The land that is known as Arakan by the foreigners is called Rakhaing-pray by its own people, Rakhaing-thar (Arakanese) who were titled this name in honour of preservation on their national heritage and ethics or morality.

Koh Tao’s dark side: dangers of island where Britons were murdered

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Monday, November 24, 2014 0 comments

Koh Tao in Thailand
Koh Tao, where Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were murdered, is steeped in paradoxes. Photograph: Alamy
Six weeks on, there is little to mark the spot on the idyllic rocky beach inlet on Koh Tao where Hannah Witheridge and David Miller met such brutal deaths; just two tiny piles of stones separated by a line of twigs in the sand, someone’s modest, anonymous, temporary memorial.

A few hundred yards away along Sairee beach, the main tourist drag on the Thai holiday island, life continues as normal. Business, says a French man running a dive shop – much of Koh Tao’s tourism is based around diving – is actually busier than expected for the monsoon season. “After the murders you did notice that there were fewer people for a bit. But it was only really the British that stayed away. With everyone else, they didn’t even really notice.”
If this appears curious then Koh Tao, the smallest and most remote among a trio of tourism-dominated islands in the Gulf of Thailand, abounds in such paradoxes.
It is a place where visitors spend their days learning the rigorous safety standards of diving before hopping, without helmets and clad in shorts and vest, on to rickety rental motorbikes. Tourist deaths are not unknown – two bodies of drowned westerners were found in the sea within a couple of days this month – but it is known as one of the safer spots in Thailand.
The biggest contradiction centres around the deaths of Witheridge, 23, and Miller, 24 – the British backpackers brutally beaten on the head yards from their hotel, the former also raped, the latter left to drown in shallow surf. Just about everyone on Koh Tao insists visitors are safe, but many also agree, quietly, that the Burmese migrant workers arrested for the murders are innocent – meaning the real killer or killers remain at large.

Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were brutally murdered while staying on Koh Tao.
Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were brutally murdered while staying on Koh Tao. Photograph: PA
The island, two hours by boat from the nearest airport, has a low-key, undeveloped feel and mainly attracts younger backpackers. But the ramshackle charm and gentle, palm-dotted beaches are drawing more visitors each year, necessitating new workers.
Many are Burmese, with around 3,000 now on Koh Tao, according to one community leader. “The migrants come here for just one reason – they want a better life, and they’re looking for a job so they can send money back home,” said the man who, like almost everyone else on the island, asked to not be named.
Increasing numbers of Burmese staff the bars and restaurants, in part due to their competent English – an educational legacy of British rule in their home country.
More than 3 million Burmese live in Thailand. As well as low pay and poor conditions, rights groups say, the frequently undocumented migrants face regular and open discrimination, and it is not unknown for police to wrongly blame them for crimes. As the hunt for the Britons’ killers dragged into a third week and the junta’s prime minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, said migrants were the most likely culprits, there was understandable nervousness on Koh Tao.
“Shortly after the killings the migrant community started to tell us there was a lot of torture going on, a lot of abuse by the police,” recalled Andy Hall, a British activist who has lived in Thailand for a decade, mainly working with Burmese. “We sent a team down and interviewed the workers, and they were saying, ‘Help us, or they’re going to find a scapegoat.’ And then the Burmese men got arrested.”
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, the two Burmese migrant workers arrested for the murders of Witheridge and Miller.
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, the two Burmese migrant workers arrested for the murders of Witheridge and Miller. Photograph: Bangkok Post / Barcroft Media
Police said they had confessed, explaining that they found Witheridge and Miller kissing on the beach and, being “aroused”, beat them viciously with a hoe. The case was solved.
Except it was not. Within a few days the men said they had been tortured and withdrew the confessions. Rights groups expressed alarm. The police deny the allegations of torture.
Britain called in a senior Thai diplomat to express its concern. Finally, with deep reluctance and only after David Cameron personally pressured Chan-ocha at a summit in Milan, Thailand agreed to let Metropolitan police detectives review the case.
Now the situation is at an impasse, with prosecutors still awaiting a much-delayed police report. Last Wednesday, a judge remanded the suspects in custody for another 12 days, but warned that without a prosecution they must be freed in little more than a month.
Opinion in Thailand is split. While the government and police chiefs maintain they have their men, others argue the investigation is too obviously motivated by what one Bangkok Post editorial called “rampant ethnic prejudice”.
Among the sceptics is Nakhon Chomphuchat, the leading Thai human rights lawyer defending the suspects. “If I thought they had done it I couldn’t work for them,” he told the Guardian. “Of course, no one can ever say with 100% accuracy, but I’m pretty certain they didn’t.”

Chomphuchat and others note numerous concerns beyond the confessions. A key part of the police case is DNA evidence supposedly tying the men to the scene. However, Thailand’s most senior pathologist expressed alarm on learning the samples were not collected by trained forensic officers. Meanwhile, CCTV of the key night shows one suspect, Wai Phyo, wearing the same pristine white T-shirt in which he was later arrested.
Chomphuchat and others also stress how unlikely it is for two unworldly young men to commit such a vicious crime and then work as normal for three weeks, even volunteering for DNA tests. In an interview with the Guardian during their court hearing the pair appeared awed and naive, talking excitedly about their love of Manchester United and the thrill of being transferred on a police helicopter.
On Koh Tao, many Thais believe the culprits are Burmese. “A local wouldn’t do it – the locals are friendly,” said a man in his 40s. “But with more development we need migrant workers to help, and these can bring more problems.” Another man, a taxi driver, said: “CCTV shows the men were there, and there’s the DNA tests. Even if we don’t know who the real killer is they’re not Thai, for sure.”
There are several counter theories circulating on Koh Tao about who killed Witheridge and Miller. Most centre around men associated with a dominant Thai family on the island, one of several that run dive schools, resorts and bars. A version recounted repeatedly - without any evidence - is that Witheridge had an argument with one of them at a beachside bar run by the family, shortly before the killings.
The associated media coverage has seen Koh Tao characterised as mafia-run. One English woman, who has lived in the area for many years, says the term is misleading: “The mafia here aren’t the sort who carry guns in violin cases, or knock on doors extorting people. They’re the families that go back for generations, and who ran the islands before the police even got here.”
Zaw Lin (left) and Wai Phyo have retracted their confessions in the murder case.
Zaw Lin (left) and Wai Phyo have retracted their confessions in the murder case. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Guardian
Nonetheless, there is real fear. Several islanders who believe they know who killed Witheridge and Miller have fled. Those who remain stay silent, for good reason, according to the woman: “If you speak out you’ll suddenly find the landlord of your business doesn’t want to know [you] anymore, or you can’t get a visa. Very occasionally, people disappear.”
The curiosity is that for the vast majority of tourists Koh Tao is safe, at least by the perilous standards of Thailand.
In the last 12 months 362 Britons died in Thailand, more than did so in France, which attracts nearly 20 times more British tourists. This is partly down to Thailand’s younger tourist demographic but also the country’s treacherous roads.
Tourists do fall off motorbikes on Koh Tao – one diving instructor says a student a week is unable to finish a course as they’re swathed in bandages – but the slower, sparser traffic makes very serious incidents less common.
Sairee beach has its rowdy bars along the narrow network of lanes by the beachfront. However, the nightlife culture is tempered by the numbers going diving early in the morning. Drugs are not unknown, but not endemic as on Koh Phangan, the adjoining island famed for its full moon beach parties. Likewise, swimmers do get caught out by currents, but not notably more than elsewhere.
A police diver searches for clues near the spot where Witheridge and Miller were killed
A police diver searches for clues near the spot where Witheridge and Miller were killed Photograph: Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
There is even a local theory that the dominant families actually keep Koh Tao more secure – they have become fantastically rich through tourism and take a dim view of crime. “I’ve never felt as safe living anywhere,” said one young Canadian woman based on the island.
This is what makes the murders of Witheridge and Miller simultaneously so exceptional and difficult to resolve. If the theories are correct, and the real killers are wayward elements of a dominant family, their wealth and hold over police makes it very unlikely they will face charges.
At the centre of this impasse – and facing possible execution by lethal injection – are Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo. However much the evidence might tip in their favour, to not prosecute would mean acknowledging that a high-profile investigation endorsed by the junta was flawed.
Equally central, and in danger of being forgotten amid their current silence, are the grieving families of Witheridge and Miller, who have yet to express a view.
Last week lawyers for Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo passed a handwritten letter from the pair to the Guardian, appealing to the British families to share any information that could spare them.
A key moment will come with the completion of the Met’s report, which will be shown first to the grieving relatives. They have so far ignored their right under Thai law to participate in the judicial process.
Amid the maze of contradictions and powerful vested interests, one of the few optimistic voices comes from Zaw Lin, usually the less buoyant of the arrested pair. Asked by the Guardian how he judged his fate, he replied: “There are so many people helping us, we are sure we can get justice. And we didn’t do it.”

Yangon’s Hero, Wielding Power of Stop and Go

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Saturday, November 22, 2014 0 comments

Sgt. Khin Myint Maung directing cars in Myanmar’s largest city, where his accolades are also an indictment of others’ corruption. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

YANGON, Myanmar — For 12 hours nearly every day, Sgt. Khin Myint Maung stands in one of the most chaotic intersections in this chronically gridlocked city, untangling traffic snarls with patience and unflagging good humor.

It is not the most likely résumé for a recipient of a hero of the year award from a leading daily newspaper, or designation as a “role model” officer by the Yangon police force or a “real-life hero” by a German foundation.

But the 26-year-old from the provinces, only recently promoted to sergeant, has earned all those awards, rising to fame purely by word of mouth. It is nearly impossible to find a taxi driver in Yangon who does not wax lyrical about the sergeant’s ability to direct traffic through rainstorms and searing heat.

“We looove him,” U Nay Win Hlaing, a 37-year-old taxi driver, shouted recently. “There’s no one who doesn’t like him.”

In years past, the streets of Myanmar’s largest city were often so empty that taxi drivers could test the forces of gravity as they screeched down winding thoroughfares.


Twice as many cars now drive the streets of Yangon as did three years ago, when Myanmar lifted severe limits on vehicle imports. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

These days, though, the emergence of debilitating gridlock in Yangon is perhaps the most obvious sign that after five decades of cloistered military rule, Myanmar is finally open for business. It has taken only three years for the number of cars registered in the city to double, to more than 400,000.

And in this new Myanmar, where car ownership is no longer the exclusive domain of the superrich, Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has emerged as a new sort of civic hero. Not a human rights campaigner, not a philanthropist nor someone who saved puppies from a blazing fire, but a traffic cop.

Men in uniform are still widely feared and despised in Myanmar, but Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has won the hearts of legions of erstwhile grumpy drivers who roll down their windows and hand him frosty bottles of water and boxes of food. They also give him cash, a gesture that would be inappropriate in the West but that motorists say shows their gratitude and is an unsolicited supplement to his paltry salary. The sergeant accepts all this booty with a flash of his perfect white teeth gleaming in the tropical sun.

On the few days Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has been absent from his post, the surrounding neighborhood has descended into chaos, including two months ago when he traveled to Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, for the ceremony marking his promotion to sergeant.

“For three days, it was terrible. Everyone was honking. Cars weren’t moving. Everyone was upset,” said Daw Phyu Phyu, who manages a shop nearby.

Sergeant Khin Myint Maung’s popularity is not a vote of confidence in the traffic police, who are notorious for shaking down motorists, nor is it a tribute to a new government made up largely of holdovers from the military regime that preceded it. If anything, his fans say, praise for the sergeant is implicit criticism of the rest of the traffic police and the bureaucracy.

“You could never count on civil servants before to do their job,” said U Pe Myint, a commentator and columnist. “Here is a civil servant who is doing his duty.”

Heroes are scarce in Myanmar. The society is stacked with officials, businessmen and informants who served or collaborated with the brutal, dictatorial junta that imprisoned thousands of dissidents and treated ordinary citizens with derision.

“It’s very hard to find civil servants worthy of the award,” said Daw Nyein Nyein Naing, the executive editor of 7 Day News Journal, which began bestowing its annual hero trophies in 2012, around the time the country’s media was unshackled from five decades of censorship.

“Every year, we go through a lot of names,” Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing said. “But we look at their backgrounds, and we find things that disqualify them as heroes.”

Change in Myanmar is proceeding at varying speeds. Bureaucrats still wait for orders as they did during military rule. Farmers remain dirt poor. The middle class is seeing only a small fraction of the lucrative jobs that the government promised to deliver.


Sgt. Khin Myint Maung’s easy smile and his skill at keeping cars moving have made him a favorite of the city’s taxi drivers. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

But the streets of Yangon look nothing like those of five years ago, when most of the cars were so old and dilapidated that downtown traffic resembled a rolling junkyard. Forty-year-old jalopies spewed oil onto the pavement, and on rainy days customers had to place their feet over the holes in the floors of taxis to avoid water gushing up from below.

Then, three years ago, the government lifted its severe restrictions on car imports and, as if a switch had been flicked, a car culture was born in Yangon. Used car lots, mostly selling secondhand imports from Japan, became ubiquitous. A radio station with traffic reports is now essential listening for those wishing to avoid the worst gridlock. When President Obama visited this month, residents complained that closed roads had created an “Obama jam.” The traffic police started a Facebook page this year that encourages drivers to send in photos of other drivers breaking the law.

U Win Tin, 34, a woodcarver who lives on the outskirts of Yangon, used to spend half an hour riding to his stall near Shwedagon Pagoda, a famed golden Buddhist shrine. Now the commute takes two hours on a sweltering bus with no air-conditioning. The upside, he said, is that business has picked up with the influx of tourists from China and South Korea who place orders for wooden Buddhas.

“I liked the easy traffic of the past, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the old days,” he said.
The secondhand Japanese imports vie with an array of luxury and exotic cars.

Sergeant Khin Myint Maung directs Range Rovers that would not look out of place in Beverly Hills and American S.U.V.s that seem far too wide for Yangon’s roads.

In a stark reminder of the gulf between rich and poor in Myanmar, he is paid the equivalent of $150 a month, a salary that might buy him one of those cars at the end of his career — if he saved every penny.

The third of five children from a rice-farming family in a remote village three miles from the Bay of Bengal, he shows no resentment toward the wealth that flashes past, only Buddhist fatalism.

“Everyone has their own destiny,” he said during a break from directing traffic at the corner of Dhammazedi and Link Roads, his usual spot not far from Shwedagon Pagoda. “The rich are rich because they did many good things in their past life. Everyone has their own place.”

The sergeant is generous with his smile but thrifty with words. When he accepted his hero award in 2012, he stood onstage in a large banquet hall in a Yangon hotel.

“We gave him three minutes for a speech,” said Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing, who headed the awards committee.
“He just said, ‘Thank you,’ ” she recalled. “And of course he smiled.”

Burma leads the world in people giving money to charity

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Friday, November 21, 2014 0 comments

Burma, World Giving Index, 2014, charity, money, philanthropy, ranking
Burma leads the way in terms of public engagement in giving – image by Brett Ciccotelll via Flickr
The 2014 World Giving Index has found that a larger proportion of Burmese people give money to charity every month than any other country on earth – by far.

On November 18th, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) published the fifth edition of the worlds only global index of charitable activity which ranks nations based on the proportion of people who, according to Gallup’s World Poll, had given money to a charity, volunteered or helped a stranger in the past month. Remarkably, this year Burma (Myanmar) shares first place with the United States of America.

By taking into account volunteering and informal acts of kindness to strangers, the World Giving Index can build a picture of generosity that is less skewed by wealth than a study that merely looks at financial giving. Many developing and transitional economies have vibrant and long standing cultures of giving that would not be picked up by limiting the definition of charitable giving to the donation of money to a nonprofit organisation.

Right about now you are probably thinking; “Ah okay, I get it. You are going to tell me that we are undervaluing the generosity of some countries by focusing on donations of money and then say that Burma is a shining example of this, right? Well, I do think that we undervalue informal giving as it provides the fertile ground on which civil society can grow, but with regards to Burma, you are totally wrong.

In terms of the proportion of people giving money to charity, Burma is peerless. 91% of Burmese people said that they had given money to charity in the month prior to being surveyed – a clear 13 percentage points ahead of Malta in second place for that measure. The USA ties with Burma overall due to high rates of people who said that they had helped a stranger in the last month (79%). In fact, the USA ranks first in the world on that measure and by virtue of being in the top ten for the other two measure – 9th for giving money (68%) and 5th for volunteering (44%) – gains a high enough overall score to share first place with Burma.

For a country with a human development index ranking (150th) to achieve such staggeringly high levels of participation in giving money challenges the perception that the propensity to donate money is necessarily tied to wealth. Moreover, its high placing despite a recent history of violence and oppression seems to contravene the idea that civil society can only thrive when government helps to nurture an enabling environment.

So what explains such high levels of engagement in charitable giving in Burma?

Theravada is one of the oldest schools of Buddhism and traces its origins back to Buddha’s 2500 year old teachings. In Theravada, peace and freedom are pursued internally rather than externally through a life of meditation by a community of ordained monks and nuns called the Sangha. Their lifestyle is supported by lay devotees through charitable giving: Sangha Dana. In Burma 5% of the population live monastic lives which are entirely funded by donations from the remaining 88% of the population who are lay devotees of Theravada Buddhism. It seems highly likely that this religious tradition explains why Burma tops the World Giving Index for donating money.

Indeed, countries in which a high proportion of the population follow the Theravada school of Buddhism feature prominently in this year’s World Giving Index, particularly in terms of the percentage of people giving money to charity.

World Giving Index 2014, Future World Giving, charity, philanthropy, Burma, Myanmaar
Countries with large Theravada Buddhist populations and % giving to charity
Four of the five countries with the highest proportion of Theravada Buddhists – Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia – are covered by the 2014 World Giving Index (no data is available for Laos).  All four countries are in the top 35 nations in terms of giving money to charity out of 135 nations covered in this years index. Burma and Thailand are ranked first and third respectively for donating money.

Some people may question whether religious convention that permeates culture as strongly as Sangha Dana in Burma should be seen as charitable giving at all. It could be argued that donations are essentially a voluntary taxation in return for the myriad services and amenities provided by monks and nuns. However, attempting to make such a distinction would be as impossible in Burma as it is in any other country.

Some people may hold Burma up as an example of how mass engagement in giving can triumph in spite of adverse conditions. This narrative clearly has some merit and we would do well to remind ourselves of the existing human resources in civil society in the developing world and the potential for ordinary people to help each other. This view is supported strongly by the high proportion of people indicating that they had helped a stranger in some of the world’s most troubled nations in the 2014 World Giving Index. However, for civil society to make real social gains governments must be tolerant of and responsive to the advocacy of not-for-profit organisations. Only time will tell as to whether the Burmese government can improve on this measure.

The example of Burma helps to challenge any preconceptions we might have about charitable giving. and is therefore a useful reminder of the different models that civil society takes around the world. As always, I welcome other interoperations of these findings and encourage you to share your views.

Adam Pickering

The sceptre of Rakhaines

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Thursday, November 20, 2014 0 comments

The sceptre of Rakhaines
Interview with Myentthein Promila
Asmaul Husna

Publish Date : 2014-11-10

The almost sinking ship of Rakhaines, mainly in Patukhali and Barguna district, is in a hand of a lady who is giving her utmost effort to hold the mast tightly. She is none other than Myentthein Promila.

She was born, in 1981, and brought up in a remote place of Patuakhali, Kola Para. From her childhood, she was determined to work for her community as she was discriminated and teased in school for her food habit, dress and physical appearance by the non-Rakhaines.

Her father, Soe Shoue Hawlader, completed his graduation from Fine Arts Institute of University of Dhaka who preferred to teach in the remote area, Kola Para, instead of making good fortunes in Dhaka. He established a Fine Arts Academy there. Her mother is a housewife.

When she was a college student at Kola Para, she engaged herself in different forums to raise voice on behalf of women.

Later, she moved to Dhaka as she was admitted in the department of Drama and Dramatics at Jahangirnagar University.

As soon as she completed her graduation, she started to work with Nijera Kori, an NGO which works with downtrodden people, where she worked for two years.

In 2007, she commenced to work as a project In-charge, in Barishal division, of Integrated Community Development Project Rakhaine (ICDP-Rakhaine), funded by Secours Catholique Caritas France.

This project is intended to work with the poor and marginalised people and committed to provide social protection to Rakhaines. Moreover, it also works in creating work facilities at community level.

ICDP-Rakhaine project is also providing legal support for court cases on forcefully occupied land.
It provides facilities to Rakhaines as well as marginalised non-Rakhaines people by offering practical training for unemployed people like tailoring, technicians and motor mechanics.

Through this project she encourages young Rakhaines in cultural activities so that Rakhaine culture and rituals can be preserved. Many traditional musical instruments are given to them.

In almost 52 villages of Kolapara Upazilla, Patuakhali district, and Taltoli Upazilla, Barguna district, free medicine and health treatment are given to mainly Rakhaine and poor people.

These villages are in remote area where hospitals are not available and people are in vulnerable states especially pregnant women. So, she is working to train village midwife so that pregnant women can get proper treatment.

Apart from these facilities, four Rakhaine language centre are established for the Rakhaines so that they can read and write in their mother tongue. These centres are helping Rakhaines greatly as most of the Rakhaines can converse in their language orally whereas they lack reading and writing skill. Books and reading materials are provided by Caritas France.

When asked, as a leader what kind of obstacles she face? She replied promptly it is very challenging for her as she is discriminated in three ways. Firstly, as a minor indigenous, secondly as a women, thirdly as an indigenous women. These things sometimes hinder her mind and she becomes frustrated. Her mother inspires her to overcome these hindrances.

She does many voluntary works to protect and establish the rights of indigenous people. She is an executive member of Kapaeeng Foundation and connected with Bangladesh Indigenous Women Network (BIWN).

In September, 2014 she attended World Conference on Indigenous Peoples at United Nations Headquarters in New York where she represented indigenous people of Asia, mainly Bangladesh.

She participated in World Indigenous Women Conference in Peru, on October and International Campaign, in France, on May 2013.

Personally, she leads a very simple life. She always tries to uphold the culture of her community and deeply engages herself with her rootedness. She is very much influenced by philosophy of Buddha as he said, "Life is sorrowful." In every sphere of life she assimilates this philosophy and accepts unpleasant aspects of life willingly. As a result, she remains happy.

Her mother is her mentor as well as guide. She is very much happy with life because she can always have food cooked by her mother which she loved most. She loves to eat food cooked with nappi.

Her favourite leader is Ernesto Che Guevara and Manabendra Narayan Larma.
At night, she reads book every day. Mostly she reads books in her iPad. Currently, she is studying law.
Myentthein Promila concluded that she dreams for an egalitarian society where every citizen can enjoy their democratic rights.

A heavy artillery attack by the Myanmar army in the far north has killed 22 Kachin rebels and injured 15 when it hit a training camp near the rebel stronghold town of Laiza. 

YANGON: Ethnic minority Kachin rebels in the far north of Myanmar said 22 of their troops were killed in an army heavy artillery attack on Wednesday (Nov 19), amid foundering efforts to reach a nationwide peace deal.

The barrage also injured 15 when it hit fighters at a training camp near the rebel stronghold town of Laiza, a spokesman for group said, in the largest attack in recent months in a conflict that has uprooted tens of thousands of people and tempered optimism over political reforms.

"It's the biggest loss for us in a single attack, compared with the fighting in recent years," La Nan, of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), told AFP. Myanmar's quasi-civilian government has said negotiating a historic nationwide ceasefire is a central pillar of reforms that have seen the country open to the world since the end of outright military rule in 2011.

But talks to end the country's multiple conflicts in ethnic minority border areas have so far ended in frustration. The government has inked ceasefires with 14 of the 16 major armed ethnic groups, but deals with the KIA and Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in eastern Shan state have proved elusive.

The last round of meetings in late September ended without resolution, with fighting ongoing in Kachin and clashes flaring in a number of eastern border regions. According to the United Nations, some 100,000 people have been displaced in remote, resource-rich Kachin since a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the rebels broke down in June 2011.

Peace negotiator Hla Maung Shwe, at the Yangon-based Myanmar Peace Centre, said he had been informed of the attack and the group had sent information to the government. "We are trying to reduce this kind of fighting," he said. Another round of ceasefire talks is expected to be held next week, he added.

New offensive launched against ethnic group near China border, killing more than 20 people in day of fighting.

Last updated: 20 Nov 2014
Myanmar's army has launched a new offensive against ethnic Kachin rebels around their headquarters near the Chinese border, killing more than 20 people in a mortar attack and skirmishes that lasted the whole day, rebel officials said.

Most of the casualties occurred when government troops hit an officer training academy used by the rebels near the frontier city of Laiza, leaving 22 fighters dead and 15 more wounded, according to La Nan, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army.

La Nan said the army fired from a nearby hilltop about 50km outside Laiza. He said at least one Kachin villager was also killed in skirmishes in the area that began in the morning.

Myanmar's government could not immediately be reached for comment. Fighting between the army and Kachin fighters broke out in 2011, ending a truce between the two sides that had held for 17 years.

President Thein Sein's government has agreed to tentative peace deals with 14 Kachin factions since then, but has not been able to secure a deal with the fighters or broker a wider truce encompassing all armed groups.

After a major offensive near Laiza in December 2012, hostilities eased, but sporadic, low-level clashes have continued.

La Nan said the assault on the academy was an "unprovoked and a deliberate attack because [government soldiers] could clearly see our troops doing military training".

He said it was the highest casualty toll the rebels have suffered in a single attack in the past three years. The insurgents have lost about 300 fighters and another 400 have been wounded since 2011, he said.

Despite the bloodshed, La Nan said the rebels would continue to participate in future negotiations with the government.

Soldiers of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) man their position at the front line near Mai Ja Yang in Kachin state January 22, 2013. REUTERS/Kaung Htet
(Reuters) - Twenty three cadets of the ethnic insurgent group the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were killed when they were hit by a single shell fired by Myanmar's army on Wednesday, the KIA said in a statement on Thursday.

The KIA is the last ethnic insurgent group still fighting Myanmar's government after a 17-year ceasefire broke down in 2011 and a peace process to end conflict with ethnic minorities in Myanmar has stalled.
U.S. President Barack Obama called on Myanmar's leaders to push forward with the peace process on a visit to the country last week.

The number of dead in the shelling was the largest made public in the conflict between the KIA and army for many months.

In April, General Gun Maw, deputy commander in chief of the KIA and a member of the insurgents' main political committee, said that the KIA had suffered over 1,000 casualties since hostilities resumed, including 280 killed.

The KIA took up arms in 1961 and is the second largest among the 20 ethnic armed groups in Myanmar.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Michael Perry)

The Myanmar army has denied it deliberately targeted a Kachin rebel camp in a mortar attack that killed 23 people.

The shell had been intended as a warning shot and was not aimed directly at the rebels, Kachin State's security minister, Col Than Aung, said.

The rebels have threatened to abandon ceasefire talks because of the attack.

Myanmar's government has been in peace negotiations with the Kachin and other ethnic rebel groups.
The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Yangon says the government will hope its statement will be enough to persuade the rebels to show up at the next round of talks in December.

The attack took place on Wednesday, in the rebel stronghold of Laiza, bordering China.

A spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army told AP news agency that government troops fired from a nearby hilltop while the rebels were conducting military training. 

He claimed at least 15 rebels were wounded and at least one Kachin villager was killed.
Myanmar map, with Kachin state
A 17-year truce with the government was broken in 2011. Sporadic fighting has taken place since then, despite talks aimed at restoring a ceasefire. 

The Kachin rebels are among the last few ethnic insurgent groups still fighting the government, which has agreed to tentative peace deals with 14 other groups.

In May 2013, the Kachin rebels and the government reached a seven-point deal working towards a ceasefire and redeploying armed forces on both sides.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced by the violence so far.

KIA soldiers stand guard as they secure an area on Hka Ya mountain in Kachin state on Jan. 20, 2013.
Kachin sources say the bombardment targeted an officer training center.
Myanmar government troops fired mortars on an ethnic Kachin rebel training center in northern Kachin state Wednesday, killing as many as 22 insurgents and wounding at least 15 others, in the deadliest attack in three years, according to rebel officials.

It dealt a fresh blow to efforts by the government to forge a nationwide cease-fire agreement with Myanmar’s rebel groups, which have balked on signing the pact amid disagreements on future political rights and ongoing clashes with the country’s military in remote border regions.

Lamai Gum Ja, a member of a Kachin peace mediation group, said the assault on the Kachin officer training academy near the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stronghold of Laiza occurred just after noon on Wednesday and originated from nearby Khaya hill, where government troops are based.

“Artillery fell on the meeting place of the KIA military cadet training school killing 20 persons and wounding 16,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

He said the incident had been reported to the government’s Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC), which is leading efforts to negotiate peace with rebel groups, the northern command headquarters of Myanmar’s military, and the Kachin state government.

Laphan San Aung, also a member of the Kachin mediation group, told RFA that the attack had come from a base run by the commanding officer of the Myanmar military’s 33rd Division and left 21 rebels dead.

“It was an attack using 105-millimeter artillery,” he said, giving details of the raid.

“There were 36 cadets attending the training course. Twenty-one were killed, and 15 were wounded.”

Media reports quoted KIA spokesman La Nan as saying that the bombardment left 22 rebels dead and 15 wounded.

The Irrawaddy online journal quoted the spokesman as saying that all of the soldiers killed or injured in the attack were under the age of 30 and that the wounded were being treated at Laiza General Hospital.

La Nan told the journal that at least one Kachin villager died in the attack on the academy, which is located near a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled fighting between government troops and the KIA since a 17-year truce broke down in 2011.

He said the barrage represented the KIA’s heaviest number of casualties from a single attack since fighting restarted three years ago, adding that the KIA had lost about 300 soldiers, and another 400 had been wounded since then.

Damaging trust

Laphan San Aung confirmed to RFA that the peace mediation group had notified government authorities of the attack, but had received no response.

He said the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)—the political group representing the KIA—had also sent a letter to the government “asking whether the peace talks have come to an end [and] whether this is the start of a war,” but had not received an answer as yet.

Myanmar’s military and the KIA have been holding peace negotiations despite ongoing clashes between the two sides.

Laphan San Aung said that Wednesday’s attack had seriously damaged the mediation group’s trust in the government and was pushing negotiations “towards a very bad situation.”

“With regard to the future, it depends on whether the government intends to show something constructive,” he said.

"We would like everything to be resolved. We had managed to build trust from an impossible situation … [but] now everything seems to be moving backwards.”

The Irrawaddy quoted a military official representing the northern command of Myanmar’s military in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina as saying that he could not offer any confirmation on the attack or further details as of Wednesday afternoon local time.

“We need to find out what is going on on the ground. We can’t provide any detailed information at the moment,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.

Recent clashes

The KIA reported at least two other offensives against its soldiers this week, including clashes which left one dead in northern Shan state and fighting in Kachin state’s Hopin township that caused one casualty.

The United Nations estimates that around 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting between government forces and the KIA since 2011.

President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government has signed bilateral peace deals with 14 of Myanmar’s 16 major ethnic rebel groups since taking power from the former military junta in 2011, but the KIA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in eastern Shan state are the lone holdouts.

The government has said negotiating a historic nationwide cease-fire with ethnic rebels after decades of civil war is a central pillar of reforms that Thein Sein has initiated as part of efforts to bring democracy to the country.

Talks in September between the UPWC and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), representing more than a dozen armed ethnic rebel groups, were stymied by disagreements over military and other issues, though the two sides have agreed to a fourth draft of a pact and negotiations are ongoing.

Reported by Kyaw Kyaw Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Soe Thinn. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


New fighting in Kachin State has left over 20 dead after a mortar attack on a training facility yesterday.
A compound outside Laiza, Kachin State was shelled yesterday afternoon by members of the Tatmadaw, killing as many as 23 cadets of the Kachin Independence Army or KIA. Around 15 other KIA members were reportedly injured in the attack, a release from the group said.

The government did not respond to requests for comment.

The attack is reported to be the largest in recent months in a conflict that has uprooted tens of thousands of people.

A 17-year ceasefire between the KIA and the Myanmar military broke down in June 2011. The United Nations estimates that around 100,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in the resource-rich Kachin State.

The attack comes as the government and armed ethnic groups are struggling to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement. The most recent round of talks between the government’s Union Peace-Making Working Committee and Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team yielded no major breakthrough.

The government has signed ceasefires with 14 of the 16 major armed ethnic groups, but deals with the KIA and Ta'ang National Liberation Army or TNLA in eastern Shan state have proved difficult to secure.

The attack came just days after the end of the ASEAN Summit in Nay Pyi Taw and the visit of US President Barack Obama and in the midst of a parliamentary debate on amending the 2008 Constitution.

One military MP, speaking on the day of the attack, cited the lack of peace in the country as one reason why an amendment of the constitution would not be wise at this juncture.

With additional reporting from AFP

An Open Letter to Ban Ki Moom by Dr. Aye Chan

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Monday, November 17, 2014 0 comments

An Open Letter to Ban Ki Moom.
Dear Ban:

The term you used, So-called “Rohingya” was a brazen insult to the people of Myanmar. You have said, you used the term for it has been accepted by the United Nations and International community. However, has been certain that you and United Nations have bluntly supporting the Tyranny of Majority on the Rakhine people from the Rakhine State of Burma. I am a historian and I have written many treatises about the etymology of that term, although you are ignoring. “Rohingya” derived from the Bengali corruption of “Rohong,” “Roshang,” and “Roan,”that all refers to Rakhine. French scholar Jacques Leider, U Khin Maung Saw, and I have proved that with Bengali, and British colonial administrative records. It is sure that “ja” is “man” in Bengali.Therefore, “Rohingya” refers to Rakhine and “Rakhine Ethnic Identity.” If they use that term to call themselves it is surely a snatch of national identity. A French man will call a German “Almany.” But the Frenchmen despite of any objection will never use that term for their national identity.

In this letter I will give you only two excerpts from original documents. Francis Buchanan, who travelled on survey in Southern Bengal and Northern Arakan (Rakhine State) in1798writes:

“Among the hills immediately behind Wanuc, I found a joom of the people by the Bengalese called Mugs. (Buchanan 1992:48).

All Bengalis both from Arakan and Bangladesh call Rakhine Mugs till now. Furthermore:

“Various part of the Hills in the neighborhood are inhabited by Mugs from Rossawn, Rohhawn, Roang, Reng, or Rung, for by all, these names is Arakan called by Bengalese [Francis Buchanan in Southeast Bengal. Dhaka University Press. 1992. P 31).

There are plenty of examples. I can give even the writings of the Bangladeshi scholars. The East
Pakistan District Gazetteer eplains as follows.

“The Arakanese were inhabitants Arakan or Roang, which lies to the south of Chitttagong….
Ooang of Rakhine Muaughs who are found in the Cox’s Bazar District are decendents of the
Arakanese [East Pakistan District Gazetteers: Chittagong District. SNH Rizvi(Ed) pp. 114- 115.)
It is certain that Rohan, Roan refer to the Rakhine People. They have made strenuous effort to take away Rakhine’s own ethnic identity from Rakhine people to make their own identity so that they can lie they are not the illegal immigrants. The President of a Superpower Nation and The United Nation general Secretary are accepting it. Without thorough investigation, Barrack Obama follows. It has been very imprudenct of him. Ban, you have proved himself most incompetent Secretary General of the United Nations giving such nonsense speech in Rangoon.

Aye Chan
Professor of Southeast Asian History, Kanda University of International Studies
(November 14, 2014)

An Open Letter to American President Barack Obama

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Saturday, November 15, 2014 0 comments

Dear Mr. President Obama

As you note, the time is now on the brink seeking for the equitable way of peaceful co-existence between the conflicted communities in Rakhine State of Myanmar. 

In such scenario, one should know the truest facts about of those communities in order to find out the truest solution. One should not be happened to come into the arena with overwhelmingly biased facts, fabricated propaganda, pretentious diplomacies, and treacherous plots, but with truth, sincerity, broad mind and most importantly humanitarian approach to both sides. Regrettably, there is wide spreading untrue facts in and out of Myanmar about our Rakhine land and Rakhine (Arakanese) people who are victimized as reversed elements due to a few opportunities for us to tell the truth and to revert the lies of other side. In fact, we Rakhine people are the most neglected indigenous human beings for their basic human rights in this world, and we dare to proclaim hereby such as to all those who used to champion on human rights and human dignities.

Historically, we Rakhines have been victims of unfair governance by all different governments of Myanmar; no say, no forum in home and abroad about our most desperate lives in the least developed area in a least developed country but all of our natural resources are exploited against desire of owners of the land, and our education, infrastructures and social surrounding are totally ignored for decades. The most critical situation now is our land, our vocations, our peaceful lives are being robbed by so-called stateless persons who are quite in difference from our culture, features, attires, manners, speaking, language, religion, etc., but undeniably identical to other side of our land, namely, Bangladesh.

Those invaders into our lands in the past and present are really human beings as of our Rakhine people that means if you have sympathy for them, why not to Rakhine people who are now in multi-pronged difficulties of lives for living in their own land in encountering with those killing-prone strangers, rapists, thugs and terrorism–backed elements.

So if you are true humanitarians, please stand for Rakhine people who are in danger of extinction even in their own land due to those extremely over-populated strangers and their backers with intentional conspiracies or who are ignorantly knowing nothing of true stories of us.

Indeed, we peaceful and dedicated Buddhists of Rakhine State tried to live with those Bangalis in our own land for years. We treat them very fairly but what they retreat us is with rapes, thugs; we fed them with our hands but what they retreat us is a bite to our hands; we allow them to plough in our land but what they retreat us is claiming our land as of their father land. We protect them as of our own people but what they retreat us is forming RSO to fight against us to build their own Islamic land. We allow them in semi-citizenship white cards but what they retreat us is claiming for their own national ethnic group under an un-historical name and statehood.

It is not the first instance for such moves in this world of those community. Several countries in the world is encountering such plots in risk of national sovereignty. So, why only in case of Rakhine of Myanmar, so many outcries against us and so many sympathies to those strangers of our land. It should not and could not be an answer for the people of the world let aside for our own Rakhine people.

Being blinded on our toughest lives in sacrifice to invaders, killers, rapists and unscrupulous elements of those Bengalis footing in our soil trying to wipe out original land owners, one should not just come to say for peaceful co-existing, human rights, citizenship, voting right, which will eventually lead to islamization of our Buddhist land as undeniably witnessed in present days in every part of the World. By doing so, that approach will exacerbate the situation far from solution. Please stop it.

Our stand is very clear for them. We are fundamentally peaceful people but brave enough to defend our own human rights and national pride. So, please forward of our clear message that the other side needs to drop their treacherous claims of fake nationality, separate statehood and withdrawal of their hypothetical stories of their status, and pay due respect to our Rakhine people and our Rakhine land, be abide to our national laws, then we would be very happy to live side by side with any human being of the world.
Dear American President; Dear American people, 

we do understand that United State of America faces also very abysmal issue of migration and really in deepening difficulties to tackle it even by such a greatest strength and superpower in the world. In return, we beg for your true sympathy to our Rakhine people who are hapless in imminent danger of extinction under invasion of overgrown aliens originated from other bank of our land.

Many thanks.
Sincerely yours,
Rakhines (a.k.a) Arakans

Ref: Than Maung's Facebook

China and the United States Are Preparing for War

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Thursday, November 13, 2014 0 comments

Despite the Obama-Xi handshake deal, the probability of confrontation will only heighten as long as the PLA remains a black box. 

t a Nov. 12 news conference in Beijing, General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to notify the other side before major military activities, and to develop a set of rules of behavior for sea and air encounters, in order to avoid military confrontations in Asia. "It's incredibly important that we avoid inadvertent escalation," Ben Rhodes, a U.S. deputy national security adviser, told the Wall Street Journal. An "accidental circumstance," he said, could "lead into something that could precipitate a conflict."

Should we really be worried about war between the United States and China? Yes. Over the last four decades of studying China, I have spoken with hundreds of members of China's military, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and read countless Chinese military journals and strategy articles. Chinese military and political leaders believe that their country is at the center of American war planning. In other words, Beijing believes that the United States is readying itself for the possibility of a conflict with China -- and that it must prepare for that eventuality. 

Tensions are high not just because of Beijing's rapidly expanding military budget, or that the United States continues to commit an increasingly high percentage of its military assets to the Pacific as part of its "rebalance" strategy. Rather, the biggest problem is Chinese opacity. While it's heartening to hear Xi agree to instruct the PLA to be more open with regards to the United States, its doubtful this will lead to any real changes.  

Washington is willing to share a substantial amount of military information with China, in order to "reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding or miscalculation," as then U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a Jan. 2011 trip to Beijing. But the
Chinese leadership, which benefits from obfuscation and asymmetric tactics, refuses to communicate its military's intentions.
Chinese leadership, which benefits from obfuscation and asymmetric tactics, refuses to communicate its military's intentions. 
Despite repeated entreaties from American officials, Beijing is unwilling to talk about many key military issues -- like the scope and intentions of its rapid force buildup, development of technologies that could cripple American naval forces in the region, and its military's involvement in cyber attacks against the United States -- that would lower friction between the two sides. And sometimes, as in 2010 after U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing will break off mil-to-mil contacts altogether -- leading to an especially troubling silence. 

As a result, there is a growing mistrust of China among many thoughtful people in the U.S. government. Chinese military officers have complained to me that journals of the American war colleges now feature articles on war with China, and how the United States can win. A February 2014 article, for example, in the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine, entitled "Deterring the Dragon," proposes laying offensive underwater mines along China's coast to close China's main ports and destroy its sea lines of communications. The article also suggests sending Special Forces to arm China's restive minorities in the country's vast western regions.  

But China is doing the same thing. In 2013, Gen. Peng Guangqian and Gen. Yao Youzhi updated their classic text The Science of Strategy, and called for Beijing to add to the quality and quantity of its nuclear weapons, in order to close the gap between China and both Russia and the United States. Even Xi's "new model" of great power relations seems to preclude arms control negotiations, requiring the United States to yield to the inevitability of China's rise.

Many people outside the Pentagon may be surprised by just how many senior American officials are worried about a war with China. These include no less than the last U.S. two secretaries of defense, and a former secretary of state. In the concluding chapter of Henry Kissinger's 2011 book, On China, he warns of a World War I-style massive Chinese-American war. "Does history repeat itself?" he asks. 

Over at least the last decade, on several occasions the United States has pressed China to be more forthright about its military intentions and capabilities. In April 2006, after a meeting between President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Chinese President Hu Jintao, both governments announced the start of talks between the strategic nuclear force commanders on both sides. This move would have been extremely important in demonstrating openness about military intentions. But the PLA dragged its feet, and the talks never started. 
In a Sept. 2012 trip to Beijing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tried to persuade Beijing to enter military talks. Like his predecessor Gates, Panetta called for four specific areas of strategic dialogue: nuclear weapons, missile defense, outer space, and cyber security. But the Chinese objected, and again the talks never happened.  

Sure, Beijing could follow through on the agreements announced during Obama's recent trip. But I'm skeptical. One of the biggest advantages China has over the United States is the asymmetry of military knowledge. Why would they give that up? 


Ancient Arakan Gold and Sliver Coins

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