Monday, October 20, 2014

Democratic Voice of Burma

Democratic Voice of Burma

Birthday celebrations for Rangoon’s largest resident

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:45 AM PDT

Beloved Rangoon elephant Mo Mo celebrated her sixty-first birthday over the weekend.

She was greeted by crowds of children and treated to a birthday feast at the city zoo on Sunday.

Bullet Points: 20 October 2014

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:35 AM PDT

On tonight’s edition of Bullet Points:

  • UEC announces election time period
  • Myanmar Football Federation fined for poor fan behaviour
  • One of Rangoon’s best loved residents celebrates a birthday.

You can watch Bullet Points every weeknight on DVB TV after the 7 o'clock news.

Mrs Abe helps put Japanese investment in softer light

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:31 AM PDT

Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, gave a speech at the "Myanmar Festival 2014" in Tokyo on 18 October urging Japan's business leaders to think of Burma as a potential long-term business partner rather than a source of cheap labour.

Ms. Abe has a reputation for being one of the most outspoken first ladies in modern Japanese history, and she isn't shy about publicly stating her opposition to some of the primes minister's key policy goals—including such controversial issues as nuclear power and her husband's unpopular plan to increase the consumption tax. In fact, Akie has opposed her husband on so many issues that Japan's media has dubbed her the "in-house" opposition party.

While some critics say Ms. Abe's actions are a political ploy to soften the prime minister's ultra-conservative reputation, Akie has demonstrated her long-term commitment to Burma by raising money to build schools in the country and even writing her master's thesis about Burma.

Yet the Japanese government is also eager to convince Burma that it's not only interested in making profits from Burma's cheap labour force. Shortly after Burma "opened up" in 2011, Japan organized a conference in Tokyo which led to the cancellation of billions of dollars' worth of Burma's debt obligations, clearing the way for Burma to receive loans from international financial institutions. In addition, when Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida visited Naypyidaw in March, Burma's state media announced that Japan had pledged to increase its financial contribution to various UN agencies in Burma by US$16 million.

At the time, Burma's state-owned media reported that Japan's $US 16 million contribution was part of an overall $75.2 million aid package Tokyo has been providing to UN programmes administered by the UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) in Burma, and that Japan insisted that its latest contribution be earmarked for ethnic populations displaced by violence— including UNICEF deliveries of emergency food aid for children and pregnant women. In addition, the money was reportedly allocated to support UNHCR programmes for IDP camp management, services and shelters.

During the Japanese foreign minister's visit in March, Burmese media outlets also reported that Japan had simultaneously announced it would provide the Burmese government with an additional US$23.4 million in loans to the Burmese government, in part to develop the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) near Rangoon.

Several Japanese companies—including Suzuki, Toyota and Mitsubishi—have made commitments to invest in Thilawa, Japan's flagship development project in the country. However, Japan has been criticized for its general lack of transparency regarding the Thilawa project, and the venture has been delayed by farmers who claim their land was confiscated in order to make way for the SEZ; their compensation was woefully insufficient; and that they were resettled in uninhabitable locations that are unsuitable for farming.

But Japanese and other foreign companies are still keen to invest in Thilawa, which is expected to be one of the few industrial zones in Burma with reliable water and electricity supplies along with ready access to the sea. Foreign investors are also encouraged by signs that government regulation of companies operating in the SEZ will be lenient.

For instance, earlier this month Burma announced rules which allow manufacturers based in Thilawa to use asbestos, imported industrial waste and toxic chemicals. The new rules also permit investors to engage in a wide range of business activities, most of which will benefit from Burma's plentiful supply of cheap labour.

Regardless of whether Ms. Abe's recent statement about Japanese policy towards Burma is part of a calculated political ploy to soften the image of Japan's ultra-conservative prime minister, don't expect Akie to slow down any time soon. For those who want to learn more about Ms. Abe, you can follow her on Facebook, where she's been known to post unflattering pictures of her husband. And for those interested in Ms. Abe's musings prior to her husband's second stint as prime minister, check out her blog, entitled "Smile Talk with Akie Abe."

The Myanmar Festival 2014 was held in Tokyo from 17-19 October and celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Burma. Although last year the Japan Times billed the festival as purely a cultural event, this year Ms. Abe gave her controversial speech at a business forum held during the festival.

According to the festival's website, the day before the cultural festival began several Burma-related business activities were held, and during the cultural festival itself Japanese companies apparently had a chance to display their products and services designed for the Burmese market.

One of the Japanese companies participating in the event was "Vision to Motion," which said on its website that "We will participate in Myanmar Festival 2014 to introduce Myanmar culture, our line of services offering that support Myanmar market entry, and report what we are doing in Myanmar. Please feel free to visit our booth…"




Burma fined after unruly fans invade football pitch, rip up seats

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 12:46 AM PDT

The Myanmar Football Federation was ordered to pay a US$24,000 fine and play one competitive international match behind closed doors within the next two years due to the unruly behaviour of fans at the U-19s games against Iran and United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week.

The punishment was handed down by the Asian Football Confederation's Disciplinary Committee, which noted that during the group match between Burma and Iran on 13 October at the Thuwunna Stadium in Rangoon, which Iran won 2-0, some local spectators ripped up seats and threw them onto the pitch. They also ignored a regulation to remain in designated spectator zones.

In addition, the Disciplinary Committee noted that at the end of the quarter-final match on 17 October, when Burma defeated UAE 1-0, hundreds of fans invaded the park in celebration. Some are alleged to have taunted members of the opposition team and caused damage to some sports equipment.

The AFC committee said that should Burmese fans display the same kind of behaviour or violate regulations at the semi-final match against Qatar on 20 October, the Burmese team could be subjected to further punishments, such as playing the final match behind closed doors if they win.

The MFF said it will appeal to the AFC to have the penalties lightened.

"The MFF would like to extend its gratitude to all football fans who wholeheartedly supported the Burma U-19s' team in a disciplined manner during this historic victory," the Burmese football federation said, noting that the victory qualified Burma not only for the semi-finals, but as one of Asia's four representatives at the U-20 World Cup to be held in New Zealand next year.

"The AFC U-19 championship is a high-profile pancontinental event, and it is closely followed by spectators from other Asian countries and other continents," the MFF added. "The display of undesirable behaviour by some fans not only resulted in the AFC's disciplinary measures, but could also harm Burma's reputation.

"Should this kind of situation take place again, Burma could lose its capacity to host international matches. It is to all Burmese fans' knowledge that a display of undesirable behaviour in the World Cup qualifying match against Oman in 2011 also resulted … in a fine and a ban on playing qualifiers at home."

A World Cup qualifier between Burma and Oman in July 2011 was abandoned after home fans in the Rangoon stadium pelted the pitch with rocks, shoes and water bottles as their team lost.

A ban by FIFA on Burma participating in the 2018 World Cup was later lifted.

The news of Sunday's disciplinary action comes a day ahead of Burma's crucial semi-final match against Qatar in Rangoon on Monday.

Unite and Rule: A letter from Pastor Timothy

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 10:57 PM PDT

We have recently seen a stirring of dissension within the various Karen groups over who is pro- Burmese and who is not. In the last 60 plus years, the Burmese are renowned for using the tactic against all the ethnics with ‘Divide and Rule’. The Ethnics' admirable characteristics of simplicity, loyalty and easily trusting others have been abused again and again for decades. This is why the ‘Divide and Rule’ tactic of the Burmese authoritarians towards the ethnics has been very effective in the past. Whatever weakens the Ethnics also weakens the chances of democratic change, as these go hand in hand. Not only has the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy been effective with the Ethnics but also with those who are striving for democracy among the Burmese people themselves, such as the NLD party and other political parties in Burma.

The Karen splits began at the end of 1994 and early 1995. While the Karen National Union (KNU) headquarters in Manerplaw was facing an enormous military onslaught from the Burmese army, some leaders at KNU headquarters mistreated and wrongly judged their own soldiers—causing not only a split, but also the fall of Manerplaw. Since then, the Karens have been split into many groups, one after the other.

This has become a pattern in our history for three reasons:

  1. The Burmese ‘Divide and Rule’ policy, coupled with bribes.
  2. Weakness within our own Karen Leadership
  3. The simplicity and loyalty of Karen people being abused by our own poor leadership

Many Karen today are tired of seeing division within their own ranks, and their desire is to see all Karen united. During the KNU's 15th Congress, the KNU announced that all Karen should unite, but they also said Karens must unite under the leadership of the KNU political organisation. By asking all other Karen groups to come together under their organization, the KNU demonstrated that they think they are superior. This in itself is wrong, and their approach is no different than the Burmese authoritarians. The KNU have adopted the Burmese regime’s dictatorial spirit. In reality, this will never unite the Karens. True unity can only take place if there is a common goal and a showing of respect to all Karen groups. The KNU should learn to apologise for their poor leadership, which is what caused the splits in the first place. No one is perfect, and we can all learn to forgive one another. If we don’t treat our own Karen with equality and respect, then how can we expect equality and respect from others.

At the beginning of 2010, I reminded the KNU before meeting with the Burmese authoritarians that we should concentrate on unifying all Karens first before meeting with the Burmese. However, the KNU rejected our request for unity among the Karens first, and thinking big of themselves the KNU rushed into meeting with the Burmese authoritarians rather than prioritizing unity among our own Karen. Whether this was intentional or unintentional, without efforts to unify the Karen there can never be true peace.

Many times when we are in leadership positions we commonly mistake that we think we can make no mistakes, like God. However, being in a leadership position, we have to accept that we are more tempted to make a mistake than ordinary people due to the misuse of power and the pursuit of self-interest and self-glory. This attitude and motivation clouds our vision and hinders our goals of freedom and the realization of a great future for our nation. This kind of leadership can be found in all Karen groups. The Karen have to consider what kind of leadership they want and they have

the right to choose their leaders. Under bad leadership there will always be splits. Only under good leaders who not only care for the people but also have the vision, integrity and high morals can the Karen truly be united.

For a year now, I have studied and deliberated how we can unite under one name and a common goal. I have presented my concept to all the Karen groups and one thing that encouraged me is they all agreed to unite.

After discussions with leaders of all the Karen groups; Gen. NaKham We; Gen. Nerdah Mya; Gen. Baw Kyaw Heh; Col. Tiger; and all other military commanders from all the groups, everyone agreed to unite under the original identity of all Karen: Kawthoolei. One common thing all the Karen groups have is a desire to once again be united as a people. Kawthoolei is not a political party or an umbrella organization; it is the identity of all Karen. It is in the interest of all Karen and our common national pride.

When we announced Kawthoolei for the purpose of uniting all Karen, some Karen leaders who are pro-Burmese made a noise that they don’t agree, they don’t know, or they don’t want to sign up to join under the Kawthoolei banner. This is understandable because those who have a national interest in freedom for our Karen will totally agree, but those who do not are the ones who have betrayed their own Karen. Every Karen has the right to stand up and do the right thing for their own people, but when doing the right thing there is no need to ‘request permission’ from anyone. One of the principles of Saw Baw U Gyi is: Karens must decide our own destiny. We do not let the Burmese authoritarians decide our Karen future or rely on the Burmese authoritarians' peace program to realize a good future for the Karen. A good future for us Karen will not arrive or be realized through the actions of others.

The majority of the citizens of Burma have oppressed under a notorious military regime and its government since 1962. Kawthoolei is not narrow-minded just for our own Karen.

Kawthoolei also has a much broader purpose and firm objectives without compromise:

  1. Unifying all Karen armed forces
  2. Working with all Ethnic armed forces
  3. Working with all Democratic parties in Burma

The above 3 main objectives are designed to make Burma a true Democratic Federal Union that leads to long-lasting peace for all citizens in Burma.

A simple and effective strategy to overcome ‘DIVIDE AND RULE’ is to respond with ‘UNITE AND RULE’.

The purpose of this article is not to blame anyone, but rather to recognise our mistakes of the past and learn to become the good leaders which all Karens expect to possess the ability to gain freedom for our Karen people and lead us to a great future for this generation and generations to come.


Dr. Timothy Laklem has been the head of the KNU/KNLA Peace Council's foreign affairs department since 2007, when Brig-Gen Htay Maung and his followers from KNU's 7th brigade formed the KNU/KNLA Peace Council due to differences with other KNU leaders.



Magwe village inundated by flash flood

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 10:35 PM PDT

More than 100 homes, farms and plantations in Magwe Division's Kanyin village were inundated by a flood triggered by heavy rains on 17 October.

Local residents in Kanyin said their homes and farm equipment were damaged by an abrupt surge in the water level on Friday evening that also left farms and fields buried in mud.

Residents who were most affected by the flood were evacuated to a temporary shelter at the village monastery where they were provided supplies and donations by fellow villagers – no official relief had arrived as of Sunday.

Kanyin experienced a similar disaster eight years ago during fresh floods when the entire village was inundated. Residents have called on local authorities to install proper irrigation ditches and sluice gates.

Local sources on Monday said water levels were returning to normal.

Koh Tao murders: UK police can only observe, says Thai police chief

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 08:33 PM PDT

Thai Police are ready to cooperate with British observers in the case of two British tourists murdered on Koh Tao, according to Pol Col Prachum Ruangthong, superintendent of Phangan police station.

However, the British police would only be allowed to observe the investigation, said Pol Lt-Gen Prawuth Thawornsiri, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.

Thailand's police are willing to cooperate with British officers following up on the case in Thailand, but they cannot participate in the investigation as the law does not allow it, added Pol Lt-Gen Prawuth.

Police have completed their investigation and the case is now with prosecutors, he said, adding it is impossible to interfere in the work of the prosecution.

If British police have any questions, they can ask Thai police to carry out additional investigations, Pol Lt Gen Prawuth said.

Police are duty-bound to prove the credibility of evidence which backs up their case against two Burmese migrant workers — Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun — who have been charged with the murder of David Miller and the rape-murder of Hannah Witheridge on Sairee Beach.

Thawatchai Siangjaew, chief of Public Prosecution Region 8 and the case’s chief prosecutor, said the arrival of British police will not have any bearing on the judicial process because the investigation is complete.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha denied reports in the British media that he will allow the foreign police to participate in the investigation.

The BBC and The Telegraph reported on Saturday that British investigators would arrive in Thailand to “help with the investigation” after Prime Minister David Cameron persuaded Gen Prayut to allow the move at last week’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan.

The reports said British police would independently verify the suspects’ DNA samples and probe whether the suspects’ confessions were obtained using force.

Meanwhile, a 4 October petition (below, screenshot taken early Monday), urging the UK government to independently investigate the murders, passed 100,000 signatures on Friday.

UK law says petitions with at least 100,000 signatures may be debated in the House of Commons under some conditions, but it is unlikely an online petition with no way to verify signers would be accepted.


This article was first published in the Bangkok Post on 20 October 2014.


The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Magazine

Burma Army Agrees to Withdraw From Disputed Shan Territories

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:54 AM PDT

SSA-North rebel soldiers take a break in Kutkai Township, northern Shan State, in mid-June. (Photo: Kyaw Kha / The Irrawaddy)

SSA-North rebel soldiers take a break in Kutkai Township, northern Shan State, in mid-June. (Photo: Kyaw Kha / The Irrawaddy)

Government troops have agreed to retreat from some areas near the upper Salween River, during an emergency meeting with ethnic Shan rebels on Saturday.

Members of the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) met with the government's Union Peace-making Work Committee in Lashio, Shan State, to discuss skirmishes between Shan soldiers and the Burma Army in Kyethi Township, near areas under the control of the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

Sao Khun Hsai, secretary of the SSPP/SSA, said that a resolution was reached and that "both sides agreed not to let this happen in the future."

Burmese troops, he said, will be withdrawn from the disputed Tah Phar Hsawng territories on the western side of the river, where sporadic conflict has reportedly left seven people dead and caused hundreds of villagers to flee their homes.

Local sources said that although fighting was reignited in the area in early October there has been no sound of gunfire over the past few days.

On Oct. 9, Shan State Minister for Border Affairs and Security Col. Aung Thu sent a letter to the SSPP/SSA leadership ordering the rebel troops to withdraw, claiming that they had entered Union territories. The Shans maintained that the land in question was under their jurisdiction.

Though the letter initially angered many ethnic leaders, Sao Khun Hsai said following the meeting that, "it has been settled and they agreed not to do that again."

The Burma Army has also agreed to compensate civilians that were affected by fighting in Tah Phar Hsawng, he added.

"I was told that some 2.2 million kyats [US$2,200] will be allocated to compensate war refugees and people whose homes were destroyed," he said. "The discussion went well and we just have to wait and see if that will be implemented as planned."

Negotiators also discussed the formation of a coordinating team for state stability and development, as well as the future role of liaison offices, which have been established in rebel territories to facilitate bilateral relations as the peace process barrels onward.

The SSPP/SSA, also known as the Shan State Army-North, is one of Burma's strongest rebel armies, with an estimated force of about 4,000. The group signed a new state-level ceasefire with the central government on Jan. 28, 2012, and is currently involved in Union-level peace negotiations.

The post Burma Army Agrees to Withdraw From Disputed Shan Territories appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Japan to Carry out Studies on How to Revive Dawei SEZ

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:25 AM PDT

A dirt road at the Dawei SEZ, a planned regional hub that remains largely empty. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

A dirt road at the Dawei SEZ, a planned regional hub that remains largely empty. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Japan is to carry out several studies on how the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in southern Burma can be revived, after the massive Thai-Burmese project stalled last year, government sources said on Monday.

State-run media reported that Labor, Employment and Social Security Minister Aye Myint visited Japan on Oct. 14 and met with Vice-Minister for International Affairs at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Norihiko Ishiguro. Ishiguro reportedly said that Tokyo would spend US$700,000 on three studies into the Dawei SEZ's planning.

The research is expected to start at the end of this month and conclude in March next year, government mouthpiece The Global New Light of Myanmar said, adding that Japan would also draw up a master plan for the Dawei zone, which is being planned in Tenasserim Division.

Deputy Minister of Transportation Han Sein, who has been involved in the Dawei SEZ, told The Irrawaddy, "They [Japan] will do the project with the funding from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia."

The latter Manila-based institute carries out policy research for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the East Asia Summit.

Han Sein said one of the studies would research how the Dawei SEZ could become an infrastructure and industrial hub that would boost trade between South India and the Mekong region due to its strategic location on the Bay of Bengal and the Southeast Asian mainland.

A second study, according to state media, would research how Burma, Thailand and Japan could cooperate and provide technical assistance for the project, while a third study would research how private financing can be secured for the development of the zone.

Last week, Thai Prime Minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha met with President Thein Sein in Burma, and they agreed that their countries would try to resume the Dawei SEZ.

In remarks carried by the Thai media over the weekend, Prayuth said Thailand would need to find a strategy to attract private sector financing for the project and announced that an investment concession for the first, 6,000-acre phase would be announced in November. He reportedly also invited India to become involved in the SEZ development.

The SEZ in Tenasserim Division's Dawei District would be a massive billion-dollar project that includes a deep-sea port, heavy industries and extensive transport links.

Thailand's largest construction firm, Italian-Thai Development (ITD), was given leadership of the project in 2010. It failed, however, to attract private investment to finance the project or to secure an agreement to build a power plant for the complex. ITD was taken off the project in late 2013 after reportedly having spent US$189 million on implementing the first project phase.

Burma and Thailand have called on Japan to step in with funding and technical support to help revive the project. Tokyo has promised to offer support and a Japanese firm has promised to study the construction of coal-fired plant at Dawei.

Japan has been keen to develop economic ties with Burma after the country opened up and has moved fast to develop the Thilawa SEZ, a Japanese-supported manufacturing zone near Rangoon. It remains to be seen, however, if Japan is willing to be a driving force for the much larger Dawei project.

The latter zone is also running into stiff resistance from local communities and civil society groups, who have warned that tens of thousands of farmers would be forced to relocate for the project, which is also expected to have a heavy environmental impact on the pristine coastline of southern Burma.

The post Japan to Carry out Studies on How to Revive Dawei SEZ appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Landmine Blast Injures 3 at Kachin School

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 04:44 AM PDT

A woman stokes a cooking fire with her two children at a camp for displaced people near Myitkyina, Kachin State in 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

A woman stokes a cooking fire with her two children at a camp for displaced people near Myitkyina, Kachin State in 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — A landmine exploded outside a school in Kachin State on Saturday, injuring three people including two young students. No casualties have been reported.

Police are still investigating the incident, which followed a week of tension between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in several villages near the state's jade-rich Hpakant.

Saturday's explosion took place in Kan See village of Lone Khinn Township, just north of Hpakant, where Burma Army soldiers have reportedly frightened villagers with an order to evacuate, claiming that armed conflict was imminent.

Neither the Burma Army nor the KIA has admitted to placing the ordnance in the schoolyard, though many locals believe that Burmese soldiers were responsible.

Eight-year-old Laphai La, Larmai Sengpan,18, and Khamai Zaw Khun, 22, suffered severe leg injuries and are now recovering in a hospital in Hpakant.

"The youngest victim, who is eight, was seriously injured and can't walk yet. He had a minor operation and is getting better," a duty officer from the township police station told The Irrawaddy.

Last week, Burmese soldiers reportedly ordered about 1,000 villagers to leave their homes to avoid conflict that could break out between government and rebel troops following disputes about taxation. Rebel soldiers were also ordered to leave the area.

Most villagers did not evacuate and the KIA refused to leave their posts. The Burma Army then issued warnings in several villages that locals are not permitted to travel from one village to another.

Local sources claimed that they had been stopped, searched and harassed by government troops while making trips between their village and the local market.

"They [the Burma Army] tried to stop everyone who carried a bag. They said we were not allowed to leave. We are afraid that we will be hostages, since we can't go out," said La Mai, a resident of Kan See.

Restrictions on movement have caused alarm among villagers, who now fear for their food security because they rely on vendors who transport food in bulk from rural marketplaces.

"Vendors are no longer coming to our village," said Zaw Mai, another civilian who lives in Kan See. "They heard the news and they are afraid that battles will break out. We can't even go out to Lone Khinn market because we would need bags and baskets to carry back the food."

Villagers said that the KIA has assured them they will not participate in active conflict, but the presence of fully armed soldiers from both sides has sparked fear nonetheless.

Fighting erupted between government forces and the KIA in mid-2011 with the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire between the two sides. Intermittent conflict has since displaced upwards of 100,000 civilians, many of whom still live in isolated camps. Peace negotiations have been ongoing since violence subsided in early 2013, though sporadic conflict continues.

A local member of Burma's leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy last week that conditions were calm in areas near Hpakant, but that the Burma Army had deployed soldiers along a main roadway connecting the town with the state capital Myitkyina. He added that KIA troops remained stationed on the opposite side of the Uru River, where the two sides were within each other's line of vision.

The central government has come under recent criticism for what has been perceived as a series of offensives against ethnic armed groups in Kachin, Karen, Mon and Shan states. The country's main ethnic coalition, the United Nationalities Federal Council, warned last Wednesday that attacks against minorities risks undermining Burma's precarious progress toward reaching a nationwide peace agreement.

The post Landmine Blast Injures 3 at Kachin School appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Bagan Entry Fee to Rise by One-Third

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 04:31 AM PDT

The Htilominlo temple in Bagan is framed from within another shrine in the complex. (Photo: Andrew D. Kaspar / The Irrawaddy)

The Htilominlo temple in Bagan is framed from within another shrine in the complex. (Photo: Andrew D. Kaspar / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The tourist entrance fee for visitors to the ancient temples of Bagan will increase to US$20 next year, an official from the Ministry of Culture said, a second price hike in two years that has seen the fee double from its 2012 rate.

An official from the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library under the Ministry of Culture, who declined to be named, said the entrance fee would increase from the current $15 beginning Jan. 1.

"We will raise the fees to get more income for Bagan region to be able to use in preservation and protection of the site, since now it is preparing to enter the World Heritage list," he said, referring to a designation bestowed by the UN cultural body Unesco on sites of historical significance globally.

The ancient Pyu cities became Burma's first entry on the list in June.

"To enter the World Heritage list, it will take around two years of preparation. We need to redefine the zones, the rules and the management plan for the whole region," the official said.

Earlier this month, a three-day consultation meeting was held in Bagan, attended by Culture Ministry personnel, local and international preservation experts and local officials.

"It will attract more interest [from tourists] after entering the World Heritage list," said Myo Nyunt Aung, an archaeologist in Bagan who also works for a tour company.

He said that he did not think the entrance fee increase would negatively affect the number of tourists coming to Bagan, which is one of Burma's most popular tourist attractions.

"It's not that much. The entrance fee at Ankor Wat [Cambodia] is also $20 and in Bagan we have many places to visit," he said.

He said that to become a World Heritage site, public awareness on laws and rules pertaining to the ancient site needed to be raised, and construction projects in the ancient zone must stop.

The Ministry of Culture collects the tourist entrance fee, which was $10 until June 2013, when it rose to $15.

"Once we get the entrance fee, it is directly put into the country's budget and we have to request it back when we need to do preservation and protection works for Bagan. It's not part of the Ministry budget," said the official with the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library.

He added that in 2012, 150,000 tourists visited Bagan, rising to nearly 200,000 people last year.

The post Bagan Entry Fee to Rise by One-Third appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Burma FDI Hits Full-Year Target in First 6 Months of 2014-15

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 04:25 AM PDT

Workers work at the Vietnam Hoang Anh Gia Lai construction site in Rangoon on Sept. 20, 2013. (Photo: Reuters / Soe Zeya Tun)

Workers work at the Vietnam Hoang Anh Gia Lai construction site in Rangoon on Sept. 20, 2013. (Photo: Reuters / Soe Zeya Tun)

NAYPYIDAW — Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Burma has exceeded the government's original target just six months into the fiscal year, according to Aung Naing Oo, director-general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and secretary of the Myanmar Investment Commission.

The Myanmar Investment Commission estimated earlier this year that FDI would reach US$4-5 billion in the 2014-15 budget year, but by the end of September, the country had already seen almost $4.09 billion in foreign investment.

"Now we do expect that $5 billion will be reached within the next three months, but we still haven't predicted how much through the end of this budget year," Aung Naing Oo told The Irrawaddy in Naypyidaw, pointing out that last year's target of $3 billion was also exceeded when Burma took in $4.11 billion.

Aung Naing Oo told Reuters last month that the government had revised its FDI estimate to more than $5 billion.

In line with government expectations, foreign investment in Burma's telecoms sector topped the list, accounting for 20 percent of the total, with the manufacturing sector following second. The entry of some international hotel chains into Burma's market has also boosted FDI.

"In the telecoms sector, more investment is coming in now than we'd expected, and another factor: the offshore blocks that the Ministry of Energy has granted foreign companies, which accounted for about $700 million this year," Aung Naing Oo said.

Qatar-based Ooredoo and Telenor of Norway have promised to dramatically boost mobile phone and Internet use in Burma, setting up networks and putting cheap SIM cards on the streets for the first time in August and October, respectively.

In the oil and gas sector, Thailand's biggest oil and gas company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) earlier this year said it would invest $3.3 billion in Burma over five years. In late March the government announced the foreign winners—including Anglo-Dutch firm Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total, Italy's Eni, Norway's Statoil and US-based Conocophillips—of the rights to deep-water oil and gas exploration in the Bay of Bengal.

Dr. Maung Mang Lay, vice chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers and Commerce Industry, said that despite growth in recent years, Burma's FDI potential remained under-realized.

"We still need better infrastructure in Burma, and other Asean countries are also inviting this FDI to come to their countries competitively," he said.

He said that while telecoms and the manufacturing sector were the big draws so far this fiscal year, the oil and gas sector would take a growing portion of the FDI pie.

"Many labor-intensive foreign garment factories are coming to the manufacturing sector. I expect that these two sectors [manufacturing, and oil and gas] will remain on top of the list at least for next year," he said.

According to figures from the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone, Rangoon's biggest, there are more than 90 garment manufacturing operations among more than 500 factories in the zone.

"Some major investors are still waiting to invest in Burma but some are coming in, for example Nestle, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Pepsi. Other multinational companies are still doing surveys," Aung Naing Oo said.

The Myanmar Investment Commission expects FDI to reach $6 billion in the next budget year, though it has not yet announced an official target.

"The investment in heavy industry is still less than other sectors recently, because we do not have strong enough infrastructure here. We need better electricity and port facilities for them," Aung Naing Oo said.

The post Burma FDI Hits Full-Year Target in First 6 Months of 2014-15 appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Women’s Activists Call for Unity Among Karen Rebel Groups

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 04:18 AM PDT

KNLA soldiers on the Salween River, heading to frontline areas in northern Karen State. (Photo: Saw Yan Naing / The Irrawaddy)

KNLA soldiers on the Salween River, heading to frontline areas in northern Karen State. (Photo: Saw Yan Naing / The Irrawaddy)

Three Karen women's rights groups have urged various Karen rebel groups to overcome their differences and unify militarily and politically in order to better represent the interests of the Karen people in southeastern Burma.

The Thailand-based Karen Women's Organization and two Rangoon-based organizations, the Karen Women's Union and the Karen Women's Empowerment Group, issued a joint statement on Sunday, saying that they supported recent attempts by different rebel group commanders to begin military cooperation.

The women's groups said the initiative could "help bring the genuine peace that all [the Karen public] seek," and is "an opportunity for both peace-building and improved cooperation, which can help reduce violence against women."

They urged the different Karen rebel groups, which all signed bilateral ceasefire deals with the central government in recent years, to come up with a military code of conduct agreement with the Burma Army so that clashes between government forces and rebels can be avoided.

On Oct. 13, a commander of two brigades of the Karen National Union (KNU)'s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, announced that he would work with the head of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and with Col. Tiger, a commander of a small Karen splinter group, the KNU/KNLA Peace Council.

The groups said they had formed the Kawthoolei Armed Forces, a loose cooperation commitment whereby the groups retain their separate military command structures. The commanders said they were beginning cooperation in the face of growing of Burma Army operations in southeastern Burma.

But since then, cracks have begun to appear within the leadership of the various groups, with one KNU leader distancing himself from the initiative, while the KNU/KNLA Peace Council said Tiger had been relieved of his command.

Karen rebels have been fighting for greater autonomy for their region for more than six decades. During this time, groups such as the DKBA have broken away from the KNU, the oldest and biggest rebel group. The different Karen groups have fought each other at several stages in Burma's ethnic conflict.

Many of the groups also seek a cut from the profitable cross-border trade and smuggling of goods and drugs in the region, which borders Thailand.

A recent KNU congress announced that it planned to reunite the various groups to further the Karen's political goals and better help their people.

The women's activists said they fully supported this plan, as the Karen community on the ground had often suffered from the divisions between the armed groups.

"This is the right time to show our unity, while clashes are resuming," said Naw Ohn Hla, head of the Karen Women's Union, referring to a recent outbreak of fighting between the DKBA and the Burma Army.

The women's groups also urged the Karen rebel groups to respect human rights, help reduce violence against women and to refrain from the involvement in corruption and illegal business activities.

"We have witnessed that some Karen leaders are using their power to do mining for gold and other precious metals for their own benefits," said Naw Siyo Paw, a secretary of Karen Women's Organization.

During a Karen People's Forum on Friday and Saturday in Pa-an, some 200 participants from 75 non-governmental organizations also issued a statement calling for greater inclusion of local authorities, NGOs and the Karen public in the ongoing nationwide ceasefire negotiations.

The post Women's Activists Call for Unity Among Karen Rebel Groups appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

British Police to Join Thai Investigation Into Koh Tao Murders

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 10:48 PM PDT

People wait in line as Thai police collect data as part of their investigation into the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao. (Photo: Reuters / Chaiwat Subprasom)

People wait in line as Thai police collect data as part of their investigation into the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao. (Photo: Reuters / Chaiwat Subprasom)

BANGKOK —Thailand has agreed to allow British police to join an investigation into the murder of two backpackers on a Thai island, after local authorities came under criticism for their handling of the case.

British police experts will travel to the holiday island of Koh Tao to help investigate the murder of Britons Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on a beach in September, according to a statement from the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The agreement was reached after a Cameron raised the issue with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at an international summit in Milan this week, the statement said.

It did not provide further details on how many officials would travel to Thailand or what kind of assistance they would provide.

Details of the agreement were yet to be worked out, but would involve "close coordination" between Thai authorities and the British Embassy in Bangkok, said Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak, the deputy spokesman of Thailand’s Army, which seized power in a May coup.

Thai authorities have been criticized for what has been seen as a shambolic investigation into the murders, including a slew of false leads and concerns over lapses in investigative procedure.

Police now allege that two workers from neighboring Burma, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, committed the murders.

Police have said they have obtained confessions as well as DNA evidence from Witheridge that matches both men, although concerns have been raised over the validity of the evidence.

The men have been charged with murder, rape and robbery.

The post British Police to Join Thai Investigation Into Koh Tao Murders appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Hopes Fade for 40 Missing After Nepal Blizzard

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 10:42 PM PDT

Israeli survivors from the blizzard hug each other, as they get ready to board a bus to the airport to head back to their country in Kathmandu October 18, 2014. (Photo: Reuters) 

Israeli survivors from the blizzard hug each other, as they get ready to board a bus to the airport to head back to their country in Kathmandu October 18, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

KATHMANDU — Hopes faded on Sunday for survivors of one of Nepal's worst mountain disasters as villagers joined an intensive search by troops and government officials for as many as 40 people missing after an unseasonal blizzard killed 39.

More than 500 people have been rescued from a route popular with foreign adventure tourists that circles Annapurna, the world's tenth-tallest peak. The survivors included 230 foreigners.

Rescuers turned to villagers familiar with the rugged, snow-clad terrain to help look for stranded trekkers. The snow and avalanches were triggered by the tail end of a cyclone, which hit neighboring India last weekend.

"We are not clear where the missing people are and whether they are safe or not safe," Yadav Koirala, the chief of Nepal's disaster management authority, told Reuters in Kathmandu, the capital.

"We can only hope and pray that they are not dead."

Since Wednesday, rescue teams have recovered 30 bodies and identified nine more from the air.

"The snow is very thick and the rescue teams are finding it difficult to pull the nine bodies out," said K.P. Sharma, an administrator in Dolpa, a district of glaciers and ravines.

Army helicopters searched for survivors on parts of the trail at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters (16,400 feet). Soldiers fanned out through some of the most treacherous terrain, where helicopters cannot land.

The dead include Canadian, Indian, Israeli, Japanese, Nepalese, Polish and Slovak trekkers. Survivors said many victims perished trying to descend from the trail's highest pass in freezing, whiteout conditions.

The incident was Nepal's second major mountain disaster this year. Sixteen guides died in an avalanche in April on Mount Everest, the world's highest peak.

This week's disaster was the worst since 42 people died in avalanches in the Mount Everest region in 1995, army officials said.

Eight of the world's 14 highest mountains are in Nepal. Income from tourism, including permit fees for trekkers, who made up more than 12 percent of its 800,000 tourists in 2013, accounts for 4 percent of its economy.

The post Hopes Fade for 40 Missing After Nepal Blizzard appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Hong Kong Crisis Deepens After Weekend Clashes, Talks Set for Tuesday

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 10:38 PM PDT

Protesters are pepper sprayed by riot police during a confrontation at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong October 17, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Protesters are pepper sprayed by riot police during a confrontation at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong October 17, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

HONG KONG — A deepening sense of impasse gripped Hong Kong on Monday as pro-democracy protests entered their fourth week, with the government having limited options to end the crisis and demonstrators increasingly willing to confront police.

Dozens of people were injured in two nights of clashes over the weekend in the densely populated Mong Kok district of the Chinese-controlled city, including 22 police, media said. Four people were arrested on Sunday for assault, police said.

The area was calm on Monday although scores of protesters remained on the streets.

Hopes of easing the worst political crisis in Hong Kong since Britain handed the free-wheeling city back to China in 1997 rest on talks scheduled for Tuesday between the government and student protest leaders that will be broadcast live.

But few are expecting any resolution given the two sides are poles apart on how the city will elect its next leader in 2017.

"I don’t expect much from tomorrow’s meeting, but I still hold some hope for the talks," said Woody Wong, a 21-year-old student who camped overnight with protesters on Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare in Mong Kok.

"I will keep doing this until the government listens to our voice."

Students want free elections, but China insists on screening candidates first. Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Leung Chun-ying, has said the city’s government was unwilling to compromise on China’s restrictions, which were announced in late August.

Leung, who has rejected calls by protesters to quit, said on Sunday that more time was needed to broker what he hoped would be a non-violent end to the upheaval.

"To work out a solution, to put an end to this problem, we need time. We need time to talk to the people, particularly young students," he told Hong Kong’s ATV Television. "What I want is to see a peaceful and a meaningful end to this problem."

Hong Kong’s 28,000-strong police force has been struggling to contain the youth-led movement.

Over the weekend, demonstrators in Mong Kok squared off against police in late-night confrontations, surging forward to stake their claim to an intersection.

Scores of riot police smashed batons at a wall of umbrellas that protesters raised to defend themselves. Scuffles erupted amid shouts and hurled insults.

On Sunday night, crowds again built up and protesters stockpiled safety equipment such as helmets. Some wore homemade forearm shields made out of foam pads to parry baton blows.

But unlike on the previous two nights, there were no clashes.

'Criminal Acts' on Computer

The protesters, led by a restive generation of students, have been demanding China’s Communist Party rulers live up to constitutional promises to grant full democracy to the former British trading outpost.

Hong Kong is ruled under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows it wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms and specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal. But Beijing is wary about copycat demands for reform on the mainland.

Leung appears hamstrung, unable to compromise because of the message that would send to people on the mainland while more force looks likely to only galvanize the protesters.

Hong Kong Security Chief Lai Tung-kwok said some clashes in recent days had been initiated by activists affiliated to "radical organizations which have been active in conspiring, planning and charging violent acts".

In addition to the four arrested for assault, police on Sunday announced the arrest of a man suspected of inciting others "on an online forum to join the unlawful assembly in Mong Kok, to charge at police and to paralyze the railways".

The arrest of the 23-year-old man for "access to (a) computer with criminal or dishonest intent" appeared to be the first of its kind since the demonstrations began.

Mobile phone chat groups and social media sites like Facebook have been major platforms for protest chatter, including calls for action by demonstration leaders.

"Police remind the public that the internet environment is not a lawless world," Hui Chun-tak, chief superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch, told reporters, according to a transcript online.

Some pro-democracy politicians have demanded that the government stop using force, saying it could influence the Tuesday talks.

"Using the police to clear areas will only trigger more protests and conflict," lawmaker Alan Leong said late on Sunday.

Besides Mong Kok, about 1,000 protesters are camped out at the headquarters of the civil disobedience "Occupy" movement on Hong Kong Island in a sea of tents on an eight-lane highway beneath skyscrapers close to government headquarters.

Hong Kong came up in weekend talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Boston.

A State Department official said it was discussed as part of candid exchanges on human rights. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Yang told Kerry Hong Kong was an internal affair.

The post Hong Kong Crisis Deepens After Weekend Clashes, Talks Set for Tuesday appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

Reform-Minded Outsider Widodo Takes Over as Indonesia’s President

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 09:24 PM PDT

Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo is sworn in during his presidential inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta on October 20, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo is sworn in during his presidential inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta on October 20, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

JAKARTA — Indonesia's Joko Widodo took over as president of the world's third-largest democracy on Monday with supporters' hopes high but pressing economic problems and skeptical rivals set to test the former furniture businessman.

Widodo's narrow victory over a former general in July's election marked the first time in the young democracy's history that a president was elected from outside the established military and political elite.

"I swear by Allah to fulfill the duties of President of the Republic of Indonesia to the best of my capabilities and in the fairest way possible," Widodo said, reading the oath of office, at a ceremony in a packed parliament.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attended the inauguration along with various Asian leaders including the prime ministers of neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, the Sultan of Brunei and Australia's prime minister.

Widodo, 53, a former mayor of the city of Solo and governor of the capital, Jakarta, is untested on the national and international stages but he already faces resistance from the establishment to his transparent, can-do approach to governance.

"He has climbed up to the top of the pyramid but he's still weak within the powerful political class," said Achmad Sukarsono, a political analyst at the Habibie Center, think-tank. "He needs time to be seen and accepted as part of that class otherwise he will face resistance."

Widodo has been struggling to build support in parliament without indulging in the old game of trading support for jobs, but his refusal to swap cabinet posts for backing has driven unaligned parties to the opposition, leaving him with a minority that is set to face resistance to his reforms.

Even Widodo's staunchest supporters have worried that his principles might stymie his reforms. But the lean, affable president with a common touch has been resolutely optimistic about working with the legislature.

After weeks of gridlock, Widodo last week sought to improve ties when he met with opposition leader Prabowo Subianto and prominent opposition member Aburizal Bakrie, who congratulated him and pledged to support his government, though reserving the right to criticize when necessary.

"Widodo's initiative suggests that the former Jakarta governor is becoming adept at navigating in national politics," political analyst Kevin O'Rourke wrote in a research note.

Prabowo attended the inauguration.

Going Up

One of his first jobs will be cutting back generous fuel subsidies to avoid breaching a legal limit on the budget deficit, which is under pressure from a shortfall in tax revenues and the slowest economic growth in the country of 240 million people for five years.

Higher fuel prices have sparked protests in Indonesia before and contributed to the downfall of long-serving autocrat and then president Suharto in 1998.

An adviser told Reuters last week the new government planned to order the steepest fuel price increase in nine years "within the first two weeks of taking office."

The government aims to spend the savings on infrastructure, education, and healthcare.

Corruption is another pressing problem. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came under criticism in his last term for not doing enough to end pervasive graft.

While Widodo has remained largely silent on his cabinet, he said last month that just over half his ministers would be technocrats. He is expected to announce his team on Tuesday.

Within weeks of taking office, Widodo will be in the international limelight with an Asia-Pacific summit in Beijing and a G20 summit in Australia.

As president of the country with the world's largest Muslim population, Widodo will be expected to join the debate on Islamist militancy.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will be seeking greater cooperation from China, Indonesia and Malaysia in the campaign against Islamic State and in staunching the flow of foreign fighters to the militant group, US and Asian officials said last week.

The post Reform-Minded Outsider Widodo Takes Over as Indonesia's President appeared first on The Irrawaddy Magazine.

National News

National News

At media forum, judiciary in the spotlight

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 06:21 PM PDT

Cramped courts hidden down back alleys with half-trained staff – that was the picture of the nation's judiciary that emerged from a frank exchange of views in Nay Pyi Taw recently.

Civil society reps discuss challenges of transition

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 06:14 PM PDT

Civil society representatives met last week in Yangon to discuss a range of issues central to the transition to democracy, and to the country's future.

Student unions vow to continue protests against education law

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 06:04 PM PDT

The All Burma Federation of Student Unions - known as Ba Ka Tha - and the University Students Union have announced plans for more protests against the newly enacted national education law.

An ownership dispute with a twist

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 05:59 PM PDT

Confusion has emerged over the ownership structure of popular free-to-air channel MRTV-4.

British woman makes appeal for Anglo-Burmese stem cell donor

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 05:53 PM PDT

A British mother-of-two who urgently needs a bone marrow transplant is appealing to those of Anglo-Burmese descent to register at their nearest bone marrow registry to see if they are a "perfect match" donor who could save her life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Democratic Voice of Burma

Democratic Voice of Burma

Moulding history in upper Burma

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 12:10 AM PDT

The work of artisan potters in historic Shwebo, Sagaing Division is renown across Burma.

Their long tradition and distinctive style not only makes for a beautiful product, but has helped to preserve the legacy of a once-royal town.

Now, with mass-produced goods flooding market places across the country, the potters are having to call on all their skill and dedication to keep their art form alive.

Photo essay: Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival

Posted: 18 Oct 2014 06:42 PM PDT

Every year during the month of October, thousands of devotees gather around the Inle Lake to watch Buddha passing by on his royal barge resembling the mythical karaweik bird.

The spectacle illuminated by the golden rays that fall on Inle Lake marks the beginning of a two week long festive celebration that signals the end of Buddhist lent.

Held at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda in the southern Shan State, the ceremonious procession of the royal barge pulled across the lake by leg rowers  wherein  treasured inside layers of gold leap wrapping rests Buddha's relics in nothing short of a royal entourage.

DVB captures this tradition preserved in its heartland during the pagoda festival at Inle Lake

Prevalence of the truth

Posted: 18 Oct 2014 06:34 PM PDT

Phyu Hnin Htwe, the student activist and member of All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), who was arrested in September for allegedly kidnapping two Chinese nationals working with the mining company Wanbao – walked free as charges against her were dropped on Wednesday.

Her arrest followed an incident in May when villagers, whose lands were allegedly seized to make way for the Latpadaung copper mine, detained the Chinese nationals only to release them after a verbal deal was negotiated with government authorities. She was charged under sections 346 and 368 of Burma's penal code – kidnapping with intent to murder, and wrongful confinement, respectively – and faced up to ten years behind bars.

Following her release, Phyu Hnin Htwe spoke to DVB about the entire ordeal from the time of her arrest to the time in prison.


Q: Where were you when the two Wanbao surveyors were kidnapped?

A: I was in Tonywa village.

Q: And where did the incident take place?

A: In nearby Sete village.

Q: So you were not at the scene. So why were you arrested?

A: When the villagers first detained the two Chinese workers, I was not in Sete. But afterwards, the villagers called up to tell me that they had detained the two surveyors, so I went there. The abduction took place around 9am and I arrived there somewhere between 9:45 and 10:00 am.

Q: What do you have to say about your arrest?

A: Wanbao and UMEH [joint partner, military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings] not only confiscated the villagers' lands but also brutalised them. As for my prosecution, I think next time they should only sue someone when they have proper justification. I was innocent; however due to unfair charges, I locked up in jail for over a month. In that, I see no justice.

Q: Were you denied your rights as a prisoner?

A: I see that incident [my imprisonment] as a denial of my rights. I was not allowed to have any books or pens while in detention and was also refused the use of mosquito net.

Q: The villagers, who were initially charged along with you, were released and the charges against them dropped. Do you think you were prosecuted because you refused to go to the court hearing?

A: The trial began on 28 May and I was summoned. But because I believed I was innocent of the charges which I deemed unfair, I decided not to attend.

Q: Anything you would like to say?

A: The charges against me and the Latpadaung locals, since the very beginning, have been unfair. As we are all innocent, I see my release as prevalence of the truth.