Burma, The Maldives and India (Dalits) update
April 18, 2006

Burma

1. Hundreds more Karen displaced in continuing attacks by Burma Army

At least 209 people have been forced to flee attacks in Toungoo District, an area that has seen continued offensives by the Burma Army in recent weeks. In addition, the situation in Mon Township, Nyaunglebin District continues to deteriorate, with over 1,400 still displaced in this township alone and more Burma Army troops on the move, according to the Free Burma Rangers. A total of 4,500 are displaced in this district, after Burma Army attacks wiped out homes in the area. In a recent report, the Free Burma Rangers said that: “Two civilians fishing near their village were shot by a Burma Army patrol. One man died on the spot, the other although badly wounded managed to run away. This incident occurred on 9 April, in the area of Thu Bin Yu village, close to the border of Nyaunglebin and Toungoo Districts, Western Karen State, Burma. The Burma Army patrol of about 300 men is now on the way to these men's village. Now the villagers are preparing to flee.” In other attacks, a nine year-old Karen girl was shot, after her father and grandfather were killed. For further information see www.freeburmarangers.org

2. Seven students arrested for publishing a poem

Seven students were arrested on March 29, for writing a pro-democracy poem. According to Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association, the arrest of the students, from the University of Pegu, north of Rangoon, came three days after journalists U Thaung Sein and Ko Moe Htun were sentenced to three years in jail for photographing and filming the new capital, Pyinmana. For further details see: www.rsf.org

3. Increased international pressure needed, says US

The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia & Pacific Affairs, Eric John, has, according to the Washington Post, said it will take “an extraordinary coordinated effort by the international community to persuade Burma’s ruling military junta to abandon its self-imposed isolation and move toward reform and national reconciliation”. He called for the renewal by the US Congress of the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act 2003, which imposes tough sanctions by the US against the junta. In 2005, the US gave $14 million to organizations independent of the regime to address key humanitarian and democracy concerns, according to the report. He also expressed continued support for bringing Burma to the UN Security Council agenda.

THE MALDIVES

1. Opposition members arrested and beaten in protests in Maldives

At least 29 pro-democracy supporters were arrested and beaten on April 14, following “a heavy-handed crack-down by riot police on peaceful demonstrators”, according to Minivan News. Some protestors were repeatedly kicked and beaten. A female MP, Mariya Ahmed Didi, was assaulted and a placard yanked from her. “They can yank off our placards but they cannot yank our will to fight for our rights,” she said. For further details see www.minivannews.com

2. Journalists arrested in Maldives

Reporters Without Borders have expressed concern about “a wave of harassment and arrests of journalists working for the opposition newspaper Minivan” after the arrest on April 9 of reporter Mohamed Yushau. Another Minivan correspondent, Musa Ismael, has faced harassment by the authorities and fears he could be arrested too. For further details see www.rsf.org

3. Maldives refugee in UK talks of torture

Abdulla Mahir is permanently disabled, his spine snapped by state interrogators in the Maldives on 18 January, 1995. Now granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK after the UN ruled that he has a well-founded fear of persecution, Mahir has described how he was punched, thrown, kicked and beaten in the interrogation. The leader of the interrogation was Umar Naseer, now leader of the Islamic Democratic Party in the Maldives. For further details see “One Day I will Get Justice – ‘Backbone’ Mahir”, 11 April 2006, www.minivannews.com

INDIA (DALITS)

1. Anti-Conversion Law introduced in Rajasthan, India

The Government of Rajasthan, India, became the sixth state in India to enact anti-conversion legislation on April 7. The law will be implemented as soon as its rules have been framed. Opponents of the law fear it will be used to target religious minorities, particularly Christians, and especially Dalits, thousands of whom have left Hinduism and converted to Buddhism and Christianity in order to escape the ‘caste’ system. For further details see www.csw.org.uk