Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Magazine

Magyi Khon Nang Wants Justice

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 08:36 PM PDT

An ethnic Kachin woman in faded clothes, carrying a small baby, entered the compound of the Myanmar Army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 319 in Kachin State's Mansi Township.

She came to attend a military court hearing and to seek justice for her late husband who was killed before she gave birth to their last child, who is now three months old.

In 2014, Magyi Khon Nang fled clashes between the Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) along with her husband Labya Naw Hkum from their village Kaung Kha in Mansi Township, to a camp for displaced persons in Mai Hkaung Village.

On May 25 this year, Labya Naw Hkum left home to work as a day laborer as usual. But he never came back. He was one of three displaced civilians arrested, killed and buried in the jungle by a column of LIB 319 soldiers on their way home.

Six soldiers are thought to be responsible for the killings. Magyi Khon Nang was at LIB 319, at the company's invitation, to attend the trial at a military court for the case.

"I want justice. To recompense for my loss and sorrow, I wish [the soldiers responsible] to be handed life imprisonment," said Magyi Khon Nang as she went red in the face.

Soothing the whimpering baby in her hands the mother of three said: "I was eight months pregnant when her father died. I had difficulties to go to the hospital and had to give birth at my home," she said.

"That day, [my husband] said he would do some casual jobs. I remember that he was wearing a shirt with a 'peace' logo given by the camp, and carrying a bag made from a rice bag given by the World Food Program (WFP). He told the children that he would find money and come back home in the evening," she recounted.

"My three kids don't have anyone to call 'Dad' as their Dad is dead now," she said, wiping away the tears.

Labya Naw Hkum, 27, together with friends Nhkum Gam Aung, 31 and Maram Brang Seng, 22 went to work as day laborers to carry logs at Hkapra Yang, some five miles from the camp in Mai Hkaung Village.

On their way back home, they were killed and buried in the jungle, some four miles from Mai Hkaung Village by a column of LIB 319 soldiers on patrol.

Laphai Nan Ban, mother of Maran Brang Seng, said: "He got the job to carry logs. Sometimes he got 5,000 kyats a day, and sometimes 10,000 kyats. He gave the money to us, which we used on food and healthcare."

WFP has been providing foods to displaced persons' camps in Kachin State for years, but since the end of 2016, it has reduced food rations.

In Mai Hkaung Camp where Laphai Nan Ban and Magyi Khon Nang are sheltering, a person only gets some 10 kilograms of rice, oil and 2,500 kyats (less than US$2) for a whole month, which has forced the men to do casual jobs to cover household expenses.

Maram Roi Ja, wife of Nhkum Gam Aung, said: "He was the only breadwinner in my family. Now I am the one left to support our family. I am very depressed. I can't do anything."

Both Maran Brang Seng and Nhkum Gam Aung are survived by their two-year-old children.

"Witnesses told us that a military column arrested and killed our husbands. Then we looked for their bodies together with community elders. We found them on May 28," said Wahgyi Seng Mai, wife of Maram Brang Seng.

"My son's body was carried on a truck to the cemetery in the evening [after it was uncovered]. I was so sad and I didn't care about the rotten smell or the feeling of nausea. Others were covering their noses with their hands and tried to move away, but I didn't want to," said Maran Brang Seng's mother Laphai Nan Ban.

"I wanted to go near him and hug him but they did not allow me to go near him. I could see him clearly. His face was decomposing and some parts of it were torn apart."

Laphai Nan Ban, mother of Maran Brang Seng. (The Irrawaddy)

Her son was the only breadwinner in her five-member family, and she had no idea what to do to survive, she said.

Camp organizers and community elders then sent the bodies to Mansi Hospital and filed a complaint with Mansi Township police station along with autopsy results.

According to autopsy results, the three had sustained gunshots, knife wounds, skull fractures, and bursting eyes.

On May 30, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief released a statement that an investigation would be carried out into their deaths. The LIB also made an internal investigation.

Six soldiers, including a battalion commander and three captains, have been charged with the murder.

Three captains, a lance corporal and a private are charged with several provisions of the military act equivalent to the charges of murder, aiding and abetting, and ordering murder in the Penal Code.

The commander is charged with murder and making a false report.

The military court heard testimony from camp organizers of Mai Hkaung, the village administrator of Mai Hkaung village and police of Mansi Township before hearing from the soldiers.

LIB 319 on Sept. 15 invited the families of victims, Kachin civil society organizations and reporters to attend the court hearing. The Irrawaddy attended on Sept. 18.

Three colonels were acting as judges at the military court, and the accused soldiers took oath that they would testify the truth.

According to their testimony, they met and arrested La Nan who was carrying illicit drugs and around 4 million kyats with him before they encountered three civilians who they also arrested.

One of the captains later released La Nan for fear that seeing a drug pusher together with their column would give rise to misunderstanding. The private was ordered to guard the three arrested civilians. One of them died due to unintentional discharge, according to the testimony.

La Nan informed the victims' families about their arrest after he was released, otherwise their bodies could not have been retrieved, said Laphai Nan Ban.

"Because of La Nan, we came to know that my son was killed by soldiers. Otherwise, there won't be any evidence and we'd not have known where they were buried," she said.

La Nan did not appear at the court for testimony, however, since no one knows where he lives.

Captains testified that they informed the death of a civilian to the commander by phone, and the commander implied killing all three of them because the area is supposed to be a prohibited area for civilians.

"It is no man's land, no man's land area. Kill all three. If you are clever enough, you can even shift the blame," the commander was quoted as saying by the captains.

The commander instructed them to bury the bodies carefully in order to avoid people discovering them, testified the captains. And the commander also falsely reported to the senior officers that the three were accidentally shot as they attempted to grab the guns.

Family members of Maran Brang Seng. (The Irrawaddy)

The military court heard the case in one day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for lunch and short breaks. During the lunch break, some soldiers were babysitting the baby girl of Magyi Khon Nang.

A military officer of LIB 319 told The Irrawaddy: "They [soldiers] have got their salaries cut since the trial begun."
This was the first time officials of Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), which is helping displaced persons in Kachin State, local Kachin civil society organizations (CSOs) and media were allowed to attend a military trial over the deaths of Kachin civilians since renewed clashes broke out in Kachin State over six years ago.

Victims' families and Kachin CSOs, however, doubt if fitting penalties will be imposed on the perpetrators.

"So far we're satisfied with the court hearing. But we'll have to wait and see what the final verdict will be," said La Ja of KBC.

Officials of LIB 319 have reported the testimonies to the upper level, and are waiting for the verdict.

"If soldiers are sentenced to less than one year in prison, they will be kept in a cell at the military camp. If they are sentenced to more than one year, they will be sent to a civilian prison, in this case Bhamo Prison," said a military officer.

Service personnel—either the rank and file or officers—automatically become civilians if they are jailed more than one year, he said.

The widows of the three slain civilians said they feel like their life is now hopeless, having to assume the responsibility to raise their children alone.

"If they are to be punished, they deserve it because they killed our husbands. But, for me and my children, we've lost our whole life. We can get nothing back," said Magyi Khon Nang.

The post Magyi Khon Nang Wants Justice appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Magazine

EU Mulls More Measures Against Myanmar Army Over Rakhine

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 07:38 AM PDT

YANGON — The European Council will review "all practical defense cooperation" with the Myanmar Army and may consider additional measures if the situation in Rakhine State does not improve.

"In the light of the disproportionate use of force carried out by the security forces, the EU and its member states will suspend invitations to the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar armed forces and other senior military officers and review all practical defense cooperation," it stated on Monday in its conclusions on Myanmar adopted by the EU Council.

The statement highlighted current EU restrictive measures including an embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression in Myanmar. The EU may consider additional measures if the situation does not improve but also stands "ready to respond accordingly to positive developments," according to the statement.

Tensions in Rakhine reached a tipping point when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked police stations and an army base on Aug. 25 in what it called a move to obtain rights for self-identifying Rohingya.

Thousands of Arakanese were internally displaced by the militant violence and an ensuing army crackdown forced about 534,000 self-identifying Rohingya to flee for Bangladesh.

The European Council follows the British government's suspension last month of its training program with the Myanmar Army in light of the army's security operations in Rakhine State, which have been dogged by allegations of human rights abuses against the self-identifying Rohingya.

The EU Council called on all sides to bring an immediate end to the violence and urged the Myanmar Army to end its operations and ensure the protection of all civilians without discrimination.

The council said it would support the Myanmar government in order to ensure the "swift and full" recommendations of former UN chief Kofi Annan's commission on the state, including the "crucial issue of citizenship for the stateless Rohingya population."

The council added the EU would continue its work helping the government address the challenges of its democratic transition.

"When so many people are displaced so quickly this strongly indicates a deliberate action to expel a minority. Therefore it is of utmost importance that refugees can return in safety and dignity," it stated.

It reiterated its call on the government to defuse tensions between communities and grant full, safe and unconditional humanitarian access without delay, including for UN, ICRC, and international NGOs.

The council also urged the government to cooperate with the Human Rights Council's independent international Fact-Finding Mission and to allow it full access to the country without delay.

The EU Council's adopted conclusions also called the government to restore humanitarian access to all communities affected by conflicts in Kachin and Shan states, including to 100,000 internally displaced people.

The post EU Mulls More Measures Against Myanmar Army Over Rakhine appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Presidential Proposal to Change Fiscal Year

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 06:29 AM PDT

YANGON — A presidential proposal to change the national fiscal year was submitted to the Union Parliament on Thursday in Naypyitaw.

The Myanmar government's fiscal year is the 12-month period beginning on 1 April and ending on 31 March. President U Htin Kyaw submitted a letter to Parliament late last month urging lawmakers to change it to 1 October through to 30 September starting from the 2018-19 financial year.

Fiscal years vary in different countries—156 countries follow the calendar year while 12 countries including the United States, Laos and Thailand use the October-September period. Myanmar has been practicing the April-March fiscal year since 1974.

On Tuesday, the first day of Parliament after more than a month-long break, the deputy minister U Maung Maung Win for the planning and finance ministry took the floor, saying that the possible redetermination was based on the nature of slow, local infrastructure businesses and a long New Year holiday in the early period of the current fiscal year.

"The construction industry doesn't have much business during monsoon while there is effective operation and no long holidays starting from October," U Maung Maung Win said, endorsing the proposal at Parliament. He added that changing it would balance the accounting process for businesses and institutions.

The determination of the fiscal year is mainly based on a country's economic mission, monetary and financial policies, he said.

The issue was brought into parliamentary discussion late last year by a lawmaker and was later discussed during the meeting of the union financial commission held in July.

Based on consultation with union ministries and state-level institutions, the decision to change the fiscal year was made by cabinet members in September, U Maung Maung Win explained.

Union lawmakers will discuss the presidential proposal later this week.

The post Presidential Proposal to Change Fiscal Year appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Police Arrest 12 in Connection with Naypyitaw Arms Seizure

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 05:42 AM PDT

NAYPYITAW — Police have detained 12 people in connection with the seizure of firearms in the administrative capital Naypyitaw, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"The most important thing is to seize remaining weapons and arrest accomplices," Deputy Home Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Aung Soe told reporters in Naypyitaw. "So, we are working to make sure they don't escape."

According to Maj-Gen Aung Soe, police have so far seized at least 13 guns including eight firearms seized on Tuesday.

On Sunday evening, police detained U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, ACE Company chairman and the son of sports minister under U Thein Sein's administration U Tint San, and two ACE employees—Ye Min Swe and Zaw Win Htike—at Naypyitaw Airport after discovering 12 WY tablets, 1.5 grams of methamphetamine, two pistols and 72 bullets in U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San's backpack.

Another five pistols and 804 bullets were found in his room at Naypyitaw's ACE Hotel and nine more pistols and 892 bullets were found in the room of one of the ACE employees the same evening.

Police have charged the three men for illegal possession of guns and illicit drugs. Among the nine other detainees are Ko Thiha, the driver of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, ACE general manager U Joseph, and five ACE employees living in Dekkhinathiri Township, according to the home affairs ministry.

On Tuesday morning, police searched the house of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San in Bahan Township's Golden Valley in Yangon, and seized eight firearms, three bullets, a camouflage jacket bearing his name and the Myanmar national emblem, one long-sleeved black shirt with the Myanmar national emblem and skull and crossed bones emblem, two sniper scopes, a military green compass, a walkie-talkie, a gun sight, and two bullet-proof jackets.

In addition, a magazine bag, two hand bags, a walkie-talkie bag, two WY tablets, a bag with what is believed to be methamphetamine residue and drugs paraphernalia.

Bahan Township police have also opened a case.

"So far we've arrested nine both in Yangon and Naypyitaw. Those who were arrested in Naypyitaw will be brought to trial there, and those arrested in Yangon will be brought to trial in Yangon," said chief of Naypyitaw Police Force Police Colonel Zaw Khin Aung.

"We've arrested the employees of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San. If they have nothing to do with [the case], we will release them. It depends on their testimonies," he added.

U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San and his two staff members are under detention in Naypyitaw, said police Lt-Col Hla Yi, chief of Dekkhinathiri District Police Force.

"We are still investigating them, and police investigations are still ongoing," he said.

Following the arrest, police froze some of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San's bank accounts and planned to search places he has lived or stayed, according to police.

On Monday, police searched the seven-story ACE Company building in Yangon's Thaketa Township and put up a police cordon around the building, as they were only able to search two floors, and have yet to search the remaining floors.

Former sports minister U Tint San, the father of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San is scheduled to arrive back in Myanmar on Wednesday from a trip to China.

According to sources close to ACE Hotel, U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San had been planning to establish a security company and was amassing capital.

In Myanmar, no organization except the Tatmadaw has authority to legally import firearms, a retired police officer in Yangon told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.

Even the police force has to seek approval of the President's Office to import anti-riot weapons, and authorities do not issue gun licenses to civilians, he said.

"There is a gun permit but it is not a given license. And such a permit is normally given to retired military officers under certain conditions, but not to civilians. And that permit has to be approved by the home affairs minister," he said.

According to the retired police officer, the government at present only allows security service providers which hire and train retired service personnel of the military and police as security guards for companies, hotels and so on. But it has not permitted security companies with armed security services.

The post Police Arrest 12 in Connection with Naypyitaw Arms Seizure appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

New Law to Protect Women, Girls Against Violence

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 03:54 AM PDT

YANGON — After four years of waiting, Myanmar's first legislation tackling violence against women will be submitted to Parliament during the parliamentary session that reconvened on Tuesday.

The Prevention and Protection of Violence against Women Bill has been in development since 2013, drafted by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and women's rights groups amid calls for an urgent need to cover women and girls with separate legal protection.

In just one recent example of brutality against women, a husband killed his wife and three daughters in Irrawaddy Division's Bogale Township. He had asked his wife for money in order to buy alcohol, the request escalating into an argument and the attacks. He was later arrested and confessed to the murders.

Upper House Lawmaker Naw Susana Hla Hla Soe, who is also a secretary of the parliamentary Women and Children's Rights Committee, cited the quadruple murder as an instance of the increasing violence against women.

Offenders are not deterred from committing violence against women—even murder, she said, adding that the rule of law is essential in preventing such cases.

The final version of the bill has been finished, according to women's right activists who helped draft the legislation. They told The Irrawaddy the draft bill would be submitted during the current parliamentary session.

The bill will better protect women from all forms of violence, including domestic violence, marital rape, sexual violence, harassment and assault in the workplace and public place, they said.

Hla Hla Yee, co-founder and director of Legal Clinic Myanmar, which provides mostly women and children with free legal aid, said when the bill is enacted, survivors of violence will receive more effective legal and healthcare support.

The draft bill carries a life sentence for rape of girls under the age of 18 and disabled women. Those found guilty of marital rape face two to five years in jail. The bill also includes harsher punishments for hurting girls and women.

The Women and Children's Rights Committee secretary Naw Susana Hla Hla Soe said the committee has been working on the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (2013-2022) in addition to the new law.

Working committees to implement the action plan were formed soon after lawmakers returned from presenting the government’s report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to the United Nations last year.

The post New Law to Protect Women, Girls Against Violence appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Commander-in-Chief Tells UN Official People ‘Unhappy’ With UN’s Rakhine Comments

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 03:45 AM PDT

YANGON — The Myanmar Army chief told a visiting UN senior official that native ethnics were unhappy with UN comments on Rakhine State as they were totally contrary to the situation on the ground.

Since a series of Muslim militant attacks on 30 police outposts in northern Rakhine State in late August, more than 500,000 self-identifying Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh as the army launched clearance operations.

The UN, international aid groups, and journalists have documented cases of rape, torture, arbitrary killings, and arson of minority self-identifying Rohingya Muslims by government security forces.

The UN has labeled the violence a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing told Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs of the UN Jeffrey Feltman on Monday in Naypyitaw that the UN used the recent crisis as the base for comments without taking into account the long and emotional history of the situation, according to a post about the meeting on the Commander-in-Chief Office's Facebook.

The Under Secretary-General was touring Rakhine State on Tuesday. He is the most senior UN official to visit Myanmar to render long- and short-term assistance for the government's endeavors on the recent Rakhine issue.

Currently, most international relief agencies, including the UN, have been banned from northern Rakhine State as the government accused them of providing assistance to Muslim militants involved in the Aug 25 attacks.

With respect to the feelings of Arakanese Buddhists about humanitarian aid, the senior general said, the UN needed to change the view that assistance provided by INGOs was intended only for self-identifying Rohingya.

"[The perception that aid was handed out unfairly] was regarded as an act of bullying with the help of foreign organizations, including the UN, at a time when the majority Bengalis killed the minority ethnics. The UN needed to carry out the delivery of assistance fairly and equally," he said.

The post Commander-in-Chief Tells UN Official People 'Unhappy' With UN's Rakhine Comments appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

KNU Secretary Calls for Constitutional Change to Alleviate Rakhine Crisis

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 01:33 AM PDT

CHIANG MAI, Thailand —The Karen National Union (KNU) has appealed for the government and military to find "politically dignified" and "nonviolent ways" to alleviate the current Rakhine State crisis.

About 536,000 self-identifying Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh since Aug. 25 Muslim militant attacks on police stations and an army base intensified clearance operations plagued by accusations of indiscriminate killing, rape and arson.

The KNU had fought with the Tatmadaw for more than six decades starting in 1949 until the ethnic armed group signed a bilateral ceasefire with the quasi-civilian government in 2012 and then became one of eight signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in 2015.

Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo, general secretary of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday the KNU is concerned about the welfare of civilians affected by the violence, as ethnic Karen endured similar military operations in 1979-80 and 1998-99 that led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of the Karen population of southeast Myanmar.

A KNU statement released on the second anniversary of the NCA on Sunday read that the government and Tatmadaw's handling of the Rakhine crisis "bring the memory of what the KNU and the Karen people have experienced under the state's four-cut policy through various forms of aggressive military operations that caused over 200,000 Karen people to become internally displaced persons (IDPs) and over 150,000 to become refugees."

The statement acknowledged "efforts to achieve peace are being made," but "regrets to witness the repeat of the history from the past 20-30 years." It called for nonviolent solutions to the crisis and stated worries that the peace process will be derailed.

"As a peace partner, we raise our concerns to change those situations," Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo told The Irrawaddy.

"For disputes and problems between our nationalities, we could find the solutions through negotiations based on our national reconciliation concept, but the Rakhine crisis is related to international and religious beliefs. Such pressure is an added burden to Myanmar and affects the peace process," he said.

Self-identifying Rohingya Muslims are not considered indigenous people of Myanmar by most in the country and widely referred to as "Bengalis."

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi launched the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine last week to tackle the humanitarian crisis. The enterprise will focus on repatriating and providing aid for those who fled to Bangladesh, according to the government.

But the predicament of other mass repatriation efforts paints a gloomy picture for Rakhine. Displaced Karen in the southeast, Shan in the east, and Kachin in the north are yet to be repatriated.

"We have not yet been able to start the repatriations of Karen refugees who became displaced in the last two or three decades," said Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo. "At that time, many innocent civilians faced many troubles."

Nearly 100,000 refugees live in nine camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border, the majority of them Karen, according to a 2016 The Border Consortium (TBC) report.

Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo said Rakhine's deep-rooted problems "should have been tackled carefully and systematically by the governments although they [Muslims in Rakhine] may not be the ethnic nationalities, but the remains of the negative legacy of colonial Burma [Myanmar] in northern Rakhine."

Because of the lack of solutions, he said, the problems have expanded and weighed on Myanmar's existing social issues.

The KNU statement urged for a constitutional change to "create a society for peaceful coexistence" and to address the "remaining negative legacy of colonialism" in Myanmar. The negative legacy, said Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo, was problems arising from Muslim laborers brought into Myanmar from the then Indian colony.

"In order for a check and balance system to emerge, we need to change the 2008 Constitution, as the [military-backed] Constitution is different from democratic principles, and now the government and the Tatmadaw have to negotiate for the power," he said.

The KNU statement reiterated its commitment to achieve peace through solving the problems by way of political means.

The NCA signatories' peace process steering team led by KNU chairman Gen Saw Mutu Say Poe met separately with the State Counselor and the Tatmadaw chief Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing on Monday afternoon to discuss the effective implementation of the NCA.

The State Counselor agreed to a joint review of the NCA and further collaboration in order to hold union peace conferences, said KNU vice chairman Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, who was present at the meetings.

Leaders of the NCA signatories were in Naypyitaw for two days, as they joined the NCA two-year commemoration.

On Monday morning, Gen Saw Mutu Say Poe and Gen Yawd Serk, chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State, also separately met the former president U Thein Sein for social greetings, according to the spokespersons of both groups.

The post KNU Secretary Calls for Constitutional Change to Alleviate Rakhine Crisis appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Protests Over Dismissal of ANP Township Secretary Accused of Corruption 

Posted: 17 Oct 2017 01:24 AM PDT

YANGON – After the Arakan National Party (ANP)'s central executive committee dismissed township-level secretary Aung Than Wai last week, several hundred Sittwe residents, unhappy with the decision, protested against the party steering committee on Tuesday afternoon.

During a two-day meeting the previous week, 21 CEC members discussed the situation in Rakhine State, future development of the state, and the punishment of party officials accused of misconduct.

Khine Pyay Soe, chair of the party's disciplinary committee, told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Monday that CEC members voted to dismiss Aung Than Wai.

Twelve members voted for dismissal, seven members elected for Aung Than Wai to be removed from the position but to remain a party member, and some attendees such as Dr. Aye Maung, abstained from voting, he said.

ANP insiders told The Irrawaddy that after coordinated attacks against three border police outposts in Maungdaw district by Muslim militants on Oct. 9 and ensuing government security operations—resulting in thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs)—the ANP in Sittwe led by Aung Than Wai organized a fundraising campaign for Arakanese IDPs which received at least 10 million kyats.

Aung Than Wai allegedly embezzled eight million kyats instead of contributing the money to IDPs. The party steering committee received complaint letters from the ground. The party's top leaders established an investigation committee in order to examine the misconduct of ANP's secretary in Sittwe.

Khine Pyay Soe confirmed the dispute and explained the party faced internal division over Aung Than Wai's alleged corruption.

"He took eight million for his personal matter instead of donating to IDPs. But malpractice member Aung Than Wai refused to accept the investigation," he said.

Khine Pyay Soe recalled that Aung Than Wia also misused party funds from ANP lawmakers without informing a 25-member township level committee.

Aung Than Wai also discretely removed township level committee members who were elected at the party conference.

The Irrawaddy phoned another meeting attendee, ANP Union parliament lawmaker U Ba Shein, who said the steering committee expelled the township-level secretary for breaching the party's rules and regulations and declining to consider internal friction as well financial abuses within party.

"Lower level party members must obey the decisions of the central committee whether they like it or not", he said.

Sittwe resident Aung Ko Moe who requested peaceful assembly permission from authorities and was granted to march on Tuesday afternoon, accused secretary Tun Aung Kyaw and disciplinary committee chair Khine Pyay Soe of trying to separate the party and called for their dismissal in a Facebook post.

The post featured protest slogans such as: "We don't accept the separatist agenda against the ANP" and "The disintegrators of the ANP is our enemy."

Organizer Aung Ko Moe uploaded an apology letter from Sittwe ANP's chairman Aye Thein for insulting Aung Than Wai in early 2017 regarding financial abuses. The document mentioned the party's financial report but did not mention the IDP fund.

According to the document, Aye Thein testified that his party had already received the township-level financial report when he erroneously insulted Aung Than Wai in 2016.

Aung Than Wai filed the case against Aye Thein under Myanmar's notorious telecommunication law Article 66(d).

The case avoided going to court after Aye Thein sent the apology letter, resigned from the CEC and ANP Sittwe and Aung Than Wai withdrew case, according to an ANP committee member who asked for anonymity.

Aung Than Wai and secretary Tun Aung Kyaw could not be reached by The Irrawaddy.

The post Protests Over Dismissal of ANP Township Secretary Accused of Corruption  appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Asian Nations Struggle to Meet Global Target to Lower Deaths in Childbirth

Posted: 16 Oct 2017 10:42 PM PDT

BANGKOK — It seemed a simple statement: women should not die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Yet two years after world leaders agreed to 17 global goals at the United Nations, including the childbirth target, countries in Asia Pacific are grappling to twin the rhetoric with social, cultural and political realities.

An estimated 85,000 mothers died in 2015 from childbirth in the region, home to more than half of the world's population and some of its fastest growing economies, UN figures show, with the maternal mortality rate seen as a key way to measure improvement in a nation's health.

These deaths accounted for 28 percent of the global total, translating into a maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 127 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the UN agency for population UNFPA, which released its latest State of the World Population Report on Tuesday.

Up to 90 percent of these deaths occur in 12 countries, according to UNFPA whose officials have calculated which are likely to meet the global target of reducing its MMR to below 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.

Bangladesh, Laos, East Timor and Indonesia are seen as likely to meet the deadline.

But Afghanistan, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Pakistan, India, Cambodia and the Philippines, are seen as failing to reach the target by varying degrees.

Reducing maternal deaths requires political will, government foresight and access to family planning, according to campaigners.

"[This is] an issue that's still too often seen as medical, and strictly related to women's life. It's not," Federica Maurizio, a sexual health and reproductive rights expert at UNFPA in Bangkok, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Maternal health … is one of the key indicators that really tells you how much the health system in a country is able to provide for the people."

Oona Campbell, professor of epidemiology and reproductive health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it raises wider issues of women's place in society.

"Do we care about women? Do we think it's not a problem if the wife dies? Is this something we care about enough to deliver services that are good quality?" she said.

Too Good to be True?

Campbell said it was not entirely accurate to chart a country's progress using a global goal.

Another way to measure progress, she suggested, was to use country level targets, such as aiming to reduce maternal deaths by at least two-thirds from 2010, and for no country to have an MMR greater than 140 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.

Campbell also cautioned that data is weak in many countries due to a lack of civil registration and poor cause-of-death records.

This could mean calculations of Afghanistan's dramatic improvement, hailed as one of the gains of foreign aid there, may be an overestimate, said Campbell.

UN figures showed the maternal mortality rate had dropped to 396 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015 from 1,600 deaths in 2002 after the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

But Afghanistan's own data put its MMR three times higher.

Mateen Shaheen, UNFPA's deputy representative in the country, said women's access to healthcare in Afghanistan remained tricky as culture dictates that women are only seen by female healthcare workers. UNFPA operates 124 clinics staffed by women and aims to nearly double that by the late 2018.

Meanwhile, the maternal mortality rate has been almost flat in the past 25 years in the Philippines, a wealthier nation than Afghanistan. In 2015, there was 114 deaths for every 100,000 births with 2,700 women dying in childbirth despite an increase in skilled birth attendants and access to anti-natal care.

A law was passed in 2012 insuring access to contraception, sexual education and maternal care but it has been mired in legal challenges, said Klaus Beck, UNFPA country director in the Philippines.

The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country where teenage pregnancies are not falling which Beck said could also impact maternal mortality with the risk for mothers under the age of 15 in low- and middle income countries double that for older women.

"The absence of a legal framework … to provide access to family planning, particularly for the poorest, has always been a stumbling block for many, many years," in the disaster- and conflict-prone archipelago, said Beck.

The post Asian Nations Struggle to Meet Global Target to Lower Deaths in Childbirth appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Ten Things to do in Yangon This Week

Posted: 16 Oct 2017 10:01 PM PDT

Marizza Solo

Celebrated singer Marizza will perform to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Oct. 20, 7 p.m. Kandawgyi Hmaw Sin Kyun. Tickets- 10,000 kyats at 09-782097436, 09-451010789.

Clean Yangon

Artists, volunteers and civil society organizations will gather in a campaign to promote cleanliness of Yangon.

Oct 22. 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Kyimyindaing (Kyaunggyi Street)

Mo Mo's Birthday

Yangon Zoo's celebrity elephant Mo Mo will turn 64 this weekend. Her birthday party party will include magic, music, and animals.

Oct. 21, Yangon Zoo.

Photo Exhibition: Memory Lane by Yu Yu Myint Than

Photos feature the childhood memories of a girl who spent five years in slave-like conditions at a tailor shop in Yangon.

Oct. 19-Nov. 4. Myanmar Deitta, 3rd floor, No.49, 44th St.

HerStory – Stories of women who shape Myanmar

Rose Swe & Lynn Lynn Tin Htun, founders of Mango Group, Jonathan Kieusseian, founder of For Her Myanmar, and Yin Yin Phyu, founder of Green Way Myanmar will present their stories.

Oct. 19. 7 p.m-9 p.m. Impact Hub Yangon, No. 60, Yadana Thukha Street, Laydaungkan.

Italian Film Festival: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

The movie brings narrates a young boy’s dream to explore the world outside his little native town. The movie will be in Italian with English subtitles.

Oct 19, 7 pm. Junction City. Free Show.

Thadingyut Furniture Sale

Furniture will be on sale at discounted prices.

Oct.18-22, 9 am to 5 pm. Tatmadaw Hall, U Wisara Road

Voices of 21 Women for Peace

A group art exhibition of 21 female artists focuses on the role of women in Myanmar's peace process.

Oct. 21-23. 65 Gallery, No. 65, Yaw Min Gyi Road, Dagon Tsp.

Group Art Exhibition

Artists from South Dagon Township will feature paintings about Myanmar traditions at this exhibition.

Oct. 18-22. Myanmar Art and Artisan Organization, Bogyoke Market.

M Tin Aye Memory

An art exhibition to mark the 19th anniversary of the death of artist U M Tin Aye will feature his paintings, magazine cover illustrations and documentary photos.

Oct. 14-20. Hninzi Myaing Art Gallery, Hninzigon Home for the Aged

The post Ten Things to do in Yangon This Week appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Magazine

Thousands of new Refugees Flee Violence, Hunger in Myanmar to Bangladesh

Posted: 16 Oct 2017 07:56 AM PDT

COX'S BAZAR/YANGON — Hungry, destitute and scared, thousands of new self-identifying Rohingya refugees crossed the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar early on Monday, Reuters witnesses said, fleeing hunger and attacks by Buddhist mobs that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

Wading through waist-deep water with children strapped to their sides, the refugees told Reuters they had walked through bushes and forded monsoon-swollen streams for days.

A seemingly never-ending flow entered Bangladesh near the village of Palongkhali. Many were injured, with the elderly carried on makeshift stretchers, while women balanced household items, such as pots, rice sacks and clothing, on their heads.

"We couldn't step out of the house for the last month because the military were looting people," said Mohammad Shoaib, 29, who wore a yellow vest and balanced jute bags of food and aluminum pots on a bamboo pole. "They started firing on the village. So we escaped into another.

"Day by day, things kept getting worse, so we started moving towards Bangladesh. Before we left, I went back near my village to see my house, and the entire village was burnt down," Shoaib added.

They joined about 536,000 self-identifying Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, when coordinated Rohingya insurgent attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape.

Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing and has labeled the militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who launched the attacks as terrorists, who have killed civilians and burnt villages.

Not everyone made it to Bangladesh alive on Monday.

Several kilometers to the south of Palongkhali, a boat carrying scores of refugees sank at dawn, killing at least 12 and leaving 35 missing.

There were 21 survivors, Bangladesh authorities said.

"So far 12 bodies, including six children and four women, have been recovered," said police official Moinuddin Khan.

Bangladesh border guards told Reuters the boat sank because it was overloaded with refugees, who pay exorbitant fees to cross the Naf River, which forms a natural border with Myanmar in the Cox's Bazar region of Bangladesh.

The sinking came about a week after another boat capsized in the estuary on the river, which has become a graveyard for dozens of Muslim refugees.

Food, Aid Restricted

Refugees who survived the perilous journey said they were driven out by hunger because food markets in Myanmar's western Rakhine State have been shut and aid deliveries restricted. They also reported attacks by the military and Rakhine Buddhist mobs.

The influx will worsen the unprecedented humanitarian emergency unfolding in Cox's Bazar, where aid workers are battling to provide refugees with food, clean water and shelter.

On Monday, the Red Cross opened a field hospital as big as two football fields, with 60 beds, three wards, an operating theatre, a delivery suite with maternity ward and a psychosocial support unit.

Hundreds of thousands of self-identifying Rohingya had already been in Bangladesh after fleeing previous spasms of violence in Myanmar, where they have long been denied citizenship and faced curbs on their movements and access to basic services.

The United States and the European Union are considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar's military leaders, officials have told Reuters.

EU foreign ministers will discuss Myanmar on Monday, and their draft joint statement said the bloc "will suspend invitations to the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar/Burma armed forces and other senior military officers."

The powerful army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, told the United States ambassador in Myanmar last week that the exodus of Rohingya, whom he called non-native "Bengalis," was exaggerated.

But despite Myanmar's denials and assurances that aid was on its way to the north of violence-torn Rakhine State, thousands more starving people were desperate to leave.

"We fled from our home because we had nothing to eat in my village," said Jarhni Ahlong, a 28-year-old Rohingya man from the southern region of Buthidaung, who had been stranded on the Myanmar side of the Naf for a week, waiting to cross.

From the thousands gathered there awaiting an opportunity to escape, about 400 paid roughly US$50 each to flee on nine or 10 boats on Monday morning, he added.

"I think if we go to Bangladesh we can get food," he said

The post Thousands of new Refugees Flee Violence, Hunger in Myanmar to Bangladesh appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Military Warns State Counselor on Security After Weapons Haul

Posted: 16 Oct 2017 07:29 AM PDT

NAYPYITAW — The military leadership has warned State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi over her security arrangements and she has replied that she would take extra caution.

"As far as I'm concerned, the military has constantly warned about her security, and she has replied to the military that she would exercise caution," U Khin Maung Win, the chairman of the Lower House Judicial and Legal Affairs Committee told The Irrawaddy.

On Sunday evening, Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, ACE Company chairman and the son of sports minister under U Thein Sein's administration U Tint San, and two ACE employees were detained before boarding a Yangon-bound Myanmar National Airline flight for illegal possession of firearms and illicit drugs, leading to public concerns about the security of the country's political leaders.

Police found 12 WY tablets, 1.5 grams of methamphetamine, two pistols and 72 bullets in U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San's backpack, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Another five pistols and 804 bullets were found in U Phyo Ko Ko Tin San's room at Naypyitaw's ACE Hotel, and nine more pistols and 892 bullets were found in the room of one of the ACE staff members on Sunday evening.

"Tatmadaw also has the things [security apparatus] that we have. They have warned about her security. And Daw Suu also agrees to take caution with her movements," said U Khin Maung Win, who is also a lawmaker representing Yangon's Lanmadaw Township.

U Zaw Htay, the spokesperson of the government and closest government official of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that security has been increasingly tightened for her since 2016 after her name appeared on a hit list sent by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group to police in Malaysia.

"We've arranged considerable security for her since that time. I can't tell you certain things, but there are also undercover officers," he told The Irrawaddy.

Police Colonel Zaw Khin Aung, the chief of Naypyitaw Police Force, believes that the seizure of firearms is not directly related to security of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

"There is nothing to worry about. We take full responsibility for her safety," he told the reporters in Naypyitaw on Monday.

Upper House MP U Thein Swe, who has served as a security officer for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for many years, is worried about her safety because the State Counselor cares about work much more than her safety.

"I'm concerned about her safety because of the arms seizure. So, I want concerned authorities to give greater attention to her security. And I also want to urge them to take harsh legal actions against keeping arms without security duty. Only then, the security of the country will be safe," said U Thein Swe.

Though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi uses bullet-proof cars provided by the government when she goes outside on official duty, she only uses her own private car in other times, said U Thein Swe, suggesting that she should take caution all the time.

"Whatever reason she goes outside for public duty, she is the most important person of the country. There should be full security since she is the leader of the country. There should be 24-hour security for her, and she should accept it," said U Thein Swe.

"The number of arms was not that large as in the previous cases of Aye Ne Win and Kyaw Ne Win," said U Khin Maung Win, referring to the case in 2002 when the grandsons of military dictator General Ne Win were arrested for allegedly plotting a coup.

"It is fair to say that [Phyo Ko Ko Tint San] has intentionally stockpiled firearms. I don't mean he would assassinate a certain person. But why he has kept so many arms must be investigated," he added.

U Tint San, the father of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, is currently on a trip in China. According to sources close to him, he is a firearm fanatic and frequently posts photos of his arms on Facebook.

The post Military Warns State Counselor on Security After Weapons Haul appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

World Bank Withholds $200 Million Myanmar Loan

Posted: 16 Oct 2017 07:20 AM PDT

MANDALAY — The World Bank has delayed a US$200 million loan to Myanmar amid intensifying international pressure over the exodus of more than 500,000 self-identifying Rohingya from Rakhine State.

In a statement issued on Oct. 12, the World Bank said it was "deeply concerned by the violence, destruction and forced displacement of the Rohingya" and would withhold the loan until conditions improved.

Militant attacks on 30 police stations and an army base in northern Rakhine on Aug. 25 triggered an army crackdown that has caused the exodus. Meanwhile, about 30,000 Arakanese and Hindus were internally displaced by militant violence.

The World Bank stated it would continue "high-impact projects that support education, health services, electricity, rural roads and inclusion of all ethnic groups and religions, particularly in Rakhine state."

"We also assessed the conditions of our recently approved development policy loan and concluded that further progress is needed for the loan to be made effective," the statement added.

The loan is one of the 13 projects funded by the World Bank in Myanmar and was signed between the bank and the Myanmar government in August as direct financial support to the government's union budget to help address the macroeconomic stability and fiscal resilience.

The loan comes from the World Bank's fund for low-income countries, International Development Association (IDA). The loan includes a repayment period of 38 years, with a grace period of six years and a zero interest rate, according to the bank.

The post World Bank Withholds $200 Million Myanmar Loan appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Beijing Proudly Unveils Mega-Airport Due to Open in 2019

Posted: 16 Oct 2017 04:31 AM PDT

BEIJING — China's capital unveiled the "shining example" of its 80 billion yuan (US$12.14 billion) new airport on Monday, tipped to become one of the world's largest when it opens in October 2019 amid a massive infrastructure drive overseen by President Xi Jinping.

Representatives showed off the sprawling skeleton of "Beijing New Airport," which is made up of 1.6 million cubic metres of concrete, 52,000 tons of steel and spans a total 47 square kilometers (18 square miles), including runways.

It is expected to serve an initial 45 million passengers a year with an eventual capacity of 100 million, putting it on par with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

"Lined up together there's roughly 5 kilometers of gates," said project spokesman Zhu Wenxin. "It's a shining example of China's national production capacity."

Updates on the airport come as the ruling Communist Party is set to open its 19th congress later this week, a twice-a-decade leadership event where Xi will consolidate power and emphasize successful projects and policy from his first five years.

The project, which broke ground in 2014, is one of the region's largest infrastructure investments under Xi's rule, which has been plagued by fears of slowing economic growth, offset slightly by a construction spree.

China has sought to boost its profile as both an aviation hub and a manufacturer in recent years. The country's first home-grown passenger jet, the C919, lifted off on its maiden flight in May, edging into a multibillion-dollar market currently dominated by Boeing Co and Airbus SE.

Situated 67 kilometers south of Beijing, the airport technically falls in neighboring Hebei province, though it will eventually constitute its own development zone.

It will relieve pressure on Beijing's existing international airport, to the northeast of Beijing and currently the world's second largest by passenger volume, which opened a new terminal worth $3.6 billion in 2008 ahead of the Beijing Summer Olympics.

The existing airport will continue to operate major international flights, though a third smaller domestic airport in the city's south will close in coming years.

Two of China's three major airlines, China Eastern Airlines Corp and China Southern Airlines Co, will relocate to the airport on completion, accounting for roughly four-fifths of the new airport's total traffic.

The airport will be connected to Beijing by a high speed train with a top speed of 350 kilometer an hour, as well as an inter-city train and a major expressway.

Original plans for the airport were made by French airports operator Aeroports de Paris, though third-party improvements to the original version make the final design "wholly domestic," said Zhu.

"It's like a large flower, but made of steel," said one construction worker on the site, who declined to share his name because he was not authorized to speak to press.

The post Beijing Proudly Unveils Mega-Airport Due to Open in 2019 appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Analysis: Why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Shunned UN General Assembly 

Posted: 16 Oct 2017 04:19 AM PDT

When Aung San Suu Kyi decided to send her vice president U Henry Van Thio to deliver a speech at the UN in New York she was denounced for avoiding questions and criticism on the plight of self-identifying Rohingya and violence in Rakhine State.

Some insiders, however, say that the State Counselor had more pressing issues at home.

Since the crisis erupted, President U Htin Kyaw has been undergoing treatment in Bangkok. The generals wanted to declare a state of emergency in Rakhine State as clearance operations were launched.

If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi decided to go to New York while U Htin Kyaw was in a Bangkok hospital receiving treatment, U Myint Swe would be in charge and the army could declare a state of emergency in Rakhine State.

Since day one, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has objected to declaring a state of emergency in Rakhine State.

Vice president U Myint Swe is a former top general and served as Yangon chief minister under the U Thein Sein administration and was known as a military hardliner under the Snr-Gen Than Shwe regime.

After reading the precarious situation, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi decided not to go to New York and instead delivered a diplomatic briefing addressing Rakhine State in English. Simultaneously, rallies to support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were held in some major cities to condemn mounting international pressure on the State Counselor.

U Htin Kyaw came back from medical treatment but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cancelled her planned trip to Prague.

Instead, she went to Brunei to attend the Golden Jubilee gala of King Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah's succession to the throne. She was seen with several Asean leaders who have expressed concern on the situation in Rakhine State.

Malaysia decided to disassociate itself from a statement on Rakhine issued by the Filipino chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It said that the statement misrepresents the reality of the situation and omits references to Rohingya Muslims.

In any case, under the 2008 Constitution, the army can declare a state of emergency. But there is process.

Only the President can declare a state of emergency after consulting and coordinating with the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services and Home Affairs. This declaration must be submitted to the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) for approval as soon as possible, according to the Constitution.

It should be noted that under the current administration, regular NDSC meetings do not take place.

The commander-in-chief would have sovereign power, but he would have to seek NDSC approval to extend the emergency period to six months or more.

He also has to report to an emergency session of the Union Parliament. This scenario is likely if the country is perceived as facing a serious emergency situation or a formidable threat to sovereignty.

Among diplomats and observers, there are still rumors of a coup.

China, India and other of Myanmar's close neighbors watch the ongoing power play in Naypyitaw knowing that relations between State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing are at a low point.

The post Analysis: Why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Shunned UN General Assembly  appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Businesses in Nine Sectors Must Submit Environmental Plans: Govt

Posted: 15 Oct 2017 11:38 PM PDT

MAWLAMYINE, Mon State — Businesses in nine sectors marked as potentially harmful to the environment will be asked to submit environmental management plans (EMP), according to the Mon State government.

The National-level Environmental Conservation and Climate Change Central Committee decided in June that all firms in food and beverage production, cement production, textile dying, foundry, leather processing, pulp and paper production, and sugar production must submit EMPs for approval.

But progress has been sluggish on the matter, with Mon State minister for resources and environmental conservation Dr. Min Kyi Win saying, "We have yet to inform the concerned businesspeople."

The Directorate of Industrial Supervision and Inspection under the industry ministry licenses factories and workshops. But there is little cooperation between the natural resources and environmental conversation ministry and the industry ministry, said Dr. Min Kyi, which breeds irresponsible business operations.

He cited the state government's recent surprise checks on some factories in Mawlamyine in which the majority of the operations were found to be violating guidelines.

The environmental conservation department has issued guidelines to factories regarding environmental conservation. It will shut down factories that fail to implement the guidelines, said the department's deputy director U Soe Naing.

The department will ask factories to make any necessary changes over "a certain period of time" in order to avoid damaging the environment, he said.

"If they fail to fix [the issues] beyond that period, we'll take legal actions," U Soe Naing told The Irrawaddy.

He added that the ministry is too under-resourced to detect all industrial pollution and supervise factories and workshops.

After lawmakers in the state parliament raised questions about strong-smelling rubber processing plants on the Mawlamyine-Mudon highway in September, the Mon State chief minister suspended the plants' production until they submit EMPs to the state government.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

The post Businesses in Nine Sectors Must Submit Environmental Plans: Govt appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

China Expels Former Justice Minister From Party for Graft

Posted: 15 Oct 2017 10:00 PM PDT

BEIJING — A former Chinese justice minister has been expelled from the ruling Communist Party following an investigation by the anti-corruption watchdog, the first time the government has announced that she was in trouble.

Wu Aiying, 65, was justice minister from 2005 until February this year, according to her official resume, and one of only a handful of senior female officials in China.

In a statement released late on Saturday following a four-day meeting of the party's Central Committee, the largest of its elite ruling bodies, Wu's name was listed as one of a number of officials to have been expelled from the party for graft.

While the other names listed, including former Chongqing city party boss, Sun Zhengcai, had been announced earlier, Wu's name had not been mentioned by the party in connection with any investigation.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection found that Wu had "serious discipline problems," the communique said using a euphemism for corruption, but gave no other details.

It was not possible to reach Wu or a representative for comment.

Wu had spent most her career working in the eastern province of Shandong, where she rose to become a deputy provincial party chief, before moving to Beijing in late 2003 to work at the Justice Ministry.

China's legal authorities have been one of the focuses of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on deep-rooted corruption, with powerful former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, and many of his allies and former associates, jailed.

It is not clear if Wu had any direct connection with Zhou.

The WeChat account of the state-run Beijing News, Political Matters, said that Wu was known to be a no-nonsense straight talker, once shouting at an underling when a mobile phone rang in the middle of a meeting.

The announcement about Wu comes a few days before the party opens a key, once-in-five-years Congress on Wednesday, which will see Xi strengthen his power and promote key allies and aides.

The post China Expels Former Justice Minister From Party for Graft appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

UPDATE: Son of Former Minister Arrested for Guns, Drugs in Naypyitaw

Posted: 15 Oct 2017 08:41 PM PDT

NAYPYITAW—Police arrested the son of a former minister and two other men for illegal possession of firearms and illegal drugs at Naypyitaw International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, ACE Company chairman and the son of sports minister under U Thein Sein's administration U Tint San, and two ACE employees were detained before boarding a a Yangon-bound Myanmar National Airline flight.

Police found 12 WY tablets, 1.5 grammes of methamphetamine, two pistols and 72 bullets in U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San's backpack, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The airport's X-ray machine revealed pistols and bullets in their luggage, according to the Naypyitaw Police Force.  Naypyitaw Police Chief Zaw Khin Aung confirmed the arrest.

"They were arrested as they didn't have permission to hold guns. The other two men arrested are connected to U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San. We have found no evidence related to terrorism," he told The Irrawaddy.

Another five pistols and 804 bullets were found in U Phyo Ko Ko Tin San’s room at Naypyitaw's ACE Hotel on Sunday evening, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Another nine pistols and 892 bullets were found in the room of one of the ACE staff members.

U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San runs the ACE Construction Company owned by his father U Tint San, who was the sports minister from 2012 to 2016. The company constructed the parliament complex in Naypyitaw.

The post UPDATE: Son of Former Minister Arrested for Guns, Drugs in Naypyitaw appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Magazine

Army Chief Urges Rebels to Sign Ceasefire on NCA Second Anniversary 

Posted: 15 Oct 2017 07:15 AM PDT

NAYPYITAW — Myanmar Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing urged all of the country's ethnic armed groups to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in a speech marking the second anniversary of several groups signing the pact on Sunday in Naypyitaw.

The commemoration saw speeches from the country's chief peace negotiators, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Karen National Union (KNU) chairman Gen Saw Mutu Say Poe.

"I firmly ask you to sign the NCA," said the army chief. "No provision in this agreement limits or restricts the rights of people, but provides every possible right for them. It is therefore fair to assume that continued ignoring of this fact amounts to resisting the federal Union which people aspire to, opposing democracy, having desire for armed 'anarchy,' and disregarding the interests of the Union and its people."

The number of NCA signatories has not increased since an initial eight ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) signed the accord two years ago.

More than a dozen EAOs—some of whom helped draft the NCA—have shown little interest in signing the pact.

Sixteen EAOs under the banner Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team and government peace negotiators under the previous administration drafted the NCA in late 2013.

But clashes continue in Myanmar's northeast involving the Ta'ang Nationalities Liberation Army, Arakan Army, and Kokang's Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—all of whom the Tatmadaw refuses to accept as peace partners.

These three EAOs are allied with the militarily strong United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) under new political alliance the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC).

The UWSA-led bloc has called for an alternative approach to the NCA. The government, though, has rejected negotiating with the FPNCC as a whole and insists on meeting each of its seven members separately.

Efforts of the government's Peace Commission to bring NCA non-signatories to sign the pact have been further hampered by a nine-point proposal from another ethnic bloc, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). The bloc of five members is waiting for the government to agree to the proposal before signing the NCA.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the National Reconciliation and Peace Center among other state roles, said at Sunday's ceremony that the government was "ready to welcome" non-signatories to the NCA.

She invited them to collaborate with the government in implementing the basic principles needed for a federal state.

"Our government welcomes all non-signatory groups to participate in the process of formulating the principles towards a Democratic Federal Union in the future. In fact, the NCA is not an end in itself, but just the first step towards national reconciliation in the country," said the State Counselor.

"I would like to reiterate today that the NCA opens the door for political dialogues which will pave the way to the Union Peace Conference," she added.

In the second round of the Union Peace Conference in May, the delegates signed a part of the Union Accord, but it did not cover key federal principles regarding equality and self-determination.

Union peace conferences would be held biannually in accordance with the plan, said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Almost five months after the second session of the Union Peace Conference, national-level political dialogues are yet to be held. In the dialogues, regional stakeholders discuss suggestions at large-scale public consultations, the results of which are shared at the conference.

Still, the State Counselor said the government would hold its third round of the Union Peace Conference later this year as planned and two more next year.

Members of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) and the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) gave reports on their progress. The committees are the mechanisms to implement the NCA, established at a Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) two years ago.

Gen Saw Mutu Say Poe said self-determination, autonomy and ethnic rights for ethnic nationalities are yet to be fully implemented despite an agreement between independence hero Gen Aung San and ethnic leaders of Shan, Chin, and Kachin states under the Panglong agreement signed in February 1947.

"Our aim is to build a union envisioned by the 1947 Panglong agreement, and to end an almost seven decades long civil war. To reach our goal, we have to implement the peace process through the roadmap drafted in the NCA and to hold political dialogue with all stakeholders," he told the ceremony.

On the same day the KNU released a statement urging the government and the Tatmadaw to compromise on policies regarding ethnic equality and the right to self-determination.

"The compromising of these policies could enable the remaining EAOs to sign the NCA, and reinforce the efforts for peace and the emergence of a federal democracy," read the statement.

Gen Saw Mutu Say Poe stressed in his speech the need to hold regular gatherings of the JICM, the highest authority in decision-making on NCA implementation.

But the government reportedly does not want to call JICMs unless there are disputes to resolve.

NCA signatories showed optimism that clashes between their groups and the army had significantly reduced since they signed the NCA.

Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong of the Chin National Front told reporters in Naypyitaw on Sunday, "It is a big success as we have seen that military engagement in the ceasefire territories have been reduced by 80 to 85 percent."

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi shared similar observations at the ceremony.

"Despite criticism of the NCA, there has been noticeable progress. We have successfully decreased conflicts in the regions of the ethnic armed organizations signatories and as a result, the socio-economic lives of the local people have significantly improved," she said.

"It has been two years since we signed the NCA. There is no reason to retreat. We only need to go forward and pave our way towards our desired goal," she added.

The post Army Chief Urges Rebels to Sign Ceasefire on NCA Second Anniversary  appeared first on The Irrawaddy.