VOA Burmese Blog

April 30, 2010

What do you know about Refugee Warehousing?

Filed under: Uncategorized — voaburmese @ 9:28 pm

The United Nations grants refugees with rights- with the right to work, to receive fair pay, to own property and to move freely. In many of Thailand’s camps, refugees are not given these freedoms. They are not able to leave the camps, find jobs and seek normal lives. Refugees are facing problems of refugee warehousing where they are denied their legal rights and get confined in camps for years, sometimes even decades. Most of the refugees worldwide are victims of refugee warehousing. About 7.4 million out of 12 million refugees have lived in refugee camps for over a decade. The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, also known as USCRI is campaigning to end refugee warehousing.

Refugee Warehousing ( English Version)

Refugee Warehousing ( Burmese Version)

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Burma’s Prime Minister Applies to Form A New Political Party

Filed under: Burma/ Myanmar,News — voaburmese @ 3:48 pm



( Military Leaders; AP Photo)

Burma’s Prime Minister, Thein Sein resigned from his post, to register a new political party to run in the upcoming elections this year. Burma’s State media reported that Thein Sein and 26 members of his party applied for the registration of the Union Solidarity and Development Party ( USDP) with the electoral commission on Thursday. Critics of the military junta, say that the prime minister’s new party registration is another form of guaranteeing a greater military presence in Burma’s future government.

( Military Leaders; AP Photo)

Burma’s Military and the Elections

Under Burma’s new constitution, the military is given a fixed amount of seats – 25% of seats- in parliament. The rest are allocated to the civilian candidates. Since Thein Sein has applied as a new party candidate and retired from his army post, he is able to run for office as a civilian.

Analysts of Burma say that the military is trying to retain their control and power by having a pro- military party standing in civilian clothing and sitting in seats given to civlians.

Around the world, people have criticized the Burmese elections. The NLD, ( National League of Democracy) boycotted the elections and withdrew from it because they believe the electoral laws are unjustified as the law excludes main opposition leaders from running. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD’s leader, is banned from running because of her ties to political activism. Parties have to register with the Electoral Commissions before they are able to campaign. The EC scrutinizes the parties and disbands parties that have candidates with criminal records.  The election law states that neither people with criminal records nor religious leaders are able to apply, banning political activists and monks from the elections.

So far, 25 political parties have applied, and only 12 have been approved.

April 29, 2010

” Na Myaw Dae”… I feel a big loss

Filed under: Uncategorized — voaburmese @ 10:58 pm

Nyi Nyi Aung and Burma VJ :

I attended an event at Georgetown University where they screened Burma VJ. Burma VJ is the Oscar nominated documentary of the Saffron Revolution.  The Saffron revolution occurred in 2007 on the streets of Rangoon, where Buddhist monks led an uprising on the streets of Rangoon marching for the people’s freedom and rights. The journalists took great risks to film the movie, and many of DVB’s (Democratic Voice of Burma) journalists remain in jail today.

At the end of the movie, the narrator of Burma VJ says I feel, “ na myaw dae”, which means, “I feel a big loss”. He felt that all efforts went to waste as the protests had stopped, and the junta’s brutal power was shown and enforced on the land once again.

The military held a crackdown against the uprisings. People were killed and were imprisoned as the junta cleansed the streets filled with protesters.  Almost 2 decades after the 8-8-88 ( August 8, 1988) uprising,  what was accomplished? Will this always be the case for Burma, when an uprising occurs? I had listened to what Burma’s VJ had said, and I feel that people all around the world, as we watched Burma VJ and relived the events of 2007, felt “ na myaw dae.”

( Nyi Nyi Aung and his fiancee; AP Photo)

Nyi Nyi Aung spoke at the event. Nyi Nyi has had many articles written on his release from Burma’s notorious Insein prison and had front page coverage on the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post are just two more publications that covered his story. Nyi Nyi, a U.S. citizen, went back to his native country, Burma, to visit his ailing mother in prison, in September of 2009. At the airport, he was wrongfully incarcerated, and was questioned about his visit and his political activities. Nyi Nyi was sentenced to jail under terrorism charges although there was no evidence to support the charges. He described the beatings, the days without food and the torture he received. He cannot walk or stand properly, and he needs to take a shot every 4 hours for the pain. Nyi Nyi was unexpectedly released on March 18th.

I asked Nyi Nyi Aung, how he felt after watching the movie. Did he feel “ na myaw dae” as well?

Nyi Nyi actually felt that there were great things accomplished from the protests of 2007. Nyi Nyi says that the 1988 generation of students had transpired their power and inspiration to the new generation who had helped with the uprising of 2007. He continues to tell people to stay active, to be aware and to be informed on Burma. He says his wish is for the U.S. to take a more active role in Burma- U.S. relations. He says, “We need to make Burma a priority of the U.S.” He encouraged the students at Georgetown University to write letters to the Obama administration,  to write for the release of 2,200 political prisoners of Burma. Nyi Nyi’s five family members are imprisoned to this day. He tells us that the last he has heard about his family is that his mom is losing her eye sight while she is imprisoned in her homeland.

April 27, 2010

Angelina Jolie Visits Burmese Refugees…

Filed under: Uncategorized — voaburmese @ 3:24 pm

( AP photo; Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt)

It’s undeniable that we live in a celebrity crazed world. Almost any media outlet you go to, from People Magazine to the New York Times, carries the latest celebrity scoop, “Who’s wearing what? Who’s dating who? And…who’s pregnant?” Well, aside from the interest in fashion and personal lives of celebrities, I’ve also found that people are interested in listening to what celebrities have to say when it comes to human rights issues too.  Meet Angelina Jolie…

( AP photo; Jolie in Thailand)

Angelina Jolie has made headlines for more than just her pretty face and multicultural family; she has been noticed and commended for her efforts as a humanitarian spokesperson around the world. She’s UNHCR’s (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) goodwill ambassador, and has visited refugee camps to meet and talk with displaced persons from over 20 countries which include Sierra Leone, Haiti, Cambodia and Burma.

( AP; Jolie and Pitt with their 2 oldest kids)

I found this video of her in our Video Library. The AP had taped her visit at a refugee camp in Thailand where she spoke with the displaced people of Burma.

Angelina Jolie visits Burmese refugees:

April 26, 2010

Thai Protests’ Impact on the Economy

Filed under: Uncategorized — voaburmese @ 6:13 pm

( Thai market; AP Photo)

Our reporter, Thar Nyut Oo from Bangkok says that the recent Thai protests have hurt the Thai economy. Since Thailand’s protests began on March 13th, the Thai consumption is low and public spending has decreased by a significant amount.

Thailand is the 2nd biggest economy in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia. Tourism plays a major role in Thailand’s economy. It makes up 6% of the GDP. More than any other Southeast Asian country, tourism in Thailand is thriving.  Within the last few years, Thailand has seen a big increase in tourists. It is reported that Thailand gets tourists for its beaches and location, and a lot of its attraction also comes from its thriving sex industry. ( I will save Thailand’s sex industry blog for another day. )

( Red Shirts; AP Photo)

Since the protests began, retailers are losing customers, and people are not spending on the economy.According to Thailand’s government, tourism could decrease from 15 million to 12 million this year. If the protests continue, Thailand’s domestic consumption would fall by $500 billion to $800 billion baht a day (Exchange rate: Baht 33.00 = 1 US dollar). At a meeting about the country’s economic problems, Mr. Putthipong, the deputy government spokesman said, “ If the red shirt protests carries on for another month, the country’s gross domestic product could see a 0.2 percent reduction this year. Private investment will not be immediately affected by the demonstration, but if the situation is prolonged and turns violent again, the confidence of investors will be shaken.”

( VIDEO of Thai Protests on Economy in Burmese.) Scroll down for the translation in English.  On the video, there are great images of the demonstration and protesters.

VIDEO of Thai Protests and its Impact on the Economy:

1st StandUP: In the video, on his first standup, he explains how desolate the markets have become due to the protests. You can see on the streets, that there is barely anyone there. The reporter says that is evident that Thailand is losing money (“ billions” he says ) as the government closed down markets and hotels.

2nd Standup:

“ After the Thai New Year waterfestival, the progovernment supporters came out too as well as the red shirt protesters. We are now very close in location to the red shirt protesters on “Silom” road. Because of the protests, the businesses in Bangkok have closed.”

3rd Standup:

“ After the Thingyan festival, the Thai Security forces closed down Silom Road because the protesters threatened to take Silom Road. Silom Road is where you see the economy thriving- it is where most of the businesses are. The Thai government said that they will not let the Red Shirt protesters take over Silom Road. The government put a lot of security force on Silom Road, but the question is whether they are going to use the force (guns)  to stop the demonstration. According to the news, the Thai military chief is not willing to use the force to stop the protesters, however their thoughts are divided at the moment; but if the protest gets out of control, they say they have to take action. If the protesters cross the line on Silom Road, the security forces say they will take action with real bullets.”

4th StandUp:

“The protesters have taken over- they have closed the roads even with tires ( as he points out the tires). We are waiting to see whether the protests will be stabilized or whether it will uproar. Most likely within the next 2 weeks, we will see.” Reporter Sig Out: “ For Voice of America, I’m Thar Nyut Oo.”

April 23, 2010

The 2010 Elections and the Parties…

Filed under: Uncategorized — voaburmese @ 9:00 pm

NOTE from Blogger:

I received a tweet today ( a twitter message), and the tweet said that there was so much information on the NLD and not enough information on the other opposition parties in Burma. This is surprisingly true. NLD is always in the news that we often forget about the other parties that play such major roles in Burma.

As I began to research more on the upcoming elections and the political parties, I got confused as I read Burma’s constitution and the laws and rules surrounding the elections. There is no word to describe the state of confusion I had; and if I were confused just reading about the elections, just think of the confusion that must inundate the political parties and the voters.

I have tried my best to simplify it the best I can without sounding too intricate on the rules and what the political parties must abide by in order to campaign. Please note that Burma’s elections will be updated continually on the blog so if I am missing something, I will bring it up the next time. Just comment to get your thoughts heard too.  

 ( Men reading about election laws in Burmese newspaper; Photo: AP)

2010 Elections Update- and the parties that are running

19 political parties applied to run in the 2010 general elections, and so far only 2 parties have been accepted by the Electoral Commission to run. The 88 Generation Student Youth also known as the Union of Myanmar Party, and the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics Party were approved by the EC.

The election law states that political parties must register with the Election Commission first. Only when the parties are approved, can political parties start campaigning. The registration deadline is on May 6th.

The National League for Democracy (  the NLD) has withdrawn from the elections stating that the electoral laws are unjust and unfair. The NLD is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, and in 1988- this opposition party ran against the military junta  winning 80% of electoral votes. The military nullified the votes stating that the NLD had cheated.

 ( Pro Democracy meeting; Photo: AP)

VOTING:

For this year’s elections, votes will be counted for each region and for the nation as a whole. Parties can either run to be political leaders of their regional state or for the nation. Ethnic parties have a bigger chance of winning in the regional elections.

The previous election in 1990 was not set up like this year’s. There were no votes for a region. Parties campaigned for votes of the whole nation. In 1990, the NLD finished first, SNLD ( the Shan Nationalaties League for Democracy) came second, the Arakan League for Democracy came in third, and the NUP took in fourth place.

    ( General Than Shwe ; Photo: AP)

Other Opposition Parties

There are many political parties in Burma. Here are the parties that I think have the most impact in Burma’s elections of 2010.

The NUP, ( the National Unity Party) also knownas the Burmese Socialist Program Party was formerly General Ne Win’s party. Although the NUP registered to run for the elections this year, it has not been approved by the EC. The NUP is currently trying to get participants to sign their petition.

The USDA,   also known as the Union Solidarity and Development Association,  is a   “ non governmental organization”, however I find it ironic that General Than Shwe was the founder of the organization. It is said that the USDA has plans to form one or two parties, but they have not formed one yet. In May of 2003, USDA was blamed for attacks against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

 The USDA is currently recruiting new members to support them.  According to electoral law, parties must have 1000 candidates to run in the elections. The NUP and the USDA are seeking members to support them. According to the Irrawaddy ( www.irrawaddy.org) , the USDA and the NUP are handing out ID cards to ethnic Rohingyas in  return for their votes.

    ( NLD ; Photo: AP)

I was talking to a Burmese native living in the United States about his thoughts on the upcoming elections and the major players in the elections. He does not want his name mentioned; he says, “ There are no major players in the elections of 2010 because the elections are a sham. The military made it a rule to get 1,000 candidates if a party wants to run nationally… which is unlikely to be plausible. Almost all of the major ethnic parties which competed in the 1990 elections, their leaders are imprisoned. The whole governing body- the parliament- everything- is under the control of the military. The general can declare a state of emergency at his command without the approval of assemblies or the prime minister.”

He stated that the imprisonment of ethnic leaders were a big hindrance to their parties. The two that came to my mind were the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and the NLD. The SNLD came in second in the 1990 elections; NLD came in first. SNLD’s leader is in jail. NLD’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 14 out of the 20 years. The SNLD will not be running in the 2010 elections; neither will NLD. My interviewee says, “ There are no good contenders because all their leaders are under house arrest. And none of the opposition parties are as strong as the NLD- the NLD has Daw Suu’s support.”

Another opposition group, which is considered more of an activist group is the 88 Generation Students Group. Note: The 88 Generation Students Group remains distinct from the “ 88 Generation Student Youth”  a.k.a. the Union of Myanmar Party, which was approved by the EC. The 88 Generation Students Group is not as active as it once was as their leaders have been imprisoned as well.

The Burmese native says, “ When leaders have gone to prison, the movements have calmed down.”

What do you think about this year’s elections? Do you think it’s a sham? Are you optimistic about Burma’s 2010 elections? Was it as confusing as I had said it was?  The NLD has been criticized for withdrawing; people say that this proves that the NLD is nothing without Aung San Suu Kyi…what do you think?

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