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.

Published on Monday, 19 January 2015
Written by Nay Htun Naing

Whenever UN's special envoys arrive in Myanmar, they have always provoked Bengali Rohingya problems. After criticizing them and watching them for a long time, it may be assumed that their words and movements are done intentionally.

In last year Asean Summit held in November, 2014, United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon attended it. He only highlighted Bengali issue and went back.

At the last week of December 2014, UN's Press Release on Bengali appeared and it was one sided.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, gave her second official visit to the country from 7 to 16 January 2015. She made her first visit to Myanmar in July last year. At the end of her second visit, she also incited the Bengalis issues.

At the end of her visit, she held a press conference on January 16 and she herself read out the statement. Nearly one-third of the Press Release is Rakhine State and Bengali issue. During her nine-day visit, she spent three days in Rakhine State.

Concerning the Bengali issue, the thing we've pointed out is whether the United Nations or International Organization are being misinformed. Although some knew that this news is not true, there are some people who wanted to make it to the point. It is a concern.

Yanghee Lee on her beginning of second visit to Myanmar met human rights activists and politicians. There was no problem in doing so.

When coming back from Rakhine State and meeting with private media, there were some questions to rise. It was a question of what kind of standard they made in choosing the media.

There were six media men Yanghee Lee met. They are Thiha Saw, Sonny Swe, Sithu Aung Myint, Ma Thida (Sausngchaung), Toe Zaw Latt and Kyaw Zwar Moe.

When looking back at the media men, Thiha Saw is from Myanmar Times Journal. Sonny Swe is the C.E.O of  Mizzama News media. He was one of the co- founders of Myanmar Times journal established under military intelligence. He is also the son of Brig-Gen Thein Swe (Retired), the Department head of International Relations of Intelligence Office. Mizzama news was once an opposition media established in India. Now, their reputation is fading.

Another one is Sithu Aung Myint. We don't understand why he was chosen. He is a columnist for Mizzama News and it may be assumed that two journalists from Mizzama were invited. Ma Thida (Saungchaung) is one of the leader of “Petinthan” (Echo Journal) and chairperson of PEN Myanmar. Toe Zaw Latt is from DVB News. Kyaw Zwar Moe is an English editor from the Irrawaddy.

Most of the media men Yanghee Lee met were in favour of Muslim affairs. For the Irrawaddy, they stand firmly from the Bengali side and so many criticisms emerged for their standings among the public.

For Sithu Aung Myint, no elaboration is needed. Mmedia was founded by the extremists Islamists.

In his articles written in 2013, it was founded that he had intentions to blames Rakhine Nationals in Bengali issue. In his article "Still burning Rakhine", published in November 7, 2013 issue of Myanmar Times journal; it could be clearly be seen.

In 2014, he not only blamed the Rakhine National but also protrayed Rakhines as extremists. In his article of " Who was responsible for Rakhine Problem" published in April 3, 2014 in Myanmar Times and "The Falling of Rakhine democracy" published in April 4, Yangon Times, this fact could be seen.

When it reaches 2015, he never changes his standings. In the first week of January, Voice of America (VOA) Myanmar News broadcasted his opinion article of "Listen to the voices of international families". The article's message is supporting the UN's standing released on last week of December. 

He earned a place among those who support Bengali issue, but his writings caused one sided accusations among the Rakhines.

Here, we have to ask him if he ever visited Rakhine State or if he made detailed observations among the Rakhine and Bengali communities.

In 2012, we went to Rakhine State when the Rakhine conflicts reached its climax, when Sittwe was burning fiercely. We covered voices from both sides and understood that Rakhines were not extremists.

Whatever the Bengali issue or China issue, Eleven Media Group's standing is clear. We stand for the sake of national security and national economic benefit. One thing for sure is that Bengalis will never become a Myanmar ethnicity.

That's why international societies and some media including United Nations never pay attention, or listen to us when it comes to Bengali issue.

At the Asean Summit, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a private press brief with ten news agencies. Eleven Media was not invited. Similarly, Yanghee Lee excluded EMG when meeting private media.

Therefore, we asked UN's information officer to Myanmar. Eleven Media was free and independent Media, that has strongest public support and why it was uninvited. What standards UN has made?

UN's officer replied that he has no right to answer. We were not surprised that an information officer from UN declined to answer.

United Nations has spoke several times that Bengalis were discriminated in Rakhine State. Rakhines have been oppressed by the UN and international organizations. That is one thing to be aware of.

Another thing is that UN and international organizations called Bengalis, who are absolutely not Myanmar nationals,  as Rohingya. In the press release appeared on December, that fact was included.

UN has urged to give Bengalis the Myanmar citizen rights, and to allow them to go freely within Myanmar.

Myanmar government has officially declared that there is no Rohingya in Myanmar. Though the government accepted the use of Bengali, their citizenship is decided according to 1982 Citizenship Law.

The Myanmar people's desire is the same with the government. In Myanmar, there is no Rohingya.

But, the UN doesn't accept this.

Yanghee Lee said that although there is a dispute in naming, when submitting the report, she will use the word "Rohingya”. She insisted to use the word objected by the Myanmar public and Rakhine.

She added that if the Rohingya are accepted as Bengali, many rights including the rights to citizenship may be lost.

So, we don't want to argue whether these people are called Rohingya or Bengalis. They can be named as their wish. The Government has officially set the word Bengalis and for the examining the rights of citizens, those called themselves as Bengalis are to be scrutinized.

If they desire to be Myanmar citizen, they must allow themselves to be called Bengalis. If Rohingya is used, they will be left out. So, this problem must settle with the government.  Those want to be the Myanmar citizens, whether he may be Bengali or Rohingya, they will be decided by 1982 Citizenship Law.

What is true is that there is no Rohingya ethnic in Myanmar. But the word Rohingya race was used.

In Myanmar Encyclopedia, Volume-9, page-89, the subject about "May-Yu border district" was mentioned. May-Yu was a district comprising of Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and western parts of Yathedaung Townships. There was a paragraph in May-Yu district statement.

It stated, "In May-Yu border district, there are nearly 400,000 or 500,000 people living there. Most of their livelihoods are agriculture and fishing. Majority of them (about 75 percent) are of Rohingya race where Rakhine, Dainet, Mro, Khamwe ethnics are also residing there."

Those who favour Bengalis mentioned this fact and said that Rohingya lived in Myanmar. According to the paragraph, there were Rohingya. But, it never used the word "ethnic" just mentioned as the word Rohingya.

Among Myanmar ethnicities, there is no Rohingya. They entered Myanmar from neighboring country in colonial era. When their numbers were large, they demanded establishing a Muslim State. That is one thing to note.

Another thing is in 1955-56, during Pha-Sa-Pa- La Era, Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL ). One big mistake was made under U Nu administration. U Nu was the first Prime Minister of Myanmar. Wanting to win at the election, he allowed people from neighboring country to enter Myanmar. He issued temporary citizenship cards and identity cards and permitted those people to vote at the 1956 parliamentarian election. In these regions, Pha-Sa-Pa-La won and elected Begalis entered the Parliament.

After 1960s, the population of the Bengalis, so-called Rohingya, reached almost 500,000 in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and western parts of Yathedaung. Their distribution is so great that they reached to Rakhine State and gradually increased in numbers.

The operation of collecting Bengali census was made in 1966, “Myat Mon” operation in 1969, “Sabei” operation made in 1974 were made for scrutinizing the Bengalis. “The Dragon king” operation made in 1978 is the most serious one among these operations.

Due to the Dragon King operation, more than 150,000 Bengalis fled to Bangladesh. At that time, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spoke for the first time about them. According to them more than 250000 Bengalis fled to Bangladesh and according to international media, nearly 100000 Bengalis were killed.

In July 1978, “Hintha” operation was drawn for reaccepting the fleeing Bengalis. According to that operation, nearly 190,000 entered Myanmar again. That number is larger than the number of Bengalis that fled Myanmar.

In post-1980s, till now, there may be Bengalis of 500,000 to 800,000 living in Rakhine State. Among them, about 500,000 may be elligible according to 1982 Citizenship Law. If they meet the standards mentioned in the Law, they will become Myanmar citizens. But at least, 30,0000 won't become Myanmar citizens.

The 1982 Citizenship Law is the most suitable act for Myanmar. Neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh and China, are over populate.

So, it is not possible to amend the 1982 citizenship Law. The UN is urging Myanmar to amend the law. There are two things that the UN and international organizations must aware of.

First, it was impossible to accept Rohingya as nationals. The second thing is that deviating from the 1982 Citizenship Law, accepting Rohingya as Myanmar citizens will never be done.
We are not supporting everything the government is doing.

We have strongly criticized the facts that reform process is stopping in the President Thein Sein administration, corruption is uncontrollable, the judicial pillar is being destroyed and unfair in giving sentences, poverty among the public reached the highest, poor farmers became the subject of oppression, and imprisonment of journalists prevails.

But for the Bengalis issue, the government handling of this issue is fair, we supposed. President Thein Sein and Rakhine State Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn's handling of Bengalis issue is correct. Besides, they are supported by the Myanmar public.

No matter President Thein Sein or whoever or which party becomes president of Myanmar in future, Bengalis will never become nationals. Even if the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi said and NLD party will carry out for the Bengalis to become nationals, the Bengalis never become nationals. Whoever thinks that the Bengalis as national, a big public protest will appear.

President Thein Sein and his government's approach on the Bengali issue is still correct. But, it couldn't be use as bait for the winning at the election.

Recently, President Thein Sein made a remark that White Card holders should be allowed for voting in coming election. It couldn't be done like this.

If the White Card holders are allowed for voting, they must go under the 1982 Citizenship Law. If they meet the standards of the Law, they will become citizens of Myanmar.

Rakhine State and Bengalis issue not only concern with the Rakhine nationals. It is not a problem between the Rakhine national and the Bengalis. It concerns with the entire country. The problem isn't a regional problem but it is a nationwide problem.

To repeat my word, Bengalis issue isn't a matter of Rakhine State alone. It concerns with more than 50 million people of Myanmar. It is a national issue.

At the moment, the number of Bengalis in Rakhine State is between 500,000 to 800,000. For the entire Myanmar, it is between one and a half of million to 2 million. So, Bengalis are everywhere in Myanmar. They live in Kachin State as well as Taninthayi Region to Kayin State to refugee camps in Thai-Myanmar border areas.

When the millions of Bengalis' population is distributing across Myanmar, to use the words like" accept Bengalis as nationals" couldn't be say easily. If accepted, the identity of a nation can be lost. Therefore, the UN couldn't give pressure in doing so or pushing Myanmar for that matter thinking it (the issue) isn't a significant thing.

Yanghee Lee said that Rakhine State problem is a complicated matter for international societies. It became confusing because of the UN and some of the international societies. For our country, the problem is real simple. As the Bengali issue becomes the national issue, Bengalis will never be accepted as nationals.

For the UN or the international societies to be aware is that they have to bear in mind and accepted that Rohingya or Bengalis aren't Myanmar nationals. Beside, the citizenship must decide according to 1982 Citizenship Law.

Turning aside from the above mentioned two points and instigating Bengalis will not solve the problem. It will only contribute more to the problem.

Don't say to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law. If it is necessary to amend for modernizing, the facts mentioned in the Law couldn't be amended.

Concerning the Bengalis refugees, clarification is needed. It may be around 800000 Bengalis in Rakhine State. At least, 300000 Bengalis may not meet the requirement of the 1982 Citizenship Law.

Bengalis Illegally entering Myanmar in the refugee camps may reach above 100,000 after the 2012 conflicts.

There are two points in UN's press Release. One thing is to give the Bengalis citizenship. The second thing is to allow them to go freely in the nation.

For being the citizens, if they meet the criteria of the Law, they will become Myanmar citizens. The Immigration and Population Department will investigate for that issue. They will go according to the procedures and customs.

If they become the Myanmar citizens, the government will allow them to go freely in the nation.

There are criticisms that people from the Rakhine refugee camps are allowed to go freely while people from Bengali camps are restricted. The people in Rakhine refugee camps are Myanmar nationals.

Those living in the Bengali refugee camps aren't Myanmar nationals. It is natural that they are restricted in going freely.

If one look at the refugee camps in Thai- Myanmar border areas, the same thing could be seen. I have been to some refugee camps in Thai- Myanmar border areas. Those living in the camps have no right to go outside apart from the designated areas. There is some illegal goings from the camps but no official right for going freely in Thailand is granted.
But, Myanmar nationals living in Thailand are not problem makers.

Among the refugees, comparing human rights standard, priority is given on poverty stricken appearances. International media publishing these images, they created the situation of Bengalis are worsening. Actually, there were inhumane cases or violation of human rights among the Bengalis refugees. The UN should pay more attention on those cases.

Another thing is that there are some organizations and media using the name of Rohingya outside Myanmar. We are investigating where these organizations and media got support and how they are standing, what are they doing. We will write as soon as the detailed facts and figure are obtained.

Some organizations don't use the word Bengali, Rohingya but based in outside of Myanmar made movements and they became rich. The lives of Bengalis in the Bengalis refugee camps compared with them, the gap is like the sky and earth.

For the UN, it becomes a custom for paying attention to Bengali affairs only in connection with Myanmar. Whenever they visited Myanmar, they only emphasized on Bengali issue.
For the United Nations, there are many things in Myanmar which need attention rather than Bengalis issue.

In Kachin State, 20 percent of population is in IDP camps. It's been at least four or five months that UN's assistance doesn't go to Kachin refugee camps.

Previous assistances didn't cover the number of refugees. It is like UN is turning a blind eye to Myanmar nationals IDPs under the severe weather with insufficient food.

The UN didn't make an effort for giving effective supports to the IDPs.  There may be various reasons that the food and shelters and assistances didn’t reach the IDPs. But, the UN's strenuous effort couldn't be seen either.

Yanghee Lee's second visit didn’t reach Kachin refugee camps. She cancelled her schedule to go to some refugee camps in northern Shan State giving the excuses of safety on clashes between the government and the ethnic armed forces. It wasn't a sound excuse.

In Kayin State where stability is seen, clearing of land mines couldn't be done till now. No one has been implemented mine clearing in last four years. The UN has given no pressure. For them, they may have excuses but it isn't worth saying.

For the UN, there are many things to be done in refugee camps in eastern Shan State, Shan State, Mon State and Taninthayi Region.

But, there is no significant arrangement. Although they undertook some projects in Myanmar, they prioritised the completion of those projects rather than fulfilling the needs of local residents. 

Myanmar has a lot of human rights’ problems and challenges. The current situation is a time to pay a special attention for general election.

Although there have been perfunctorily     efforts, finally the UN made a very favourable impression on only Bengali’s issue when reviewing the UN’s exhortation.

Due to the results, UN’s power is now decreasing in Myanmar. So also UN’s image is being damaged. The UN is looked like an organization that favours only Bengali’s affair and they don’t play a vital role in Myanmar.

At present, Ban Ki-moon is the UN’s Secretary General. His position term will end in 2016. At the time of Kofi Annan, former UN’s Secretary General, he didn’t make strong desire on Bengali issue. However, when the incumbent Ban Ki-moon had taken office, there are many accusation made by the UN.

Yanghee Lee, UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Myanmar, is a South Korean citizen like Ban Ki-moon.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, former UN’s Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in Myanmar, got a bad name for Bengali issue due to one-sided accusation.

In July last year, Yanghee Lee paid a first visit to Myanmar. Regarding Bengali’s affair, entire Myanmar people hoped to emerge free and fair reviews. However, it has failed. She also made unilateral accusation and pushes for Myanmar like Quintana.

UN’s incitement to Bengali’s issue had damaged the relations between Myanmar and UN. Moreover, the UN’s movements are leading the damages of relations not only between Myanmar and UN but also between Myanmar and South Korea.

Surely, Begali’s issue is not a problem among Rakhine nationals and Bengali Rohingya. It concerns all entire Myanmar people. Nobody can give the pressure on Myanmar.

Thailand tourist murders court procedure begins

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Friday, December 26, 2014 0 comments

Win Zaw Htun (L) and Zaw Lin in a jail cell Win Zaw Htun (pictured left) and Zaw Lin were arrested in early October

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Court proceedings have begun against two Burmese men charged with the murder of two British tourists in September on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, are accused of killing Hannah Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, and David Miller, 24, from Jersey.

Thai prosecutors say they have compiled a strong case against the defendants, who both deny killing the tourists.

The suspects, both migrant workers, could be executed if found guilty.

The bodies of Miss Witheridge and Mr Miller were found on a beach in the popular tourist destination on 15 September. Mr Miller died from drowning and a blow to the head, while Miss Witheridge died from head wounds.

According to previous court documents, both men have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, rape, criminal cover-up, illegally entering Thailand and staying in the country without permission.

Brought forward The investigation has been marred by allegations of both police incompetence and of confessions extracted by torture, he said.
Hannah Witheridge and David Miller The bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a Thai beach
In October, the two men retracted the confessions they made following their arrest three months ago.

They claimed they only confessed after being beaten and threatened by police.

300 years old stone script found in Arakan

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Saturday, December 20, 2014 0 comments

Mrauk U, 20 December 2014:
Centuries old stone scripts
Centuries old stone scripts are found in an Arakanese palace which might threw more light on the history of Rakhine people.

The precious stone script, understood as around 300 years old, was found at the palace ground of Mrauk Oo, an ancient cultural city of Arakan Kingdom, said an official of the archeological department.

“It is true that the stone scrip was found. But it is not a complete structure. Anyhow we have put it in our department” informed U Aung Kyaw Zan, the in-charge of State archaeological department.

The script was sculpted by 1074 Arakan era (1712 AD) and the character of the alphabet is found circular in nature that shows its appearance in Mrauk Oo period, added the responsible officer.

The local people disclosed that the stone script was found in the eastern part of the palace ground while digging for repairing on December 8 last. Almost half of the square-cut stone scrip was damaged which had an area of four square feet and thickness of  five inches.

“We found it during the digging on the floor steps for repairing” confirmed Daw Khin Than, the director in-charge of preserving ancient cultural heritage association.

The content of the script was similar to these lines like 874 waning of the Nattaw, His Majesty the King Sanda Wisaya, The pagodas and statutes were destroyed, Insurgency in all around the country etc.

The Arakan Kingdom witnessed a massive turmoil in 1000 Arakan era. The unrest faced by the then King Sanda Wisaya was probably scripted in the stone, commented U Maung Thein, secretary of preserving ancient cultural heritage association.

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)

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