Archive for the ‘Burma’ Category

Myanmar Humanitarian Trouble Continues: Now More Hunger, Refugees

January 29, 2009

Myanmar is facing a food shortage largely due to last year’s deadly Cyclone Nargis, which destroyed nearly all the rice crops in the fertile Ayeyarwaddy delta, the United Nations said Wednesday.

After the cyclone last year, there were several signs of impending trouble.  The military junta of Myanmar turned away tons of supplies that arrived off shore with the U.S. Navy and made the jobs of relief workers, suppliers and aid groups difficult.

The ruling government even apparently lied lied to the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon when he arrived to help speed relief efforts.

Myanmar has been quiet and unnoticed most of the time since, largely because the government controls the media, keeps unwanted eyes out, and makes money with its oil wealth, lately with new deals with China.

Rice production in the cyclone-affected areas of Ayeyarwaddy and Yangon, the largest city and former capital of Myanmar, is expected to be 50 percent of last year’s, according to the report issued by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP).

Rat infestation in western’s Myanmar’s Chin State has also contributed to the food shortage, the report says.

“Access to food remains the critical challenge for the poorest people and for vulnerable populations in remote areas of Myanmar,” Chris Kaye of the WFP.

Now reguees are fleeing Myanmar to eat — and some recently arrived in Thailand only to end up in jail.  These are victims of bad government — they only want to eat.

Myanmar, like Darfur, is a humanitarian disaster that has kept going without relief because of bad government.



Thailand denies abusing migrants; sends some to trial

January 28, 2009

It should come as no surprise that the Thai government denied that it was abusing migrants.

I live with “boat people” who fled communism in Vietnam after 1975.  Many still weep when recalling their treatment in thailand.

So I have a tendency to believe the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and journalists on the scene who have spoken to the Myanmar minority Rohingya refugees now in Thailand….

Reviews of United Nations records and media reports show a pattern of questionable if not barbaric treatment of refugees in Thailand.  Currently, there are at least two regugee abuse situation inside Thailand and not just one….

Myanmar, Thailand Force Hungry Refugees to Run, Or Deport Them To Where?.


A group of refugees who survived being at sea for a month, then being beaten and burned, now await the next turn of their fates in the Thai court system.

They’ll go to trial?



Thailand‘s government has “categorically denied” mistreating migrants following reports it towed hundreds of desperate boat people back out to sea and abandoned them.

Survivors say Thailand’s military towed hundreds of migrants from Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community out to sea in poorly equipped boats with scant food and water.

But the foreign ministry said such actions had no place in Thai policy.

Male refugees show scars they say were caused by beatings at the hands of the Myanmar navy.

Male refugees show scars they say were caused by beatings at the hands of the Myanmar navy.

“As for the serious allegations… including that various forms of mistreatment were inflicted… this must be categorically denied as having no place in policy and procedures,” the ministry said in a statement released late Tuesday.

“Nevertheless, should concrete evidence be presented, the Thai government would serious look into such cases and further verification (would be) carried out,” it added.

The statement said Thai law required that all migrants arriving along the south west Andaman coastline be stopped, questioned and their needs assessed.

It said those who had not smuggled goods into the kingdom received basic humanitarian assistance before being repatriated or escorted out of Thai territory. Smugglers would be investigated and then ordered out, it said.

Accusations of mistreatment surfaced earlier this month after nearly 650 Rohingya were rescued off India and Indonesia, some claiming to have been beaten by Thai soldiers before being set adrift in the high seas.

Hundreds of the boat people are still believed to be missing at sea.

Abhisit has said authorities were dealing with the boat people in a humane way, but Britain on Tuesday joined the United Nations in expressing “concern” for the migrants’ welfare.

The foreign ministry statement said an estimated 20,000 illegal migrants were currently in Thailand and said several thousand arrive each year, calling the issue “a collective problem” for regional countries to address together.

Meanwhile Thai authorities detained a further 78 boat people from Myanmar who were found off Surin island in the south around midnight Monday, police said.


More Refugees Land in Thailand Amid Abuse, Human Rights Furor

Thailand’s Questionable Talk On Stopping Abuse of Refugees

Thailand’s Questionable Talk On Stopping Abuse of Refugees

January 26, 2009

Reviews of United Nations records and media reports show a patters of questionable if not barbaric treatment of refugees in Thailand.  Currently, there are at least two regugee abuse situation inside Thailand and not just one…..


With global media attention on the Thai military’s alleged mistreatment of a group of refugee boat people from Myanmar, a larger and potentially more controversial refugee tragedy is unfolding on Thailand’s northeastern border with Laos.

By Brian McCartan
Asia Times

Thailand agreed last week to repatriate the remaining 5,000 ethnic Hmong refugees to Laos by June of this year. Both Bangkok and Vientiane see the Hmong refugees as an outdated vestige of the Cold War and a hindrance to greater economic integration. The Hmong are the persecuted remnants of a guerilla army trained and paid by the United States to fight a covert war in Laos from1961-74 against communist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces.

Thai Lawmakers Probe Abuse, Death of Hundreds of Muslim Refugees

When the Pathet Lao won and established a communist regime in 1975, hundreds of thousands of Laos, including many Hmong, fled to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand. Several thousand remained to carry on a desperate resistance against government forces in remote jungle-covered mountains.

On the run for decades, 4,000 to 5,000 Hmong fled the jungle in recent years to Thailand. By 2007, there were some 8,000 Hmong in Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Thailand’s Petchabun province. Another 2,000 or so armed Hmong and their families surrendered to the government between June 2005 and May 2007. An estimated 1,000 Hmong still remain on the run in Laos.

The United States, like Thailand, would clearly like to see the problem go away so that it can improve ties with the Lao government and counterbalance China’s growing influence in the region. The US in recent years offered to send soldiers to Laos to help build roads and schools; Laos declined the offer. Meanwhile, Washington has shown scant interest in resettling the latest batch of refugees, which would require a legal waver due to strict post-9/11 immigration laws that bar anyone who has ever taken up arms against a government.

In a sign of the US’s shifting attitude, it is currently prosecuting former Hmong resistance leader and ally Vang Pao and several other Hmong in the US for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Lao government. The new Thai government has curiously prioritized Lao relations, with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya making his first trip abroad to Laos and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva scheduled to visit on January 23.

Read the rest:


CNN has an in-depth report on the abuse of the refugees from Myanmar in Thailand:

A group of Rohingya migrants are seen in a boat at sea off of ... 
A group of Rohingya migrants are seen in a boat at sea off of Koh Sai Daeng in southwest Thailand in this undated photo obtained by CNN. Pressure mounted on Thailand on January 26, 2009 to come clean on allegations the army towed Rohingya refugees out to sea and abandoned them in engine-less boats, after CNN showed pictures depicting exactly that.

Thai Lawmakers Probe Abuse, Death of Hundreds of Muslim Refugees

January 23, 2009

Thailand has almost always had a troubling record on refugees.  Since the war in Vietnam ended in 1975, people have moved into Thailand by land and sea fleeing death, torture and prisons.  But in Thailand, regugees have often found death, torture, rape, miserable conditions not unlike the prisons the refugees hoped to avoid.

Last July, this from Human Rights Watch:

“Forcing civilians back into an active war zone may be an easy answer for Thailand, but it’s brutal – a completely inhumane and unacceptable solution,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai government should cooperate with international relief agencies and UNHCR to ensure that it upholds the rights of civilians under international law.”


Thai lawmakers were probing Thursday “very alarming” reports about its troops abusing and casting out members of a Muslim minority group fleeing to its shores.

Hundreds of Muslim refugees from Burma (Myanmar) are feared missing or dead after Thai troops forced them onto boats without engines and cut them adrift in international waters, according to human rights activists and authorities in India who rescued survivors. The revelations have shone a spotlight on the Thai military’s expulsion policy toward Muslims it sees as a security threat.

Nearly 1,000 refugees were detained on a remote island in December before being towed out to sea in two batches and abandoned with little food or water, according to a tally by a migrant-rights group based on survivors’ accounts and media reports. The detainees, mostly members of Burma’s oppressed Rohingya minority, then drifted for weeks. One group was later rescued by Indonesia’s Navy, and two others made landfall in India’s Andaman Islands.

Christian Science Monitor:


Consequences of Speedy Withdrawal From Iraq?
(What happend when refugee migrations start…)

A group of refugees guarded by the Thai army sit on a beach ... 
A group of refugees guarded by the Thai army sit on a beach on the Thai island of Koh Sai Baed in this picture taken late 2008 and released to Reuters January 19, 2009. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Sunday that he would meet human rights groups to discuss alleged violations, as further reports emerged of ill-treatment of refugees from Myanmar by Thai security forces. The refugees, the Rohingyas, are Muslims from Myanmar. Many have fled the Buddhist-dominated, army-ruled country to escape repression and economic hardship, but rights groups say hundreds were recently detained on a remote Thai island before being forced back to sea by the security forces with little food or water. REUTERS/South China Morning Post/Pool

Thailand Brutalizes, Abandons Refugees

January 15, 2009

Thai soldiers are detaining illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Burma and forcing them back out to sea in boats without engines, survivors say.

Survivors say their hands were tied and they were towed out to sea with little or no food or water.

About 500 migrants are now recovering from acute dehydration in India’s Andaman islands and the Indonesian province of Aceh.


Thai officials were not immediately available for comment.

But sources in the police and army confirmed to the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok that asylum seekers are being pushed out to sea. They did not provide further details about the practice.

Thousands of poor Burmese and Bangladeshis try to reach south-east Asian nations in search of work.

‘Without food’

Survivors rescued by Indian coast guards say hundreds of other asylum-seekers are still missing after leaving Bangladesh and Burma since the end of November.

They told the BBC that they paid agents to take them to Thailand by boat so that they could have a better life.

Read the rest:

China Pips (Screws) India on Myanmar Oil Deal

December 30, 2008

Is it any wonder that China’s offer to be a peacemaker between India and Pakistan was flatly rejected by India?  India sees itself as China’s rival and equal.

China, on the other hand, is often accused of seeing India as a clumsy little brother.

Just this last week, China signed an oil export agreement from Myanmar, in an area once 25% or more controlled by India.

The Business Standard of New Delhi reported the caper under the headline “China Pips India to Sign Gas Deal with Myanmar.”

“Pip”  is a British slang word meaning to screw, best, or take advantage, we are told….

China To Reap Most of Myanmar’s Oil


China Pips India to Sign Gas Deal with Myanmar

The Business Standard, New Delhi

China has pipped India to sign a 30-year agreement to import natural gas from fields lying in offshore Myanmar where India’s state-owned companies have a 25 per cent stake.
China’s state oil and gas firm China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) last week signed a Gas Sales Agreement with South Korea’s Daewoo International for buying gas from the Shwe field in A-1 offshore block and the adjoining A-3 block, industry sources said.

Daewoo is the operator in the two blocks with 51 per cent stake, while Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has 17 per cent and GAIL 8.5 per cent. Korea Gas Corporation has 8.5 per cent and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise the remaining 15 per cent.

GAIL had offered a price of $5.01 per million British thermal unit to buy the entire gas from the offshore fields and pipe it to India through the northeastern states. But the military-rulers of Myanmar have chosen China, which will have to lay a longer pipeline to reach its south-western Yunnan province.

Sources said Myanmar would also be able to tap the pipeline running across its territory to meet its fuel needs once the gas starts flowing sometime in 2013.

Read the rest:

China To Reap Most of Myanmar’s Oil

December 29, 2008

Military-run Myanmar has signed a deal with South Korean and Indian companies to pipe natural gas from the energy-rich nation’s offshore fields to China, state media reported Monday.

The Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise inked the deal last Wednesday with South Korean companies Daewoo and Korea Gas Corporation and Indian energy firms ONGC Videsh and GAIL to supply gas to the China National United Oil Corporation.


Myanmar soldiers parade during a ceremony marking the country's ... 
Myanmar soldiers parade during a ceremony marking the country’s Armed Forces Day in the country’s new capital, Naypyidaw. Military-run Myanmar has signed a deal with South Korean and Indian companies to pipe natural gas from the energy-rich nation’s offshore fields to China, state media have reported.(AFP/File/Khin Maung Win)

“The agreement was signed to export natural gas to China from Shwe natural gas project at Block A-1 and A-3 at Rakhine coastal region through pipelines,” the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

The paper gave no other details of the project, but Beijing media reported last month that China was planning to start construction on a gas pipeline to Myanmar in early 2009.

 Get the Feeling Russia and China Are Slicing Up The World and the U.S. Will Be Left Out?

Read the rest:

U.N. Mulls Reengaging Burma With More Aid

December 28, 2008

International sanctions and Laura Bush‘s personal intervention did not make Burma’s generals ease their political oppression. Neither did quiet diplomacy, nor the devastation of a cyclone.

So the United Nations is attempting a new approach: It is trying to entice the generals with fresh promises of development money. 

By Colum Lynch and Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 28, 2008; Page A16

According to senior U.N. officials, special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has proposed that nations offer Burma financial incentives to free more than 2,000 political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and to open the country to democratic change.

In the months ahead, the U.N. leadership will press the Obama administration to relax U.S. policy on Burma and to open the door to a return of international financial institutions, including the World Bank. The bank left in 1987 because Burma, which is officially known as Myanmar, did not implement economic and political reforms.

“It cannot be business as usual. We need new thinking on how to engage with Myanmar in a way that will bring tangible results,” Gambari said in an interview, adding that the United Nations cannot rely simply on “the power of persuasion with too little in the [diplomatic] toolbox.”

But critics characterize the strategy as a desperate attempt to salvage a diplomatic process that has so deteriorated that Suu Kyi and Senior Gen. Than Shwe, Burma’s military ruler, declined to meet with Gambari during his last trip there, in August. Gambari, critics say, is simply grasping to show progress in moving a regime that has no intention of embracing democratic reform.

Read the rest: