The rather rural view from the guest flat window, actually CTS is next to a busy junction opposite a big police station!
I’m tired or I would not have left the stool in the shot
I arrived in Colombo yesterday, and got to CTS about 2:30am. After 26 hours of wakefulness and travel (including waiting in airports).
The experience of Colombo from the windows of the lovely guest flat at CTS seems much the same, perhaps greener (maybe the trees have grown) and noisier than I remember and as muggily tropical. This morning the traffic (Sri Lankan etiquette demands hooting to warn other road users of your intention to overtake, as well as other potential dangers, which means some drivers almost connect their horn hand with their accelerator foot) and the ravens and green parrots in the trees outside are competing, I think the birds being closer if less numerous are winning
The few people I’ve heard comment have been optimistic that the war really is over, though I think all have been Sinhalese and it would be helpful to hear what Tamils are saying.
I had a lovely Sri Lanka/Western fusion breakfast, and lunch out with Vinodh Gunasekera (my academic contact) and a decent night’s sleep should put me on better form for marking Laidlaw assignments and teaching a four hour block this evening.
KNU and government peace delegations hold talks at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon on 6 April, 2012. (Photo: THE IRRAWADDY)
News from Burma has been astoundingly good for the most part in recent months. Despite the military government’s continuing war on some ethnic minorities, liberalisation, the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and peace talks between the government and some ethnic groups (notably the KNU) suggested an opening to a happier future.
However, rivalries and disagreements among the leadership of the KNU and KNLA suggest the possibility of a darker turn. Please pray that peace and loyalty to their people may sway hot heads at this time.
Partners has a good simple chart of the Good (progress towards freedom and peace) the Bad (things which have not changed or are still worrying) and the Terrible (the continued atrocities and everyday disasters of a poor, run down, police state) in Burma/Myanmar today. The chart provides food for thought and a corrective to the excessive optimism most of us a prone to when there is a glimmer of hope in such a terrible situation.
Read the chart, think and pray about it (please) but also continue to pray for peace and real development, and to give to Partners or others who are working still for those goals…
News sources including the Guardian are reporting that among the 600+ prisoners being released by the government in Nappydaw are many prominent political prisoners.
Despite the facts that there are still many political prisoners in jail and despite the laws that put them their being still on the books this is good news. It is another sign of hope after so many years of worsening gloom in Burma.
Pray that the progress may continue.
Both AFP and the Irrawaddy are reporting that the KNU have signed a ceasefire with the Nappydaw government. This deal could mark the beginning of an end to the war which has been running for well over 60 years.
Pray that this and other hopeful signs from Burma may indeed mark a new beginning for the troubled country!
A riot police van is seen close to the gates of Insein prison in Rangoon
Five ten-wheeler trucks guarded by four trucks packed with armed riot police left Insein Jail on Tuesday. Other trucks have left other jails recently. Perhaps the Myanmar Army Junta that rules Burma with an iron fist is reducing the numbers of political prisoners. But how? Where are the political prisoners going? They are NOT being freed.
DVB learnt last month that some 800 prisoners had been taken from their cells in central and eastern Burma and used as porters to carry equipment for frontline troops in Karen state.
Three porters who managed to escape to Thailand told DVB that they were chained and made to carry supplies through the mountainous terrain in eastern Burma.
The Burmese army is known to have used civilians as minesweepers, forcing them to walk in front of patrols to ensure troops don’t take the full blast of a landmine.
“They ordered us porters to take the middle of the road while soldiers walk along the side of the road,” Pho Aye, who managed to escape after being sent to Karen state from Bassein prison, told DVB in late January. “A porter named Pho Thar Aung died when he stepped on a landmine and two soldiers were slightly injured from shrapnel.”
How long can the world stand by and ignore such activity?
This was someone's house before the Thatmadaw came
The Tatmadaw have never shown much concern for the villagers whose homes and crops they burn in their attempt at “ethnic cleansing” (which sounds so much better than genocide) but on the afternoon of 22nd March they excelled themselves in bravery. They shot and killed several women and young children according to FBR reports.
The Tatmadaw is the army controlled by the SPDC who are the military rulers of Burma, which they renamed Myanmar, these thugs expect to gain “credibility” later this year by organising an election which will keep them in power. If they keep peace by shooting children you can imagine how free and fair the elections will be:
On the 22rd of March, at 4:30 PM, Burma Army troops from LIB 369 entered Kaw Hta village, Ler Doh Township and shot and killed 1 woman and 2 children. Troops shot and killed Naw La Pwey, a 37 year old woman, Naw Paw Bo, a 5 year old girl, and Saw Hta Pla Htoo, a 5 month old boy. They also shot and wounded Naw Pah Lah, 26 years old, the mother of the two children. The Burma Army also burned down 9 homes in the village while the rest of the villagers fled.
The surviving mother is now being treated by medics in a hiding place as the Burma Army continues their attacks. Due to the attacks in this area, starting in January, over 3000 people remain displaced.
The report is here. But be warned it contains horribly graphic images.
Aung San Suu Kyi, one of 2000+ opposition figures banned from the elections
The elections planned for later this year will ban most serious opposition candidates, including Nobel Peace-prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. She is only one of over 2,000 such political prisoners Amnesty International counts in the country. Under such rules even if the polling booths do not have armed soldiers to ensure everyone votes “correctly” these elections are a travesty. The full report and some useful links are here: Myanmar opposition must be free to fight elections.
Child with eye infection at Nong Bua temporary camp (from Burma Campaign document)
I have discovered a more detailed document about the pressure to return to a dangerous area of Burma on the new refugees. As a result I have written (with the subject line above to the Governor of Tak Province (who is apparently a key player in this decision).
Please consider emailing to:
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Saying something like this:
His Excellency Samert Loylah
Governor Tak Province
I am writing because I have read in the newspaper that in the beautiful hills north of Mae Sot (Maesod) in your province a number of refugees, including women and children, are being pressured to return across the Moi River to Myanmar (Burma). The area they would return to is heavily mined. The military (both Government and DKBA) have recently increased pressure on Karen villagers in that area, in January causing yet more to become internally displaced. To pressure these refugees to return is to place them in danger, as well as to leave them wandering homeless, or living in temporary hide sites. This inhumane action does not seem compatible with the humanity and warmth for which Thailand, and to your province are well-known.
Please encourage those under your command, and/or your government to keep the promises Thailand made and allow these refugees to stay until it is really safe for them to return, and end the pressure. Thailand has had an excellent reputation for welcoming those fleeing oppressiion and violence in countries around its borders, please show this same kindness to these latest victims.