Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Burma Military Regime Aimed to End Gambling in Society

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Banyar Kong Janoi

The Burmese regimes slogan is "the land of gold" it implies that no one is struggling in Burma.

The military-government controls every aspect of people’s lives in the country.

All major enterprises are state-own. To do business in Burma you need to have connects to the ruling generals.

The State also tries to control freedom of expression and social morals.

Last month, the regime began a crack down on gambling.

From inside Burma King Kong Janoi reports.

People are crowed in a coffee shop watching the Thai Stock market on satellite TV.

Their interest is not in the performance of the stock market, but in the random, final two digits of the share price.

It’s called to two digits lottery and the winner numbers are calculated in the last minute before the stock market closes. This happens twice a day.

Among them is 30 year old Nai Shwe Htay.

"The reason why I gamble is I am not happy with my low income. I am impatient and want a big amount of money at once. I want to get married soon and I need money for my wedding. Also if I get a large amount of money I can start my own business.”

Each month he gambles 24 US dollars in the hope of winning about 1000 US dollar but so far he has never won.

Gambling is epidemic among Burma's poor, people from the villagers travel to cities just to gamble.

Some go to the temple asking the monk what number will come up next.

If they run out of money the gamble their house, land and businesses.

Layi Mon has watched her neighbors ruined by gambling.

"She ended up committing suicide after she lost everything through gambling and couldn’t pay her debts. And another one her life was destroyed. She had to sell all properties in order to pay off her debt. Now she runs a small roadside shop selling food to survive.”

To address the problem the Burmese military has launched a crack-down on gambling.

The gambling law of 1986 aims to improve Burmese society.

Police have been told to arrest people found gambling. The maximum sentence is two years in Jail.

A public information campaign is also running. There are billboards and signs across the country saying ‘Work with us to wipe out gambling’.

But gambler Non Tama says the authorities and particularly the police are part of the problem.

"They always claim when they arrest people for gambling that they are doing their duty and helping society but in fact they are just looking for money. You can easily bribe them and get off all charges. It’s no big deal. So gambling is actually on the increase.”

Asia Calling tried to get a response from the Burmese police about these allegations.

We rang seven different police stations from the headquarters to local posts and no one was willing to talk.

In 2007 Transparency International named Burma as one of the most corrupted countries in the world.

Due to corruption and mismanagement of the country’s economy unemployment is very high.

The average annual income is less than 400 US dollars.

Hundreds of Thousands of people leave the country every year in order to find jobs in neighbor countries like Thailand.

In coffee shop in the Karen State, unemployed men are trying to guess the next number.

They write down digits and try to logically work it out.

Gambler Nai Mon says the government needs to address the root causes of the gambling problem.

"If people had jobs they wouldn’t gamble so much. I would be busy with my job and wouldn’t have time to gamble. If the government wants to stop the practice they need to improve the economy and focus on creating jobs and spreading the wealth around and improving the living standards of the general population.”

The Burmese military government decline to talk to Asia Calling.

However a lawyer who wants to be unnamed from Burma says this is the law that is good for society.

"When the people gamble, it can destroy public morality because after they lost every thing, they could become thieves and robbers so this law have to introduce to society."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Burma’s Armed Ethnic Groups to Step up Resistance

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Burma's armed ethnic groups and ceasefire groups are vowing to unite to fight against government forces in the lead up to next year’s election.

According to Burma’s new constitution, all ceasefire groups must operate under the command of the military government.

However, most ceasefire groups have rejected the offer to work as government border patrol units and say they will maintain their army to protect their own people.

As Banyar Kong Janoi reports The New Mon State party and other ethnic groups say they will not accept any policy that doesn’t benefit their people.

Mon villagers dressed in their ethnic colors of red and white gather to celebrate their 62nd revolutionary day.

People sing the Mon National song.

This is the anniversary of the Mon uprising for self-determination against the Burmese government.

Mi Layi Mon says the dream of an independent Mon state is being kept alive by her generation.

“The rights of our people are in the hands of our youth because the youth play a very important role and they are very active in the political movement. So in the future the youth like us will promote ideology and education and we will get what we want."

The New Mon State Party fought an armed struggle for independence against the Burmese junta for over five decades.

But in 1995 it accepted a ceasefire agreement offered by the military regime.

Mon Sone, a resident in Karen State, says signing the ceasefire agreement was the right thing to do at the time.

"We do not blame the NMSP for signing that deal because war is not going to achieve our goal. Fighting will only destroy our people and send us further into poverty. During the conflict years we couldn’t maintain our culture, language or religion because we were on the run all the time. So the idea is we that we would try to achieve our political goals through negotiation.”

But he says the military regime has not kept up their side of the deal.

Now under the country’s new constitution the military regime is demanding all ceasefire groups must operate under the command of the military government.

They want the Mon armed wing to act as a border patrol. Mon Sone says they will never do this.

"The New Mon State Party has been fighting for the rights of the Mon people for long time. We honour and respect what they have done but if they accept the juntas offer and start working for them their honour will disappear right a way. So we very proud that they rejected this offer.”

One of ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organization, is preparing to fight if the junta puts pressure on them to become a border guard force.

But the New Mon State Party says they are committed to resolving the stand-off in a peaceful way.

Nai Hong Sa Boung Khine is a NMSP spokesperson.

"For us, we will still maintain ceasefire agreement but if the regime demand more pressure more on us we will have to consider in another way. So far, we would love to solve it politically through negotiation not by fighting with armed.”

The government is by stepping up confrontation against opposition groups.

The government's latest offensive against the Karen National Union, which began in June, has resulted in nearly 5000 Karen fleeing across the border into Thailand.

The conflict between the Burmese government and the KNU, which has stretched over 60 years, is thought to be one of the world's longest running.

Mahn Nyien Maung is a central committee member of Karen National Union armed force.

"If the regime is committed to building peace to avoid civil war them we will go into negotiations with them. But they are not thinking about returning Burma to the democratic path or about the rights of ethnic groups they are only thinking about how long they will be in power for.”

The military government is promising that elections will take place next year. If they go ahead they will be the first democratic vote since 1990.

Aung San Suu Kyi won that election but was never allowed to rule. The extension of her house arrest this month means she will be unable to contest next year’s vote.

Political science student Chan Jit in the Mon state says there are two ways to change in Burma a people’s uprising for a slow transitional change.

"For instance, say, if American stops its sanctions and begins doing Business with Burmese people and Burmese government and then the middle class would become larger by then. This evolution would mean the military has to give up their power slowly.”