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 - wai.khul2011@gmail.com   
Ashin Sopaka - mettamail@gmail.com
Jerry Nelson -  Jerry@jerrynelsonphoto.com  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