Tuesday, December 19, 2006

KIO Asks Junta to Stop Military Exercises

By Khun Sam
December 19, 2006 Irrawaddy.org

Kachin Independence Army

The Kachin Independence Organization, an ethnic ceasefire group, has called on the Burmese junta to halt military exercises near its headquarters on Laisin Mountain near the China-Burma border.

The request came during a meeting between the KIO and junta officers at Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, last week. The Burmese army has been conducting exercises in Samar Region near Wai Maw Township of Kachin State, about 20 miles from the KIO's army wing of the Kachin Independence Army headquarters.

Lt-Col Nuk Gan, a KIO central committee member, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the group’s general secretary Dr La Ja and Vice General-Secretary Sumlut Gun Maw met with the Burmese deputy northern commander, Brig-Gen San Tun.

“He told us that the case would be considered,” Nuk Gan said. “It was a big concern for us and the local people.”

The Kachin community in-country and abroad, including the London-based Kachin National Organization, have also raised their concerns, saying the exercises
threaten all Kachin ceasefire groups and peace in the region.

The KNO said the junta is toying with ethnic ceasefire groups instead of finding solutions through peaceful and political means. The Burmese military has dramatically increased its presence in Kachin State and often enters into Kachin ceasefire-group controlled areas, creating instability in the region, the KNO said.

KNO also said the junta often claims the military exercises are conducted “to prevent an invasion from abroad,” but their real mission is “to crush all ethnic
armed groups in the country.”

The junta has recently intensified military operations against ethnic insurgent groups in Karen, Mon and Shan States. Critics says the KIO became a target of the regime following the biggest Kachin ceasefire group’s refusal to join the regime-led condemnation of the inclusion of Burma on the UN Security Council agenda in September this year.

Sources close to the KIO said the recent military pressure increased after the KIO held secret security meetings with other ethnic armed groups in which they discussed solidarity issues, should the regime-led national convention not achieve ethnic-group goals.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We are irrepressible

_ by Raluca Enescu

Last month, in November, Burma Digest's main page has got 367346 pagehits; what do you think?
Reading the statistics, I can't help but wonder: who are all those people who take time to check upon our work, to read the articles that we're doing our best to write, why do they choose us? Actually, the more we progress in our work for the Burma Digest, the more I feel that we have a stronger responsibility towards our readers.
Some time ago, we have decided to publish a campaign journal that would be able to make a strong statement; for freedom, for justice, for democracy. As we have grown, ever since, as a public forum and as a voice to be heard, the most important thing we had in mind along the way was: we have to be IRREPRESSIBLE!
IRREPRESSIBLE = impossible to repress or control. Maybe you've seen before, on some websites, Amnesty International irrepressible logo. It is part of a global campaign concerning freedom of expression on the internet.
Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information; is this situation familiar to you? If you dare to speak up against it, then you are irrepressible, just like us. Amnesty International, with the support of The Observer UK newspaper, is launching a campaign to show that online or offline the human voice and human rights are impossible to repress. Also, they are working with the Open Net Initiative (ONI) to help raise awareness of internet censorship around the world.
Together with Amnesty's Irrepressible campaign, the ONI has published a detailed report concerning censorship of the internet in Burma; According to them, "Myanmar's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) block access to web sites of political opposition groups, human rights-oriented sites, and organizations working for democratic change in Myanmar. Until recently Myanmar used Dans Guardian, an open source filtering software, but has switched to a filtering product made by the U.S.-based vender Fortinet. The state also maintains the capability to conduct surveillance of e-mail as individual users are only allowed access to local email providers - free e-mail sites such as Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail are blocked. Myanmar filters Internet access using Fortinet's Fortiguard Web filtering software. Users receive block pages when attempting to access banned content. Earlier tests revealed that Internet access was filtered by Dans Guardian filtering software. Internet connectivity is prohibitively expensive so users are also largely limited to the country's intranet. In 2000 Myanmar imposed new Web Regulations:
* Any writings detrimental to the interests of the Union of Myanmar are not to be posted
* Any writings directly or indirectly detrimental to the current policies and secret security affairs of the government of the Union of Myanmar are not to be posted
* Writings related to politics are not to be posted
* Internet users are to inform MPT of any threat on the Internet
* Internet users are to obtain prior permission from the organization designated by the state to create Web pages
Violations of the 2000 regulations are punishable by revocation of access and "legal action".
In another words, anyone who accesses internet pages that would be in any way linked to the democracy movement can be arrested. Anyone who would try to post a political manifesto on the internet can be arrested. Anyone who would use the internet to criticize the current regime can be arrested. What impression does this make to you?
For all those people, who are denied the access to accurate information, which are living under a repression, who may risk their lives for freedom of speech, for all of them. We at the Burma Digest are and have the duty to remain IREPRESSIBLE.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Myanmar shakes Western noose

By Shawn W Crispin

BANGKOK - It wasn't that long ago that military-run Myanmar periodically wobbled on the brink of economic and financial collapse. The many detractors of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) had long hoped that Western-led economic sanctions would eventually squeeze the rights-abusing regime out of power.

A massive inflow of Asian capital has recently wholly undermined the near-decade-old sanctions regime led by the United States and the European Union and greatly strengthened the once-isolated military junta's political staying power. Significantly, the failure of the US-led policy
is also symptomatic of China's and India's ever increasing economic clout across the region.

Foreign investment into Myanmar surged to a record high US$6 billion in the fiscal 2005-06 year that ended in March, up from the paltry $158.3 million recorded the previous year, according to recently released official statistics.
Myanmar's total trade also hit a record high of $5.5 billion over the same period, surging 27% year on year and handing the junta a rare trade surplus of $1.6 billion. Bilateral trade is on pace to expand even faster this year to more than $7 billion as the junta cashes in on high global energy prices.

Those rising figures will no doubt irk the administration of US President George W Bush, which has in recent years referred to the hardline regime as an "outpost of tyranny". China, India and to a lesser degree Thailand have all overlooked Myanmar's abysmal rights record to gain access to the country's largely underdeveloped energy resources, including big new capital outlays for
joint-venture hydropower dams, oil and gas exploration and production, and assorted mining activities. The three Asian countries are also among Myanmar's top five trading partners.

Myanmar's reclusive ruling generals have awoken belatedly to the notion that opening to select foreign investors is more likely to maintain their long-term hold on power than economic isolationism. The junta recently opened six previously off-limits terrestrial-based oil and gas blocks to foreign exploration and development, mainly from India and China, and has also promised to open the country's largest gold mine and other key mineral deposits to foreign investment.

SPDC leader General Than Shwe is reportedly reviewing a larger-scale privatization plan, which would involve the selling of private stakes across a wide array of state-owned enterprises, some of which were nationalized in the wake of the military first seizing power in 1962. If that plan were even partially implemented, the sales would substantially fill the junta's long-depleted national coffers and provide the financial cushion necessary to stabilize inflation and exchange-rate volatility - the key on-the-ground targets of any economic-sanctions regime.

Declining influence

When the US first imposed its economic sanctions in 1997, and the EU later followed suit, Myanmar's isolated economy was highly vulnerable to outside pressure. China had not yet fully emerged economically and Washington was able to keep enterprising Japanese investors from shoring up Myanmar's decrepit economy and depleted finances.

When the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis hit, the local currency, the kyat, went into free fall, and the country was only rescued by China's friendly extension of emergency short-term interest-free loans. A banking crisis in 2003 and the government's inept policy response threatened to undermine completely Myanmar's already precarious financial balance. Without China's behind-the-scenes financial assistance, on several occasions Myanmar's economy could have succumbed to the combination of Western sanctions and its own economic mismanagement.

The sanctions have long been cheered by the hardline regime's many detractors, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has said from house arrest that foreigners should refrain from investing in Myanmar until democracy is restored. Yet when the US imposed sanctions against Myanmar in 1997, the punitive policy had achieved its objectives in fewer than 24% of cases since 1973, according to research compiled by the Heritage Foundation, a US-based conservative think-tank.

Meanwhile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states were initially peeved when the US first imposed its sanctions, which ran counter to their 1997 initiative to engage rather than isolate the junta through membership in their regional grouping - which was at least partially initiated to counterbalance fears of China's growing economic and strategic influence in Myanmar.

Still, investment from financial-crisis-strapped ASEAN countries has only gradually trickled into Myanmar, and was further restrained by behind-the-scenes US and EU diplomatic pressure on certain regional countries. Yet China, India and Thailand have all willingly risked Western philippics to gain access to Myanmar's oil and gas sources, which some industry analysts estimate are second in volume only to Indonesia in the region.

Myanmar has significantly managed to bypass the Western-controlled multilateral lending agencies, including the World Bank, which has in the main observed the US and EU sanctions, and accessed capital investment directly from private-sector Asian sources. While various US and European companies closed down their Myanmar-based investments because of the sanctions, Chinese and Indian - mainly energy - companies have rapidly filled the gap.

India's Essar Oil Ltd, Focus Energy Ltd, MPRL Exploration and Production Private Ltd and Goldpetrol and China's CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corp), Sinopec (China Petrochemical Corp) and China National Petroleum subsidiary Chinerry Assets have all recently established substantial operations in the country. And there are reportedly many more joint-venture energy deals in Myanmar's pipeline.

Western sanctions' failure to achieve economic collapse and political change in Myanmar significantly underscores both the United States' and Europe's waning and China's and India's growing economic influence in the region. As Asia's economies become more integrated, particularly through greater Chinese- and Indian-inspired trade and investment links, Western-led economic threats clearly no longer strike fear into the region's roguish regimes.

If US and EU sanctions fail to have the desired effect against a country as backward, mismanaged and until now isolated as Myanmar, then the policy tool is unlikely to work anywhere else in Asia, including against nuclear North Korea. That's a potentially disturbing economic truth considering that current US administration's penchant for using preemptive force against regimes it considers "evil" or, in Myanmar's case, "tyrannous".

Some Western diplomats believe that fear of a possible US invasion was one big reason Myanmar's ruling junta last year abruptly moved the national capital from the coastal city of Yangon to the inland, mountainous redoubt of Naypyidaw. Ironically, perhaps, the junta is now pumping profits earned from China and India into building up a new military-industrial complex, where the ruling generals are living comfortably and hunkering down against a possible US military rather than economic threat. Meanwhile, the junta continues to round up and jail its political opponents, and crack down on even the mildest forms of dissent.

Shawn W Crispin is Asia Times Online's Southeast Asia editor.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Inside Myanmar's secret capital

By Clive Parker

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar - One year after Myanmar's secretive ruling military junta suddenly relocated the national capital 320 kilometers north from Yangon to Naypyidaw, the motivations behind the dramatic move are still unclear.

Foreign access to the new capital is strictly forbidden. But this correspondent's recent travels through the area showed that the junta has quietly continued to build around the new capital's greenfield site, which is rapidly swallowing the old town formerly known as Pyinmana. And recent construction of key infrastructure in other parts of the country's heartland Mandalay division offers new clues to the junta's grand designs for the region.

Although on a smaller scale than in the new capital, Myanmar's government is concurrently developing military, communications and transport infrastructure in a corridor that runs directly north from Naypyidaw to Pyin Oo Lwin, the town where the army's Defense Services Academy (DSA) training facility is situated.

The regime is building a new military airport just outside of Pyin Oo Lwin in nearby Anikasan town. The single runway, a 3,000-meter-long airstrip, took nearly two years to complete and immediately came into service last October when the junta received India's army chief of staff J J Singh in Pyin Oo Lwin. The Indian official was subsequently taken on a tour of the DSA as well as the Defense Services Technological Academy.

Residents of Pyin Oo Lwin and nearby Mandalay say the new airstrip is more commonly used to ferry high-ranking military officials between Naypyidaw and a newly built luxury housing complex between Anikasan Airport and Pyin Oo Lwin, which reportedly includes a large mansion belonging to State Peace and Development Council chief General Than Shwe. Strictly off limits to visitors, the site was built with the help of Htoo Trading, owned by Tay Za, the military's preferred construction contractor and a renowned arms dealer.

In July, just outside of Pyin Oo Lwin, the junta began construction on the Yadanabon Silicon Village, a new cyber-city that promises to serve as an integral part of the new capital's communication network. Although construction has just commenced, architectural blueprints seen by this correspondent at the site's foreman's cabin show plans for a sprawling complex devoted to software incubation and information-technology hardware suites, along with a modern residential zone.

In August, builders had cleared a channel for a new access road to the site, though construction of the complex itself has not progressed beyond initial landscaping. Builders could be heard by this correspondent blasting the hillside as part of the land-clearing process. As with the new capital Naypyidaw, photographing the site is strictly forbidden.

Military industrial complex

The junta apparently has an eye on concentrating key industry around the region. Old and new military installations line the main road from Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay, including the Defense Services Mechanical and Electrical Engineering School, which was built more than a decade ago. The town is also home to the Defense Services Institute of Technology, the Defense Services Administration School and the Army Training Depot.

Also just outside Pyin Oo Lwin is Myanmar's only iron-and-steel factory, which produces about 30,000 tons of metal a year, according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. In a bid to improve access to this increasingly significant military town, the government in 2003 decided to upgrade drastically the notoriously poor Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin road with the help of the Asia World Co, another preferred contractor owned by Steven Law, who has widely alleged links to the narcotics trade. It now takes less than an hour by car to reach Mandalay from Pyin Oo Lwin.

Almost equidistant between Pyin Oo Lwin and Naypyidaw is the strategically significant town of Meiktila, home to the country's air force. Meiktila has also seen extensive development in recent years coincident with construction of the new capital. Since 2001, there have been reports that China and Russia have helped upgrade the Shante air base, the country's main military airstrip, a few kilometers northeast of Meiktila.

Reports that both countries have recently sold and delivered fighter jets to the base seem to be confirmed by satellite images downloaded using Google Earth, which clearly show a number of olive-green Chinese Chengdu F-7M Airguard and light-khaki NAMC A-5C military aircraft along with blue Russian MiG-29s - all recent additions to Myanmar's air force. At the nearby Meiktila Airfield, Google Earth images also show a number of what appear to be Russian Mi-17 helicopters.

In addition to supplying military hardware, media reports have suggested, Chinese and Russian aeronautical experts have in recent years made regular visits to the various air force training schools around Meiktila.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper in April 2004 confirmed that lectures were administered by "local and foreign experts" at the Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University in Meiktila, which at the time was still in the process of being completed. This "new and separate university", the report said, would "make the teaching programs more effective by sending teachers going to work at the university to foreign countries for further studies and inviting foreign technicians to the university to give lectures".

Highlighting the military significance of the new facility, Than Shwe said during a 2004 visit, "Only when the university produces future technicians in aerospace and engineering fields for the state will the nation be able to keep pace with others." The military has also relied on Chinese and Russian assistance to help build other significant military installations in and around Meiktila.

In April 2004, around the time construction on the new capital began, the junta signed a US$500 million deal with Ukrainian state arms company UkrspetsExport to build an APC (armored personnel carrier) factory. Between 12km and 15km outside of Meiktila, according to a former employee of the Ukrainian firm who worked on the deal, the facility is designed over a 10-year period to receive about 1,000 70%-assembled BTR-3U APCs.

At the factory, Meiktila-based Ukrainian technicians are geared to work hand-in-hand with their Myanmar counterparts to complete the assembly process and pass along knowledge about the vehicles' inner workings, the company's former employee said. Although the deal was designed to run until 2014, Myanmar's failure to meet payments on time has recently soured relations between the two sides.

In a bid to receive past-due payments, Sergiy Korostil, UkrspetsExport's chief representative in Yangon, wrote a letter to Myanmar's Ministry of Defense this year. This was, however, rebuffed when the Myanmar side accused the Ukrainians of violating their side of the agreement when their technicians were discovered to have left their designated military compound without authorization. Whether this tit-for-tat exchange has killed the deal is unclear. Korostil is reportedly still operating out of his office at the Nikko Hotel in Yangon with a small team of staff, and the executive has since made visits to Naypyidaw to meet with government officials.

The hiccup with UkrspetsExport has not dampened other foreign firms' appetite to ink deals with the junta. Many Asian companies have traveled to Naypyidaw to sign a host of state contracts to build communication, transport and perhaps even military infrastructure. In 1998, prior to the UkrspetsExports episode, Myanmar agreed to a deal with China to build a landmine factory just outside of Meiktila, which is reportedly still up and running.

The junta has also made efforts to significantly upgrade transport links to Meiktila. In August, workers could be seen opposite the town's train platform working on the beginnings of a construction project between the two main lines that run through Meiktila railway station. On July 16, the government held a ceremony to launch the new Naypyidaw-Meiktila express-train service, one of a number of recently added routes to the new capital. The project included construction of "13 small and big bridges ... along the railroad", the state-run press reported.

South of Meiktila, the road to Naypyidaw has undergone considerable renovation, at least by Myanmar's poor standards. Although many roads in the new capital remain unfinished, an expansive new highway that leads off the main Yangon-Mandalay road to the new Ministry of Defense compound is nearly complete.

A Western observer who in recent months caught a rare glimpse inside the new 35-square-kilometer defense zone to the north of the new capital noticed giant statues of past Burmese kings along the main parade ground. "Most notable was the four-lane concrete road that passes through the entire complex, [which] becomes six then eight lanes as you enter the military side. Reportedly, this is so it can serve as an airplane runway," said the Western observer, who requested anonymity.

Mysterious motivations

While commentators have offered a host of reasons for the junta's sudden move north, ranging from astrology to military strategy to fears of a possible US-led invasion, the larger field of development in Myanmar's central heartland lends credence to the simpler strategic notion that the junta regards the central heartland as an ideal site to consolidate its resources.

Whether or not the move to Naypyidaw offers strategic military advantages is debatable, according to Andrew Selth, an expert on Myanmar's armed forces. "Building Naypyidaw emphasizes and utilizes that corridor, but there have long been plans to upgrade these facilities, as they are also important for economic and political reasons," he said. "In purely strategic terms, it would have been more sensible to diversify these critical north-south links and build more routes on the western side of the Irrawaddy [River], or in the east of the country."

Selth said the increasing separation of Myanmar's ruling military generals from the civilian population would make it far easier for a potential foreign invader to target the junta through air strikes. Nevertheless, the argument previously put forward that the switch inland from the old coastal capital Yangon reduces the risk to the junta of a land invasion was probably taken into account by the military.

In the past, the junta felt most threatened through its vulnerability at the Bay of Bengal. In 1988, the US moved navy vessels into the area, apparently in the event of the state collapsing during the democratic uprisings. In 1992, junta abuses against Muslims in Arakan state prompted the wrath of Saudi Arabia, whose army chief Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz called on the United Nations to intervene and help the minority Muslims.

Selth reasons that relocating inland does not put the military out of reach of advanced missiles and aircraft of its perceived primary threat - the United States. President George W Bush's administration has recently referred to Myanmar as an "outpost of tyranny", though few security experts reckon the US would ever attack, because of China's heavy influence in Myanmar. But "if the external threat was seen as real and imminent, the regime may well choose to consolidate its military strength in central [Myanmar], with a view to a conventional defense of the [Myanmar] heartland," he said.

Whether efforts to expand resources and facilities in the country's central heartland truly shore up national defenses given that the main insurgency threat lies in the surrounding areas controlled by Karen insurgents is debatable, Selth said. "Given its make-up, it is difficult to see the current government doing anything that does not include some consideration of military and strategic factors," he said.

While evidence of massive construction activity in Mandalay division suggests that the junta may well see central Myanmar as the key to its ultimate survival, as ever, only Than Shwe and his inner circle know the real reason behind their dramatic and expensive shift to Naypyidaw.

Clive Parker is a reporter at The Irrawaddy, an online news service and monthly magazine that focuses on Myanmar and Southeast Asia, based in Chiang Mai. He is possibly the first foreign journalist to report from Myanmar's new capital.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Burma’s National Convention Resumes

By Kyaw Zwa Moe

October 10, 2006

Burma’s military government resumed on Tuesday its 13-year-long National Convention, tasked with drafting a constitution, without the participation of the country’s main opposition groups, as hundreds of people in cities across the country joined a new campaign in support of detained former student leaders.

State-run newspapers earlier reported that more than 1,000 delegates would attend the National Convention, which first convened in 1993. The convention is the first of seven steps in the military government’s roadmap to democracy. No timetable has yet been given for proposed democratic reforms.

Opposition groups inside and outside the country have strongly condemning the convention. “It is valueless, since it lacks democratic principles,” said Nyan Win, a spokesperson for Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy.

The NLD won a landslide victory following elections in 1990, but the ruling junta refused to honor the results. The party’s involvement in the convention ended in 1995, when their delegates walked out in protest. The NLD reiterated its opposition to the convention in 2004, prompting the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, Burma’s largest ethnic political party, to abandon the convention that year.

“Restarting the sham National Convention, in defiance of the UN and the people of Burma, will do nothing to solve Burma’s problems,” said Aung Din, policy director for the US Campaign for Burma. “The Burmese people want real democracy, not a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Meanwhile, sources in Rangoon and Mandalay said that hundreds of people have participated in a new campaign called “White Expression” by wearing all white clothing. The campaign was launched on Tuesday by the 88 Generation Students group and will run until October 18.

The campaign is intended to push the military government to free all political prisoners and initiate a genuine national reconciliation process. The group, which is composed of former political prisoners, planned its campaign a few days after authorities arrested its five leaders—including the most prominent leader, Min Ko Naing—at the end of September.

Nyan Win said that all members of the NLD wore white clothing on Tuesday. Well-known Burmese comedian Zarganar added that many young people could be seen wearing white in downtown Rangoon, particularly in shopping malls. “I have seen many young people wearing white since this morning,” Zarganar told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “I am also wearing white.”

Tin Win Yi, an NLD member from Mandalay, said that many people there were also joining the campaign.

Prior to the White Expression campaign, the student group began a petition campaign to free their detained leaders. Nyan Win said that two of its youth members were arrested last week after collecting signatures and trying to send them to the student group.

Win Ko, a youth leader, and Than Win, both from the Moe Nyo township NLD office, were arrested at a train station in their township while carrying petition signatures to the 88 Generation Students group.

As of Saturday, some 120,000 signatures have been collected, according to the student group.

The National
Convention Line-up

Following is a list of the political parties and ethnic ceasefire groups attending the current session of Burma’s National Convention:

1. Kokang Democracy and Unity Party

2. Union Kayin (Karen) League

3. Union Pa-O National Organization

4. Mro (aka) Khami National Solidarity Organization

5. Lahu National Development Party

6. Wa National Development Party

7. National Unity Party: a political party formed by the military junta and members of the Burma Socialist Program Party led by the late dictator Ne Win. It won 10 seats in the 1990 election.

8. Myanmar National Democracy Alliance Army (Kokang): the MNDAA signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime on March 21, 1989. Its leader is Phone Kyar Shin. The group commands control of Special Region-1, northern Shan State.

9. United Wa State Army: formerly called the Myanmar National Solidarity Party, the UWSA signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime on May 9, 1989. Its leaders are Bao Yuxiang and Kyauk Nyi Lai. The group controls Special Region-2, Shan State.

10. Shan State Army (Shan State Progress Party): the SSA, commanded by Col Loi Mao, signed a ceasefire agreement with the military government on September 2, 1989. It is based in Special Region-3, Shan State.

11. National Democratic Alliance Army (Shan/ Akha Armed National Groups): the NDAA, led by Sai Lin and Lin Ming Xian, signed a ceasefire agreement with the military government on June 30, 1989. It controls Special Region-4, eastern Shan State.

12. Kachin Defense Army: founded in 1990 by Mahtu Naw, commander of the Kachin Independence Army’s 4th brigade, northern Shan State, the KDA broke away from the Kachin Independence Army in the same year and signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime on January 13, 1991. It is now based in Kawng Ha and controls Special Region-5, northern Shan State.

13. Pa-O National Organization: the PNO, led by Aung Kham Hti, signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta on April 11, 1991. The group controls Special Region-6, southern Shan State.

14. New Democratic Army-Kachin: the NDA-K, founded by Zahkung Ting Ying, its current chairman, signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta on December 15, 1989, the year in which the Communist Party of Burma collapsed. It’s based in Pang Wa, on the Sino-Burma border, controlling the Kachin State Special Region-1.

15. Kachin Independence Organization: Founded on February 5, 1961, by Zau Seng , the KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the military government in February, 1994. Currently led by Lanyaw Zawng Hra, the KIO is the biggest Kachin armed group, based in Laiza, on the China-Burma border, in Special Region-2.

16. Kayan National Guard: the KNG, led by Gabriel Byan and Htay Ko, signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military government on February 27, 1992. It controls Special Region-1 Kayah (Karenni) State.

17. Karenni State Nationalities Peoples Liberation Front: the KNPLF, led by Sandar and Htun Kyaw, signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta on May 9, 1994. The group controls Special Region-2, Kayah (Karenni) State.

18. Kayan New Land Party: the KNLP, led by Shwe Aye, signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime on July 26, 1994. The group controls Special Region-3, Kayah (Karenni) State.

19. Karenni National Democratic Party: the KNDP (Naga), a group of the Karenni National Progressive Party that signed a ceasefire agreement with the military government in 1995, but which broke the ceasefire a few months later. Its leader, Lee Rey, remained in Rangoon, and in 1996 he organized the KNDP. Also named the Karenni National Defence Army, it’s based in Kayah (Karenni) State.

20. Karenni National Progressive Party (aka Hoya): the KNPP (Hoya), led by Ko Ree, signed a ceasefire with the junta in October, 2003. The group broke away from the KNPP at that time.

21. Karenni National Solidarity Organization: the KNSO (Ka-Ma-Sa-Nya) broke away from the KNPP at the same time as the KNPP (Hoya), and then signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta in 2003. It’s led by a commander Richard, (aka) Ka Ree Htoo.

22. Democratic Karen Buddhist Army: the DKBA broke away from the KNU in 1995 and signed a ceasefire agreement with the military government. The group is led by a monk, U Thuzana.

23. Haungthayaw Special Region Group: the HSRG, led by Tha Mu Hei, surrendered to the military government in 1997. Tha Mu Hei Battalion 16 of the KNU’s Sixth Brigade.

24. Nyeinchanyay Myothit: this group, which also calls itself the Phayagon Special Region Group, surrendered to the military government in 1998, together with about 40 students led by Padoh Aung San, of the KNU. It is based in Hpa-an, Karen State.

25. Burma Communist Party (Rakhine State Group): led by Saw Tun Oo, this group surrendered to the military government on April 6, 1997. It controls an area of Arakan State. The group also names itself the Rakhine State All National Races Solidarity Party.

26. Mong Tai Army (Shwepyiaye): the MTA signed a ceasefire agreement with the military government on January 5, 1996. It is led by Khun Sa and controls the area of Homong, southern Shan State.

27. Homong Region Development and Welfare Group: located in southern Shan State, east of the Salween River, this group is led by an ethnic Wa, Maha Ja,
0wner of Shan State South Co Ltd, or the SSS Company.

28. Manpan People’s Militia Group: this group is based in Tangyan, southern Shan State, and its operational areas extend to the Salween in the east. Its leader is Bo Mon (aka U Sai Mon), veteran former associate of drug lord Khun Sa. He is said to have enjoyed the trust of the junta, and was awarded an “Outstanding Social Service Prize” for banning poppy cultivation in his operational areas during the 2005-2006 poppy season.

29. Arakan Army: this group broke away from the exiled Arakan Liberation Party. Its founder, Khai Ya Zar, died in custody in India after being arrested there in the late 1990s. The AA delegation attending the National Convention is reportedly only a nominal one.

30. Mon Peace Group (Chaungchi Region)

31. Mon Nai Seik Chan group

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Myanmar's move to military democracy
By Larry Jagan

BANGKOK - Myanmar's top brass are in the process of overhauling their junta-led government, where military leader General Than Shwe and second-in-command General Maung Aye are preparing to stand down from their traditional military commands and hand over authority to a new generation of senior soldiers. There's a catch, of course: neither military leader plans on relinquishing his grip on political power.

The planned changes represent the latest phase of Myanmar's excruciatingly slow move toward political reform and the promised introduction of a civilian-led government. The National Convention, which significantly does not include representation from the main opposition National League for Democracy, is set to resume drafting a new constitution next week and wrap up proceedings by next year. If all goes to plan, the draft charter will be put to a national referendum and some sort of democratic elections will be held within the next 12 months.

The scheduled changes would represent the most dramatic change of Myanmar's governing system since the current batch of soldiers seized power from another military-led regime 18 years ago. Both Than Shwe and Maung Aye will retain their top posts within the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which is expected to change its name to the State Democracy and Development Council (SDDC) to mark the start of a new political era. Than Shwe is also expected to relinquish his current position of defense minister.

General Thura Shwe Man, Than Shwe's protege, is in line to take command of the armed forces, while southeastern regional commander Thura Myint Aung is expected to take Maung Aye's post as the military's deputy leader. Thura Myint Aung is relatively unknown in diplomatic circles, but is regarded as one of Myanmar's few neutral top generals - that is, he owes political allegiance to neither Than Shwe nor Maung Aye, according to a source in Yangon close to the country's military leaders.

The yet-to-be-established SDDC, meanwhile, will become the country's overarching new supreme ruling council, which will oversee both the military command and the civilian government. Than Shwe and Maung Aye will head the new body, which is also expected to include new military leader Thura Shwe Man and other regional commanders. Prime Minister Soe Win, who has already traded in his military garb for a civilian business suit, will head the cabinet and government.

"Senior General Than Shwe and Deputy Senior General Maung Aye are in the process of handing over control of the armed forces to the next generation of generals," said a senior Myanmar military source who spoke on condition of anonymity with Asia Times Online. He said Than Shwe informed junta members of the plans at their recent quarterly meeting in the new capital Pyinmana - which is about 400 kilometers north of the former capital Yangon.

The anticipated moves have Myanmar watchers chattering. "This has been Than Shwe's game plan for some time. It is only a matter of when," said Win Min, a Chiang Mai, Thailand-based independent Myanmar analyst. According to Chinese diplomats that follow Myanmar affairs, Than Shwe intends to stand down to become the civilian president under the new constitution.

"He wants to be president for life," a senior military source close to Than Shwe said.

Over the past 12 months, Than Shwe has frequently told Thailand's top army commanders that he would soon retire and that Thura Shwe Man would take over as the country's military leader. The abrupt move of the SPDC's government offices and the armed forces' central command to Pyinmana, which commenced last November and was finally completed in February, has delayed those planned changes.

Now with the new capital up and running, Than Shwe is waiting for the most auspicious time to implement the planned changes. "Although the decision to pass the control of the army to Thura Shwe Man has been made, it is unlikely to happen before the National Convention has finished drafting the new constitution," a Western diplomat based in Yangon told Asia Times Online.

Declining health

Than Shwe's declining health may also determine the timing of the handover. Last year the then-75-year-old SPDC senior leader, who is known to suffer from hypertension and is a diabetic, had a mild stroke but quickly recovered. In the past few months there have been new reports that his health is deteriorating again, according to a Myanmar army doctor who spoke with Asia Times Online.

According to one foreign visitor who recently met with Than Shwe, the senior general is often short of breath. In a video of his daughter's recent wedding viewed by Asia Times Online, he clearly had trouble walking. According to government insiders, Than Shwe has seldom ventured outside his residence since his military government was moved from Yangon to Pyinmana in February.

Since then he has only once traveled to Yangon, and that for his daughter's wedding ceremony. For the past two months, he has not ventured to the War Office and only attends crucial meetings such as the fortnightly joint SPDC-cabinet session, according to an Asian diplomat who was until recently based in Yangon. He reportedly sends orders to Maung Aye and Prime Minister Soe Win through his heir apparent Thura Shwe Man, who has emerged as his closest confidant.

Some political analysts believe Than Shwe is trying to conceal his poor health to prevent a full-blown power struggle breaking out among his subordinates. Still, government insiders say he is acutely aware of the dangers involved with the political transition, and he has employed his trademark divide-and-rule tactics to maintain his authority, particularly between soon-to-be-army-chief General Thura Shwe Man and Soe Win.

"Even if Than Shwe officially retires he will not give up his power. Instead, he'll remain the gray eminence behind the throne, along the lines of the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the years before his death," said Win Min, the Chiang Mai-based analyst.

Efforts to civilianize the junta-led government are already under way. For instance, cabinet members have been made to leave the armed forces, and military control throughout the country is being transferred from the armed forces to the Interior and Planning ministries.

Under the new government, local military commanders will be required to report to the Home Ministry, a move that has already been implemented at the township level and is now being enforced at the district level as well, according to a senior international aid worker based inside the country familiar with the situation.

"This is all part of Than Shwe's plans to streamline government administration and strengthen the authorities' control over the general population in preparation for a transition to so-called civilian rule and to win the elections held under the new constitution," said Win Min.

With the plan's implementation under way, analysts predict that the military's control under civilian rule will likely be strengthened rather than weakened across the country. And the next generation of generals who are settling into leadership positions will be loath to relinquish their newfound powers to a new democratic order. If all goes to Than Shwe's master plan, the chances for real democracy still remain distant.

Larry Jagan previously covered Myanmar politics for the BBC. He is currently a freelance journalist based in Bangkok.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blue Print for Burma

By Prof. Kanbawza Win

No matter what religion one profess, it is undisputable that the prayers of the people of Burma have been heard and now the misery and the suffering of the Burmese will be officially accepted by the United Nations Security Council and the world at large, because it is already in the agenda by a large margin of votes. Our next move should concentrate on what resolutions will the Security Council passed? Will it achieved our cherished goal of democracy, human rights and self-determination? Surely the UN is not the Junta, even though the overwhelming margin of votes at the UNSC agenda is comparable to the overwhelming of votes that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD gets in the 1990 elections, the two negative votes by the veto wielding permanent powers cast a shadow of the Junta's mentality at the UN.

Friends of the People of Burma

The voting pattern clearly indicates, who are the friends of the people of Burma? Not that we are out to antagonizing any one who vote against us, but it reveals their nature and inner conscience, mentality and their historical background. Obviously those with a long background of Tsars or Communist (lovingly label as dictatorship of the proletariat) or countries with its long history of killing off the heroes (Patrice Lumumba or Dak Harmjold) will vote it otherwise and one could not blame them for their business always rules their conscience.

We should concentrate and cooperate more with our friends and endeavour for a monolithic unity. Our heartfelt and sincere thanks goes to Japan, who at the last minute switch sides and throw its lot with the people of Burma, if not with the world, against the tyrannical regime. It seems that looking at the track record of the Junta the Japanese leaders are convinced that UNSC is the only place where the Junta can come to senses. The point that drives home is the fact is the mentality of those countries that voted against the inclusion of Burma, in the agenda of the UNSC, is not conducive to make this global village a happier or a holistic place and as such should not be at the helm of world leadership.

The ten countries who voted for us can be considered as the genuine friends of the people of Burma for they know how to differentiate between the people and the government of Burma and they know who are the legitimate leaders chosen by the people of Burma. Moreover they harbour the humanitarian considerations for the sufferings of the people of Burma and unlike the dictatorial regimes did not give the pretext of adhering to the principles of the big book.

The Chinese Factor

The Chinese residing in every nook and corner of Burma always seems to dominate the local economy either by hook or by crook in as much as China, the only country that sells $ 1.4 billion worth of military hardware to the Burmese army. Even though it is rather hard for an average Burmese to understand their business, the Chinese domination of the Burmese economy is paramount.

Considering the superb Chinese diplomacy of being able to marginalize, the lone superpower, the United States of America, in the regional associations of ASEAN, ASEM and most importantly the defence pact of ARF, not to mention the geo strategic position vis a vis India and the American fleet in Diego Garcia, it is no wonder that the Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, was furious and said it was "preposterous" to put a country on the Security Council's agenda because of issues of human rights, refugees, drugs and AIDS, that he construe as not affecting the regional security. In the light of the Chinese criticism Wang noted that most countries in SEA did not consider, "the situation in Burma as being any threat to regional peace and security," there is every possibility that the Chinese will take a hard stance.

But considering the Chinese stance on Iran, where she has invested millions of dollars and a great portion of her oil supply comes, she did not use the veto at the UNSC. Of course she tried to persuade Iran diplomatically to compromise and keep the crisis from coming up to the UN. But when Iran did not listen, she simply stays neutral letting the UN to take it course. So also with North Korea, China has fought in the Korean War and had tried her level best to convince Kim Jo Ill that his nuclear defense problem should not reach the UN but when she could not do it, China simply stays neutral. Hence if we read some of the parliamentary papers of the Iranian government they accused China and Russia to be the follower of US, while Kim Jo Ill simply accused the Chinese as unreliable friend. So also from this example is Burma worth defending by using the veto? If so what will be her image as a gracious leader of Asia if not the world?

The uncountable visits of the Burmese and Chinese dignitaries to each other country is an authentic proof that the Chinese has been silently requesting the Burmese brass to compromise with the people's representative Daw Suu and prevent the problem reaching to the UNSC. But the Generals ignore the Chinese advice and never make a meaningful move. Again the narco production on the side of Burma in the Golden Triangle is causing a lot of problems to the Chinese government who admitted that it has over one million narco addicts in China because of the Junta's indirect policy of encouraging the narco barons and its production. So from these examples and hypothesis, I have great reservations of China using the veto, if the UN would ever decided to wield a big stick on these naughty and nutty Generals?

The United Nations

Burma is not at the top of anyone's agenda in the Security Council as the UNSC is beset with several others more important international affairs (to be exact 143 crisis in the agenda), but it offers the United Nations, a chance to show that it can deal with a threat to global security before it explodes onto the front page. Surely, Burma is not engaging in nuclear blackmail, and it has not attacked a neighboring country. But its malevolent dictatorship does represent a threat to peace. Its depredations at home such as mass rapes, enforced child labor, burning of farms and villages, push masses of refugees across its borders. Its economic failures make it a locus of AIDS and other diseases. Its corruption makes it a leading source of illegal drugs. And its population of 50 million plus suffers under a regime whose repression has set up the world record.

In the face of this anguish, the beleaguered democrats of Southeast Asian nations are convinced that only the Security Council can put the stop to their misery on its agenda. We are not expecting the U.N.-mandated sanctions, let alone peacekeepers or intervention -- only some attention from the UN and the international body that promised, not so long ago, not to let notions of national sovereignty keep it from standing up for human rights.

It seems that the Security Council needs to adopt a resolution calling for the release of the one and only Nobel laureate and pro democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the release of all political prisoners; for a process of national reconciliation with the democrats and ethnic leaders at the table; for U.N. and other international aid to flow directly to Burma's most vulnerable people, not through the corrupt bureaucracy; and for the UN to report back regularly on progress made on all these points. The United Nations would enhance its own stature by associating itself with Burma's nonviolent democrats and ethnic leaders.

The Burmese case has come up to the UN General Assembly several times for more than a decade and several resolutions have been passed with no effect on the Generals, who not only laugh at these resolutions but did not give a damn thing about it. They viewed it as nothing but a debating society. The Junta has swindle the UN, Secretary Generals' representative Razali Ismail, and have banned Professor Paulo Sergio Pinhiero, UN Human Rights Special Reporteur. Now all these has come to a climax and it has reached a point where it no longer ignore the UN. The very fact that it has come to the Security Council indicates that the term either or has arrived and the Junta's version of neither nor has ended.

If every man is for himself, then the logical conclusion is that every country is for itself, including our big gracious neighbors, China and India. The ASEAN countries with its grandiose Constructive Engagement Policy has paid a dear price and are silently gloating that the UN has come to the rescue, even though individual countries tries its level best to exploit Burma' vast natural and human resources.

India, which loves to be surrounded by dictatorial countries, as she has made it clear that it is not in her interest to promote democracy in Burma, now will have to think twice when the Security Council takes the matter into its hands. The biggest democratic country is the world can no longer exploit the people of its biggest neighbor. Other than the Western countries led by the US, the barometer that will decide the fate of Burma in the Security Council is self-interest.

Danger of the Extremists

Even though Burma was brought up at the Security Council, the fate of Burma will have to be decided by the people of Burma themselves and not by the United Nations or by any foreign power. This is an undeniable and undisputable fact. The Security Council is just giving a push to the cart, which will have to roll down hill in its own steam. In the struggle against the Burmese military dictatorship there are two groups, the pro democracy and the autonomy groups and though the majority, see eye to eye there are several extremists on both sides of the groups that could easily hijacked the good and noble cause and play havoc.

The most prominent in the pro democracy group are the Myanmar Chauvinist, who put out the theory that the struggle for democracy is more important than the problem of the ethnic nationalities. Their aim is to sideline, if not to marginalize the ethnic nationalities and goes back to the pre 1962 era, where both the government and the people could crush the ethnic aspirations and pretend that Burma is a monolithic whole. In other words these Myanmar Chauvinist want to practice the tyranny of the majority as in the democratic days of 1948 to 62.

This category of people seems to forget of why the army was able to make a successful military coup in 1962. If the military does not come to power, then there will be no struggle for democracy? There may be several justifications but the main cause is that the civilian government could not solve the ethnic problem. Hence the military came to power with the slogan that it has unwilling taken over power because the Union was about to fall into the deep abyss. This is the crux of the Burmese problem. Until and unless we can solve the ethnic problem, the Burmese crisis will crop up again and again, with a vicious cycle. There must be some sort of Concordat, Federal or whatever to meet the aspirations of the ethnic nationalities on the lines of the Panglong Conference, if we want to solve the problem of Burma from its root cause.

But there are many Myanmar who shares their aspirations with the non-Myanmar, now that they have fought shoulder to shoulder with their ethnic brothers against the common enemy. They have also bitterly tasted the soup of what it is to be a minority living in a foreign land where the language, culture, values and climate is not the same. They are slowly building together in the real spirit of Pyidaungsu, which we hope will be the foundation stone of the real genuine Federal Union of Burma and not the Union of Myanmar with a chauvinist tone, which is both politically and phonetically wrong (the word Myanmar, r is extra and should be Myanma pronounced softly as the word, Mother in English).

The second type of extremist is the racist attitude harbor among the ethnic nationalities, they have their dreams and aspiration to the British colonial days when they have their own territory and governed as their conscience may dictates and fancies may please. This is because the British has given them a free hand in the internal administrations to acquire their allegiance. These racist leaders are unwittingly or indirectly encouraging the Burmese army version of Balkanization and that the army is the only institution that can maintain the country together. We must realize that it was with this version of Balkanization that the Junta got the support from its neighboring giants of China and India not to mention the ASEAN countries that have more ethnic minorities than ours. These neighboring countries are really afraid that the ethnic cauldron would ever spill into their country. No wonder their practice the Constructive Engagement Policy since 1988.

In short there are several lessons to be learnt and now with the putting of the Burma in the Security Council, it is time to reflect our ways. This is the golden chance to grab it or leave it as it will come only in a lifetime. Everybody seems to sense that by throwing their lot with the ethno-democratic forces they could overcome this formidable evil force.

Wavering Leadership

"Like Father like Son(Daughter)", Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only person where all the people of Burma, including the ethnic nationalities trust. Whether we like it or not, it is to be admitted that by arresting her incommunicado, the Junta was able to score a major point over the opposition both the democracy and the ethnic groups as there was not personality of her status to command allegiance.

Roughly, the pro democracy groups in Diaspora are under the umbrella of the UB group and the ethnic under the umbrella of EN groups. The leaders in the peripherals of Burma and those residing in the West often waver and lack vision. In order for the Burmese people to ‘know what they don’t know’ – know what is being kept a secret', it is time to make a post mortem of our struggles with the aim of restoring confidence in our selected leaders that were weak all these one and half dozen years. Though we wish to avoid “witch-hunt” atmosphere, attempting to assign blame to a wide range of groups and organizations, we are reluctant of “naming names” it is time for them to mend their ways and take a more responsible task.

We want dynamic, vigorous and resolute leaders and there is no place for those who have a faint heart and wavers, arguing that putting up the UNSC is impossible as even now there are hypothesis that China and Russia will used the veto and so on. Knowing full well that the Junta's days are numbered, many of the so called people on our sides, not only from the native Burmese but also some farangs, the so called Burmese sympathizers, especially those who have enthusiastically attended the Wilton Park Conference want to soften us.

We will have to set up a system to hold people accountable, for what they have done and without making basic reforms or structural changes, that could prevent future failures, we will not succeed even if the UN is behind us. This basic principle of establishing accountability and responsibility for public servants is essential to a working democracy for demotions, terminations and even recall are part of the democratic traditions. Unless people and groups are held accountable for their actions and inactions, they have no incentive to change and no cause to put the public interest first. All groups serve at the behest of the people, and it is a sacred trust.

(a) Transparency and Accountability: to day in the resistance groups, the basic inquiries into lines of duty, administrative responsibility, organizational restructuring, disciplinary actions, courts of inquiry, performance review, legal actions, or even courts martial have not been visibly activated, which are essential for the success of our noble cause. Accountability is not irrational blame or the search for a scapegoat, it should be a regular and open process of evaluation, reassessment and change. Understandably the primary accountability rest with the top leaders, but there is an additional accountability that must be considered and investigated on the executives who failed, despite numerous warnings and preparations against such failures to perform in ways consistent with their effective responses in the past and their standard emergency procedures.

Lamentably only a handful of officials and administrators have had the decency to date to acknowledge their accountability or to apologize for their shortcomings or failures. There are several people who wish to keep their secrets in their Pandora's box. We want an honest response or to shed light on the critical information necessary for public understanding and the will to change to attain our goal. In this way we can prove that our democracy works as one.

(b) Unanswered and unasked questions: As an ethno democratic forces a mass movement that continue to work in the peripherals of Burma and in the West there are bound to be several omissions and contradictions. The blood of our compatriots flowed in 1988, if not earlier are now silently calling us and asking questions of how do we react and respond to this golden chance of putting the problem in the UNSC? As the people of Burma, even if we are ashamed will have to admit bravely that we cannot solve our own problem and this crisis will have to be solved with the help of the world community, the UN.

The mass deserves reasonable and credible explanations for the failures of both the democratic and ethnic leaders, just to draw lessons and not to repeat the mistakes again. The UN Security Council is the ideal place to present ourselves as well as that of the Junta. Let's use this opportunity to inform the world that we seek to honor the victims by pursuing the truth and calling for justice. It has been 18 years, too long for truth and justice. We must do all we can to make this world known the agenda and true motives of the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw). We owe it to those killed, to those victims of rape, of forced labor, forced relocation for their families, and ourselves. We want to be seen as respectful, concerned people of the Federal Union of Burma. We don't seek for negative confrontation, we make every effort to diffuse the situation by dialogue and we contribute to our presence being an extension of the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

No Place for the Tatmadaw

There are several people who either, want to have a finger in the pie and have no inkling to take out the root cause, by drawing the conclusion that the Tatmadaw is indispensable and must be one of the components of negotiations. This category of people seems to believe the exaggerated notion that the Burmese army is the sole savior of the country in gaining independence. This myth inevitably lends a helping hand to the Tatmadaw, who wants to have a grip on the state power, in perpetuity.

The excesses of ragtag riffraff BIA coming into Burma, under the protective custody of Imperial Japanese army, was the root cause of the Karen insurrections with a snowball effect. When Rangoon was about to fall to the Karen rebels in the late forties, it was the Chin and the Kachin army that saves Rangoon. The ethnic army of first Shan, together with the other ethnic brothers save the Union from the Burma Communist Party, an undisputable facts that the ethnic people really loves the Union. Hence, why was Contemporary History of Burma twisted? Is it for Burmanization (Maha Bama)? In the Japanese records there was no such thing as the Burmese resistance or the Burmese army in the 2nd World War, let alone the Army Day (Resistance Day) which falls on 27th March when the allies and the British Burma Army has already occupied Mandalay, and the whole of upper Burma. Some Japanese army commanders admitted that more soldiers were killed in Karenni state than in the whole campaign in Burma, which clearly indicates that the Karennis fought tooth and nail more than the rag tag Burmese army.

In fact, the original Burmese army composed of two components since its inception, the BIA(BDA,BNA,PBF) and the British Burma army composed of the Chindit, the Karen and most of the ethnic forces. It was amalgamation of these two, that became the Burmese Army, Tatamadaw with General Smith Dun as the supreme commander and Ne Win from the BIA as his assistant. It was by cunning and trickery, with the approval of U Nu that Ne Win replaced him and his professional lieutenants such as Air Commando Saw Shisho Tun, and many ethnic Brigadiers. Maha Bama idea has started since then.

General Aung San who is the founder of the Burmese army had set the example when he resigned from the armed forces to compete in elections and does not compete as a representative of Tatmadaw. Hence historically the Tatamadaw has no place in the making of future Federal Union of Burma.

The second aspect is that the majority, if not every university student starting from 1959 Ava Hall crisis (the army tank destroyed the gates of Ava hall in order to access to the students holed up in the hall) up to this day including the 8888 generation vehemently hated the Burmese army. The Tatmadaw is the ones that destroyed the educations system and the country. Every time there was a crisis they always killed off a number of students. The generations from 1959 up to the 8888 and to day are now the ones that are residing in and outside of Burma that does not look kindly to the Tatamadaw. This explicitly means that as long as the Tatmadaw is there the animosity and the antagonism will goes on and on between the generations of students and the Tatamadaw..

The third aspect is that there must be no single entity that can wield the power of the gun, to eliminate the threat of a military coup. If it is a genuine federal union there must be the province armed forces just like in the old days when we have Karen Rifles, 1st to 4th Chin, 1st to 4th Kachin, 1st Shan, Kayah Yae and so on to protect their own State and Divisions and of course in place of the Tatmadaw there must be a Pyidaungsu Tat (Union army) conscripted from all the ethnic and Myanmar forces, to defend the country from outside encroachment. Only then there will be a check and balance system. If any particular army be they Myanmar or ethnic make an attempt to seize power by force, then the rest can come and defend the Union (Pyidaungsu), as it had done in the late 40s and early 50s.

The fourth aspect is the unwritten philosophy of the Tatmadaw that "We alone are can do it." must be uprooted once and for all for the sake of the genuine Federal Union, Pyidaungsu. This endorse the argument that only the Tatmadaw is patriotic and that that rest are parasites that does not have a pale of patriotism. What an unbelievable and paradoxical phrases as the "Tatmadaw is our father and mother are posted throughout the length and breath of the country and forcing the people to believe, when in fact it is a rapist army, committing unaccountable human rights violations with impunity. Tatmadaw has no regards except the lip service for Pyidaungsu.

The fact that they want to have 25% of the administrative power in the new administrative structure reveals that Tatmadaw is a power maniacs. The evil Tatmadaw, with the connotations of the Burmese word, Taw (such as Naing Gan Taw) depicting a Myanmar empire, if not a chauvinist tone over the ethnic nationalities treating them these ethnic nationalities as if the were the second citizen will have to be eliminated for real peace and genuine Pyidaungsu.

The fifth, and most crucial aspect is that the Burmese army is not sincere and has no love and cetena to the people of Burma. This can be easily comparable to with the latest Thai military coup where General Sonthi Boonyaratglin declared that he will be the interim Prime Minister just for a fortnight and that democracy will return to Thailand within a year, a time line, which the Burmese Generals dared not contemplate. Unlike the Burmese Generals it won't take a decade to draw up the new constitution but would be completed within a year. Unlike Burma, Thailand' s latest coup has the full support of the people. However the most conspicuous aspect is that. Tatmadaw is sorely afraid that the people of Burma will be happy and prosperous e.g. when it came to power in 1988 after killing thousands of peaceful demonstrators they opened up the country economically and of course the investors rush in thinking that it was a genuine market economy and the middle class prosper for a couple of years. Tatmadaw knows that with the rise of the middle class the country will be inching towards democracy because it is a matter of time that this middle class will have a say in politics and so it at once reverse the trend, chasing the investors out of the country and destroying the middle class with the result that the country has now became poor at the bottom of the world's ladder. What more Tamadaw, is still not satisfied and is hindering the works of the NGOs who has come into the country with a sincere heart to help the down trodden and marginalized people. On the whole Tatmadaw has a cruel heart, to look on the suffering of the people but not the world community and when these well meaning NGOs came in they prevent them. They even indirectly forced out the Global Fund and will not let the International Red Cross to come in again. Are we going to give this Tatmadaw a role, which continues to harbor such mentality? In short if one were to solve the Burmese problem from its root this pugnacious Tatmadaw has no place.

Tamadaw Response

Now that Burma is in the agenda of the Security Council, let us examine the response of the Tatmadaw from it headquarters in Kyat Pyae. It simply says that there will be no change, what ever of its policies and will carry out its policies unswervingly. "Under no circumstances will it change these policies just because of pressure, coercion and sanctions," said a five-page- long statement. The statement criticized the United States for using the United Nations. Of course the continue to lie the very concept of truth by declaring that there are no political prisoners and only criminals and felons and terrorists are in jail Concerning Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she was restricted at home for:

"constantly demanding confrontation, defiance of all orders, utter devastation, resorting to four kinds of sanctions and reliance on external elements all of which will lead to harming the national unity, national stability and national development as well as hindering democratization process.."

The irony is that all these 16 years she was never brought to court to face her charges even according to their white lie, it seems that the Tatmadaw cannot even lie logically and scientifically.

Regarding the refugee issue, those residing at the so-called refugee camps in the other country are not genuine refugees but insurgents and their relatives and will not be accepted. The country is now stable, peaceful and tranquil with the prevalence of rule of law and order and development. Regarding the drug issue it is absolutely groundless and that poppy cultivation has decreased. The statement read that the spread of three diseases of HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria to neighboring countries are merely an exaggeration. It finally warned the UN that no encroachment on national sovereignty will be accepted.

The Tatmadaw has taken a hard line stance indicating that there will be no compromise with the United Nations and will fight to the end. Of course they are not empty threats, now it has 17,000 Kamikaze type child soldiers imbued with the spirit of supreme sacrifice. Like Mois Tsombe of Congo, will declared War on the UN and the world and die fighting. In such a scenario, how do we respond?

Prepared for the Worst

Putting Burma in the agenda of the UN Security, (some interpreted as a major victory) is just a feeble step in the right direction, and the ethno democratic forces could not stay complacent but will have to work for it very hard. Let us recollect our beloved Bogyoke Aung San's words before going to London for the Aung San-Attle Agreement of hoping and praying for the best but at the same time preparing for the worst.

This feat will also depend on the outcome of the UNSC. Sanctions have not worked as both China and India including Thailand can easily beat the sanctions. To decide a drastic resolution such as sending troops to enforce the Security Council's resolutions will be met with the veto from China or Russia (read how the Junta eulogize and rely on these two countries as he is now in desperate position). It should be something in between the two extremes, so that both these two dictatorial veto power countries will not use the veto. The US clearly sees this trend and we are positive that our friends at the UNSC would push for it. If it comes to the resolution, something like to settle between the people of Burma themselves, with the backing of the UN, then it is time for the ethno-democratic forces to prepare drastic actions, at least psychologically.

The UNGA has earlier called for a tripartite dialogue (ethnic nationalities, democracy movement and the Junta) and we will have to strive for it. All the ethnic and democratic fighting forces augmented by the Diaspora communities will have to join hands, under a single command and with the backing and funding of the UN in terms of hardware (arms, air and sea cover) will have to fight the Burmese version of the Armageddon. This time it will be the real Pyidaungsu Tat that will speak the Tatmadaw on equal terms, in their own language. Let us move according to the UN agenda curbing our own extremist. Then and only then we will see who will resolutely fight on the Junta's side, on which side the people of Burma will be? On our side it is also going to be a test for those individual and groups of whether they love the country by the lips or by the heart. If we cannot achieve that then there is every, likelihood that Burma will be the Yugoslavia of the East.

But hopefully, the Junta will not reached that point and accepts gracefully of Gambari visit and a sort of a compromise to release Daw Suu and all the political prisoners will be reached. We hope and pray that the Burmese problem will be solved peacefully without bloodshed. If the Myanmar and the non Myanmar cannot come to an agreement, the ethnic nationalities should really think of forming the Union of Nationalities without the Myanmar.

But let us set things right among us by preparing the necessary aspects. Personally may I appeal to the Burmese intelligentsia especially the academics of Social Sciences in Diaspora to come to our rescue and help prepare for this coming Herculean task. The accusation that the academics know it from the beginning and stay mute just to save their skin must be eliminated once and for all.

Way back in 1992, when I was serving at Chulalongkong University as the Press Secretary of the ACRP (Asian Conference on Religion and Peace), I put up a paper titled "A Burmese Appeal to the UN and US" at that time President Clinton and Butros Ghali urging the UN to take up the Burmese case. It was put up through our head office of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) at the UN building. This was later printed into a book and distributed among the resistance groups. In it I clearly outlined the role of the UN and that Burma's case must be put up to the Security Council. I also send this paper to the UB group, since I acknowledge that we should fought under their umbrella. But on reading it they were hilarious about it, saying that I was a bit insane. Now the vision, which I visualize some dozen years ago, has come to fruition.
The point is we need a visionary leader who must be vigorous and dynamic that can correlate the conditions inside Burma ( NLD and the Tatmadaw), the Diaspora (peripheral ethnic forces and the overseas Burmese) and of course with international communities (the UN, the West and the dictatorial countries) and then decipher the best way to achieve our cherished goal, which has come a bit closer. We need to reinforce the existing institutions with farsighted intelligentsia. Now is the time for there will be no medium way either we do or die.

Prof. Kanbawza Win

Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Breaking the Impasse of the Eternal Triangle

Breaking the Impasse of the Eternal Triangle

By / Dr.David Law
[The cartoon, Eternal Triangle, is reproduced here by the kind permission of the Editor of S.H.A.N, Sai Khuensai, and the Artist, Sai Harn Lay.]

In the cartoon, Eternal Triangle originally published in SHAN by the renowned artist, Sai Harn Lay, there are three individuals. Starting from the right to left, the first one is the fat SPDC general yelling, "NO WAY", the second is the Burmese NLD Party Chief holding two flowers, and the third is the Representative for the Combined Ethnic Groups holding three flowers.

NO WAY (or also One-Way, as in One-Way Street)
This refers to the SPDC generals who do not wish to negotiate with any group(s) or parties but only wants to maintain the status quo of holding all the power for themselves. The pistol he holds symbolizes "Might is Right" and the Red Chinese axiom, "Power is from the mouth of the gun barrel". At the present time, SPDC is the most powerful group in the Eternal Triangle and has no need to talk. Besides, they are probably also afraid to talk since that will only spill out the countless War Crimes they have committed against the nation's people. They may be militarily the strongest but morally weakest. Talking will only expose their greatest vulnerability, which is their immorality, their wickedness. Talking, in their opinion, would only result in giving away power and possessions in a fourth world nation which is dirt-poor.

For the purposes of this essay, I would like to make a small modification and call the NO WAY with an alternative name, One-Way, as in One-Way Street.

In variance with what I just said above, there are circumstances when SPDC will talk and that is in a structured, controlled environment such as in the bogus National Convention where every delegate is pre-programmed to nod like a lizard and flatter the generals like a frog. In English, to become rubber-stamps. Thus, everyone under its power would have to go along the One-Way Street, the Ta-Lann Maung Lanzin.

In essence SPDC is saying, My Way or Highway (get out)

What are the drawbacks of the No Way / One-Way Option?

SPDC will get richer and the people will get poorer in extremis.
The Red Chinese will most likely continue to support SPDC since it is such a useful puppet regime doing the dirty, bloodstained job of suppressing all dissent. That way, the Red Chinese can quietly and gradually take over the whole country and Burma will cease to exist except in name.

The Burmese Kyat will become worthless and replaced by the Chinese Yuan and other foreign currencies. All natural resources will have been completely plundered, and the ecosystem will be polluted with industrial waste. The Ethnic Groups will be extinct and the Burmans will become "royal" slaves, (Kyun Daw), under the control of a puppet Burmese king, who will become like the thet-oo hsan-paing despot of old, the primary possessor of all the lives (thet-oo), yes, even every single hair (hsan), of his royal slaves. There will be three classes of people in Burma, which will become the 25th province of China. The first class will be the Chinese, the second will be the SPDC king, his army and party, and thirdly will be the down-trodden ordinary Burmese Kyun Daw slaves. It is ironic that the humble, polite word for "I" in Burmese has always been "Kyun Daw" because we are now all royal slaves of King Than Shwe. He and his minions will live in luxury like Kim Jong IL and his army/party members in North/Myauk (also Monkey) Korea.
The Chinese, Russians, North Koreans, and Indians (foolishly competing with China) will upgrade the SPDC Army into the most powerful one in all of Southeast Asia and arm it with nuclear missiles.

Then, SPDC will be encouraged to invade Thailand and drive out all American influences in that region.

China, through its puppet regime SPDC will thus control Thailand all the way to the southern tip of Songkla, which is only a few hundred miles from the Straits of Malacca.
Burma has invaded Thailand six times between the 12th to 18th century at the rate of once every century and sacked the royal capitol of A-Yudia three times. A-Yudia means Un-Conquerable, and in Burmese, the common name for Thailand is Yodayah, a corruption of Yudia, the Conquerable. The only reasons Thailand was left in peace the last couple of centuries was because of British colonial control, and in the past fifty years, the presence of Ethnic Armies along the Burma-Thai frontier which acts as a Buffer Zone.

Burma will attack Thailand in this decade as evidenced in the purchase of Russian MiG 29 jets and missiles, Ukrainian armored tanks, and Chinese gunboats.

What is the proof that SPDC will invade Thailand? SPDC is accusing the US and Thailand of preparing to invade Thailand and is therefore justified in counter-invading Thailand. Consider this analogy: prior to the start of the Korean War, the North Koreans brainwashed its soldiers that the South was about to invade them, which was untrue. Thus, while the South was having a national holiday and much of its soldiers were on vacation, the North announced to its soldiers that the long-expected invasion from the South had begun (a complete lie) and ordered them to counter-invade the South. The same sort of bellicose rhetoric is coming from SPDC today.
The US is preparing to invade Burma, hence the capitol has to be moved to Pyinmana Kyet Pyay / Chicken Run. Hence the SPDC must upgrade its weaponry and “defend” itself, most likely by a counter-invasion into Thailand, just like the excuses North Korea had when it invaded the South. Observe how the SPDC has recently mollycoddled itself with North Korea, in exchange for its missiles, artillery, and nuclear weapons.

Thus, the No Way / One-Way Street Option will only lead to the ruin of not just Burma, but also Thailand and the rest of the region.

The NLD’s Two-Way Option

NLD and its Burmese supporters would like to negotiate with the SPDC one-on-one, as evidenced in the 12 February Union Day announcement. But SPDC is disdainful and scornful, denigrating NLD as a nonentity.
From NLD’s perspective, it is an advantage to negotiate in two-way talks since it has no military force and all it can do is talk. However, to compensate for its lack of physical force, NLD does have the higher moral ground, which SPDC totally lacks. Talking is an area where NLD has its greater superiority and it has everything to gain by using this tactic. In fact, NLD really has no other choice except to talk. Its politicking activities have been curtailed. Recruitment has been blunted, and whatever members it has have been dwindling due to harassment from SPDC.

Proponents of this Two-Way Option want to see only the NLD versus SPDC. They do not want to have any Ethnic Group take a third party in any talks with SPDC. NLD feels that any third party would be a phyet-myin, a spoiling horse that will disrupt its effectiveness. This is like in America where there is the Republican vs. Democratic parties. Ten years ago, there was Ross Perot and his Independent party which took away some of the votes from the Republicans and thus the Democrats won.

Similarly, NLD sympathizers feel that a third party of Ethnics will divide the combined Ethno-Democratic forces into two parts. It is very significant that NLD announced its call for two-party talks on Union Day, 12 February. On that day in 1947, General Aung San was able to conclude the famous Treaty held in Panglong, Shan State, in which delegates from the Kachin, Shan, and Chin ethnic groups pledged to unite with the /Burmese group into a single Union as a show of solidarity in their struggle for independence from the British.

Thus, NLD is trying to re-enact History when it called for a unified Ethno-Democratic force under the banner of the NLD in negotiating with the SPDC. Proponents of NLD have scorned certain Ethnic leaders who, in their eyes, are only trying to secede from the Union and create self-serving separate nations which would only weaken the NLD’s position. They criticize such radical Ethnic leaders as extremists and racists who are only trying to break up the Union.

The Consequences of the NLD’s Two-Way Option

The idea of a two-way talk sounds good if NLD is strong and able to overcome the SPDC in a one-against-one struggle. In the case of the 1947 Panglong Agreement, General Aung San was able to square up against the British in his demand for Independence and rightfully claim that most of the Ethnic Groups (Except the Karen and others) were with him and hence the British finally decided to hand over all of Burma in one piece. From the British point of view, it was the post-war period and Britain was trying to recover from the war. The Labor Party had taken over from the Conservatives and was in no mood to be haggling with different Ethnic Groups and was simply glad to hand over Burma in just one fell swoop instead of having to negotiate with half-a-dozen bickering parties. Never mind the promises that the wartime British guerillas had made to the Karen and other groups for a separate homeland. The Labor Party was always prone to wipe off with their feet whatever the Conservatives wrote with their hands. Thus, the one-to-one option was beneficial to both Burma’s Aung San and Britain, hence the transaction was completed successfully.

However, today, we are talking about a different set up. It is between NLD and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi versus a barbaric SPDC regime. No matter how united the NLD is, SPDC is not about to surrender everything it holds near and dear like the British. The worst vulnerability of NLD is its lack of political and military strength. Yes, it used to hold the support of millions of people during its heyday years ago, but no longer. Membership has plummeted, leaders imprisoned, and the people terrorized. The only Burmese democratic military groups, the ABSDF and the Vigorous Young Burmese Warriors have dwindled and routed respectively. Thus the NLD is like a toothless, clawless tiger with sore throat which cannot even roar.

As such, SPDC has become openly contemptuous of NLD, dismissing it as a powerless weakling and refusing to talk. Thus, the long-term consequences of the Two-Way Option, by default, is the same as that of the No Way / One-Way Option. In the short-term results, continued insistence of the Two-Way Route will only result in further suppression of NLD and the eventual assassination of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Ethnic Groups’ Three-Way Option

The Ethnic leaders want to have their own voice in the talks. During the 1947 negotiations, they placed their trust in Gen. Aung San and let him do the talking for them. Consequently, when Aung San died, the wonderful Panglong Document died along with him, and all their human rights were trampled under Indagaw boots. (this is a boot factory near Rangoon that manufactures combat boots for the Myanmar Army) Now, under the Two-Way Plan, they again have to place their trust in the daughter of Aung San, who is liable to be assassinated at any time like her father. History will repeat itself, and they will once more be screwed.

There is a very oft-told proverbial story called “Ma Aye Who was Twice-Injured” (Ma Aye Nhit Khar Nar) Ma Aye was a simple, naive village girl who was seduced by Maung Ni, the cunning rake. She had never known what sex was and much less the concept of virginity. So when her mother demanded to know why she came home late in such a disheveled state, she explained what Maung Ni had done. Her mother wailed and cried, “Ma Aye, you have lost your virginity.” Being very naïve about sex, she did not know what was virginity, so she went back to Maung Ni and demanded that he give her back her virginity. Maung Ni replied, no problem, took her back to the same bed and said he would repeat the whole process, but this time, restore her virginity. Of course he did not. As soon as Ma Aye was in a compromised position, he again seduced her. Thus, when Ma Aye returned home that night, she explained what had happened to her mother who then exclaimed, “Ma Aye, you have been injured twice!”

Yes, this story is very sexist, but the fact is that it is often quoted to warn someone not to get swindled twice in the same manner. “Don’t get hurt twice like Ma Aye!” So the Ethnic Groups are not going to fall into the same predicament twice. Thus they will not agree to a two-way option because past history is too painful. Instead, they want to have their own combined Ethnic Groups as a third party.

Last year, when the newly-formed Interim Shan Government made its dramatic Declaration of Independence, NLD as well as SPDC both condemned it as secessionist act. This was seen by other Ethnics as a rejection of their legitimate concerns and thus NLD lost a lot of credibility among the Ethnics. E.g., the Mon Ethnic group openly counter-condemned NLD’s stance. Thus, how could the Ethnic Forces be expected to unify under the banner of the NLD and shut up their voices? More than ever, they want to have a separate voice in any negotiation.
What are the chances of the Ethnics having a chance of negotiating with SPDC? If recent history is any indication, two dozen Ethnic Armies in the past 15 years have entered into negotiations with SLORC-SPDC. Why is it that SPDC was so agreeable to sit and talk with Ethnics whose individual strength is a fraction of the NLD’s manpower? Because the Ethnics had guerrilla military power. According to the British formula for anti- guerrilla warfare in their Malaya campaign during the fifties, each guerrilla had to be matched with at least twelve conventional soldiers or else there was no chance of success. Thus, the 30,000 strong Wa Army needs to be countered with at least 360,000 SPDC soldiers, which is 90 % of their total. Thus, SPDC did not mess around much with the Wa Army and gave them generous privileges in their cease fire negotiations.

The 10,000 strong KNLA needs to be opposed with at least 120,000 SPDC soldiers, which is still a significant portion of the total Army, so SPDC a few years ago began talks with KNU. However, as KNU continued to lose strength because of the breakaway DKBA fraction, SPDC no longer respected the KNU and broke their “gentlemen’s agreement” to attack Karen villages by the thousands. Likewise because SSA and KNPP were not as strong, SPDC has not deigned to talk with them and continues to attack their people.

The ideal situation is for all the Ethnic Armies to unite as one to reach an arbitrary strength of, say, 50,000 which will then require at least 600,000 BATS (Burma Army Terrorist Soldiers) as a counter-weight.

At present, there are only 400,000 BATS. In addition, if the Ethnics were to further unite with the NLD, then the combined Ethno-Democratic Forces will be a force to be reckoned with, and SPDC will have to negotiate.

NLD, in order to win the trust of the Ethnic Armies, should let them have their Third Party three-way option. In order to dispel any fears of Ma Aye getting hurt a second time. Consider the US-North Korean talks. The latter only wants Bilateral talks, but the US wants to have a six-nation meeting: US, North and South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia. The US has some economic leverage with all of them and so it is advantageous for the US to have four other nations with itself to face-off against the North Koreans.

Likewise, if there can be a strong alliance between NLD and EA, then it would be better to have Trilateral Talks. An ABSDF leader wrote a strong article calling for the EA to trust NLD and unite with them.

Since NLD has no fighting soldiers and the ABSDF strength is very low, they will have to ask the soldiers of the EA to fight and die for them. Thus it would be an exchange of sorts: EA will offer their fighters in return for a Trilateral Talks. To demand that the EA shut up and have no representation while also demanding their warriors to die for the NLD is too much.
In conclusion, Trilateral Talks are the only answer to breaking out of the impasse of the Eternal Triangle.

Each side will have to give up something to make this happen. All the NLD and EA forces must unite to form an alliance which SPDC will then have to respect. In return, NLD can grant EA to have their Third Party component while the EA extends their military support to NLD. The problem is SPDC. In order to prevent such an alliance from ever happening, SPDC is accusing NLD of having contact with EA and has branded the EA as terrorists. So the poor NLD is unable to call for support. The solution to this would be for the EA to build up military force powerful enough for SPDC to give respect and come to the negotiating table. Then, for superficial appearances, the EA can and should be a Third Party and deny any contact with NLD. That way, NLD can have the support of EA without being accused of treason.

Dr. David Law

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tough year in the offing for Wa

News - S.H.A.N.

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

The visit to Panghsang by Lt-Gen Thein Sein, Secretary 1 of the ruling military council's, August 15 had failed to bring about the relaxation in the restrictions on the timber and mineral exports imposed by China at the request of Burmese authorities, according to both local and non-local businessmen.

Thein Sein had met the Wa's No. 2 man, Xiao Minliang, to negotiate the resumption of the hitherto booming timber and mineral trade suspended since March 26. "He had proposed that the Wa allow junta-operated immigration, customs and schools to move in," said a disappointed Thai businessman of Shan descent. "The Wa, however, had refused to budge." The report was confirmed by a Wa source.

On the other hand, human traffic has not been affected by the ban, which is in sharp contrast to Panghsang's neighbour Mongla in the southeast, run by its ally Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian, where passages by people are heavily restricted but trucks loaded with coal, manganese and other minerals mined in the area roll into China practically unchecked. (Nay Pyi Taw's schools, customs and immigration are permitted to operate in Mongla.)

Back in Panghsang, timber trucks can pass through the border checkpoints into China 's Meng Lien only after paying a hefty duty, Y 5,000 ($ 625) per ton. In addition, there must be sufficient documentation that the logs originate either in Thailand or Laos , but not Burma. "For big companies, that's not such a big deal," said a Chinese businessman of Shan descent. "But for many other such as ours, it's not an easy option."

Over a year has gone by since the Wa had declared its drug-free stance, and as each month goes by, they are finding it more and more challenging to stick to their word, although Xiao Minliang, on June 26 making the first difficult year of the Wa's "supreme sacrifice", as he called it, had promised to hang on whatever the outcome.

"We had expected that assistance would flow in," said a Wa administrative officer in Pangkham ( Land of Gold ), as Panghsang ( Land of Bamboo ) is officially known. "But what we are getting is only a tenth of what we need."

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), for instance, has only been able to provide rice for children going to school, but not much for adults, according to him.

The WFP, in its April evaluation report, made no bones about the Wa statement. One big problem it has been facing since the ouster of Gen Khin Nyunt in 2004 is that it has to go through a "cumbersome permit process": first, from the Trade Policy Council headed by Deputy Senior General Maung Aye; secondly, from the Rangoon Region Command before transporting rice to Mandalay; thirdly, from the Mandalay-based Central Region Command before transporting rice to Lashio; and finally, from the Lashio-based Northeastern Region Command before transporting it to the Wa, Kokang, Kachin and Palaung recipients.

"What's more, their attempt to sell off their old stock (of heroin) in September (2005) had also been foiled (when the Burma Army, reportedly tipped off by China seized the cargo in Mongpiang)," said the Thai businessman. "So their only way out is to hand over the financial rein to Wei Hsuehkang (which they did on July 4)."

Wei Hsuehkang, the de facto commander of 171st Military Region that adjoins northern Thailand, is wanted both in the kingdom and the United States on drug charges.

Commenting on the latest developments, Sao Seng Suk, Chairman of the exiled Shan Democratic Union (SDU), said, "It seems the junta is doing its best to prevent the Wa from turning over a new leaf."

The WFP meanwhile is planning to continue its food programme for another three years, from January 2007 to December 2009. Besides the WFP, another UN agency, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is operating in the Wa region.