Monday, November 21, 2011

Five Fires in Arakan State this November


Mra Bon: Five consecutive fires broke out this November in western Burma's Arakan State, with the latest one gutting 146 houses in Cittara Village in cyclone-ravaged Mraybon Township.

A resident from Cittara village whose house was destroyed in the fire, told Narinjara that they have become homeless again after their homes - newly reconstructed after being hit by Cyclone Giri - were burned up in the fire.

"We had just rebuilt our houses that were badly damaged in Cyclone Giri last year. Our houses have not gone to the fire and we are homeless again," said the resident with tears in his eyes.

146 houses were gutted in the fire that broke out at 8:30 am and burned until 1 pm on 19 November in Cittara Village in Mraybon Township. The houses had just been rebuilt or repaired after being hit by Cyclone Giri last year.

"I do not know how and from which house the fire started, but there were no humans injured or killed in the fire," said the resident.

"Now we, the fire victims, are sheltering in the Buddhist monastery here and taking food offered by fellow and nearby villagers," he added. There are 400 homes in Cittara Village, one of the largest villages in Mraybon Township.

The fire in Cittara Village was the fifth to hit the state, after a similar disasters hit Kyauknimaw Village in Ramere Township on 1 November, Minbya's largest market on 12 November, Mrauk-U on 17 November, and Tamanthar Village in Maungdaw Township on 18 November.

According to local residents, they have been suffering from such fires every year, especially in the cool and dry season, in Arakan State due to failure by the local authorities to raise awareness on how to avoid fires, and failure to deploy fire services equipped with modern fire engines in their state.
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Three Remaining Burmese Freedom Fighters Released from Indian Jail


New Dehli: The remaining three Burmese freedom fighters were released from jail in India on Wednesday, thirteen years after being arrested on charges of gun-running from Andaman's Landfall Island.

They were identified as Arakanese nationals Lu Lu and Hayli, and Karen national Maung Naing. The judge in Port Blair in the Andaman Islands released them unconditionally.

The three were still being held in jail for charges filed by a police officer for irresponsibility of his duty. Because of this, the three rebels remained after their colleagues, 31 Arakanese rebels from Burma, walked out of the Presidency Jail in Kolkata on 19 May, 2011.

Ko Danya Lun, who was released on 19 May, confirmed their release.

"The three of our comrades remaining in the Kolkata prison were released and they will come to New Delhi to join us living here," Ko Danya said.

The 36 Arakanese and Karen nationals were arrested on February 11, 1998, by the Indian Military Intelligence in what was codenamed Operation Leech. Two of the men arrested - one an Arakanese national and another Karen - have been missing since the arrest, but they are suspected to have died at some point in Port Blair.

All the arrested men were from the National United Party of Arakan, or NUPA, and the Karen National Union, or KNU, and were arrested when they came to Landfall Island in Indian to set up a base to carry out operations against the Burmese junta.

Six top rebel leaders, including Khaing Raza were killed in cold blood during the operation - and what the Arakanese allege was an act of back-stabbing by an Indian Military Intelligence officer - a day after they reached the island on 11 February, 1998.

Initially, the defense ministry of India claimed the 36 arrested rebels and their slain leaders were part of a gang of gun-runners allegedly supplying weapons to insurgent groups in the country's northeast, but as the trial progressed it became clear the "arms smuggers" were not New Delhi's enemy.

The NUPA and KNU rebels had reached Landfall Island to set up a base of operations in its movement against the junta. The fighters were promised the base and assured of support by Lieutenant-Colonel V.S. Grewal, and Indian Military Intelligence officer.

The rebels, however, report that they were arrested on arrival and their leaders, including General Khaing Raza, the outfit's military wing chief, were killed in cold blood.

The released rebels are now living in the Indian capital New Delhi with refugee status granted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
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Fire Gutts Main Market in Minbya


A fire broke out in Myoma Market in Minbya in the evening on Saturday (12th of November 2011) and gutted almost all the shops in the market.

The fire is said to have started around 7 pm and continued with blaze-busters until 12 pm in the market panicking people living in the nearby residential wards who vacated their houses and ran away.

“I do not know how the fire started, but I started to notice the fire around 7 pm when I could hear the people shouting ‘fire, fire’….I rushed to bundle and vacate all valuables from my house”, said a housewife who is living nearby the market.

“The fire was continuing with fierce blazes and could not be put out until 12 pm and gutted almost all the shops in the market.”

However she said she did not notice if the fire-engines came to put out the fire.

Narinjara has contacted the office of the fire-brigade in the town over telephone, but failed to get any answers from the office.

Another resident living nearby the market said the fire started from an electrical accessories shop in the market.

“I do not know how the fire started, but it started from an electrical accessories shop in the market and was worsened by the diesel and petrol shops also situated in the market. It gutted almost all other shops that sell clothes, electrical accessories, engine parts, utensils and dry fish as well”, said the resident.

According to the local residents, Myoma market is the biggest market in Minbya and the fire losses are estimated at about a thousand million kyat.
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Campaign for 24-Hour Electricity in Arakan State


Sittwe: A clandestine poster campaign demanding 24 hour electricity be supplied all over Arakan State in western Burma with power generated from local gas was recently launched.

Campaign for 24-Hour Electricity in Arakan State The 24-Hour Action Group Rakhine State has claimed that it has carried out the campaign on the 10th of November, coinciding the religious festive occasion in a number of townships including Sittwe, Ponnakyaun, Mrauk-U, Kyaukpru, Ramere and Taungok.

“Our members in different townships of the state have jointly worked on and launched this campaign at the same time on the same day in almost every township in our state. We have launched this campaign to demand that the Burmese regime supply 24-hour electricity in our state with power generated from the gas extracted from the local Shwe offshore gas fields in the state," said one of campaigners of the group.

The campaigner said they stuck posters that demanded 24-hour electricity at public places, on government buildings, and on the lamp posts of every street and also spread the posters in most busy streets in the towns.

The group had started to launch similar campaigns across Arakan state last October just after the Energy Minister U Than Htay stated in the parliament that his regime had already sold off the natural gas found in the Shwe offshore gas fields in Arakan State to China and had no plans to use any of the gas for the state.

“The regime will export 90% of the natural gas reserves to China within 30 years and will fetch US$ 970 million for exporting 400 cubic feet in a year and we can calculate how much profit the regime will earn by the gas from our state. However we local people will not get any benefit from this gas and that is why we have to launch this campaign to fight for our rights to those natural resources”, said the campaigner.

According to the 24 Hours Action Group, Arakan State is abundant in gas and other natural resources, but even its Capital Sittwe gets only five-hours of electricity supplied per day and the consumers have to pay 500 kyat per unit of electricity a price 20 times higher than that being charged in Rangoon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw in mainland Burma. The group said they have also sent a letter to Dr. Aye Maung, the president of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, on the same day of the campaign urging him and his party to work for getting 24-hour electricity supply in Arakan State.
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Two of Eleven Imprisoned Arakanese Youth Walk Free from Insein Prison


Yangon: Two of eleven Arakanese youth were were arrested and imprisoned in 2009 walked free from Insein Prison in Rangoon on Friday morning after they completed their respective prison terms.

Insein Prison
The two released youth are Ko Khine Kyaw Moe and Ko Zaw Tun Nine.

"Zaw Tun Nine and I were freed from Insein Prison this morning. We were freed because we have completed our respective terms in prison," said Ko Khine Kyaw Moe.

"We were charged under Section 7 for unlawful association and jailed. I was charged as the coordinator of the All Arakanese Student and Youth Congress, based in exile, and all of us have had connections with the AASYC. We were arrested in 2009 and sentenced to our respective jail terms in November 2010. Zaw Tun Nine and I from our group have been released from prison because we completed our jail terms, but the other eight are still remaining in the prison," he added.

Khine Kyaw Moe said the prison conditions for the political prisoners have improved a bit with the change in political climate, but they are still "at the stage of window dressing".

"I have found that political prisoners are now a bit favored inside the prison and allowed to get necessary medical treatments, and I think [the prison authorities] have lessened their stiffness a bit toward the political prisoners with the change in the political climate in our country, but the general prisoners are still living like before without getting any rights. They would lime the prison cells and prepare everything every time before their bosses come to visit the prison, and so I can say the improvements for the prison conditions are still at the stage or window dressing," he said.

Ko Zaw Tun Nine also said that he felt happy for his freedom from prison, but sorry for those political prisoners remaining in the prison for their consciences.

"I am happy because I am already freed from the prison, but feeling very sorry for those remaining political prisoners whose faces I am always seeing in my eyes," he said.

"I never feel sad for the jail terms I have served, but proud of myself for being jailed because I was jailed just for working for the cause of my compatriot people and country, and that is just the cause every national must work for," he added.

Both men said they are in good health and will continue to work for the development of Arakanese youth as well as for peace in Burma.

They also said they would use their freedom and try their best for the freedom of their nine colleagues, including Tun Lin Kyaw, Ko Kyaw Win, and Ko Mae Lone, who are still remaining in different prisons.
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Army Recruits 14-Year-Old Student in Arakan State


Buthidaung: An army battalion based in Buthidaung in western Burma's Arakan State has recently recruited a 14-year-old student from the area, reportedly after deceiving him about support for receiving a better education in the army.

A source close to the child's parents told Narinjara that Light Infantry Battalion 234 based in Buthidaung conscripted him into the army on 27 October, 2011.

"The name of the school-aged child is Maung Ray Nyien, son of U Aung Thar Aung and Daw Pulay Maung from Awrama Village in Buthidaung Township. Corporal Soe Aung and Private Maung Pya from local LIB 234 tricked the child by claiming he would get a better education in the army," said the source.

The source added that the child is a class seven student studying at Awrama Joint Middle School in Buthidaung Township.

"His parents went to the army on 31 October and asked the army to return their child to them, but the child is unwilling to return with his parents because the army has tricked him into believing he'll receive a better education," said the source.

A school teacher who wished to remain anonymous from the Joint Basic Middle School No. 3 in Awrama Village confirmed that Maung Ray Nyein is just 14 years old and is a class seven student at the school.

"We made an inquiry with his parents because he was absent from school for a long time, and we came to learn that he has been recruited into a local army battalion. He is just 14 years old and a student in class seven in our school, and his admission number is 122," said the teacher.

An official from the branch office of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party in Buthidaung also said the child had already been sent to the recruitment center in the capital Sittwe.

"The child's parents also came to our office here and requested help getting their child back from the army. So, we have directly gone to the army to inquire about the child and found the child was already sent to the recruiting center in Sittwe," said the official.

According to sources close to the army, the army battalions based in Arakan State are still continuing to recruit children despite claims by the Burmese regime that there are no child soldiers in Burma.

They added that many children are found being collected in the cantonment area of Military Operation Command, of Sa Ka Kha 9 based in Kyauktaw in northern Arakan for conscription into the army battalions as well.

They said the local battalions have not only been recruiting under-aged children, but also physically unfit individuals as soldiers because the number of people who want to join the Burmese army is getting lower every year in Arakan State.
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Construction of Indian Port Harms Residents in Sittwe


Residents in Sittwe, the capital of western Burma’s Arakan State, said the construction of an Indian-owned port in their town is harming many people, due to the large volume of sands that have blown away from the site, near the Sittwe general hospital.

Sittwe-port-construction-Arakan-BurmaConstruction site of India port in Sittwe, Arakan.
According to them, dust and sand is being blown away from the construction site of the port and has been greatly troubling patients in the hospital, as well as polluting the environment and air of the town. Undisciplined drivers of heavy vehicles that carry the sand from the beach for landfills in the site have damaged the roads in the town as well.

An educated youth from the town who recently underwent treatment in the hospital said the hospital is filled with sand, dust and noise from the construction of the port.

"Sand which is supposed to be filling in land for the port is blowing into the hospital. The site is closely situated to the eye Sand, dust and sharp noises of engines have made the hospital quite unpleasant and unhygienic for its patients", said the youth.

Narinjara has contacted the hospital, but the in-charge of the hospital replied that the construction of the port is making no harms to its patients.

An elder from Kyipungree residential ward near to the port also said the sands and the heavy vehicles of the port have polluted the town and caused damage to the streets in the town.

“The residential wards near to the port and the streets in the town are now polluted by the sand and dust from the construction site and spilled from the sand-carrying vehicles that are driving without discipline on the streets in the town. Now the people here are feeling quite uneasy as the whole town is covered with sand and dust”, said the elder.

He said that the best streets in the town including Strand Road are being badly damaged by heavy weight.

“Streets in the town such as the Strand Road are now badly damaged and the main bridge of the road was broken by over-weighted sand-carrying vehicles, but both the municipal department in the town and the Indian company are neglecting to fix the damage."

A student from Sittwe University also said the natural beauty of Point Beach, the public recreation place in the town has also been destroyed by the construction.

“Now Point Beach is potted, and is not beautiful like before”, said the student.

She said the port construction has not only destroyed the natural beauty of the Point beach, but also polluted the whole town with the sands from the beach, but the authorities are turning a blind eye to the work.

According to residents, the people who suffer from some respiratory diseases are being badly affected by the pollution caused by the port construction in their town.

U Aung Mra Kyaw, an MP of the Arakan State Parliament and the President of the Sittwe Branch of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said he submitted a note of the problems to the regional government.

The port is being constructed by the India’s Essar Company, and is a major component of the ‘Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project’ that was proposed by the Indian government under a framework agreement with the Burmese military regime in 2008 to ease the movement of goods into land locked areas.
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China Commences Construction of Oil Tanks on Madae Island


China has recently started building giant tanks for storing crude oil shipped from Africa and Middle East within the compound of the deep seaport on the Madae Island in Kyaukpru in western Burma’s Arakan State.

A Burmese engineer who is working with the project said the construction of the oil tanks will be completed in mid 2012 and importing the oil from the tanks through the pipeline to China will begin in 2013.

“We are now building the foundations of the tanks. The tanks are on target to be completed in mid 2012, so to transporting the oil from the port through the pipeline to China will begin from 2013”, said the engineer.

China is now building the deep seaport project on the Madae Island, construction includes a port for storing 3 lakh tons of crude oil, a 2.9 km-long navigable channel, a 480 meter-long jetty for the oil tankers and a water reservoir of 600,000 cubic meters.

About 22 million tons of crude oil in a year will be transported from the port to China through the 2,380 km long pipeline of which about 800km will run through Burma.

12 billion cubic meters of natural gas that is produced from the A(1) and A(3) blocks of the offshore gas fields of Arakan State will be also exported to China through the pipeline.

The engineer said China is now speeding up the construction of the port by working both day and night. Most of the machinery and labourers are being brought in from its own country.

“Most of the engineers and workers constructing the port are from China and the machinery and other important material, such as cement, is also brought in from their country. The Burmese government is also allowing them to import whatever they need for the construction of their projects freely”, he said.

According to local residents, many farmers on Madae Island have become unemployed after their farmlands were confiscated. They were given very little compensation - much less than what the Chinese paid for the land needed for the port.
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Government Officials Take Chinese Pipeline Compensation


Kyauk Pru: Government officials in Kyaukpru in western Burma’s Arakan State have taken the compensation offered to local residents for whose lands were confiscated to make way for the corridor of the Chinese gas pipeline.

Arakan-Gas-Pipeline-to-China The construction of Chinese gas pipeline now reaches at Kyauk Pru Township in Arakan.
A resident of Kapaingchaung Village in Kyaukpru Township who received compensation for his lands confiscated for the pipeline told Narinjara in a telephone interview that the payment of the compensation has been altered by third parties, including government officials.

“Our villagers here are now quite busy receiving compensation. However most of them have not got the full amount owed due to exploitation by government officials. There are also some villagers who did not receive any compensation for their lands”, said the villager.

“So, some of the villagers have to go to court, and others to the land registration office to claim the compensation owed. The village administrator himself has gone to Kyaukpru for this matter so please contact him.”

U Tin Phay, an MP of the regional government from Kyaukpru, also said that the responsible departmental officials have exploited the villagers and taken the compensation owed to them.

“The officials include an assistant director and a clerk of the land registration department and the village administrator." said U Thin Phay.

“They have cut 1 million Kyat from the compensation of 4 million Kyat offered to U Maung Than Kyi, 1.5 million Kyat from 3.5 million Kyat to Daw Ma Win Nu, 5 lakhs Kyat from 1.5 million Kyat to Daw Ma Kyaw Thein, 1.5 million Kyat from 5.7 million Kyat to U Kyaw Thein and 4 lakhs Kyat from 1.25 million Kyat to Daw Khin Win Tin respectively.”

He said 24 villagers from Kapaingchaung Village have been compensated for the lands lost to the pipelines, but 23 of them have come to the RNDP’s Kyaukpru branch office to lodge complaints providing their own signatures and written accounts of their particular stories because the officials forcibly and unofficially cut their compensations.

“We also know from the villagers from the Kapaingchaung Village and other villages through which the pipelines will cross that the responsible officials have threatened them not to complain to their management or they will confiscate or stop all compensations for them”, said U Tin Phay.

“But the villagers are continuing to come to our office”, he added.

The pipeline that comes from the sea to export gas from the Shwe offshore gas reservoir to China has already arrived in Kapaingchaung Village, situated 10 mile east of Kyaukpru main town. It is also learnt that the authorities have already confiscated necessary lands owned by the 26 villagers from the Kyaukkhamaung Village for the pipeline, but no compensation has been offered to the villagers yet.
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