Burma, India and The Maldives update
February 20, 2006

BURMA

1. House arrest extended for top democracy leaders in Burma

According to a report by Amnesty International, the military regime in Burma, the State Peace & Development Council (SPDC), has extended the house arrest of U Tin Oo, aged 78, Deputy Chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Senior democracy activists and NLD MPs-elect Dr. Than Nyein, aged 68, and Daw May Win Myint, aged 56, both of whom have been in prison since 1997, face a further year in jail without charge or trial. These three NLD leaders are elderly or in poor health. For more information see http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA160022006?open&of=ENG-2AS

2. Crackdown on media informants in Burma

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association have expressed concern about a campaign by the military regime to track down people in Burma who give information to the international media. According to their report, “military officers have been trained in how to identify the sources used by international radio stations and new phone tapping facilities have been installed.” See http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16406

3. Atrocities continue as mutilated body is found

Fresh attacks have been carried out by the Burma Army against Karen villagers in Taungoo district, resulting in several killings, arrests and the use of forced labour

On February 15, the mutilated dead body of an unidentified person was found in Bla Khi area, according to the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP). The victim’s throat had been slit and left hand cut off, in an area where the Burma Army had been operating.  Between February 8 and 14, at least 135 people were taken from Kaw Thay Der, Kaw Law Kar, Ku Thay Der and Sar Bar Law Khi villages for forced labour, CIDKP reports. On February 6, three men were arrested from Pau Pa and Yer Loe villages, and on February 14, Burma Army Infantry Battalion (IB) 35 arrested a further five men from Pau Pa. Reports have also been received of looting and extortion. See www.csw.org.uk

4. Is Burma the Next Iran?

According to an article by Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group, in Slate magazine: “The riches generated by Burma's natural-gas deposits may provide the junta with enough cash to realize its long-standing ambition to purchase nuclear technology. In 2002, the Russian government approved an agreement with Burma to help the regime build a civilian nuclear reactor. The deal was never consummated, according to the Russian foreign ministry, because Burma lacked the money to pay for it. But when Russia's atomic agency announced last October that talks on the subject had resumed, Western governments reacted with alarm and dismissed official Burmese claims that the facility is meant only for medical research and the production of radiopharmaceuticals for cancer treatment. More worrying still, the junta's long-rumored high-level contacts with North Korea may well include discussion of the transfer of nuclear technology.” – see http://www.burmanet.org/news/2006/02/15/slate-magazine-is-burma-the-next-iran-ian-bremmer/

5. Burmese Prime Minister in Beijing

General Soe Win, the prime minister in Burma’s ruling junta, arrived in Beijing last week for a four-day visit. But although China is Burma’s closest ally, there are signs that China may be becoming disenchanted. According to Larry Jagan in an article for the Bangkok Post, “China has been quietly disturbed by the lack of progress on the junta’s seven-stage roadmap announced in August 2003 by the then prime minister Gen Khin Nyunt. Beijing was dismayed by the recent adjournment of the National Convention until the end of this year. While China believes political reform is an internal matter for the Burmese regime, they fear that excessive delays in the national reconciliation process are only likely to increase instability in Burma. This is China’s greatest concern. They fear social unrest in Burma would dramatically affect their southern provinces. More than 200,000 Chinese migrants have crossed into Burma in the past decade, according to senior Chinese officials. Some western analysts believe there could be as many as a million Chinese now resident in Burma.” Jagan goes on to say: “There is no doubt that privately Beijing continues to worry about the lack of progress towards political reform in Burma. For more than a year now, a senior political academic from Beijing has been in Rangoon advising the regime’s top generals on various political scenarios ……. Many other diplomats involved with Burma have also noted China’s ambivalence towards Rangoon. The real issue is whether Beijing will actively encourage Rangoon to move towards political reform, even if it does so privately rather than publicly.” See: http://www.burmanet.org/news/2006/02/15/bangkok-post-burma-china-strengthen-bilateral-ties-%E2%80%93-larry-jagan/

6. Campaign to bring Burma to UNSC continues

After the publication of Threat to the Peace: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in Burma, commissioned by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, the UN Security Council held a private briefing on Burma in December for the first time. However, a campaign to bring Burma to the full formal agenda of the UNSC, leading to a resolution, continues.

http://burmacampaign.org.uk/unitednations.php

INDIA

Speakers at a mass rally held in the Dangs district of Gujarat State, western India, have called for a nationwide anti-conversion law. Organisers estimated some 300,000 Hindu activists and fundamentalists from outside the district gathered at the Shabri Kumbh for the ‘reawakening’ event. On the last day of the event, February 13, the organizers passed a resolution which called on the national government to pass a nationwide anti-conversion law. State anti-conversion laws are currently in place in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh states. A law has been enacted in Gujarat, though it is not yet in force, and similar laws are expected to be proposed in Rajasthan and Jharkhand states. The former BJP Government had promised to introduce a nationwide law, but lost power at the 2004 General Election. The run-up to the event had been characterised by inflammatory anti-minority propaganda, and organisers used the slogan “Hindu Jago, Christi Bhagao” (“Arise Hindus, throw out the Christians”) to stir up inter-communal tensions. see http://www.csw.org.uk/latestnews/

THE MALDIVES

Maldivian Democratic Party official Fathimath Shiuna, aged 23, was arrested at night on Sunday, 19 February when police raided her home. She is believed to be held at Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre.  Her family has said they are “highly concerned” over her wellbeing.  Shiuna was reportedly subjected to molestation by male police officers after her detention in Dhoonidhoo last year.  Another female MDP member, Areesha Ali, was also arrested on Sunday morning. Areesha’s husband said that six plane-clothed male police officers arrested her at around 3:30am, handcuffed her and took her to Dhoonidhoo. See http://www.minivannews.com/news/news.php?id=1815