Monday, October 25, 2010

Hong Kong Producing Too Much Rubbish

E-mail Print PDF

Download Hong Kong is facing a waste crisis.

Government data shows the amount of waste increasing more than ten thousand tonnes each year.

In addressing the waste problem, the government plans to extend the Tseung Kwan O landfill despite lawmakers’ and residents’ opposition to the plan.

Activists say the government should come out with a better strategy to solve the problem.

From Hong Kong Banyar Kong Janoi reports.

Kwok Pik-han, a 19-year-old first year university student, lives in Tseung Kwan O, only 50 metres from the land fill site that contains thousands of tonnes of waste dumped over many years.

“My nose has some problem because of air pollution. I always have runny nose and it affects my life so much. We can still smell nasty smell so it is a good environment to live.”

A few weeks ago, the government proposed to extend the landfill near her village.

“The government planned to build up bigger landfill in Tseung Kwan O, which Tseung Kwan residents do not like it: we against it. District’s council fights for it not to do so now they are finding some way to deal with rubbish problem because there is so much rubbish in Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong produces more waste than it’s neighbours Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.

Yet it recycles the less according to the environmental organization Friends of the Earth.

The garbage at another land fill site, Siu Lang Shui in Tuen Mum is stacked 120 metres high.

This landfill site is still being used as a waste site by the Hong Kong Government.

Some teachers and students in Hong Kong are eager to tackle the waste problem.

At Sir Ellis Kadooris Secondary School, visiting landfills and educating student to reduce and recycle waste are school activities.

This year the school received a Hong Kong Green School Award from the Environmental Campaign Committee, a group of civic leaders hoping to tackle environmental problems in Hong Kong.

Yet teacher Sam Chan says the school has limited resources.

“Government should assign more funding for school specify for use of environmental education”

Sam Chan says separating garbage and telling students what kind of garbage can be recycled has reduced waste at the school.

Professor Jonathan Woon Chung Wong is currently doing a research on waste management in Hong Kong.

“A lot of people say that, green groups say that, we don’t need landfill, we don’t need incinerator. What we need is people separation. Do think it is okay. I would say that Hong Kong is very strange situation. We don’t have compulsory charging waste. You can dump your waste without paying anything.

Compulsory government charges for waste can motivate citizens to reduce their waste.

Yet Jonathan says that even countries that have charges and separation for waste still have to have to deal with landfills and incinerators.

“Even though, you can do the best in the world, you still have waste to dispose into the landfill. Waste separation is a must. We need to do it but it is not the solution for the current situation.”

“So where all rubbish go? This is dilemma I would say that it is really difficult situation now. You can’t really have any choice. The choice is first we need to expand our landfill site because it takes time to build also. At the same time, we need to immediately get the permission to build incinerator otherwise five years later, you need to ask extension again. The extension will continue unless you build incinerator.”

The government environmental department was not available to give comment.

Back at Kwok Pik-han is also active in the school green activities.

She is fighting for waste separation and reduction among the students in the university.

“People may think that you are a person even you do recycle and reduce waste yourself it won’t help but I think if we do not do it the problem get more serious.”

Because for Kwok Pik- han the site near Tseung Kwan O isn’t just a potential garbage dump, it’s her home.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Burmese Sex Workers Avoid Arrest with Bribes and not Carrying Condoms

E-mail Print PDF

Download Burmese sex workers say they don’t carry condoms because if they do they will be arrested by the police.

Sex work is illegal in Burma and there are no government programs to educate against HIV/AIDS.

As a result Burma has one of the fastest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in Asia after Cambodia and Thailand.

Banyar Kong Janoi went to meet sex workers in the capital Rangoon and has this report.

It’s a Sunday night and the JJ night club is full of working girls who look between 16 and 20 years old.

They cross the dance-floor in super high stiletto heels and miniskirts made from flimsy material. They move awkwardly to blasting heavy music.

A few Burmese male customers watch closely from low tables.

18-years-old Ya Min says she works here to survive.

“I am working in this job to support my family who don’t have enough money. So I invest my body into this job.”

She began working as a prostitute two months ago after she struggled to find another job in the capital.

Sex work is illegal in Burma and the Burmese military government strictly prohibits prostitution and brothels.

But Yan Min says it’s easy to bribe the police.

“We bribe local policemen so we can work. When other police come they call us and warn us that there will be a raid and to hide. We pay them a monthly fee between 30 – 50 US dollars, sometimes it’s 150 dollars. We have to give them whatever they ask. I never carry condoms because if they see the condom they know that I am a sex worker.”

Lawyer U Aung Thein from the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy, condemns the government’s handling of sex workers.

He says the Suppression of Prostitution Act, which was enacted in 1949, is not just.

“The law aims to stop all sex work. Women can be easily labeled as prostitutes and houses that are suspected of being brothels are targeted. But the law does nothing to the men who have sex with prostitutes.”

He says the military regime has mishandled the issue.

“Because it’s criminalised the sex workers go underground and therefore they are not being educated about health and sexually transmitted diseases. In this situation HIV/AIDS is being spread quickly because there are no controls.”

Figures from 2005 from the Burmese National AIDS Programme show more than 30 percent of sex workers are HIV positive.

Burma has one of Asia's highest adult HIV/AIDS rates after Cambodia and Thailand.

Another sex worker who goes by the named Tin Tin says many of collegues are HIV positive.

“One of them was beautiful and young when I met her with a slim body. But she became very thin and had abscesses on her body and on her mouth. When everyone is cold, she is hot; everyone is hot, she is cold. Then her abscesses became bigger and bigger. I don’t really know what a HIV patient looks like but another colleague said she had it.”

She says her colleague was sent back home after her boss found out that she was HIV positive.

“He gave her some money to go back home. The girls also gave her some money. We encouraged her not to be depressed but she was very sad. I told her you will be OK when you get home to your family. She insisted that she wasn’t HIV positive.”

She does not know if her friend is still alive.

As the people who are HIV positive are usually poor they can’t afford antiretroviral drugs.

Tin Tin has never even heard of them.

She says sex workers use traditional medicine.

“Three of my colleagues are HIV positive. They inject penicillin and drink some leaf liquid which you can buy on the street. It’s made by mixing the leaves with salt. It’s believed to kill the HIV virus. There are some people who drink that tea and stay healthy.”

Tin Tin says despite the risk she will continue working as a prostitute.

“I will not regret my decisions if I get HIV/AIDS because I have chosen my path. I knew the risks when I started this job. I do it because of the money. I don’t know if my body is clean. Some clients use condoms; some don’t. Some only use one when I ask them to. Sometimes the condom breaks. I protect myself as much as I can but I have to sleep with lots of men, I can’t say how many.”

Economic hardship also drives Burmese girls to travel to China and Thailand and work in the sex industry.

Along the Thai-Burma border, agents recruit women by promising them with jobs but then force them into the sex trade.

Naw Kanda is the spokesperson for a safe-house that helps migrant workers on the border.

“Not only HIV, we have tuberculosis, malaria and disabled people. The program is only for people who were arrested and deported. Some time, people come and drop a patient without letting us know. Like last time, when we went to the church and we came back, there was an old man here. He was dropped here and we don’t where he is from. We can’t just ignore them when they’re already here, and sick and nowhere to go! Right?"

She says most sex workers also have very limited choices.

“In my own opinion, sex workers, especially people from Burma, they have no choice. They are forced to do it even though they don’t want to do it. And then some men when they came, they don’t use condom that’s why they got it. Some time they got it from injection. They have to use drugs so they can work more for the employer.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burmese telephone market set for dramatic growth

August 16th, 2010

A telephone tower in Rangoon city

Kong Janoi, IMNA : Decreasing landline prices and expanding phone services, both to be launched this week, are exciting potential customers all over Burma.

According to this week’s edition of Burma’s weekly Eleven journal, this week the Burmese government-controlled department of Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT)is launching a new reduced-price telephone landline service; the department is also adding another digit to Burmese phone dialing numbers, thereby upping the amount of daling numbers available to potential users around the country.

A Rangoon-based business magazine’s editor told IMNA that increasing demand within the country necessitated the need a for increased telephone services nationwide. The attractive price of the newly available landlines are also expected to attract even more interested customers.

“This landline is only a million kyat [1,000 USD] per head and [buyers] will get service three or four weeks after applying. Compared to in the past, [it would take] you three years at least to get service after applying and the price is about 2.5 million kyat [2,500 USD] per head. This one is relatively cheap and easy to apply for so many customers will [be interested] to buy it,” he said.

According to figures published by this week’s Weekly Eleven journal, there are currently only a little over 2 million [2,199,049] total phone owners in the whole of Burma; the country has a population of over 50 million people.

The reason for the service expansion is unknown. A political analyst in Rangoon told IMNA, “It is strange that the government is now opening up communication service, because before they didn’t want civilians to use such a communication tool. By using this tool they [the government] think that people will communicate with the outside world and [start] telling what they have been suffering in this country.”

Phone service expansion has in the past been attributed to government attempts to raise funds for the upcoming national elections, recently set for November 7th. A source quoted in a June 18th, 2009 article published by The Irrawaddy news magazine linked phone service expansion to the Burmese government’s inadequate budget, indicating that that the government needed more funds to hold the 2010 elections.

Despite the possibility of government profit, many of the sources that IMNA interviewed felt that expansion of phone services will serve to empower the Burmese people. A Rangoon-based journalist interviewed by IMNA expressed optimism for the change, opining that the launching of new phone service will prove highly beneficial to the country’s citizens.

“This is good thing if lots of phone service is available to people, so that the media can contact them [as a] part of monitoring or checking [the upcoming] election,” he explained.

Min Yan Naign, a founder of Generation Wave, a campaign group dedicated to promoting voter boycotts of the upcoming elections, told IMNA that having increased phone services available in Burma will greatly increase the group’s campaigning abilities, which already rely heavily on cellular phone services.

“We use graffiti as our campaigning tool but since phone service [is becoming] available to many people, we use SMS [Short Message Service] in our campaign which is easier and less risky. We use prepaid once-time-use SIM cards and we throw them away after sending a campaigning message.”

According to the Rangoon business magazine editor that IMNA interviewed earlier in this article, Burma remains one of the world’s costliest places to obtain phone services, with a single prepaid SIM card costing as much as 20 US dollars for one hour’s worth of usage.

Short URL:

Burma's Youth Rapping for Revolution

Download This year looks set to be a crucial one for Burma.

The military government has announced that the first elections for 20 years will be held on November the 7th and international attention is likely to be focused on the detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But there is another group working to bring about change in Burma whose methods are less conventional.

Generation Wave is a group of hip-hop-loving, young Burmese, dedicated to overthrowing the military government.

They are boycotting the election and demanding a social revolution.

Banyar Kong Janoi went to meet them in Rangoon.

‘Don’t give up! Be brave to say what is not right!’ rap Generation Wave.

Their song is being played in Burma on the foreign-based television station, the Democratic Voice of Burma.

The song is amusing and the film clip shows four members of Generation Wave wearing masks and bouncing around.

They act out the military junta arresting, torturing, and imprisoning political activists.

Generation Wave asks people to overthrow the military regime with them.

26-year-old, Pakker is watching the music video closely. He, like many young Burmese, is a big fan of Generation Wave.

“The song is very important for young people because we can learn from the lyrics. The message from the music goes to your heart. The more the youth become knowledgeable the better society will be. This song informs us about the election. After listening to it we will know whether it’s worthwhile for us to vote.”

Aung Than Htike is one of the singers in Generation Wave based in Rangoon.

We met in a public space near the sea so we will not stand out.

“We are activists. We send messages to people in different ways. Music is one of our tools to send our messages. We also recently published a poem and distributed it to the people. Sometimes we use graffiti on walls. Whatever we can do, we will do to it to raise the awareness of people.”

For this he is a wanted man in Burma.

He keeps his home address and daily movements secret.

He says he nearly got caught by the state police last year.

“I was working underground but when one of my colleagues got arrested the police got our profiles. I was put on the wanted list by the military regime. A year ago the police came to ask questions about me but they did nothing to them. The police watched my house for about three months.”

About 30 Generation Wave members have already been arrested.

Aung says he has to think carefully about where he stays and is always checking to see if someone is following him.

But despite the risks they are campaigning against the election.

A founder of Generation Wave, Min Yang, says the poll is meaningless.

“The 2010 election is not fair because it’s based on a constitution that we do not accept. We are boycotting the election because we don’t want to stay as slaves to the military for the rest of our lives. That’s why we are campaigning among the people. We are forming alliances with other youth groups to protest as much as we can. If we get more space to carry out our activities we will do more.”

Generation Wave is grounded in harsh reality.

The organisation grew out of what became known as the Saffron Revolution - the 2007 protests led by saffron robed monks, who were violently put down by the Burmese military.

“We didn’t want the revolution to end just like that. After the September uprising nothing changed in our country. As young people we are not satisfied; we demand change. We want freedom from the military rule as soon as possible. So we campaign using music and graffiti to let people know about their rights.”

He says their group attracts young people to politics.

“Politics is about our daily survival. Our economic problems are due to our political situation. What we are doing now is to let people get interested in politics because people should know about politics. It is so our country can be changed and our living standard can be changed."

He says he is very happy that many young people are now involved in the movement.

“After 2007, many youth are interested in politics. They are involved in social work. Based on this fact, we want to make some change in the country because our country’s politics, economy and education are far behind other countries. So we will do whatever we have to do, to change our country with non-violent ways such as involving social working and music campaigns.”

Back at the house receiving the DVB TV channel which is broadcasting a Generation Wave song, a community leader Nai Hla Thein says music is the only language in which young people are interested.

“Many young people are interested in Generation Wave songs that were broadcast from the DVB TV channel. This is a good sign because many young generations do not understand the country politics such as rights abuse, inequality. They even don’t know that the peoples’ leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is struggling. By listening to their music and visualizing the picture in TV, many people learn a lot what they don’t know yet about our country. We want to see these kinds of activities more in the future.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thai language degree introduced at Burmese university

August 13th, 2010

Students attend classes at YUFL

Kong Janoi, IMNA : The University of Foreign Languages in Yangon [Rangoon] (YUFL) plans to launch a new Thai language degree program during the 2010-2011 academic year.

An official from the University’s new Thai Language department told IMNA that implementing a new Thai language program is part of an expansion project for the university. She declined to give further comment.

Former UFL students who are currently pursuing further studies in Bangkok feel that increasing their proficiency in the Thai language will be beneficial for their future careers; many pointed to the thousands of Burmese students currently studying in Thailand and the millions of Burmese migrant workers who are employed in the country.

A UFL alumni, who is currently studying in Thailand, says the inclusion of Thai in the University’s curriculum provides a great opportunity to young people in Burma.

“Thailand is our neighboring country and its economy is growing. This is the University of Foreign Language so they [ the University] need to implement the courses that will attract students,” she said.

Another former student currently enrolled at a Thai University said the UFL is one of Burma’s most selective universities, after the University of Medicine; UFL programs are highly sought after by students who hope to find international employment.

Many, like the students interviewed above, applaud the addition of a Thai language program to universities in Burma as a step towards empowering Burma and Burmese citizens’ economic negotiations with Thailand. Others do not greet the news with complete optimism.

Dr Sean Turnell, associate professor in economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, and Burma economic expert, cautioned IMNA that audiences must consider the larger nature of economic relations between the two countries, and take care not to overplay the actual power that proficient Thai will give Burma or Burmese citizens:

“In and of itself, this decision to teach Thai is a good thing. Burma will, and must, always have a close economic relationship with Thailand, and such teaching should only help Burma get the most out of this relationship.”

“However, there is a problem at the degree of imbalance in the economic relationship between the two countries at the moment, which is probably the source of why some might be uncomfortable at news like this. Put simply, Burma is little more than a quarry and source of unfinished raw materials for Thailand and other countries…”

The three-year bachelor degree programs at Burma’s two universities of foreign languages, located in Rangoon and Mandalay respectively, already offer English, French, Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean and Russian language courses. Thai will only at present be offered at the Rangoon-based site. This week’s edition of Burma’s Weekly-Eleven journal reported that entrance depends on university entrance exam scores, with top students earning places in the ultra-competitive English program. The journal also reported that admission to the new Thai program may demand high marks as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bloggers Fight for Freedom of Expression in Burma Election

Download Blogs are an alternative source of independence news in Burma as all other media such as newspapers, radio, and TV are controlled by the military regime.

The bloggers gained international attention during the ‘Saffron Revolution’ against the government lead by the countries monks in 2007. Bloggers were the main source of news and uploaded video and images of the protest.

As our reporter Banyar Kong Janoi found out, the blogs are an important source of election news for young people inside Burma.

He spent two days with a renowned blogger inYangon.

An internet shop in Yangon is full of customers.

Most of them are young.

All though there is still no date for the election, there are many online forums with open heated debate about the poll.

University student, Mi Sike Ka-mar Chan, says she has learned a lot about the election online.

“2010 election is a heated issue in every blogs. On their discussion page, some people comment the election is good for people while others criticize. Some criticize the National League for Democracy Party not joining the election while others support them for boycotting it. There are a lot of blogs about Burma. We just read the ones that interest us. The blog suits Burmese people because they have a low bandwidth so we can open them easily.”

Another university student, Moe Kyaw, says blogs are his only source of information.

“I learnt from the blog about the 2010 election especially from the blogs which focus on politics. They post how to vote and they post the regulation of the election. By reading those posts we know the answers and we can say why we don’t agree with the election.”

The blogger is based in Rangoon.

He is calling for radical changes to the election process.

“We want to see an election of international standard. The government must change. We want a government who is truly elected by the people. We have lived under a military dictatorship since birth. Because of these we have to struggle to live. Compared to other countries we are behind because of the military leaders. That’s why we must follow other countries and lift the living standard of the people. We are fighting with our pen to explain to people from our blog.”

His blog became popular among young people inside Burma and gained an international audience after the ‘Saffron Revolution’ in 2007 when monks staged large street protests against the military regime in Burma.

The bloggers played a critical role by uploading images and telling the true story. In response the government cut internet access to the entire country.

A ‘Force for Country’ blogger explains how they avoid the government censorship.

“We need software, proxy numbers to pass through a banned server to login our blogs. The free proxy can be expired. So we share among our peers and we found new tech and proxy numbers that can pass the server to upload posts. We upload it in different internet cafés because if we upload at a permanent shop and post with a single IP, the authorities would know; they would come and arrest us. Typing in the house, we just upload the post in the shop within a minute. As soon as we have uploaded we leave.”

Shop owners are required to report customers who are looking at banned websites or sites that criticise the government.

They have been ordered by the government to check each user’s screen every 15 minutes to monitor their online activities.

On all the PCs in this internet café is a sign that reads: “You are not allowed to see political and pornography websites.”

Youtube, Google mail and Yahoo mail are blocked.

However many users are smart enough to surf banned websites through proxy servers.

But bloggers working inside the country do so at great risk.

28-year-old blogger, Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2008 for posting a cartoon of the military leader, Than Shwe.

‘Free for country’ bloggers says security is very important.

“We can’t just look at the screen; we always have to look around us and see who is looking at us. When we are uploading, we do not use a full screen. We use the “restore down” function- half screen. While we are uploading the post we pretend to be surfing other websites so people don’t pay attention to us.”

He says he takes the risks because it’s his responsibility as a citizen of Burma.

“I don’t get any support in the way of funds to operate this blog. I just save from my pocket money to use the Internet for uploading posts. I get technical help from my friends who are better with computers. We can present the true story. It’s incredible when we go on a field trip; we can upload pictures which tell the true current story. When people understand the situation and learn from our blog, we are happier than if we got paid for our work. I feel this job is important so I do it.”

He says he is very honest in his work.

“I am very concerned with accuracy. I go into the field to collect information. Although there is not a lot of news on my blog it’s more of a watchdog. I monitor the work of civil servants and government officials. If I get a new’s tip, I will investigate further before posting it and I will take photos.”

Back in the Rangoon internet café university student, Nai Rot Khine, says bloggers are a lifeline for her generation.

“As for me, reading blogs is very important. We can read different kinds of issues. We can read open discussion about the current politics so we can make ourselves rich in knowledge.”

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Piracy crackdown aims to boost Burma’s film and music industries

Recent police crackdowns on pirated copies of Burmese music and films in the cities of Rangoon and Mandalay are expected to provide an economic boost to Burma’s struggling entertainment industry.

A resident in Burma’s capital city, Rangoon, told IMNA today that the streets of Rangoon are currently completely devoid of vendors selling pirated copies of Burmese films or music. The crackdown is reported to have been in effect since May 2010.

“Before, we could find some pirated copies everywhere, although it was illegal to buy them, because the venders bribed the police to [allow them to] sell them , but now they [venders] cannot bribe the police anymore. The police have even give some money to people who informed them about pirated CDs and DVD [being sold],” she said.

This source reported that the crackdown includes only Burmese films productions. Film vendors selling pirated western and Korean films can still be seen on Rangoon’s streets, yelling for customers.

“The police were paid to crack down on pirated copies of Burmese film and music productions. The other films, like Korean movies and western movies, they are not paid [to confiscate] so who cares?” she said.

Representatives from Burma’s entertainment industry complained to The Irrawaddy newspaper on June 29th, 2007, that widespread piracy of Burmese music and film were driving both industries to the brink of collapse; the Burmese government’s periodic attempts to stifle piracy were deemed too weak to be truly effective.

According to a journalist in Rangoon, the orders for this most recent, and more stringent, attempt to quell piracy were issued by the Burmese government after insistant complains from representatives of the country’s film industry.

“The serious crackdown happened when [film] director Maung Myo Min’s group demanded that the government enforce the laws three month ago. After that they [the police] have arrested many vendors in the cities of Rangoon and Mandalay,” he explained.

The police headquarters in Rangoon were not available for comment.

A travel agent in Rangoon informed IMNA that airports have become the sites of police searches for contraband pirated material, and that her agency is now taking care to warn customers of the situation before they attempt to fly out of the country.


A pirated vendor sells entertainment CDs and DVDs on the street of Rangoon

“The airport authorities check everything, and if they see some pirated CDs and DVDs, they will bring travelers to the Special Police. They [the Special Police] will fine them about 10,000 Kyat [US $10] . So to avoid trouble and fines, we recommend our customer buy legitimate one,” she said.

Buying legal DVDs and CDs is an excessive expense for most Rangoon dwellers, IMNA’s first source in Rangoon reports. She claims that legal DVDs and CDs cost around 2,000 kyat [US $2] each, while pirated copies cost as little as 400 kyat [$0.40]. Barring this option, individuals with internet access (including herself, she admits) can always download entertainment for free.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Burma Election Campaign Not Free and Fair

E-mail Print PDF
Hits smaller text tool iconmedium text tool iconlarger text tool icon

Download All though there is still no date for the election, politically campaigning has begun across Burma.

There are 37 other new political parties and five existing groups that have registered to contesting in the poll that is expected to be held later this year.

They include Pro-military, pro-democracy and ethnic parties.

As Banyar Kong Janoi reports from Rangoon is not a free and fair campaign.

On the street of Rangoon, people are indecisives about what party they are going to vote for in the election.

A university student, Moe Kyaw says he will not take part.

“I don’t know who to vote for because I don’t like any party. I like the National League for Democracy Party but their break away party seems vague. I have to wait and see what they can do. Properly, they can do nothing for the people so I will not vote for anyone.”

Opposition parties are finding it very hard to campaign. They are being severely restricted by the military government.

Opposition party flags and posters are only allowed to be displayed in their private offices.

All printed material has to pass the State Security Censorship Board before bring distributed.

And the media is control by the military government.

50 years old Hla Thein is a influencial leader the in Mon State. He says his community doesn’t know about the poll.

“We don’t have a space to move and to speak about politics so many of people are no longer interested. Noone has told us what is happening with this upcoming election. Nobody knows what the election will mean to their everyday life. them. They also don’t know about how to cast their vote.”

Despite the restrictions opposition parties are campaigning in many parts of the country.

But they can’t reach many areas because of a lack of resources.

However, the pro junta party- Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)- is free to campaign and lure certain groups to join the party.

Party members enjoy cheap mobile phone rates and have been given credit loans from the state bank.

Mon ethnic elder Hla Thein again.

“The military regime has it worked out that the parties supporting them will win. The pro-junta party will get money from the state budget to use for its campaign. They even can organize people freely while other opposition parties are struggling for funds and are not free to organizing people. It is very hard for the opposition groups to win the polls.”

Despite all the obstacles being place in front of them opposition parties still believe they can win votes.

Nai Ngwe Thein is a leader of All Mon Region Party which will contest on the poll.

“We have been told what we can and can not do. We have to report where we are going to and how many people are at our meetings. The pro Pro-junta party has been campaigning long before they got a permit to run as a party. But we are not afraid because many people don’t like their party. People will only vote for the pro-junta party if they are are threatened. Our job is to tell people not to be afraid. We will win if there is a fair election.”

Nai Tun a resident in Mon State says he will vote no matter what.

“Although we know this election is not fair, we will vote for the Mon party because they care about our people.”

The National Democratic Force, the break-away party from Aung San Suu Kyi’s is trying to convince it’s supporters that the election is a step towards democracy and justice in Burma.

U Khin Maung Swe is the leader of the party. I spoke to him on the phone as it was too dangerous for us to met.

“We will see the result after the people cast their vote. If all democratic forces including ethnic democracy parties win a large number of seats in the parliament we can change the constitution. And we can change the laws to benefit the people and amend the laws that oppress the people as well.”

Nai Rot Khine a university student in Mon State also has some hope that the election may bring about much needed change.

“Although good and bad always come together. I would say this election is a first step forward in breaking burma’s political deadlock. To create a true election atmosphere the military regime should allow all parties to organize people and should give press freedom so the media can investigate any issue in the country.”

For Asia Calling, this is Banyar Kong Janoi in Rangoon.

Woman tells tale of abuse in Rangoon Division

August 2nd, 2010

Kong Janoi, IMNA : A woman taking refuge on the Thai-Burma border claims that she fled her home, after abuse at the hands of that township-level authorities in her village in south Dagon Township, Rangoon Division made life for herself and her family unbearable.

Mya Thein Khine, of Karen and Burmese heritage, told IMNA that local authorities used their political powers to harass , imprison, and fine her husband and brother-in-law; she and her husband fled to the Thai-Burma border three months ago.

Mya Thein Khine explained to IMNA that south Dagon Township’s chairman U Khin Zaw and township secretary U Hla Sein, who were appointed to those positions after Burma’s military government reformed the local administration in 2009, repeatedly accused Mya Thein Khine’s husband, an ethnic Shan man, of being connected to Shan armed groups, simply because the couple had immigrated to Yangon Divison from Shan State looking for new business opportunities.

Mya Thein Khine reported to IMNA that the township authorities’ accusations and abuse were groundless and discriminatory.

“Because my husband is Shan, they [local authorities] accused him of being a Shan rebel group member. We are citizens in this country. We have ID cards. We have the right to move everywhere in the country. We did nothing wrong against the country. They do not have an evidence to prove that he is a Shan armed group member.”

Living in 168 quarter in South Dagon she also informed that her sister’s husband, who lived with the family, was arrested and sent to jail for singing a song that local authorities found offensive.

“He was just singing in the street on the way back home after drinking with his friends. They thought he sang indirectly to them about what they had done to people [human rights abuses]. So they accused him of disrespecting authorities and ordered the police to arrest him. We had to give police 20,000 kyat [20 USD] in order to get his release,” she said.

“It is not much money but for poor people like us, we struggled to get it,” she added.

Although her brother-in-law was released after bribing the police, Mya Thein Khine reported that the case is still ongoing because the local authorities wanted to continue to punish her brother, who is still living in Dagon Township.

“The local authorities are not satisfied with the release of our brother-in-law so they are being overly harsh with him,” she said.

U Aung Myo Thein from The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners informed IMNA that cases like those of Mya Thein Khine’s family are common in Bumra. He reported that local-level authorities have been given increased legal and executive power since the Saffron Revolution.

“People can be arrested for expressing their dissatisfactions in Burma. They will be accused of being rebels. After the authorities give the title to those who complain to them of being ‘rebels’, they can arrest them at any time. There is no further investigation as to whether their accusation is right or wrong. Before, the Military Intelligent Unit and the Police used to investigate the cases and arrest people but after 2007, even pro-junta associations such as Union Solidarity and Development Association can arrest people which is not the correct thing to do. That’s why people may choose to flee from their homes after they feel insecure in their [native] places,” he said.

Short URL:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mon party’s campaign dogged by government surveillance

July 28th, 2010

AMRDP chairman Nai Ngwe Thein addresses an audience in Moulmein during the party’s election campaign

Kong Janoi, IMNA : Representatives from the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMRDP) are finding that Burmese government surveillance measures are stifling their campaign activities.

According to IMNA field reporters, AMRDP leading organizers Nai Nwe Soe and Nai Baya Aung Moe are being closely monitored by a regional Military Intelligence Unit this week during their campaign in Myiek Township, Tenasserim Division. Witnesses from around Mon State report that that all AMRDP representatives have been followed by the Military Intelligence office in every Township they visit during their campaign, which began in late June.

The party has reportedly been troubled by the Burmese Election Commission’s requirement that all campaign activities be reported to the Commission in advance.

Last week, when they [AMRDP campaigners] were organizing people in Mudon town, they faced a problem with authorities because they [the AMRDP] informed the [Election] Commission that they would give a speech with two people. In the campaign meeting, when the audience asked a question of their party, one of their members, whose name had not been given to the authorities, talked to the public, so the authorities gave a warning to their party,” a Mudon town witness reported.

I would like to ask them why pro-junta party like Union Solidarity and Development and Ethnic Unity Party is free to do anything without any restriction from the government,” he added.

Despite pressure from Burma’s military regime, Nai Ngwe Thein, the leader of the AMRDP, believes that the party will ultimately be successful in gaining votes in Mon State.

We will definitely win the [parliamentary] seat in Mon State if there are free and fair elections, because as far as we know, many people don’t like the pro-junta party. People will only vote to pro-junta party if they feel a threat [from the Burmese government]. We have to explain our people not to afraid to vote to our party,” he explained to IMNA’s field reporters in an interview this month.

According to IMNA field reporters observe situation in Mon State, many people are increasingly enthusiastic about casting their votes in favor of the AMRDP.

Nai Tun, a resident of Mudon Township, said, “Although we see this election is not fair, when the Mon party will come up for elections in our region, we will vote for them because our votes will go only for the Mon Party which we believe will care for our people.”

A political observer from Rangoon named Nai Htaw Mon explained to IMNA that even one member of the AMRDP in Burma’s parliament will likely increase the Mon people’s cultural rights.

If we look at the Mon culture and literature aspect, it will be freer to learn and teach after the election [if even one AMRDP member is elected]. Politically speaking, if the Mon Party will properly get elected at last, with ten members, what they can do is be a voice in parliament with that amount of people.”

The AMRDP was formed in April 2010; the group is currently the only Mon political group campaigning in Mon State and Mon-controlled areas in the 2010 Burmese elections.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shanghai Expo Shows off China’s Green Technology Effort

E-mail Print PDF

Download Innovative clean technology is the focus of Shanghai Expo 2010.

Solar energy, wind power, and nuclear energy are being promoted to the expected 70 million visitors to the Expo.

Many green technologies, especially energy saving home appliances, are on display which hopefully will benefit the Chinese city’s environment long after the event has closed.

Banyar Kong Janoi has a story from Shanghai.

Shuttle buses running on solar power move people around the giant Expo.

In the Chinese pavilion a film on how to make a city more environmentally friendly is showing.

Wind power, solar and nuclear energy technology are demonstrated to visitors.

A Shanghai resident, Xie Jing-hu, says he has seen changes for the better in his city.

“You see this from the cleaning-up of Suzhou river and the city tree planting program. Natural gas has also replaced coal gas in many areas which is cleaner and more environmentally friendly.”

Shanghai is one of China's most populous cities and one of the world's major ports.

The city's infrastructure and environmental problems include housing shortages and air and water pollution.

Heavy dependence on coal as a source of fuel for both industrial energy and residential heating in Shanghai has resulted in significant air pollution.

Also, a daily flow of approximately four million cubic meters of untreated human waste enters the Huangpu River creating serious water pollution.

But Shanghai resident, Xie Jing-hu, says the government is now putting pressure on industry to be cleaner.

“Factories that do not pay attention to the environmental protection laws are shut down. So now businesses have to solve the pollution problem. Rubbish is recycled to create electricity. We can only expect and we also believe that things will get better.”

According to officials since the Expo opened on May 1, the solar power station inside the zone has generated 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of power.

Water cooling technologies have saved nearly six million kilowatt-hours of power on air conditioning.

Lin Bin is a deputy Director of Jiefang Daily Group, a communist founded newspaper.

“People are concerned about green technology because it’s about their quality of life. But they also think about money. So there needs to be a balance between greenness and economic development.”

China is the world's leading manufacturer of solar panels.

But 95 percent of these are exported.

Dao Thi Thu Hang from Green Generation Network in Vietnam says China is a role model for the region.

“China is very good example of renewable energy development because China has very good policy to support business and other sectors to develop renewable energy. And I know today China is one of the leading countries in clean technology include clean energy.”

Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced over 100 billion US dollars in incentives for solar power businesses.

According to 2007 government figures, about 17 percent of China's electricity comes from renewable sources.

The country makes heavy demands on hydroelectricity with the largest number of dams in the world and more are being planned.

This hydropower is also being imported from neighboring countries such as Burma and Laos.

Nai Tiaung Pakao is a spokesperson for Mon Youth Progressive Organization, which is campaigning to boycott dams projects in Burma.

“It is good that China is planning to produce wind power and solar energy but at the same time, China invests a lot of money in hydropower plants in Burma. These not only destroy the environment but also create human rights abuses. For instance, when China wants to build a dam in Burma many people are forced from their homes. No one listens to their protests and there are no social or environmental assessments done.”

Back at the Shanghai Expo a school teacher from Beijing, Matt Moar, says China needs to play a positive role in reducing green house gases globally.

“Chinese government started on the green energy and green economics. We are very interesting to see what they do because they contribute a lot of pollution and they have not done so far, have not been really cooperative with the talks and green movement so we will see what they put on the spot.”

He said the Chinese green campaign in the Expo is a step forward.

“There are a lot of countries who don’t really know and are not concerned about recycling or new methods of energy. They are expecting a lot of people at the expo so many people will be educated about this.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Burma Election Split Pro-democracy Groups

E-mail Print PDF

Download A breakaway group from Burma's pro-democracy party the National League for Democracy (NLD) has been registered to run in elections due later this year.

The National Democratic Force's decision to run in the controversial elections has put it at odds with other supporters of the NLD.

Traditional pro-democracy leaders, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, refused to register the NLD for the poll.

As a result, the party was disbanded by the military authorities.

Banyar Kong Janoi in Rangoon hears the arguments from both sides.

In one of the cities most popular tea houses a group of men are having a heated discussion about the upcoming election.

Some believe it’s right that pro-democracy groups are joining the poll while others believe it’s a betrayal of the movement.

I take them to safe place to record their views.

Htaw Mon is a car broker in Rangoon.

He agrees with the National League for Democracy (NLD) decision to boycott the election.

“Even if the opposition wins half the seats in parliament they won’t have a chance to change anything. In order to make any decision, 75 percent of the members of parliaments have to agree. Besides, 25 percent of the seats automatically go to members of the military and we don’t know how many seats the pro-junta party will get. So the election means nothing.”

The NLD won a landslide victory in Burma's last elections in 1990, but the country's military rulers have refused to hand over power.

Aung Suu Kyi has spent most of the last two decades in some form of detention and she is currently under house arrest despite strong international pressure.

Her party has decided to boycott this years election to send a strong message that the new constitution and the poll is a sham.

U Aung Thein is a member of central executive committee of NLD.

“The 2008 constitution is to entrench the military regime. It is also against democratic principles. What’s more, if we look at the right of ethnicities, this constitution seems like federalism, in fact it’s not because the presidents and prime ministers have to be members of the military. So it is very hard for ethnic people to get a high position like prime minster. That’s why it is not democracy so we cannot accept it.”

NLD is demanding the military government change the constitution and make the polls free and fair.

U Aung Thein says they are ready to take-part if that happens.

“We want to change electoral laws. The constitution should be redrafted and the dialogue should be called among the political parties and ethnic groups for national reconciliation. The election commission should not be controlled by any political party. Now as the election commission has to dance for junta, how they can do their job freely? How could we take part in the election under these circumstance?”

But not all pro-democracy activists agree.

The NLDs decision not to re-register to contest in this year’s election put it at odds with some of its supporters.

So they formed a break-away party called the National Democratic Force.

U Khin Maung Swe is the leader of the party. I spoke to him on the phone as it was too dangerous for us to meet in person.

“We know this is not going to be a fair election but we have to move on from that. If we have legislature power we can act as a check and balance to the government. If we just say “The election is not free or fair” and boycott it the military government will rule forever. According to constitution if no one challenges the military government they will win.”

He says people need a political party to stand with them.

“Our Burmese people need change. That’s why we want to give them some hope in politics. The political crisis, which they have suffered under for many years, must be solved in the parliament. We need political reconciliation. We believe all democratic forces, ethnic leaders, and the leaders of military who hold 25 percent of parliament’s seats will help turn this country into a democracy in the future.”

News that the new party had received a permit to run in the elections was broadcast on state media.

The state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said the National Democratic Force will join 37 other new political parties and five existing groups in contesting the poll.

U Khin Maung Swe says they want to work inside the system to create a socialist liberal democracy.

“We don’t believe our Burmese people can move to the liberal democracy so we will have to go with socialist liberalist democracy as our political setting with mixing market orientated economy. We want to boost people’s economy to increase the number of middle class people in the country.”

NLD supporters have accused the National Democratic Force of stealing their party symbol - a bamboo hat - in order to win votes.

But Khin Maung Swe said his party's symbol is not the same because it has two stars above the hat.

U Aung Thein from the NLD’s central executive committee says this election will only bring about more suffering.

“Only if an elected government is running the country that Burma can be changed. Now the junta is controlling any changes. It could take two or three decades before we see real change into Burma because the military has secured their position in the constitution to avoid facing justice for her violence acts. People have suffered and are suffering a lot.”

But on the streets of Rangoon there is some optimism about the election.

Mi Mow is a high school student in the capital.

“We haven’t seen any election before. It is very exciting to cast our vote. It is good for us to know that we can choose our leader.”

In next week’s program we will be hearing more some the residents of Rangoon about how they are feeling about the election and depsite the fact there is still no date for the poll our reporter takes a lot at the political campaigning that ‘s ready begun before.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chinese funding freed Burma to participate in Shanghai Expo

By Kong Janoi/ Shanghai

The Chinese government has subsidized the pavilions of developing countries to join the 184 Shanghai Expo.

The funding for the otherwise excluded countries comes as the expo also promises to give foreign nations and companies a chance to further develop business partnerships with China and Chinese companies.

A representative of Bangladesh Pavilion, Mohammad Abdul Halim, said they came to the expo through the expo committee arrangement.

“We did not even invest a single penny on this expo. We even get a salary from the expo committee,” he said. “We get a small building here but it is fine for us.”

According to Shanghai Expo official website the Chinese government spent US $58 billion on the Expo and related infrastructures in Shanghai.

Burma, which shares a border with China and tight economic connections, was invited to the expo this year. It is the first time isolated nations, such as Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Iran, are participating in a world expo.

With the theme of the Shanghai Expo being, “A Better City, A Better Life”, these isolated nations, such as Burma, increase exposure for their culture’s heritage and relation to the economy of China.

These countries’ pavilions have not been popular amongst visitors due to the little amount invested on the pavilions and exhibitions. However some people are still coming to see these pavilions because they have had no lines in which to queue as compared to the more popular pavilions where visitors have had to wait several hours.

Inside the Burmese pavilion, a Hong Kong Tourist, Yuen man-yuk reported, “I felt strange when I saw those countries showing tourist-like attractions in the World Expo because I expected to see such hi-tech exhibitions in the Expo and other fascinating new inventions.”

The Burmese pavilion, which is part of the Joint Asia Group III, shares it’s building with Laos. The Burmese theme, entitled “Better Urbanization with Harmonized Eco-System”, is designed like a Mandalay palace inside, and features a hanging picture of Shwedagon pagoda as the background. In the pavilion local customs and culture are introduced. Additionally the pavilion hosts the sales of diamonds and other Burmese products.

However there are no Burmese staff present in the pavilion, compared to other countries have their own staffs to represent their country. Visitors have reported that due to the building’s size and little visual development, the “Better Urbanization with Harmonized Eco-System” takes five minutes visit.

The offer by China to fund Burma’s pavilion is telling, Nyo Ohn Myint, chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the National League for Democracy Librated Area (NLDLA), believes. Nyo Ohn Myint says that China wants to influence those countries in term of economy and politics.

“China has a lot of border trade [between the] Burmese and Chinese government,” notes Myint. “They want Burmese government to be more efficient and independent economically within the Chinese scope, So they can grow a Chinese economic empire. That is why the Burma [is] invited [to] the Expo.”

Xinhua, a Chinese government controlled news agency, said that China and Burma will sign a series of agreements to boost existing bilateral trade, which reached US $264 million this year.

Burma has faced economic sanctions form the United States and other western countries since 1990 when the ruling military junta refused to acknowledge the results of national election that overwhelmingly elected the opposing party, the National League for Democracy, led by noble laureate Aung San Su Kyi.

Since, the question of sanctions has been increasingly divided, as 20 years later the Burmese military regime remains in power and the Burmese economy remains stagnant.

Myint added, “The Burmese government exports only raw material like timber and some kinds of natural resources. China wants Burma to be more open minded to deal with the world because the sanctions are part of the problem in that Burma cannot co-exist the international economic sector. But that [also makes] China [the] only door for Burmese government to deal with international communities.”

For some visitors that attend the Burmese pavilion at the world expo, the Chinese effort to support Burma’s fledgling pavilion, is an opportunity for awareness. A United States tourist, Matt Maar, said the China effort inviting isolated countries to the Expo is a sign of a new step to solve their problems.

“It is good because isolation is not going to solve the problem. They should be given a chance see and realize [what] benefit there is to open their countries. I think the move by China is on right track.”