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The Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC) promised to help Tibetan refugees yesterday, saying those who entered the country illegally may be granted legal resident status.

More than 100 Tibetans have been staging a sit-in at Liberty Square in Taipei since Tuesday, demanding that the government grant them legal resident status or at least a work permit.

They were forcibly removed from the demonstration site and dropped off in the outskirts of the city, including Guandu (關渡), Nangang (南港) and in the mountains in Neihu (內湖) at around 3am yesterday.

While a majority of the group — who speak little Mandarin — struggled to find their way back, 10 members who have been living in Taiwan for decades and are naturalized Taiwanese turned to the commission to plead for help for their Tibetan comrades.

“There are hundreds of Tibetans out there who entered Taiwan on forged [Indian and Nepalese] passports — they don’t have stable jobs because they cannot legally work here,” Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association chairman Jangka (蔣卡) told reporters.

“They live in extreme poverty and often wake up in the morning not knowing where their lunch and dinner will come from. They cannot return to India, they have nowhere to go now,” he said.

“Please help them. Give them at least work permits so they can live,” he said.

A Tibetan who has no legal resident status in Taiwan told the Taipei Times that he makes about NT$10,000 (US$299) a month doing part-time jobs and lives with 13 other Tibetans in an 85m² apartment with one living room and two bedrooms.

Commission Secretary-General Chien Shih-yin (錢世英), who received the Tibetan representatives, said that help from the commission was on the way.

“We understand that it’s difficult to find jobs without legal status, but it’s not an issue that can be resolved by the MTAC alone,” Chien told the Tibetans.

“That’s why we’re in the process of coordinating efforts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Immigration Agency and the Ministry of the Interior to revise the Immigration Act [出入國及移民法]” Chien said. “We’re doing something — but please understand that this cannot be done within one day.”

Chien’s words failed to pacify the Tibetans.

“You always want us to wait, wait, wait — how long do we have to wait? Ten years?” one of them shouted.

Chien then threatened to discontinue the talk if the Tibetan representatives continued shouting.

Taiwan Friends of Tibet vice chairman Yang Chang-chen (楊長鎮) and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), who accompanied the Tibetan, said the government should treat Tibetans without legal status in Taiwan in the same way it treated refugees from Thailand and Myanmar earlier this year.

Around 400 stateless Thai and Myanmar refugees who entered the country illegally were granted temporary residency so that they could work before the Immigration Act is amended.

Chien agreed and promised the commission would try to forward the proposal during Cabinet meetings.

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.

(Reuters) – Myanmar’s junta extended the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, a move likely to dismay Western nations who promised millions of dollars in aid after Cyclone Nargis.

Officials drove to the Nobel laureate’s lakeside Yangon home to read out a six-month extension order in person, said a government official, who asked not to be named.

However, a Yangon-based diplomat said it was for a year.

The 62-year-old Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a 1990 election landslide only to be denied power by the army, has now spent nearly 13 of the last 18 years under some form of arrest.

Her latest period of detention started on May 30, 2003 “for her own protection” after clashes between her supporters and pro-junta thugs in the northern town of Depayin. The last of a series of year-long extensions expired on Tuesday.

Although few expected Suu Kyi to be released, the extension is a timely reminder of the ruling military’s refusal to make any concessions on the domestic political front despite its grudging acceptance of foreign help after the May 2 cyclone.

Hours before the extension, police arrested 20 NLD members trying to march to Suu Kyi’s home.

State-controlled media on Tuesday praised the United Nations for the help it has given to the 2.4 million people left destitute in the Irrawaddy delta, suggesting a thaw in the junta’s frosty relationship with the outside world.

The English-language New Light of Myanmar, the generals’ main mouthpiece, said U.N. agencies took “prompt action” to provide relief supplies after the cyclone, which left 134,000 people dead or missing.

Activists criticized U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for not speaking out about Suu Kyi’s detention during his recent visit to Myanmar, which the U.N. chief said was purely a humanitarian mission.

“It is shameful that Ban Ki-Moon went to Burma and failed even to utter her name,” Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK, said.

“He is playing into the regime’s hands. The U.N. is crawling on its knees before the regime, afraid to speak the truth in case it affects aid access deals, which the regime is already breaking in any case,” he said.

Three weeks after the cyclone’s 120 mph (190 kph) winds and sea surge devastated the delta, the U.N. says fewer than one in three of those most in need have received any aid.

Thousands of beggars line the roads, with droves of children shouting “Just throw something” at passing vehicles.

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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


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.”


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