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

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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

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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.