Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

he UN human rights investigator, Sergio Paulo Pinheiro is on the third day of his fact-finding trip to Burma, and is expected to accept an invitation to travel to the regime's secretive capital Nay Pyi Daw today for discussions. He has said that he wants to determine how many of the peaceful, unarmed demonstrators were killed by the regime's crackdown in September, and how many remain in detention. Today he will meet with the only people who know those answers, but he's highly unlikely to be given them. Details of his discussions with the ministers (he's unlikely to meet Than Shwe) will not be forthcoming however, as journalists are forbidden from travelling to Nay Pyi Daw.

This is Pinheiro's first visit to Burma since the regime banned him four years ago. Yesterday he spent two hours within the infamous Insein Prison, where many political prisoners are held. This is the place where he decided to cut short his last visit in 2003, when he discovered a recording device hidden under a table in the room where he had been interviewing political detainees. Tomorrow he is expected to meet foreign diplomats. He had earlier visited a few of the monasteries which were raided by security forces, and where monks had been bludgeoned and killed leaving the floors red with their blood.
He proceeded to Ngwe-Kyar-Yan monastery, South Okkalapa township, where monks were allegedly beaten and taken away in army trucks on the morning of September 27. The abbot of that monastery was severely beaten and according to some accounts, has died of his injuries...

The UN rapporteur also visited the Htein-Pin cemetery in Hlaing-Thar-Yar township, where witnesses said they saw mass cremations being carried out in secret on the night of September 27.
Pinheiro is no stranger to the difficulties in dealing with this brutal and deceptive regime, and the UN itself has quite a chequered history there.
1989: Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained and put under house arrest after the military's brutal suppression of an uprising a year earlier.

1990: U.N. Commission on Human Rights names Sadako Ogata to assess the human rights situation in Myanmar. She is followed by Yozo Yokota and the current post holder, Paulo Sergio Pineiro.

1998: Peruvian diplomat Alvara de Soto named special U.N. envoy to break deadlock between military and democracy advocates. U.N. and World Bank propose financial incentives for change that then-Foreign Minister Win Aung calls "offering a banana to a monkey and asking it to dance."

April 4, 2000: Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail appointed special U.N. envoy for Myanmar. He later acknowledges a company he chairs does business with the Myanmar regime.

Sept. 2000: Suu Kyi, released in 1995, placed under house arrest again.

Nov. 29, 2001: Razali say he's "hopeful that some significant progress could be made in the near future."

2002: Razali helps secure the release of Suu Kyi from house arrest and the regime declares "the era of confrontation is over."

2003: Suu Kyi is put back under house arrest.

Jan. 4, 2006: Razali resigns as envoy, frustrated at being barred from entering the country for nearly two years.

May 20, 2006: Nigerian diplomat Ibrahim Gambari becomes the first foreigner to meet Suu Kyi in more than two years amid renewed talk of a "breakthrough."

May 22, 2007: Gambari appointed special U.N. envoy. Suu Kyi's house arrest extended three days later.
And of course, there is the regime's expulsion of the UN's top diplomat in Burma on the eve of Gambari's return visit this month. The generals are not known for their subtlety.

Over the weekend Mizzima News reported an encouraging signal from a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy via telephone interview.
"Currently the situation is good. She [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] is in good health. She is not yet released but will be released soon," said Myint Thein.

Citing the possibility of the government tapping his telephone, Myint Thein said, "As you know the condition of my phone, please understand that I cannot say anything too loud at the moment. But situations are good."
In her statement carried out by Mr. Gambari, and in comments from her party's officials after meeting her last week, Suu Kyi appeared resigned to remaining in detention for the forseeable future. If this spokesman is correct, it's the best news we've had yet.

Meanwhile, the regime's propaganda warfare continues apace. Now emulating the great film director Kim Jong Il, they're shooting a re-enactment of their suppression of the protests -- with a twist.
Around 200 members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, Swan Arr Shin and township police have taken part in the filming in the grounds of Prome airport in Bago division, according to a source who had access to those involved in the shoot.
USDA and Swan Arr Shin are the junta's thug squads, which both played a role in the suppression, midnight raids and "arrests" (like those seen at the beginning of "In Freedom's Cause" posted yesterday).
The source said that those present acted out the recent protests, but made it look as though the government’s crackdown came as a result of violence from the monks.

“The film looks like it’s about the monk protests, but it shows the township police trying to suppress the violence initiated by monks. Then they have to call in the military when they can’t overpower the monks,” the source said.

“So the military arrive, and first they fire rubber bullets into the crowd and some people get hit, but they made it look as though they had not choice but to fire as the monks were really getting out of hand,” he said.
Up in northern Shan State, USDA was involved in forcing villagers to join an anti-America rally in which they burned a portrait of George W. Bush.
"The authorities want to prove to the world that the people in Burma are opposed to the United States. Those who set fire to Bush's portrait were plainclothes policemen who joined the rally. The programme was organized by Kyaw Myint, a USDA leader," a local resident told Mizzima.
Each village and town quarter had been ordered to provide at least 500 participants for the rally -- a standard technique for populating these managed shows for the evening news.
"Some of the quarter chairmen said there are only 200 households in their quarter, but the chairman told them 'no everyone must send 500 people each, it's an order'," said the local.
Under such circumstances, it's understandable that people's hearts are not quite in it.
They held aloft several banners and posters. They had written whatever they liked on the posters and banners like denouncing the Burmese broadcasting stations and the junta's political aims and objectives. Nobody is really interested in all this. They concluded at about 8:30 in the morning," Aikmon added.
USDA members tried to get the crowd going with slogan-shouting, but nobody joined in.

In Karen State, senior monk U Seindiya has fled to the Thai border to escape arrest. This monk had previously been honoured and awarded by the regime for his public service in donating blood more than 80 times for wounded soldiers. Now he is a wanted man, for having led other monks in his township to chant the Metta Sutta in September.
“I spared in total about two buckets of my blood for the soldiers and they didn’t even acknowledge it, and they even raided my monastery,” U Seindiya said.

“We were only walking the streets and chanting metta, so it wasn’t a big crime, but the military made a big deal out of it and chased me through the jungle,” he said.
Of course it should be understood that while Buddhist monks accepted moral leadership for the popular movement in September, it wasn't a religious issue but a citizens' responsibility issue. As I've cited several times here, Burma's Muslim minority were supportive of the freedom movement, and were punished for it.
Pan Cha [a Burmese Sikh businessman who fled to the Thai border last month], who helped organize security for the demonstrations, said that a top Burmese minister ordered pro-junta group, the Union Solidarity and Development Association, to beat any Muslim in sight at the demonstrations, because Muslims were never USDA members.
It's quite remarkable to have such civic mindedness among an officially marginalized minority -- the Than Shwe regime does not consider Burmese Muslims to be full citizens of the country.
Some wealthy Muslims supported demonstrators by providing mobile phones to make communications between the protesters easier. Some who were car owners blocked the military trucks that were carrying arrested demonstrators and tried to help them escape when the army convoys stopped. They risked their own lives on behalf of others...

Pan Cha also confirmed that before he left Burma on October 4, he knew of about 30 Muslims who had been hospitalized from being beaten during the street protests. More than 100 Muslims were still being detained, he said.
Pan Cha, like many of the activists who have sought temporary sanctuary in the border area, plans to return soon and says that the popular movement will revive its activities soon. Resistance does continue in a myriad of ways, like the northern Kachin State university students worried about the junta's plan to dam the Irrawaddy River.
Overtly concerned with the Burmese military junta's plans to dam the Irrawaddy River, defiant university students in Burma's northern state of Kachin spray-painted the words "No Dam, Than Shwe Killer" on walls in crowded places in Myitkyina town, on Saturday, sources said.
Residents said the wall writings were visible from a great distance, before being whitewashed by authorities. The dam is being constructed by China Power Investment Corporation.

In another act of defiance, a new wave of the student movement has been pamphleting and postering Rangoon. They call themselves "Generation Wave."
The new group, which operates undercover, have begun distributing posters and pamphlets that carry messages such as 'CNG (Change New Government)', 'FFF (Freedom From Fear)', and 88 generation student leader, now detained, Min Ko Naing's poem titled 'Bah Kah Tah', in crowded places in Rangoon since October 15...

Meanwhile, reports said, another activists group called 'Rangoon Division Peoples' Movement Coordinating Committee' on Tuesday began collecting the state-run news paper, Myanma Ahlin, and set them [a]blaze saying the paper carries no news but only junta's propaganda...

Another group known as 'Freedom Fighter' in Rangoon has also begun tying pieces of monk's robes and pasting posters and words of defiance on roadside trees, sources said.

"What they [the group] do is that they tie pieces of monk's rob[e] on the roadside trees with some words defying the junta along with it," a local resident, who is close to the group told Mizzima.
From Japan comes news that the local guide who was with the murdered journalist Kenji Nagai has been spirited out of the country. Nagai's employer, APF News had helped get him out. The man told a meeting of Japanese parliament members that Nagai had been under surveillance before his death.
The man said at the meeting that he was asked by Nagai to serve as his guide on Sept. 26, the day before the journalist was killed by a junta soldier.

On that day, a man, apparently a junta agent, spoke to Nagai in Japanese, the guide said. Myanmar troops continued to keep watch on Nagai while he was covering demonstrators and security forces shortly before he was shot, he said.

The guide said he warned Nagai of the danger but the journalist told him: "It's OK. Keep distant from me."
He also said that the video camera the authorities returned to Japan was not the same one Nagai had been using.

Four years ago, journalist Andrew Huszar befriended a guide at Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda. His story illustrates many things about this tormented country -- reading the whole thing is recommended.


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