constitutional amendments, however, Ye Htut simply reiterated the government's position that amendments must be passed in accordance with procedures set forth in the constitution and must be consistent with constitutional provisions, one of which bars Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president.
When asked by DVB whether a genuine dialogue took place today, Suu Kyi indicated that the meeting was organized in a way that merely allowed the parties to repeat their previously-stated positions and enabled the government to reaffirm certain issues upon which everyone has already agreed.
"The four parties at the meeting were each given 10 minutes to express their thoughts, and in the end the representatives were asked if there were any general issues they wanted to discuss. This was not the kind of quadripartite meeting we envisioned," she said.
Although the meeting did not yield any substantial breakthroughs, Ye Htut described today's meeting as an important "trust-building measure." He said the parties agreed to meet again and implored the participants to exercise patience, understanding and forgiveness.
Another point of agreement, according to the information minister, was that all parties said they were focused on improving the country's socio-economic level and ensuring that the 2015 elections are free and fair.
Regarding the peace process, Ye Htut said the Burmese government had stressed the importance of signing a nationwide ceasefire at an early date (i.e. by the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015) and drafting a framework for political dialogue to ensure that dialogue between the government and ethnic groups continues regardless of who wins the 2015 elections.
Posted: 31 Oct 2014 04:32 AM PDT
On tonight's edition of Bullet Points:
You can watch Bullet Points every weeknight on DVB TV after the 7 o'clock news.
Posted: 31 Oct 2014 02:46 AM PDT
The Karen National Union and the Karen Klo Htoo Baw Organisation—often referred to as the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)—wrapped up their meeting on Thursday by releasing a joint statement announcing support for the formation of a unified Karen army, the Kawthoolei Armed Forces (KAF).
The joint statement said the KNU has agreed—in principal—to establish the KAF, while the DKBA unconditionally agreed to form the KAF. According to the statement, the KAF will work with other ethnic groups in Burma and democracy activists (both at home and abroad) to realize the creation of a democratic federal political system in Burma.
Col. Saw Paw Doh, the KNU's spokesperson at the meeting, said: "Our aim is to unify all Karen armed groups under one banner, and the KNU—in accordance with its objective of providing political leadership [for the Karen population]—has decided to throw its weight behind the KAF."
KNU representatives attended the first day of the meeting (29 October) in person, but on the second and final day two key KNU-affiliated figures who strongly support the KAF decided to join the meeting via telephone: Baw Kyaw Heh, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), and c, the commander-in-chief of the Karen National Democratic Organisation (KNDO). The KNDO and the KNLA are both armed wings of the KNU.
Another major Karen armed group, the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council (or the Karen Peace Council (KPC)), did not attend the talks, but the group's former leading member Dr. Timothy was present.
In an interview with DVB, the KNLA's Baw Kyaw Heh said, "Just like the Karen people we also want to see a unified Karen army. To this end, our unification committee will work step-by-step to facilitate negotiations between Karen armed groups."
During the meeting KNDO chief Nadah Mya said, "Although we cannot meet face-to-face at this time, I would like to say that we are united. I also want to urge the Karen people to help facilitate this unification, as it is our people's objective.
"Since we are all children of Saw Ba U Gyi we still hold in our hearts Saw Ba U Gyi's four principals, and we want to tell everyone—don't feel disheartened."
The meeting was held at the DKBA's Sonseemyaing headquarters in Karen State, but over 300 people from various Karen-populated areas participated in the meeting either in person or via telephone, including political leaders, military officers and individuals from the Karen community.
Posted: 31 Oct 2014 12:55 AM PDT
Activist Tin Kyaw will serve fourteeen years and four months behind bars for a single protest.
On Thursday Kyuaktada Township court found him guilty of causing public alarm and sentenced him to two years in prison.
It was the twelfth court to sentence Htin Kyaw over a protest in May, when he called for the release of arrested reporters.
Posted: 30 Oct 2014 10:43 PM PDT
The Burmese government issued a press release on Thursday stating that President Thein Sein's office has ordered the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to conduct an investigation into the death of Par Gyi, a journalist killed last month while covering armed conflict in Mon State.
Par Gyi is the pseudonym used by Aung Naing, who went into exile in Thailand shortly after his involvement in Burma's 1988 uprising. The press release indicated that the decision to order an investigation was based on reports in state-owned newspapers which quoted the Ministry of Defence on 25 October, describing the journalist as "Captain Aung Naing, communication in-charge of the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO)."
However, Par Gyi's family and friends dispute the Burmese army's claim that he was ever a member of the KKO, the political wing of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Association (DKBA). They are demanding justice and want to know why he was detained and murdered by the Burmese army while working as a journalist.
Condemnation of the killing has also come from the international community, including the United States, which has called on Naypyidaw to conduct a transparent investigation into the journalist's death.
Burmese civic group 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS) released a statement on 24 October strongly condemning the army for summarily executing a civilian, labelling it as a lawless act.
The 88GPOS's leader, Mya Aye, said the army is responsible for the murder of Aung Naing and the group will demand justice against the perpetrator.
"As soon as we heard news that Ko Par Gyi was missing, we reached out to government officials and stressed that he is entitled to legal rights, and that they can't just arbitrarily detain him and take him away to unknown places," said Mya Aye.
The 88GPOS leader then added, "We learned from Aung Naing's family that when they first went to look for him [in Kyeikmayaw], the army told them they would be allowed to see him and that he could be released if his family bails him out. But later they backtracked on their promise and began avoiding the family.
"According to the statement released [on 24 October], the army conjured up a far-fetched story about him, claiming that he was shot dead for trying to rob a gun while escaping from detention. But we do not accept that. From a legal point of view, the army has committed a crime and we demand to see effective legal action against the perpetrator(s). We will stage public protests if necessary," said Mya Aye.
Before he began working as a freelance journalist, Par Gyi was a political activist and a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's personal security team during the 1988 uprising. He was also one of the first National League for Democracy Youth members and acted as the group's Karen State coordinator.
Eventually, Par Gyi was forced into exile in Thailand, where he started working as a freelance reporter based in Mae Sot. Prior to his death, Par Gyi was working for at least three different publications, according to his wife Ma Thandar.
Posted: 30 Oct 2014 10:15 PM PDT
The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has cut its humanitarian aid assistance to displaced persons in Meikhtila, central Burma.
"From March 2013 to August 2014, WFP provided food assistance to over 10,000 displaced people in Meikhtila camps," the agency's Rangoon office told DVB by email on Thursday. "WFP monitoring and evaluation missions to the camps concluded that the assisted population had adequate access to livelihood and income generating opportunities. They possessed other coping mechanisms and were able to resume their normal pre-March 2013 activities.
"In the light of increasing needs for food assistance in Myanmar [Burma], WFP was urged to prioritise emergencies and support to the most vulnerable communities in the country. Meikhtila population no longer fell under these categories."
Displaced residents of Meikhtila, mostly Muslims who lost their homes in communal riots last year, say they have been facing food shortages since the WFP announced the cuts.
Tin Ko, an IDP at one of the three remaining displacement camps in Meikhtila, said some 3,500 inhabitants in the camps have not been receiving any food rations from the WFP for two months.
"The WFP was previously providing us with rice, cooking oil, salt and beans, but they stopped in August," he said, adding that many people in the camp are now taking up manual labour jobs to make ends meet, while others have resorted to begging in the streets.
Tin Ko said several private philanthropists used to bring donations to the IDPs in the past, but nowadays they receive little.
Abbot Batdanda Seintita of the Asia Light Foundation, a charity group that donated aid to the Meikhtila IDPs last year, said, "I have not been told about any food shortages. If I had been made aware, I would have sought donations for them."
Around 10,000 people were displaced in communal violence that broke out in the central Burmese town in late March 2013, sparked by a quarrel between a Muslim and a Buddhist in a gold shop.
Meanwhile, BBC Burmese reported on Thursday night that WFP plans to cut its entire ration across the country by 20 percent in November.
WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella is quoted saying that the WFP "plans to cut rice rations to IDP camps in Burma by up to 20 percent due to a budget shortage". The report said around 70,000 IDPs in Shan and Kachin states and tens of thousands in Arakan State will be affected.
Ms Casella reportedly said the WFP has a US$8 million shortfall in budget between now and February. It would therefore cut rice rations across the board. However, other essential supplies would not be affected, she said, pointing to cooking oil, beans and special food supplements for mothers and children.
Ms Casella said the WFP has requested assistance from donors to provide more food aid in Burma, and that if such funds become available then the 20 percent ration cut will only be temporary.
Posted: 30 Oct 2014 07:19 PM PDT
Par Gyi’s widow, Ma Thandar spoke to the press at the ’88 Generation offices on Wednesday.
She demanded Burma’s national human rights body properly investigate the case.
Her calls came one day after UN rights rapporteur Yanghee Lee raised the reporter’s death at the General Assembly.
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