Independence weekly, No. 8
(21 - 27 July 2002)
This Week's Message
I have three good news for you this time.
The first is that John MacDonald, an American friend of the overseas Shans, has set up a new website in USA http://www.Tai-overseas.org. He plans to do a weekly news summary and if does work, he's going to push me out of a burden but (just a joke!) likely not out of a job.
The second is that our 8-page monthly news in Thai, Salween Post, shall be in circulation beginning this month. Anyone who's interested can subscribe to it.
Last but not least is that beginning next month we shall resume our publication of our monthly paper separately:
Gawnkhaw (Shan and Burmese) and
Independence (English). Do let us know how you like them.
Thank you so much.
Mysoong! (Wishing You Progress & Prosperity)
Sue Rangoon for rapes
In my opinion, we should sue the responsible persons in international law count. Now, the generals refuse to take action against their officers who break the law.
If your organization have enough documents, we should try now. I do believe this is the best way and now is the best time.
This week's news wrap-up
Raped victims haunt
Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, has instructed his diplomats to express outrage that Burmese troops have systematically raped women in Shan State. He is reportedly joining the Asean meeting held in Brunei on 29 July. (Washington Post)
Rangoon, meanwhile, is trying to prevent discussion of its human rights record at Asean, say diplomats. It is afraid that any mention of Burma may "open floodgates for a no-holds barred discussion" on political and human rights situation there.
License to Rape?
(The regime) must be held accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Jubilee Campaign, Statement, 22 July
If the generals know about this and have not acted to stop it, it is state-sanctioned violence and they themselves are responsible.
Victoria Coakley, legal consultant to the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, quoted by South China Morning Post, 25 July
This is a closed military society that goes into denial when it faces criticism.
Donna Guest, Amnesty International, quoted by South China Morning Post, 25 July
Switching to Dale Carnegie
Rangoon somewhat surprisingly has thanked US based Human Rights Watch for its 18 July report on anti-Muslim riots in May and September last year, reports DVB.
The admission by the military authorities could be through the good offices of Razali Ismail, UN special envoy, who is a Muslim, writes Reuters. An observer from Tokyo ventures the cushioned responses must have originated from the DCI Associates, an American lobbying firm with ties to President Bush hired by Rangoon in April after it agreed to pay $ 450,000 per year for services.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was newly appointed as UN high commissioner for human rights on 23 July, invited by Rangoon to inspect its human rights performance.
Did Americans fight for Shans?
Bangkok Post reports Thai officers in Chiangrai being bewildered by Far Eastern Economic Review's 11 July story saying 3 US servicemen got wounded at Mae Fa Luang where Shans were battling against the Burmese-Wa bloc last month.
While Thai officers dismissed it as an "unfounded story", Lt-Col Kawnzuen, Commander of the Shan State Army's Kengtung Force, says, "It would be good if they (the US troops) helped us fight the junta."
The US had already spurned earlier allegations by Rangoon that its troops were involved in the Shan operation against a Burmese camp across Chiangmai in May, according to a source from the US consulate in Chiangmai.
Business as usual?
Business losses may have topped 5 billion baht as a result of the 2-month border closure and Burma's kyat may also have dipped from 5-5.30 baht for 100 kyat to 4.50 baht, according to Bangkok Post, 22 July. But Myanmar Times, 15-21 July, reports on a week long training for 20 Burmese technicians that was part of a $ 15 million project, signed last May between Bagan Cybertech and the Shin Satellite Company, to install the iPSTAR communications system.
Once it is completed, 200 satellite terminals will be installed within a few months, says Myanmar Times.
Song-for-life singer Ad Carabao's latest album, "Don't Cry", that based havily on anti-Rangoon sentiment and Aung San Suu Kyi praises and selling briskly along northern border provinces, will not be withdrawn from circulation, promised Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Defense Minister.
Its commercial success is such, "a sheltered Burmese from Samut Prakan" has suggested on the same day the traders currently out of work join Ad's bandwagon and produce 'an historic commercially viable album' to make up for the losses.
The Nation reports a Thai businessman, manager of a medical appliance company for some years, has been placed under house arrest in Rangoon for unknown reasons, quoting foreign ministry sources. Burma has refused Thai embassy request for a visit to the businessman.
Rangoon has realized it is going bargaining power by responding to Thailand's commerce-driven strategy. Sunait Chutiranond, respected historian at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok Post, 22 July 2002.
Conflict on the border
Rangoon's defense ministry has issued directive to establish auxiliary forces along the Thai-Burma border, reports DVB. All able-bodied men and women, age between 15-65, must receive military training. Those between 15-45 shall be organized as combat forces and the rest as reserved forces.
Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudj calls on the press to counter Burmese articles critical of Thailand "instead of questioning me on what it says."
Thaung Htun, Director General of Foreign Ministry, says both countries are trying to get things back to normal. The Nation also reports both sides are scheduled to meet soon. (AP and Xinhua) Meanwhile, The New Light of Myanmar warns there are some countries that wish to swallow the whole country or at least part of it. (Xinhua)
2-3 thousand troops arriving in Kengtung. Villagers in Monghsat are ordered to provide 500 porters. Loi Kawwan, Shan State Army stronghold, across from Chiangrai, is in Monghsat township.
Thailand is okay with the Lady
Oum Maolanond, Thai ambassador to Rangoon, together with Cheah Sam Kip, Malaysian ambassador, visited Aung San Suu Kyi on 20 May, confirms ministry spokesman Ratthaki Manathat. Thais have maintained an open policy towards her since Chuan Leekpai government. (The Nation)
It is always the people who suffer
Naling (Burmese name: Thein Han), headman of Maeken Tract, Mongton Township, summoned to IB 65 command post, only to be beaten and jailed on charges of collaborating with the Shan rebels. (He was released a week ago after Tin Win, influential Lahu militia leader, swore by him).
Naling was appointed as tract headman after his predecessor, Htoon Nay, was arrested on identical charge following the Pakhee Battle that was fought in April-May last year. Htoon Nay is reportedly serving his sentence in Kengtung.
(My) religion is the trigger of my gun.
Khin Maung Kyi, column commander, IB 78, as he burns villages and churches and tortured pastors and urinated on the head of a Buddhist monk in Karen State, quoted in A Brutal Reign of Terror, by Free Burma Rangers, 22 June 2002
Optional Protocol on Torture adopted by UN Economic and Social Council by 35 votes to 8 with 10 abstentions.
Helen Clark wins second term as leader of New Zealand government.
Media conference held in Oslo, Norway, resolves to form a free Burma media association. Aung San Suu Kyi sends taped message.
Tin Moe a.k.a. Ba Gyan, Burma's poet laureate, receives Hellman-Hammett grant along with other 36 writers in recognition of their courage with which they face political persecution, reports Human Rights Watch.
Reporters without Border and Burma Media Association call on Rangoon to release Win Tin, 73, former editor-in-chief of Hanthawaddy daily, who is suffering from haemorrhoids and prostate galand problems and serving 20-year sentence in Insein. His ailment is not permitted by prison authorities to be treated.
New York based Committee for Protection of Jounalists makes the same request two days later.
(A)ny other dialogue in place of tripartite (dialogue) will never resolve the basic political problems of the country. Central Executive Committee, National Democratic Front, 17 July 2002
The Burmese do all the 3 Ds: dirty, dangerous and difficult. Burmese worker who hauls rice in a mill, quoted by Amnesty International, AP, 24 July
King Alaung-hpaya deserves praise for the energy with which he united Burma proper, the Talaing, the Shan and The Khasi countries under one single authority during the eight years of his region. This was done through
|1.||The founding of new subordinate kingdoms as he went about in the course of his wars|
|2.||The promotion of the Religion wherever he went, building monasteries, lakes and pagodas in his travels|
|3.||The building of new dams, canals, reservoirs and watercourse and the repair and remodeling of old owns|
|4.||The issue of orders giving Burmese names to towns and villages which previously had Shan and Khasi names|
Pagan U Tin, The Royal Administration of Burma, 1931, excerpt from Burma Debate, Spring 2002
A refugee story
The following report is written by one of the 500 Shan refugees who fled to Thailand during the fighting that erupted in May _ Editor's Note.
I think I need to explain about the short history of the Shan resistance. In 1983 the Shan United Revolutionary Army led by Gen Kawnzoeng called for unity. The 2nd Division of Shan State Army led by Col Sam Mai, SURA and 26 members of the student group led by Sai Gunyawd (now Shan State National Army, a ceasefire group, top leader) were united and founded Tai Revolutionary Council, while its armed force was known as the Tai Revolutionary Army.
And in 1985 the T.R.C. and the Shan United Army led by Khun Sa were united and founded the Mong Tai Army. So we could not say all the MTA members were of SUA or Khun Sa origins.
Monghtar, Mong Taw, Hwe Yao, Pang Hawk, Pang Mai Soong and Pang Kamkaw were the former areas of SURA. And at the time of MTA's surrender these were part of the MTA areas.
Before MTA surrendered, MTA and UWSA fought fiercely for a long time at Loi Lang (Doi Lang), opposite Fang of Chiangmai province and many MTA soldiers were killed in the battles. But many more UWSA soldiers died, and UWSA always got angry when telling about that bygone war.
MTA surrendered to the Burmese government in 1996 and the Burmese troops had been taking up their posts at Mong Hta, Mong Taw and Pang Kamkaw. In the year of 2000, UWSA was allowed to set up their posts in Hwe Yao, Pang Hawk and Pang Hso Htao by the Burmese government.
Mong Hta was quite a big village before the surrender but after the surrender there were only 12 houses. And also Mong Taw, at first there were 58 houses, but there were only 24 houses at the Burmese Government's time.
Most of the original residents from Hwe Yao fled to Piangluang and Laktaeng that were on the Thai side. But the other Shan civilians from the inner parts of the Shan State refilled the empty houses, because they thought this area was better and more safer compared to the inner parts.
Most government services including the military and police stayed in Pang Mai Soong and the ordinary villager moved to other villages. Pang Mai Soong became almost empty. There were only 12 families of Shan civilians in the village. During the SURA time, it was the headquarters of Gen Kawngzoeng and later during the time of MTA it was quite a big village. In fact the civilians didn't want to live near the Burmese soldiers or the Burmese police, because they usually asked for things from the civilians or taking things without asking any permission, or they might steal things from the villagers.
But Pang Kam Kaw was not the same as other villages. It was just across the Thai border and the Burmese troops didn't live in the village, but on the mountains around the village. There were no Wa troops either. So we could say it was the most safest of all villages in this area. And Pang Kam Kaw became bigger after the surrender, and rose up to 80 houses. Most of the villagers were Shan. The same went for Mong Hta, Mong Taw, Hwe Yao and Pang Mai Soong. But most of the civilians in Pang Hawk were Chinese and only a few were Shan.
The civilian vehicles were used free of charge by the government soldiers when they needed. The villagers from Hwe Yao and Pang Hawk were also sometimes ordered to carry food to the outlying camps by UWSA without paying anything.
Once the UWSA from Pang Hawk asked Pang Kam Kaw to provide some porters to carry rice to their outposts. But the Burmese officers told me not to give any porters to the Wa so I refused to listen to the Wa. (I was one of the members of the Pang Kam Kaw village council.)
The government officers also told us not to allow the UWSA to use civilian vehicles. Understandably, it became difficult for the villagers to live between the two different armed forces.
On 18th May 2002 the Wa group from Pang Hawk asked for three of our four wheel light trucks for their own use. But the village council refused. On 19th May 2002 the Wa ordered again, and asked whether we would agree or not. Besides they said if we refused to give, they would shoot our villagers as well as our motor cars.
But the battle between the SSA (Southern) and the government troops started early in the morning on 20th May 2002. One of the girls (17 years old) died on the spot because of the Burmese mortar shell from the No.3 outpost. The Burmese soldiers from this camp fired their mortar shells into our village and 6 of the other civilians were wounded, and all the wounded people were taken to the Thai side.
At about 9.00 a.m. because of the heavy shellings, my family had to leave the village. We didn't want to leave, because we had lived in the new house only for 6 months.
I was very sorry to leave the place that I had been living for 19 years, and also my dogs which were very good sentries. One of my dogs came with us to the Thai side. We were sent to Nong Kawk Kham temple on a light truck by the Thai soldiers. My dog ran after our truck for a while,but it couldn't catch the truck. Then it stopped and returned. And I thought it would return to its old place in Pang Kam Kaw.
I was very sorry when I heard about the Burmese soldiers shooting the dogs for their food in Pang Kam Kaw following the SSA withdrawal. And also in our village, three dogs died because of Burmese land mines. I thought my dogs were finished off by the Burmese soldiers. I also heard that the chickens, pigs, dogs and cats in the villages were all killed and eaten by the Burmese and UWSA soldiers.
All the things from the houses, all the tools from the workshops, motor cycles and cars were taken away by theBurmese government soldiers.
The list of the civilians who were killed, wounded and captured by the government and UWSA soldiers were already given, but still a few things remain in my mind.
May Htar (40 years old) who got only one leg was shot by the government troops on 18th June 2002. The troops entered his house and ordered him to give them 200 baht. He replied that he hadn't got any money. The drunken soldiers then shot at him two times, hitting his chest and then his forehead, and he died on the spot. The officer of those troops told May Htar's wife. " You must say that your husband died because of the mortar shell, and if you tell the truth, the whole family will be killed". His wife escaped and now she is staying at Ban Chong temple with her two children (5 & 1 ? years old).
Ai Htark (25 years old) was arrested by the government troops at Mong Htar, because he was suspected. He was taken to Hwe Yao and after a few days he was killed. His body was cut into three pieces.
Sai Pone (12 years old) sometimes lived with his father at Mong Na on the Thai side, and sometimes he lived with his mother at Hwe Yao. Before the fighting between the government group and SSA, he had lived with his father, so he knew nothing about the situation at Pang Kam Kaw. Thai soldiers at the border in fact didn't let him go to Pang Kam Kaw into the Burmese side. But he rushed to the Burmese side and after a while he was shot and killed by the government soldiers in Pang Kam Kaw village.
Kham Kong, 71 years old, was headman of Hwe Yao village. He was taken to Mong Taw by the Burmese troops on 23rd May 2002. The monk and some villagers from Hwe Yao went and asked the No.314. Infantry to allow him to return to Hwe Yao. But he was not allowed to. Then after one month, he was allowed to come back. When he reached Hwe Yao, he found that all the things from the village were already taken by the government troops. Even the temple and his house were empty. He stayed in Hwe Yao for six days. He was very upset and was unable to live in Hwe Yao, because his house was empty and he had nothing left. So he returned to Mong Taw and died after two days.
The life as a refugee is quite different from an ordinary person. We used to live as ordinary civilians. Now as refugees, we have to live in the temples together which are like public halls and not like our own apartments or houses. It may be O.K. for a short term, but not for a long time. It may be no problem to live in a hall together for soldiers or bachelors, but there are some problems for those with families.
In the camp, some of refugees have a little money but some have nothing. We receive food to eat everyday, but we also need a little money for other things, like pocket money for our children when they go to school. And sometimes we need money to buy soap, toothpaste and washing powder. And a refugee wants permission to go and work in farms that are not too far from the camps.
Two days ago, we went to a field which looked big enough to set up 120 huts for 120 families. That field is owned by a family and they are not sure whether they want to sell or not. My own feeling is that I'll be very happy if we can buy that field and have a chance to build a new village together.
My parents, sister and only brother are still living in Shan State. For their sake, I don't want to use my real name as well as photos of myself.
Out of the recent loss, I have gained a little, but not in money. While we lived in our village, we knew something about our neighbours, but not too much. Now, we live together, eat together and work together, and I have a chance to learn more about them. Some are good in fine weather, and some are good during the stormy weather.
Please forgive me if my English is not correct, because I am sure that it is not very good.
We helped the British with all our hearts and souls but we Karens simply (did) not expect anything for (our) future This (was) the reason why we were ignored and abandoned after the 2nd World War. The Burmans (on the other hand) told the British that they would assist the British (for) independence to be given after the war.
Gen Bo Mya, Memoirs, 2002