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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed growing frustration with the military government in Burma, calling once again on its leadership to release all political prisoners and start a genuine dialogue with the opposition. The secretary-general convened a meeting late Friday with representatives from numerous countries that make up his friends on Myanmar group. Myanmar is the other name by which Burma is known.

He said since the group last met in September, there is a growing frustration among himself and members that their efforts have yet to yield results. “The government of Myanmar has officially declared that cooperation with the United Nations is a cornerstone of their foreign policy. We welcome it and we look forward to continue and expect concrete action by them to implement their commitment.”

The group’s meeting comes days after 112 former presidents and prime ministers from around the world sent a letter to the U.N. chief urging him to travel to Burma to secure the release of all political prisoners before the end of this year.

Human rights groups say there are more than two thousand prisoners of conscience in Burmese jails.

Mr. Ban told reporters following the closed-door session, that while he is ready to return to Burma to continue talks with the leadership on humanitarian and political issues, the timing would have to be right. “At this time it is not the right atmosphere for me to undertake my own visit there. But I am committed and ready to visit any time whenever I can have reasonable expectations of my visit to be productive and meaningful.”

Mr. Ban visited Burma and met with top leaders after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country in May. His special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, has made four visits to that country in the last year. His last trip was widely criticized for not achieving any gains.

The secretary-general called on all countries that have influence with the government in Burma to use it to urge the government to honor its commitments.

MPs from 8 European countries have come together to form a new Parliamentary
caucus on Burma. The new caucus is launched to coincide with the 63rd
birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi – the detained leader of Burma’s democracy
movement. They hope to recruit more than 200 MPs to the caucus before the
end of the year.

The caucus aims to raise awareness of Burma in Europe and pressure European
governments to do more to bring about democratic transition in Burma. The 7
key objectives are:

· To seek stronger action on Burma from European governments, the
European Union, the United Nations Security Council, and other governments
and international institutions.

· To foster contacts with our fellow MPs from Burma.

· To foster contacts with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on
Myanmar, and other Asian MPs.

· To put forward motions, questions, and initiate debates on Burma in
our Parliaments.

· To provide monthly updates on the situation in Burma for European MPs.

· To cultivate links with civil society organisations knowledgeable
about Burma.

· To act as a strong public voice for democratisation in Burma.

John Bercow, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary group for Democracy in
Burma in the British Parliament said: “We are creating this European
Parliamentary Caucus on Burma because it will enable parliamentarians from
across Europe to share information and to lobby together for more effective
measures to bring the regime to heel and to speed up the progress to
democracy for the long suffering people of Burma.”

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YI BUI KHAW, Myanmar – The saffron-robed monks who spearheaded a bloody uprising last fall against Myanmar‘s military rulers are back on the front lines, this time providing food, shelter and spiritual solace to cyclone victims.

The military regime has moved to curb the Buddhist clerics’ efforts, even as it fails to deliver adequate aid itself. Authorities have given some monasteries deadlines to clear out refugees, many of whom have no homes to return to, monks and survivors say.

“There is no aid. We haven’t seen anyone from the government,” said U Pinyatale, the 45-year-old abbot of the Kyi Bui Kha monastery sharing almost depleted rice stocks and precious rainwater with some 100 homeless villagers huddled within its battered compound.

Similar scenes are being repeated in other areas of the Irrawaddy delta and Yangon, the country’s largest city, where monasteries became safe havens after Cyclone Nargis struck May 3 — and the regime did little.

“In the past I used to give donations to the monks. But now it’s the other way around. It’s the monks helping us,” said Aung Khaw, a 38-year-old construction worker who took his wife and young daughter to a monastery in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingtharyar after the roof of his flimsy house was blown away and its bamboo walls collapsed.

One of the monastery’s senior monks said he tried to argue with military officials who ordered the more than 100 refugees to leave.

“I don’t know where they will go. But that was the order,” he said, asking for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The government has not announced such an order, which appeared to be applied selectively. Other monasteries in Yangon have been told to clear out cyclone victims in coming days, the monk said, but in the delta, refugees were being allowed to remain or told they could come to monasteries for supplies but not shelter.

“They don’t want too many people gathering in small towns,” said Hla Khay, a delta boat operator. The regime “is concerned about security. With lots of frustrated people together, there may be another uprising.”

Larger monasteries were being closely watched by troops and plainclothes security men — “invisible spies” as one monk called them.

Such diversion of manpower at a time when some 1.5 million people are at risk from disease and starvation reflects the regime’s fear of a replay of last September, when monks led pro-democracy demonstrations that were brutally suppressed.

Monks were shot, beaten and imprisoned, igniting anger among ordinary citizens in this devoutly Buddhist country. An unknown number remain behind bars, and others have yet to return to their monasteries after fleeing for fear of arrest.

“I think after the September protests, the government is afraid that if people live with the monks in the monasteries, the monks might persuade them to participate in demonstrations again,” said a dentist in Yangon, who also asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals.

Newspapers have been ordered not to publish stories about monks aiding the people, and at least one monastery and one nunnery in Yangon were prohibited from accepting any supplies from relief organizations.

“The government is very controlling,” said U Pinyatale, the abbot at the Kyi Bui Kha monastery. “Those who want to give directly to the victims get into trouble. They have to give to the government or do it secretly. (The military) follows international aid trucks everywhere. They don’t want others to take credit.”

It appears unlikely that foreign aid organizations seeking to enter Myanmar will be allowed to use monks as conduits for relief supplies as many had hoped.

“One of the best networks already in place in the country are the monks,” said Gary Walker of PLAN, a British-based international children’s group, speaking from Bangkok. “So we’ll be exploring ways in which we can see whether the monks can start distributing supplies throughout the country.”

At the Kyi Bui Kha monastery, located on the banks of the Pyapon River deep in the delta, U Pinyatale glanced anxiously at the remaining 10 bags of rice.

“At most, we have enough for the week. We will have to find a way to get more food,” he said as monks and villagers worked together to try to dry the sodden rice, even as rain clouds gathered above the largely roofless monastery.

In Yangon, monks have been able to go out on their traditional morning rounds to accept food donations from the faithful and then share these with refugees at their monasteries. But in devastated areas of the delta that is not an option.

About 90 of the 120 houses in Kyi Bui Kha have been totally destroyed. Gaps in the monastery’s storm-riddled wooden walls revealed a 360-degree view of ravaged rice fields.

U Pinyatale said the sanctuary’s two dozen monks and nuns were also trying to offer spiritual comfort to the traumatized villagers.

“We pray with them. We pray for the dead to go to the peaceful land of the dead and for the living to rebuild their lives,” he said.

“When the cyclone came, all of us hid in the rice warehouse. I saw one person holding tightly onto a tree but he did not make it,” the abbot added. “After the storm, there were dead bodies floating everywhere. Some people get nightmares. Some hear voices at night that their dead children are calling for help. Some haven’t spoken since.”

From Burmese Bloggers w/o Borders:

MAE SOT, Thailand: One of the main organizers of the September protest marches in Myanmar, Ashin Kovida, a 24-year-old Buddhist monk, escaped to Thailand last week by carrying a false identification card, dying his hair blond and wearing a crucifix.

On Thursday, Ashin Kovida offered details of his harrowing escape and insights into what has remained a central question about the September protests: Who organized the orderly lines of saffron-robed monks who marched through Yangon – and how.

Ashin Kovida crossed the border to Thailand illegally and said Thursday that he was planning to request refugee status. He is wanted by Myanmar’s military government, which accuses him of storing explosives in his monastery in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. The monk called that accusation absurd.

In a six-hour interview in this border town, he painted a picture of a bare-bones organization, a group of 15 monks in their 20s who organized the September demonstrations. He said he had been elected leader of the group and had been inspired by videos of the popular uprisings in Yugoslavia against the government of Slobodan Milosevic. The group received financial help from three well-known Burmese dissidents – an actor, a comedian and a poet – but did not receive any foreign assistance during their protests, Ashin Kovida said.

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Prominent leaders of the 88 Generation Students group, who led protests in August, were arrested at a hiding place in Rangoon on Saturday morning, said dissident sources.

The leaders, who were arrested on October 12, were named as Htay Kywe, Mie Mie and Aung Thu. A fourth person, Ko Ko, who helped them hide, was also arrested last night, said the sources.

Another leader of the group, Soe Tun, told The Irrawaddy that he heard news of the arrest today and has been trying several times to contact them. “But I have not been able to reach them,” said Soe Tun from his hiding place.

“We have asked the international community many times to help us and to monitor the detainees’ situation at detention centers. Former student leaders, such as Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi have spent more than 15 years behind bars. At the very least, the International Committee of the Red Cross should be able to visit them immediately,” said Soe Tun.

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THE mystery of what happened to Burma’s saffron army, the thousands of monks who inspired a nation to rise up against a brutal regime, then vanished overnight, has been unlocked.

Taken from their monasteries in a wave of midnight raids, they have been held in primitive, humiliating conditions designed to break them down physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The account of an 18-year-old novice, who was taken from the Mingalar Rama monastery in Rangoon, reveals that while the military may be in physical control, the monks still wield a powerful spiritual weapon.

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These images were taken inside Burma during the recent uprising. Obviously I cannot name who took them for safety reasons, nor do I want to link to the person who allowed me to post them. If you recognize these pictures… thank you, for letting the truth be shown.

(9) A young Burmese Buddhist monk holding a bowl upside down (24-9-07).jpg

(16) Burmese Buddhist nuns marching with prayers (24-9-07).jpg

(15) Burmese Buddhist monks marching, praying (24-9-07).jpg

Aftermath

Burma Point – http://www.burmapoint.com

October 2, 2007

Press Release
U.N. Actions on Burma Should be Re-examined

People of Burma have constantly been hoping that United Nations would rescue them from the country ruled by the worst regime in the world. Many people have dropped their hopes only because the world body proved that it is unable to do anything concretely to intervene in order to save them from recent and current killings by the brutal regime in Burma.

In the midst of the recent killings, the U.N. sends a special envoy Mr. Ibrahim Gambari to Burma to ease the situation there. However, the top generals are still playing games with the top U.N. official, who once said after his first visit to Burma that the regime was ready to “turn a new page”. While Mr. Gambari is running up and down in the country to reconcile the nation, the generals are continuing to kill more monks, young students and ordinary citizens, according Burmese media.

The question is “Can the U.N. do anything to save those peaceful people?”

On September 29, Burma Point received a report that the U.N. office in Rangoon is useless. We have also receieved similar reports in the past about the office led by Mr. Charles Petrie, the U.N. country coordinator.

The particular report says that people tried calling the hot line numbers provided by the U.N. office on the night of September 28, when they heard that soldiers were approaching monasteries to make arrests. But a male employee at the office replied to one of the callers saying he would put it in record and he would also inform the U.N. When others made calls, an official responded that the office “could not do anything to help”.

It is obvious the fact that monks and people are being killed and dissapearing according to our sources. As a matter of fact, even food donors to protesters and onlookers are now being arrested and perhaps tortured. Some have been sent to infamous Insein jail without any legal charges by the authority. Now, the rest of the many peaceful monks have been forced to take off their robes. Many teachers and their students, who are in their teens, were ordered to kneel down and slapped by soldiers because they were somehow involved in the movement, said a woman. Thus, we strongly condemn the act of the regime that calls themselves State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Myint Soe, a former Central Working Committee member of the National League for Democracy party, which is led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, said that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Rangoon is corrupted. Much of the planned development programmes are incomplete.

“Projects staffs and participants who are going to attend the workshops or trainings had to take recommendation letter from police station and even Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) about whether he or she has not involved in any criminal cases and political activities”, Myint Soe, Secretary of National League for Democracy – Liberated Area, explained.

USDA and police in Burma are, today, the real criminals that have killed hundreds of peaceful monks and people. Should our people continue to get recommendation letters from these departments?

We are very sadden and disappointed the fact that the U.N. continues to stay silent on the corruptions that exist between its officials and the ruling regime.

We, again, request that the U.N., the world leading organization, to protect and stand by its principles stated in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights by raising the loudest voice and taking concrete actions to prevent further killings and tortures by the ruling SPDC.

Contact: Moe Chan – 646-643-8689, 718-396-1464

Evening at the Shwedagon Pagoda
Photo From Helmut Schadt

From the Irrawaddy News Magazine

Burma Information Blackout: The Media War

“…This week, the incoming news has slowed down, and images are in short supply, yet the violent crackdown continues. Burma news has slipped back, replaced by the Ukraine election, the South Korean president’s visit to the north and events in Iraq.

The regime also successfully kept a lid on information about the UN envoy’s visit as Ibrahim Gambari spent much of his time in Naypyidaw, the dusty new capital where the regime’s propaganda war machine churns out its bizarre version of events.

But the news we received from Rangoon was appalling. Pre-dawn raids on monasteries did not stop. My colleague in Rangoon told me, “Monks were hunted down by soldiers, and they are now in hiding,” some monasteries were deserted and civilians protected monks by providing them hideouts. Notorious Insein Prison and temporary detention centers were filled with monks and civilians.

Reports suggest that monks in detention centers continue to hold to the alms boycott, refusing to accept alms or food from regime supporters. Some reports say that monks went on a hunger strike.

We also learned this week about the tremendous hardships faced by average people and reporters in Rangoon.”

MORE…

Doing my rounds of the news tonight, I began to fall into a deep despair as I saw Burma and the monks slipping slowly from the pages and falling into obscurity. Anger washes over me and I am incensed that we are not taking more note of this. Thousands of monks have been injured and removed from their monasteries. The military is still raiding monasteries, still removing monks from hospitals and other places.

And what are we doing?

Writing about Britney Spears, Baseball, or how much Ford sales have plummeted.

I’m sorry… but some things are more important. Even on the BBC website it talks how Clinton is now the lead fundraiser (shame it’s all going to be wasted on bullshit political campaigning and not humanitarian work… )

Anyway, that being said, at least the BBC had a report tonight:

“”I’m really scared,” said one woman when she was sure no-one else could hear.

“I don’t want to be the next one to get a knock on the door from the soldiers in the middle of the night,” another man said.

They have good reason to be concerned. Thousands of monks and others who led the marches of the past few weeks have now been arrested – and these arrests are still continuing.

Most are picked up under cover of nightfall and corralled into large, heavily-guarded buildings on the outskirts of the city, such as the Government Technical Centre and the National Library.

The government has yet to confirm any details about the names or numbers of detainees, and families are left unsure whether their loved ones are imprisoned, dead or in hiding.”

More here:

BBC Asia