Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Burma Study Center is Busy!

Today, Sunday March 9, 2014 is Global Day of Prayer for Burma.  Yesterday, I picked up a beautiful 24 page booklet which was prepared largely by the Free Burma Rangers.  I don’t normally mention publications I find at the Burma Study Center, but this one is exceptional.  It contains much information, presented in factual yet hopeful light.  Your electronic copy is waiting for you at

Of course, one of the main purposes for the Burma Study Center is to serve as a library of information related to Burma and the many people who are affected by the continuing political / military situation inside the country and along the borders.  The facility is available for research by academics, journalists and really anyone genuinely interested in learning.  They have several books available for checkout and many others which can be read on site.  A collection of lending DVD’s is also available.  Language classes taught at the center offer migrant an opportunity to improve their life skills.  The center is always buzzing with activities.

The Burma Study Center coordinates and sponsors many interesting and timely events.  Today there is a daylong event at Chiang Mai University.  Happily the event was well publicized in the Chiang Mai area. 
Although the posting is too late for most, I’ll include it:

Sunday, March 9: "The 'New Myanmar?: Reforms, Ethnic Groups, and Ceasefires" A full-day of lectures, presentations, and discussions exploring Burma's transition. Presentations will include an overview of changes in Burma since 2010 by Garrett Kostin (Burma Study Center), "Rohingya in Transit: Human Trafficking and Statelessness" by Ekraj Sabu (Asian Muslim Action Network), "Dignity Amidst the Rubbish" by photojournalist Jeffrey Warner, "Burma's Transition: Prospects for Peace and National Reconciliation" by Alex James (Burma Partnership), a screening of "Guns, Briefcases, and Inequality: The Neglected War in Kachin State", two photography exhibitions, and more. All presentations will be in English. Free and open to the public. 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at CMU's Faculty of Humanities, 8th Floor. 


 Thursday, March 13: "Understanding Thailand's Political Stalemate: Causes, Prospects, and Meanings" a lecture by Dr. Paul Chambers, followed by discussion/Q&A, organized by Burma Study Center and Chiang Mai University. Intended for an international audience, Dr. Chambers will present on the background, primary stakeholders, different factions, and fundamental issues surrounding the current political crisis in Thailand, including a discussion of the implications prolonged instability in Thailand could have for Burma and Thai-Burma relations. Free and open to the public (presentation in English). 2–4 p.m. at CMU's Faculty of Social Sciences, Lecture Hall 4107. More information:


Thursday, March 20: "Aung San Suu Kyi: The Face of Burma's Resistance" Join Aung Zaw, founder of The Irrawaddy news organization and winner of numerous international journalism awards, for a presentation of his new book The Face of Resistance: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Fight for Freedom, including an evaluation of the democracy icon's legacy, credibility, and potential. The author will also discuss issues currently affecting Burma during this unprecedented time in its history, including prospects for next year's national elections. Free and open to the public (presentation in English). 2–4 p.m. at CMU's Faculty of Social Sciences, Lecture Hall 4107.


Thursday, March 27: "Dignity Amidst the Rubbish" book launch, presentation, and discussion with author Jeffrey Warner. Dignity Amidst the Rubbish is a new book of powerful images and text depicting the daily lives of members of a migrant community from Burma living and working on a rubbish dump in Mae Sot, Thailand. Join the author for a discussion of his work, including a presentation by members of Compasio Relief & Development about what is currently being done to assist the refugees. Books will be available for purchase with all proceeds supporting projects for migrants and refugees from Burma living in Thailand. Free and open to the public. 2–4 CMU's Faculty of Social Sciences, Lecture Hall 4107.

Friday, March 28: "Dignity Amidst the Rubbish" book launch, presentation, and discussion with author Jeffrey Warner. Dignity Amidst the Rubbish is a new book of powerful images and text depicting the daily lives of members of a migrant community from Burma living and working on a rubbish dump in Mae Sot, Thailand. Join the author for a discussion of his work, including a presentation by members of Compasio Relief & Development about what is currently being done to assist the refugees. Books will be available for purchase with all proceeds supporting projects for migrants and refugees from Burma living in Thailand. Free and open to the public. 7 p.m. at Documentary Arts Asia, 12/7 Wualai Road, Soi 3.

Friday, April 4: "Dignity Amidst the Rubbish" book launch, presentation, and discussion with author Jeffrey Warner. Dignity Amidst the Rubbish is a new book of powerful images and text depicting the daily lives of members of a migrant community from Burma living and working on a rubbish dump in Mae Sot, Thailand. Join the author for a discussion of his work, including a presentation by members of Compasio Relief & Development about what is currently being done to assist the refugees. Books will be available for purchase with all proceeds supporting projects for migrants and refugees from Burma living in Thailand. Free and open to the public. 6:30 p.m. at Borderline Gallery, Mae Sot, Tak, Thailand.

Saturday, April 5: "Dignity Amidst the Rubbish" book launch, presentation, and discussion with author Jeffrey Warner. Dignity Amidst the Rubbish is a new book of powerful images and text depicting the daily lives of members of a migrant community from Burma living and working on a rubbish dump in Mae Sot, Thailand. Join the author for a discussion of his work, including a presentation by members of Compasio Relief & Development about what is currently being done to assist the refugees. Books will be available for purchase with all proceeds supporting projects for migrants and refugees from Burma living in Thailand. Free and open to the public. 6:30 p.m. at Wadee Restaurant , Mae Sot, Tak, Thailand.

Yes there are several book launch events for “Dignity Amidst the Rubbish”.  I have seen the mock-ups and look forward to having my own copy soon.  If you can’t make one of the events, copies will soon be available for purchase at the Burma Study Center, Chiang Mai.

Abundant Blessings,


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Dr Cynthia Maung Receives Honorary Doctorate in Medicine from Ubon Ratchathani University, Thailand

18 December 2012
Press Release 
By Mae Tao Clinic

On the 18th December Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented Dr Cynthia Maung, Director of Mae Tao Clinic with an honorary doctorate in medicine from Ubon Ratchathani University (UBU). This is the first time that an academic institution in Thailand has provided such high recognition of the work of Dr Cynthia and her staff at Mae Tao Clinic. The award was given in recognition of Dr Cynthia’s work in taking care of refugees and displaced people affected by war and helping underprivileged patients in the midst of ethnic conflict.

Dr Cynthia was honoured to also have the opportunity to address the staff and faculty members on the 17th December and to provide an inspirational speech to new graduates on the 18th December.

Dr Cynthia pointed out the link between the work of Mae Tao Clinic and that of Ubon Ratchathani University, since both institutions work in border areas of Thailand with vulnerable and mobile populations from Burma and Laos. Both UBU and Mae Tao Clinic believe that training local people to work with their own communities is the best approach to public health. They are both also committed to supporting the work of the Thai government’s Border Health Master Plan, which promotes the provision of health care to all people living in Thailand, including migrants and ethnic people.

In her speech, Dr Cynthia urged graduating students to develop an approach to health that looks not just at the disease process and treatment but at all the underlying factors of the broader definition of health that is the social and economic aspects of health. Dr Cynthia highlighted the constant dilemma of working in a low resource setting, but emphasized her belief that: “Every patient should have the right to access health care and not have to remove their child from school, or go hungry or delay treatment due to structural barriers to health services, whether they be economic, social, or otherwise.”

She reflected on the current situation in Burma, explaining that although there have been some political shifts, “It remains a chronic health catastrophe.” Government health expenditure is just 3% of the country’s GDP compared to Thailand’s 12.7%. This has resulted in official health indicators in Burma, such as maternal mortality ratios and infant and child mortality rates, being amongst the worst in the region.

Dr Cynthia highlighted that the inspiration for her work has been the communities themselves. She explained that in times of government neglect and abuse, the communities work together for community health and education, developing local solutions and innovations in very challenging circumstances. “It is from this resiliency of communities that community leaders emerge. They learn to work together, share resources and develop strong supportive networks, developing innovative responses to truly provide public health.”

“Dr. Cynthiakah was nominated by the College of Medicine and Public Health to receive an honorary Doctorate degree in Medicine. The Ubon Ratchathani University Council have now approved the award to be presented to Dr Cynthiakah. Dr. Cynthiakah is an illustrious example of a medical doctor who has devoted her life to taking care of refugees and displaced people affected by war and ethnic conflict.  She has devoted herself to helping underprivileged patients with limited resources. She embodies the spirit of a true humanitarian. She is a role model for medical and public health professionals who bring benefits to the nation and to international communities” states Ubon Ratchathani University.

For more information, contact:
Naw Ghay Pho (Thai language): +66(0)800298297
Eh Thwa (English/Burmese languages): +66(0)810448521

Dr Cynthia Maung is the Director of Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Tak. For her work in health and human rights she has received multiple awards including the Sydney Peace Prize of Australia, The One Award of Hong Kong and the Ramon Magsaysay Award of the Philippines for Community Leadership.
Mae Tao Clinic was established in 1989 after the Burmese government crackdown on nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations across Burma. From a small 4-bed clinic in 1990 to the present time when there are over 140,000 patients visits per year with over 3,000 safe baby deliveries. Nowadays, Mae Tao Clinic is a comprehensive health centre, as well as a training centre which has trained thousands of health workers who have returned to Burma to work in rural and war affected areas of Eastern Burma. It also provides education and child protection to migrant children in the area.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A Problem, A Solution, A Step in the Right Direction

The Mae Sot dump, home of some 110 migrant families, provides much material for articles to be written and much conversation material. What isn't obvious is what ought to be done. I first visited the dump about a year ago.  You are more than welcome to go back and re-read my articles from that period.  Before you go, please know this:  since that time I have learned much and would now write very different material.  Call it knowledge, growth or just aging.

Various organizations go to the dump.  Some actually do some good, others go, take photos and use them to raise money which never reaches the people of the dump community. At least one very small organization has been there a long time but has no plan for sustainability, no financial transparency and often seems more interested in personal power than anything else.  One small “Christian” organization has actually taken children and forced them to participate in Christian prayers and rituals. Let’s take a hard look at the situation and how certain organizations and people seem to fit in.
Trash Pile

The likelihood that I will offend some folks with this is extremely high.  I do not care!  What goes on at the Mas Sot Dump is a damn shame and people should be made aware. Below I will start naming names.  If I DO NOT mention an organization by name that means one of two things:

  • They are not involved in a significant way, or
  • They are not recommended as potential donation recipients.
The people who reside and work at the dump are migrants from Burma.  Most are either ethnic Burmese of Karen.  Like most first time visitors I was horrified by the conditions and quickly reached in my wallet to fix the problem, at least one small part.  No wonder scum bags go to the dump take photos and go home to raise money.  It’s a perfect scheme.  Far away, full of tear jerk stories and damn near impossible to monitor.   If you want to help, there are a couple of suggestions at the end of this article.  However, before you try to help, perhaps you might want to try to understand a couple of basic facts.

First, the people who live on the Mas Sot dump made a conscience decision to go there (of course the children didn't have a voice; I’m talking about the adults).  Many of the families have had children while living there.  Second, these people tell me that the reason they made the choice to live on a garbage dump is because it’s the best alternative they have at the moment. Burma is too dangerous and income opportunities are more scarce than here.  Refugee status isn't always possible and often not desirable.  These people take pride in working for their living, an opportunity they would not have in a refugee camp.  I’m reminded of a great quote by Edgar Papke "The most powerful thing we have in our lives is choice."
Home without the terror caused by the Burmese Army

Choice is a tricky, sneaky concept when applied to the dis-enfranchised. These souls have made a choice to live in conditions that you, gentle reader, would likely brand as unbearable.  Once there they seem to believe that choices are no longer possible.  They tend to become servile, contrary to their very nature.  What can a foreign visitor do that might actually have a positive impact on their sense of dignity and self-worth?  All too often foreigners come to the dump, look around, take a few pictures and leave. Others come with donations, which is fine and indicates compassion but does little or nothing to help the long term situation.

Now I start naming names! 

Recently I have been involved with one project which is certainly on a creative and positive path.  I had the excellent fortune to be introduced to one Christina Jordan, one of the founders of an organization called Co-creative Impact and Innovation Institute. See:  Her approach is to suggest self-empowerment. This is very challenging when working with people who have been "kicked to curb" as it were.  She knew of my several trips to Mae Sot and had seen some of my photographs.  We talked and she ended up inviting me to accompany her to a meeting with the village headmen at the dump.  Her idea is to have a conversation with the headmen and encourage them talk to the community.  Since photographs have been an issue she asked me to talk to them as a photographer.  I was more than happy to do so. Perhaps the very best thing that can be said about this is that Christina Jordan has only one agenda: find out what the residents of the dump want and to try to find ways to help them accomplish those goals.

Christina Jordan, King Zero, Saw Phaung Awar and village leaders
What do I mean when I say they have no sense of empowerment. My best explanation is to share a couple of examples:

  • I was at the dump this past weekend and asked one of the headmen if they decided to use the "No Photo" signs Christina had made for them.  No. They were afraid someone in power would ask them where they got the signs from.
  • One large group of tourists recently came through the dump community.  The headmen said nothing because they were with someone they recognized as being in some position of authority although they could not identify him.
One of the ideas that was born from the meetings with the headmen was “Piglets for Progress”  The idea is to raise enough money so every family can have at least one pig, two being ideal.  The idea is brilliant on several levels:

  1. The community has existing knowledge and proof of concept. Some families already have pigs and they are quite successful.  
  2. Pigs are right at home in the dump.
  3. People can raise them, sell them at a profit and buy more piglets (To a large degree, the pig idea is self-sustaining).

The pig idea will meet resistance mostly from people who take the attitude that they know what’s best without having done their homework. To those people I say that this is an idea that comes from the people who live in the dump, it’s not something being forced on them by someone with good intentions and no idea about their reality. The Piglets for Progress project helps with self-empowerment and that is most badly needed. "Piglets for Progress" IS NOT an ego born disease!

You can help by contributing at Piglets for Progress 

You can also help by sharing this article with your friends and associates.

People wanting to contribute rice and other commodities to the dump are encouraged to go through the Best Friend Library in Mae Sot. If you can't contact them, please let me know and I will assist.
Ashin Sapoka, Best Friend Library, distributes rice to families at the dump

Medical treatment for the people residing on the dump, as well as many displaced persons on both sides of the Burmese border is provided by Mae Tao Clinic.  They do a marvelous job and truly deserve all the support they can get!  This organization has a most excellent reputation.  They are financially transparent, fiscally responsibility and save lives every day! Visit their website, download and read their annual report.

Abundant Blessings,


Sunday, 6 October 2013

A positive report on Chay Nay Choo!

Gentle Reader,

Many thanks to my friend Ramlah M Jafri for writing an excellent update on Chaa Nay Choo.   I won’t repeat it except to say he is now re-united with his parents, doing well and continuing to recover from the devastating burn injuries he suffered.  I did take the liberty of re-using photos.

Chay Nay Choo at the hospital

The latest news about Chaa Nay Choo is at   Please continue your generous support of this young man.

Home at last with his parents
Abundant Blessings, 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Dump Residents Flooded - A Cry for Help

Gentle Reader,

Here is a very brief update from Saw.  It came in last night at 7:56 pm

Dear All
Information update of float
42 family lost their shelter. I received contribution 2000 baths. They are staying at school.
with best wishes


Bad news is that the number of families has increased from 35 to 42.  Good news is they are temporarily under roof and contributions are coming in.   I will have a bit more news this evening.

As of last night, 35 of 70 families residing at the Mae Sot Dump lost their homes due to flooding.  Please help!  Let suggest what to do that is easy and efficient.     Some people say I write to much so I will put the bottom line at the top and the explanations below.
Please make bank transfer to L Win Oo, account number 2122818341, Kasikorn Bank.  The phone number in the image below is that of L Win Oo whose nickname is  Saw.  If you can afford 10,000 baht great, if you can afford 1,000 great.  If you can afford just 100, your generosity will make a difference! 
Bank Transfer Information
When you make the transfer please notify by email the following people:
L Win Oo -   
Ashin Sopaka -
Jerry Nelson -  I ask you to include me simply so I can keep track and send thank you notes as appropriate.

Over time many people have gone to the dump and left with a resolve to do something.  Some have, but most have found the whole experience overwhelming, or have not been able to keep their promises.  Some have left frustrated because of "difficult personalities".   Here is a chance to do something very easy and very useful!

As of last night 35 of the 70 homes at the Mae Sot dump have been washed away by floods.  The people are poor and have very little resources.   The situation, while not as bad as the refugee camp fire 4 months ago truly is an emergency.  These people have lost their basic shelter, clothing, food and perhaps potable water.  The rain in Mae Sot is causing flooding, mud slides.  Many roads are impassible.  The road to the dump is under water.  Saw mentioned that the water was "higher than the top of the motor cycle".
Saw took this late yesterday.  We drove down it only an hour earlier! 
THE PLAN:   We will raise money and transfer it to Saw who is in Mae Sot and will be able to make quick assessments and spend the money in the most appropriate way.   I just spoke to him and he wants to buy 35 food packets at 130 baht each.    He will let me know later this evening what other specific needs he will try to meet.   When I spoke to him a few minutes ago he let me know he had already received a 2,000 baht donation from Christina Jordon.   Hopefully we can get a few thousand more to his account by the time the bank opens in the morning!

L Win Oo (Saw) is a school teacher from a near by school.  He is also very involved in the Best Friend Library and has offered to take on the responsibility of finding out what is needed, prioritizing the needs and providing what he can with the funds we raise.   This solution is efficient because he is already on the ground, the people know and trust him.  Because he is Burmese and affiliated with the Best Friend Library there is total cooperation between he and the village headmen.
Saw, on the right, with the village headmen this past Saturday.
Saw holds umbrella for Ashin Sopaka during rice distribution last month
(notice the row of shacks in the background - now likely gone)! 
Ashin Sopaka – Co-founder of the Best Friend Library.  Although he is currently in Burma, he is providing moral support.   The last time I went to the dump I was in his company.  He shared with me that he considers the people there to be part of his family.  There is a great mutual respect.   Including him in the notifications will be one part of the verification of funds used.
Cookie Monster Monk

Ashin Sopaka listens to the Village People

"They are like my family" - Ashin Sopaka 15 June 2013

King Zero – Co-founder of the Best Friend Library.   He is currently in Mae Sot and in constant contact with Saw.  He has recently facilitated planning meetings with the village headmen, continues to support the residents and adds much credibility to any outreach to the people who reside at the dump.  Including him in the notifications will also be one part of the verification of funds used.
King Zero at meeting with Village Headmen on Saturday

Jerry Nelson -  I’m just trying to help raise some money and give you an opportunity to make a difference.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Human Rights Defenders Sentenced in Burma

Below is the latest press release from Burma Partnership. This is further evidence that international community has rushed all too quickly to embrace the "democratic progress of Myanmar".  Sadly, the United States and other powerful nations have no real interest in human rights in Burma or any other country. The real interest is in plundering Burma’s resources and keeping competing nations at bay.  The press release uses the phrase “huge red flag to anyone wanting to do business…..”.  The abuses of power inside Burma may deter small businesses without the resources to buy their way through the corruption.  For big business it will simply be a cost of doing business; the cost will be borne by the Burmese people.

The Upper Burma Court has proven it's loyalty to the Chinese.  

10 July 2013

Press Release
Upper Burma Court Sentences Three Human Rights Defenders to Long-Term Imprisonment; Guards Intimidate Lawyer
By Burma Partnership and Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma

On 8 July, Shwebo Township court handed out additional sentences to U Aung Soe, U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu, increasing their prison terms to respectively 11 years and six months and two years and six months. The three human rights defenders were previously detained, held incommunicado and sentenced in unfair trials for their opposition to the Letpadaung Copper Mine.

The three rights defenders were denied the right to access and consult with a defense lawyer. Court and prison officials thwarted attempts to gain power of attorney by U Aung Thurein Tun. The trio was not allowed to meet with a lawyer until their final court hearing when they received their trumped-up sentences. In a further perversion of the rule of law, prison guards intimidated U Aung Thurein Tun by listening in to his conversation with the three human rights defenders and taking photos in contravention of the principle of lawyer-client conversation confidentiality. International standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, require defendants to have prompt access to a lawyer. 
U Aung Soe from the Yangon People’s Support Network, U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu are human rights activists who peacefully protested against the construction of the Letpadaung copper mine in Salingyi Township, Sagaing Region. On 25 April, local police arbitrarily arrested the three after villagers began plowing the fields that had previously been confiscated from them.

Following the arrest, their whereabouts remained unknown for over 30 days. On 1 June, after a closed-door court proceeding, Shwebo Township court sentenced U Aung Soe to 18 months in prison and U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu to six months imprisonment each under section 188 of the Penal Code (disobedience of an order promulgated by a public servant), in total disregard of their right to due process of law.
“In Burma today, human rights activists still pay an unacceptably high price for exposing and highlighting fundamental injustices. This new verdict makes it impossible for the international community to deny that Burma is not that fundamentally different from under the previous military regime and that it is still not a free country,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership.

“Releasing political prisoners is not meaningful if the government continues to fill our country’s jails with replacements. Freedom today is worthless if you are imprisoned tomorrow,” said Ko Bo Kyi, Joint-Secretary, from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma. He added, “Since their initial detention, the three rights defenders were placed outside the reach and protection of the law. If the people of Burma are to believe the government is sincere about implementing the rule of law, then words need to be put into action. A first step would be to take action against state authorities who have stripped the three defendants of their most basic rights, including every human’s right to not be arbitrarily imprisoned and right to consult with a lawyer.”

On June 8, the Shwebo Township court sentenced U Aung Soe to an additional 10 years imprisonment under sections 505(b) (intent to cause alarm to the public), 295 and 295(a) (intent to insult a religion), and 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty) of the Penal Code, increasing his total sentence to eleven years and six months. U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu were sentenced to two years imprisonment under sections 505(b) and 333, making their total sentence to two years and six months each in prison.

“This is the first time since the so-called reforms started that human rights activists have been sentenced to such long terms in prison. Their only crime was to peacefully oppose a military-backed business that is irreparably harming the lives and livelihoods of their communities,” added Khin Ohmar. “This is a huge red flag to anyone wanting to do business in our country. Business has human rights impacts in Burma that the government is unwilling to adequately address. The international business community needs to practice "do no harm" policies when doing business in Burma.”

Arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, unfair trial and denial of lawyer-client confidentiality have no place in a country transitioning towards democracy. Restrictions on fundamental freedoms and on human rights defenders’ work must come to an end immediately. The government must immediately and unconditionally release activists and all remaining political prisoners; cease all forms of restrictions of human rights defenders; review all legislation identified as not being in line with international human rights norms; and undertake reforms to ensure the independence, impartiality, and accountability of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial. The government must also ensure the right to a fair trial, including immediate and ongoing access to a lawyer of the defendant’s choice and that no trial takes place without the presence of a defense lawyer.

For more information please contact:
Khin Ohmar, Burma Partnership: +66 (0) 818840772
Ko Bo Kyi, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma: +66 (0) 819628713

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Freedom of Expression in Burma?

Gentle Reader,

Recently I started looking at the easiest way to obtain a visa for Burma (Myanmar) and came upon a blog called The Mad Traveler on line.   I just have to share one paragraph from his article about the visa process at the embassy in Bangkok. "For a tourist visa you have to include a short work history. What were your last two jobs, beginning and end dates, work phone number, job title. It’s important not to include the obvious red flags: journalist, photographer, human rights activist, rabble rouser, terrorist, missionary".  

It appears to me the United States and the European Union told Burma that freedom of press and freedom of expression would be a prerequisite to opening up trade and aid to Burma.  The government of Myanmar responded quickly that freedom of expression is the new reality in that country.  Many people missed, or chose to miss the wink.

One of the newsletters to which I subscribe is Burma Partnership.  This morning I received a brief article that, at least for me, tells a awful lot about the state of freedom of expression and freedom of press in Burma.   I'll copy it here.

"20 June 2013

Statement by Three Human Rights Defenders 
By Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin

We would like to explain what is happening to us, Moe Thway (Generation Wave), Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin (Yangon People Service Network), in these days.

On 13 June 2013, Monywa court issued warrants to arrest the three of us under section 505(b) of the Penal Code. Lieutenant Khin Zaw Latt from Monywa Police Station 1 said he requested Monywa court to charge us with section 505(b) because of our comments about the Letpadaung copper mine case.

On 25 April 2013, there was some violence between local police and villagers in the Letpadaung copper mine project area when villagers tried to plough their fields, which are in an area that they were prohibited to enter under section 144 of the Penal Code. Local police arrested an activist and two villagers and also issued a warrant for 8 other activists and villagers. As the consequences of that case, villagers were afraid of police raids on their villages and the possibility of more violence.

Because of that situation, we were worried that there would be more conflicts between local authorities and people. So we four activists, Aung Thu (88 Generation), Moe Thway (Generation Wave), Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin (Yangon People Service Network), went to Monywa and Letpadaung villages on 8 May 2013 to try to calm down the tensions in that area. We informed to the local police, administration and also government, that we were coming to find a compromise and peaceful way to resolve the problems.

During that trip, we met and consulted with people from several villages surrounding the Letpadaung project and brought their requests to local authorities. We sent the information we got from local people to the Prime Minister of Sagaing Region, U Tha Aye, and also to the chairman of Letpadaung mining project implementation committee, U Hla Tun, and two ministers of the President Office, U Aung Min and U Ohn Myint. We requested to meet Sagaing Region government, but we didn’t get the chance to meet the Prime Minister of Sagaing Region although we waited for 5 days from 8 to 12 May 2013. One of us, Wai Lu had a chance to meet U Aung Min, Minister of the President Office, to report about the situation in Yangon on 12 May 2013.

While we were in Monywa, we were asked for an interview by some local reporters. We had an interview with them at a tea shop named Pin Lone. Some police from the Special Branch were nearby and closely watched our interview. One reporter shot a video recording while we were answering questions. We spoke out our opinions of local police using section 144 of the Penal Code to keep villagers from entering their fields and prohibited areas near the mining project.

Unfortunately, Sagaing Region police force felt that our comments and opinions in the interview damaged the police and the government’s credibility. So they proposed the court to arrest us and charge us under section 505(b) of the Penal Code, which carries a possible sentence of 2 years imprisonment.
We are being charged for giving an interview to media and expressing our opinions about police actions in a civil rights movement case. The government is telling the world that there is freedom of expression and is getting so much appreciation. But this warrant is an attack on our right to freedom of expression and is destroying Myanmar’s democratic transition.

We call on the government, the police and all authorities to ensure freedom of expression for all people of Myanmar as an important step on our path towards democracy."