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Archive for October 1st, 2008

US group studies potential war crimes by Myanmar military

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WASHINGTON (AFP) — An independent US group is to carry out unprecedented studies to determine whether Myanmar’s military rulers, accused of rampant human rights abuses, have committed international crimes.

The Center for Constitutional Democracy at Indiana University’s school of law said it would launch the research based on anecdotal evidence of “severe mistreatment” of marginalized ethnic groups by the junta.

“At this stage of the project, I can’t honestly say that there are international crimes,” the center’s executive director, David Williams, told AFP by telephone.

“What I can say is there may be, and part of our goal would be to gather the evidence and try to come out with some objective conclusions about whether there are or not,” he said.

The center’s goal, he said, was to make focused research “in areas where perhaps it is most likely that international crimes were committed.”

Only the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) can determine whether international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed by any individual or group.

So far, Williams said, there has been no institutional focus on possible international crimes committed by Myanmar’s junta, which imposed a bloody crackdown of pro-democracy protests in September earning global condemnation.

The crackdown — according to United Nations figures — left 31 people dead and 74 others missing, and resulted in thousands of arrests.

The military rulers had also come under international fire and were called “heartless” by some humanitarian groups for initially not allowing foreign aid when a cyclone left 138,000 people dead or missing in May.

Myanmar also houses more than 2,100 political prisoners, including democracy icon and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

Williams said that although the ICC had not initiated any study on the military junta’s record so far, “ours might be a good place for them to get started.

“It might help the various investigators know where to go and what allegations to examine and so forth,” he said.

When asked whether in his personal opinion some of the junta’s actions could be deemed as international crimes, Williams said: “What I might be able to say is that it looks to me, in my professional opinion, like there is a good chance that it is.

“And it makes sense therefore to bring a prosecution because there is enough evidence that a court should be able to see it.”

The university group’s staff had been for the last six years helping ethnic groups inside Myanmar — at their request — draw up constitutional reforms in their struggle to win greater freedom and rights.

Law professor Williams had smuggled himself into Myanmar on various occasions and worked on constitutional reforms with the Karen ethnic group, fighting the government since 1947 in the world’s longest running civil war.

“I am hearing endless stories about how the military government is murdering villagers, it’s blowing up rice paddies so that they dry out, it’s setting fires to villages, it’s laying mines in those villages so that when the people come back some of them get blown up,” he said.

“The result is that they have to move often to hills and find a new place to build a village and start growing rice. That means in a relatively short period of time there is famine because old rice paddies have to be abandoned.”

Williams said while he did not witness the Myanmar military units attacking the Karen guerilla resistance units, he saw “evidence of the military going after the civilian population.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg in itself and that doesn’t constitute conclusive evidence of an international crime but it makes you think,” he said.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

October 1, 2008 at 10:53 am

World focus on Burma (1 October 2008)

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Bus drivers’ licences revoked by Dala authorities
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
… have revoked the licences of private bus drivers whom they accuse of suspending their services to mark Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday on 19 June. …

Growing list of companies implicated in Chinese milk scandal, Italy –
The ones who are paying no attention to the scandal are the military junta leaders in Myanmar. Although the government has prohibited the importing of …

Win Tin’s Logical Principles
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win told the UN General Assembly on Monday, “Peace and stability now prevails in almost all parts of the country. …

The Freedom We Know –
Areas of the world where Christians face persecution include: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), …

Reports of Rape Surface in Cyclone-devastated Delta
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
… Reports of rape and other abuses of women are surfacing as communities in Burma’s Irrawaddy delta continue to recover from May’s Cyclone Nargis. …

Chinese Dam Incurs KIO Wrath
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
The KIO, which signed a ceasefire with the Burmese junta in 1994, was reportedly unhappy that several projects to build dams in Kachin State in northern …

Cyber cafes ordered to close early
Independent Mon News Agency, WA –
Suffering from an unnamed fear on the 1st anniversary of the saffron revolution the Burmese military junta has ordered cyber cafes to close early in the …

Generals Authorized to Buy Land Cruisers
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
By LAWI WENG The latest perk for Burma’s senior military officials is a Toyota Land Cruiser, according to a source close to the military government. …

Elected MP Dr Myo Win dies aged 54
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
He took part in the 1988 uprising and became the chairman of Kawa township National League for Democracy and won his seat in the 1990 election with 67.65 …

Journal Punished for Defying Order to Drop Win Tin Report
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Board ordered the suppression of a report on Win Tin’s release and a short profile of the freed political prisoner. …

Malaysia Today, Malaysia –
Malaysia has joined the ranks of China, Vietnam and Burma as a leading violator of online freedom. Blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, also known as RPK, …

Revolting comedy stunt
Belfast Telegraph, United Kingdom –
“Last week we freed Burmese dissident U Win Tin because of a couple of Amnesty gigs in the Whitla Hall. If Saturday night goes well I reckon Guantanamo Bay …

Burma’s Neighbors Absorbing Cyclone Survivors
Free Speech Radio News, CA –
Cyclone Nargis hit Burma at a time when inflation and unemployment were already at their highest levels in years. To make matters worse, salt water now …

Aid and water dry up in Burma’s cyclone zone
Times Online, UK –
Lurking in the background is the deepest fear of all — another cyclone, as strong, or stronger. Nargis was unprecedented in Burmese history, …

Naypyidaw auctions seized vehicles in southern Burma
Independent Mon News Agency, WA –
The junta only gave back the seized cars to DKBA. NMSP lost dozens of cars in 2003 and does not dare to buy it back afraid that regime’s law is not …

Mizzima websites hacked, India –
Mizzima, however, is still unable to confirm whether the attack is the work of the Burmese military junta, which has banned Mizzima’s websites inside the …

Media groups alarmed over murder of journalists
GMA, Philippines –
In addition, the PEC and the ICPJ feel encouraged by the liberation of Burmese journalist U Win Tin (79 years old) after 20 years of detention in Burma. …

Horrific comedy stunt
Belfast Telegraph, United Kingdom –
“Last week we freed Burmese dissident U Win Tin because of a couple of Amnesty gigs in the Whitla Hall. If Saturday night goes well I reckon Guantanamo Bay …

WASHINGTON (AFP) — An independent US group is to carry out unprecedented studies to determine whether Myanmar’s military rulers, accused of rampant human …

NLD warned over ‘dictatorship’ remarks
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
“The establishment of a government that guarantees basic human rights is the NLD’s aim, and therefore stopping the re-emergence of dictatorship is also the …

Religious freedom hanging in the balance in Burma, India –
… the report calls out the generals on their attempt to “systematically restrict efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political freedom. …

Junta claims international law on its side, condemns sanctions, India –
The tirade, on the session’s last day of debate, linked the prospects of a more economically integrated Burma to the betterment of both the region’s and…

Junta issues warning on tainted milk, India –
A report in the Burmese language newspaper Myanmar Ahlin, an official government mouth-piece, on Tuesday said with Chinese milk and milk products found to …

Burmese refugees join seasonal work force
Durham Herald Sun, NC –
This group of refugees from Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar, were forced to leave their country because of war and persecution. Coming soon? …

Burma’s State Media Still Mum on Tainted Milk Powder
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
She told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the semi-official Myanmar Times weekly newspaper earlier published a story that said all imported dairy products from …

Burma Discovers Large New Coal Mine in Shan State
RedOrbit, TX –
Yangon, 1 October: Myanmar [Burma] has discovered a new large coal mine in northern part of the country’s Shan state and mining of the mineral will start …

Mon National Democratic Front Liberation Area (MNDF-LA) founded
Independent Mon News Agency, WA –
… founded in Mae Sot yesterday to join hands with Mon organizations and other opposition groups in exile to continue the struggle for democracy in Burma. …

The threat of Indian globalisation
Thought Leader, South Africa –
Predictably, human rights, labour and environmental issues are some of the concerns at the heart of the Chinese dilemma. The emerging Chinese economic …

Activists Re-Assess Their “China Strategy”
UN Dispatch –
Since then, though, many human rights activists have been dismayed by China’s alliances with Zimbabwe, Burma, and Sudan–and have complained that China uses …

Cooking With the Enemy
New York Times, United States –

She thinks India, Pakistan and Israel are pretty slippery, as are Cuba, Burma (which she refuses to call Myanmar) and China. Each country gets a chapter, …

Luxury cruises on the Rajang
New Straits Times, Malaysia –
… reviving the name of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company of old Burma which in the 1920s, ran a fleet of more than 650 vessels on the rivers of Myanmar. …

Burmese ruby ban takes effect
National Jeweler Network, NY –

Gems from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) that entered the country prior to the ban can still be bought and sold in the United States, at least as long as …

Neither engagement nor sanctions
OpEdNews, PA –
by Zaw Nay Aung Page 1 of 1 page(s) The Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win demanded the West to revoke the sanctions placed on Burma at the UN General …

Chandigarh Tribune, India –
35 Burma nationals nabbed: Border Security Force personnel nabbed 35 Burma (Myanmar) nationals while they were trying to sneak into the Pakistan territory …

Slow recovery for Burma’s cyclone victims
Christian Science Monitor, MA –

… Burma – The locals say things will never be the same in Mya Sein Ken, deep in the heart of the cyclone-savaged delta in southern Burma (Myanmar). …

Security Council Extends UNMIL’s Presence
The News Newspaper Online, Liberia –

The Security Council Monday extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) through September 2009, and authorized Secretary-General …