Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Information For The GAHRFS 2006 Participants

Background Information and Travel Advisory on The Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School 2006

1. The May 18 Memorial Foundation

The May 18 Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1994 by the survivors of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, and their families and the citizens of Gwangju. The Foundation aims to commemorate and continue the spirit of struggle and solidarity of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising; to contribute to the peaceful reunification of Korea, and to work towards peace and human rights throughout the world.

Since its establishment, the Foundation engaged in organizing memorial events, scholarships, research, public information dissemination, publication, international solidarity, and the annual Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Awards.

2. The Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School 2006

2.1. Goals
The Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School 2005 aims to contribute to the development of democracy and human rights in Asia by giving those who have been working for human rights and peace organizations in different Asian countries a chance to learn about the history and process of the development of human rights and democracy in South Korea.
2.2. Education
a) The Asian Human Rights Folk School will introduce the participants to Korean history and to the movements and struggle for democracy, including the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, through both theoretical and practical experiences such as seminars, discussions and field trips to the sites of democratization movements in Korea.
b) The participants will be asked to prepare and present group and personal reports, and to participate in the cultural night by making a cultural (group) presentation.

3. Travel Advisory

3.1 Pre departure
a) You will be staying away from your homes for three weeks so please prepare psychologically, spiritually, emotionally so that your learning experience here will be a fruitful one.
b) The following documents should be in your hand-carried bags
- Passport - Visa - round trip ticket - invitation letter from 518MF
c) Pocket Money: Bus fare is 35,000 won while snacks/meals at the bus stops cost 3,000 to 5,000 won. There are a number of banks inside Incheon International Airport that change dollars to won at approximately $1 to 1,000 won. Get some coins from the bank or from any convenient stores inside the airport as you will need them to make a call.
d) Clothing – The autumn season is approaching so bring light jackets to keep you warm. For the visit to Panmunjom, please bring collared shirts/blouses, closed shoes, and slacks or pants. (Jeans, rubber shoes and non-collared shirts are not allowed). Please bring formal attire for the opening day. The rest of your stay will be in casual wear. Please also bring your traditional dress/suit for our cultural night and rubber shoes for our hike to Meudeung Mountain. There’s a swimming pool nearby so you may also bring swim wear if you plan to swim after the sessions.

3.2 Arrival at Incheon

a) Proceed to Incheon International Airport -Passport and Immigration Control. At the Immigration Counter, you will have to show the following documents:
Your valid international passport, containing your visa (if applicable)
Your Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School 2006 invitation letter.
Evidence that you intend to leave the Republic of Korea at the end of the program (normally your round air-ticket will suffice)
If you did not bring your visa before your departure from your home country, the immigration officer at the airport may refuse your entry.

b) After Immigration Control counter, collect your luggage at the Baggage Claim area, then proceed to the Customs area. If you have goods to declare, fill out a Customs Declaration form. If you have no goods to declare, you must still go through Customs and submit the form notifying that you have nothing to declare. For more detailed information on the arrival procedure, please refer to Incheon International Airport website: (But don’t worry, it’s easy.)

c) Check your bus schedule and purchase bus ticket. At the airport’s gates are bus stations to different destinations. Proceed to Bus Stop 8A and purchase ticket to Gwangju City at the counter nearest it. Please note that there’s another place in Seoul called Gwangju so you have to say “Gwangju Jollanamdo” to be sure.

d) Make a call. Once you know your bus schedule, please call any of the contact numbers listed at the end of this document. Public phones inside and outside the airport gates enable you to make calls to land phones and handphone/ cellphone after dropping in a 100 won coin. Instructions on how to use the public phones are in Korean so you will need to seek the help of a Korean. Don’t worry, they will be very willing to help you .Your call will allow us to know what time we should come and pick you up at the Gwangju bus station when you arrive.

3.3Arrival in Gwangju City

All buses arrive on time and at only one station. We will be there to pick you up and bring you to our lodging place. There are public phone booths at the bus station as well, in any case.

Have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Contact Persons:

Should there be any problems or changes with your planned trip to Gwangju, please contact the May 18 Memorial Foundation through
Mr. Chanho Kim
Director, International Cooperation Team
Mobile: +82 10 4642 6650 (international)
010 4642 6650 (local)

Mr. Jonghak Jung
Staff in Charge and Interpretor
Mobile: +82 10 2676 6776 (international)
010 2676 6776 (local)
E-mail :

Mr. Amin Shah
International Intern
Mobile: +82 10 5696 0518 (international)
010 5696 0518 (local)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Questions still awaiting answers from families of the ‘disappeared’ in the southern border provinces - from Issra News

Issra News in EN

Questions still awaiting answers from families of the ‘disappeared’ in the southern border provinces

Monday 19 June 2006 15.27hours
Nunthawoot Muangsuk
Duwedania Mueringing
Issara News Centre, Association for Print Media Journalists Thailand

How the problem of disappearances in the three southern border provinces has been approached over the last few weeks since the submission of an open letter to the Independent Commission to facilitate justice and promote rights and freedoms in the three southern border provinces (ICJR)

The Working Group for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, the Cross Cultural Foundation, the Youth Network for Peace in the Southern Border Provinces, the Muslim Youth Association, and Mrs Angkana Neelapaijit, the victim of a disappearance case (lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit) held an event for the relatives of disappearance victims to meet and consult with lawyers from the Legal Aid office of the Lawyers Council of Thailand and the Rule of Law Centre, at the office of the Muslim Youth Association in Yala province.

18 out of the total 23 effected families of disappeared people attended the event on the 17 of June which brought families of disappeared people together to consult lawyers in order to get legal assistance and have their cases followed up. The families, who came from across sectors of the community and areas of the three provinces, were able to speak and exchange experiences of their suffering with others who had suffered the same fate.

Some shed tears as they heard of the heavy sufferings of other families who had been in much worse situations after the head of their families disappeared without a trace.

The Committee for Reparations for Families of the Disappeared in Three Southern Border Provinces also attended to give assistance, surveying families of victims who had not yet received any assistance in order to provide assistance such as education scholarships for the children of the disappeared.

After that the families were split into groups to talk to and give information to lawyers who will go on to use the information to follow up the progress of cases.

The group of lawyers from the Rule of Law Centre who heard from the families of the disappeared was made up of Rasada Manarasada, Deputy Chair of the Rule of Law Centre and HR Committee of the LCT, Mrs Busaba Chimplitanun, Mr Ajeh Bueraheng and Mr Kitja Alihisoh from the Muslim Lawyers Club.

“We We will give advice on legal matters, on how to deal with the property of the disappeared person. The assistance can be summarized in two points, being:
1.the failure of state officials and
2.suffering or reparations they should receive.
Whether it is the relatives or the families of the disappeared, this is the kind of thing which causes great psychological damage and they should receive assistance urgently.” Siad the Deputy president of the Rule of Law Centre.

Kitja Aliisahoh from the Muslim Lawyers Club explained that “there are two kinds of disappearances, during war and during normal circumstances. In the three souther border provinces we have to say the disappearances were during normal circumstances, not during war time, but according to the law, the person has to be missing from their residence for five years before a court will declare them disappeared. There is also the law of inheritance, in article 48 of the Civil and Commercial Code is states that after a person has been missing for one year you can petition the court ot issue an order for inheritance to be processed, which is something locals don’t understand. They need advice on this so they can organsie their inheritance.”

The lawyer for the Muslim Lawyers Club said “another issue is the investigation of disappearances, so today we are asking for information in to follow up on the progress with those involved”

Mr. Nimkadah Wabar, Pattani Senator, and Mr Duan Abdulah DaOamariyo Senator for Yala sent their wives to hear the problems and information from the locals, and Dr. Wher Mahadi Wati, Senator Narathiwat had other engagements and couldn’t attend.

After parliament is opened we will bring this issue to the Justice Committee because this is an importance issue which should not be overlooked, the state must be answerable to the people for everything, the state has a duty of care and must give answers no matter how much time has past. The people can ask for the rights they have just received fromt eh state.” Said Mr Nimakadar Wabar.

The Pattani Senator gave the families of the disappeared an important promise and also went on the say
“The issue of justice is one which politicians do not appear to give much importance to, it is actually not just the issue of disappearances in the three provinces, but there are many cases of people who have nto received justice all over the country. There are still many social [issues,problems?], so we must take this on as a special responsibility.
As for the cases of disappearances in the three southern border provinces, I will raise it all over the country, all Thai people must know about it and everyone must attach importance to the suffering of the families who have lost people.

Pol. Col [check rank] Jumron Denudom, former policeman who was stationed in the three southern border provinces for a long time, and now retired still works giving advice to people who have suffered due to the work of state officials, gave knowledge to the locals on disappearances cases.
“ if a person in your family is arrested [they] have to be sent to a court and the family informed. If officials do not do act according to these steps, they are at fault according to Criminal Procedure Code. If there is a serious offence, the police must inform us of the reason they are making the arrest, the charges against [the person] and where they are arrested [held?]. The family must be fully informed so they can prepare to apply for bail of the accused or they can get in touch with a lawyer. In some cases the person disappears for a week before the officials tell the family. The locals don’t know the law, don’t know they can complain against a state official, so they get away with it.”

Mrs Angkana Neelapaijit, who has suffered the loss of a family member being disappeared, lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, the president of the Muslim Lawyers Club, the case accredited with getting thai society to be interested in and focus on the issue of disappearances. Apart from the pain of losing her husband, she also has experiences she would rather not remember of the work of state officials in following up the case or giving assistance to her family after they were in trouble, having lost the head of the family. All the assistance cannot compensate for her loss.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Democracy Now Interview Arundhati Roy

Editor's Note: This is an edited transcript of an interview with Arundhati Roy, from Amy Goodman's syndicated radio show, Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman: Today, we spend the hour with acclaimed author and activist Arundhati Roy. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, was awarded the Booker Prize in 1997. Since then, Roy has devoted herself to political writing and activism. In India, she is involved in the movement opposing hydroelectric dam projects that have displaced thousands of people. In 2002, she was convicted of contempt of court in New Delhi for accusing the court of attempting to silence protest against the Narmada Dam project. She received a symbolic one-day prison sentence.

She has also been a vocal opponent of the Indian government's nuclear weapons program, as she is of all nuclear programs around the world. Arundhati Roy has also become known across the globe for her powerful political essays. In June of 2005, she served as chair of the Jury of Conscience at the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul.

AG:What does it feel to be back in the United States? A different perspective on the world from here.

AR: Well, I think the last time I was here was just before the elections, you know, when we were hoping that Bush wouldn't come back. But the point was that whoever came back seemed to have been supporting the war in Iraq in some way, so there was a crisis of democracy here, as much as anywhere else in the world. It's, I think, you know, when you don't come to the United States often, from the outside, the most important thing is that it's easy to forget. It's easy for us to forget that there is dissent within this country against the system that its government stands for. And it's important and heartening for me to remind myself of that, because outside there is so much anger against America, and obviously, you know, that confusion between people and governments exists, and it was enhanced when Bush was voted back to power. People started saying, "Is there a difference?"

AG: Well, of course, the way you see America and Americans outside the United States is through the media... Which channels do you access in India? What do you get to see? And what do you think of how the media deals with these issues?

AR: Well, in India, I think you get FOX News and CNN and, of course, the BBC. But also a lot of newspapers in India do publish American columnists, famously Thomas Friedman. And, of course, recently George Bush visited India, which was a humiliating and very funny episode at the same time, you know, what happened to him there and how he came and how the media reacted.

AG: I want to get your reaction to that visit, and actually play a clip of President Bush when he went to India in March. He promised to increase economic integration with the U.S. and signed an agreement to foster nuclear cooperation between the two countries:

President George W. Bush: We concluded an historic agreement today on nuclear power. It's not an easy job for the Prime Minister to achieve this agreement. I understand. It's not easy for the American president to achieve this agreement, but it's a necessary agreement. It's one that will help both our peoples.

AR: Well, the strange thing was that before he came, they wanted him to address a joint house of Parliament, but some members of Parliament said that they would heckle him and that it would be embarrassing for him to come there. So then they thought they would ask him to address a public meeting at the Red Fort, which is in Old Delhi, which is where the Prime Minister of India always gives his independence day speech from, but that was considered unsafe, because Old Delhi is full of Muslims, and you know how they think of all Muslims as terrorists.

So then they thought, "Okay, we'll do it in Vigyan Bhawan, which is a sort of state auditorium, but that was considered too much of a comedown for the U.S. President. So funnily enough, they eventually settled on him speaking in Purana Qila, which is the Old Fort, which houses the Delhi zoo. And it was really from there that -- and, of course, it wasn't a public meeting. It was the caged animals and some caged CEOs that he addressed. And then he went to Hyderabad, and I think he met a buffalo there, some special kind of buffalo, because there is a picture of Bush and the buffalo in all the papers, but the point is that, insulated from the public.

There were massive demonstrations, where hundreds of thousands of people showed up. But it didn't seem to matter either to Bush or to the Indian government, which went ahead and signed, you know, deals where this kind of embrace between a poorer country or a developing country and America. We have such a litany of the history of incineration when you embrace the government of the United States. And that's what happened, that the Indian government, in full servile mode, has entered into this embrace, has negotiated itself into a corner, and now continues to do this deadly sort of dance.

But I must say that while Bush was in Delhi, at the same time on the streets were -- I mean apart from the protests, there were 60 widows that had come from Kerala, which is the south of India, which is where I come from, and they had come to Delhi because they were 60 out of the tens of thousands of widows of farmers who have committed suicide, because they have been encircled by debt. And this is a fact that is simply not reported, partly because there are no official figures, partly because the Indian government quibbles about what constitutes suicide and what is a farmer. If a man commits suicide, but the land is in his old father's name, he doesn't count. If it's a woman, she doesn't count, because women can't be farmers.

AG: So she counts as someone who committed suicide, but not as a farmer who committed suicide.

AR: Exactly.

AG: Tens of thousands?

AR: Tens of thousands. And then, anyway, so these 60 women were there on the street asking the Indian government to write off the debts of their husbands, right? Across the street from them, in a five-star hotel were Bush's 16 sniffer dogs who were staying in this five-star hotel, and we were all told that you can't call them dogs, because they are actually officers of the American Army, you know. I don't know what the names were. Sergeant Pepper and Corporal Whatever. So, it wasn't even possible to be satirical or write black comedy, because it was all real.

AG: Didn't President Bush visit Gandhi's grave?

AR: He visited Gandhi's grave, and first his dogs visited Gandhi's grave. Then, you know, Gandhians were, like, wanting to purify it. And I said, "Look, I don't mind the dogs. I mind Bush much [more] than the dogs."

But Gandhi's -- you know, obviously one can have all kinds of opinions about Gandhi. It's not universal that everybody adores and loves him, but still he stood for nonviolence, and here it was really the equivalent of a butcher coming and tipping a pot of blood on that memorial and going away. It was -- you know, there was no room left, as I said, for satire or for anything, because it was so vulgar, the whole of it. But I have to say the Indian mainstream media was so servile. You know, you had a newspaper like the Indian Express saying, "He is here, and he has spoken." I'm sure he doesn't get worshipped that much even by the American mainstream press, you know. It was extraordinary.

AG: Let me play another clip of President Bush. I think in this one he's talking about trade in India:

President Bush: The markets are open, and the poor are given a chance to develop their talents and abilities. They can create a better life for their families. They add to the wealth of the world, and they could begin to afford goods and services from other nations. Free and fair trade is good for India. It's good for America. And it is good for the world. In my country, some focus only on one aspect of our trade relationship with India: outsourcing. It's true that some Americans have lost jobs when their companies move operations overseas. It's also important to remember that when someone loses a job, it's an incredibly difficult period for the worker and their families. Some people believe the answer to this problem is to wall off our economy from the world through protectionist policies. I strongly disagree.

AG: President Bush speaking in India. Arundhati Roy, your response?

AR: Well, look, let's not forget that this whole call to the free market started in the late 19th century in India. You know, that was what colonialism was all about. They kept using the words "free market." And we know how free the free market is. Today, India has -- I mean, after 15 years of economic liberalization, we have more than half of the world's malnutritioned children. We have an economy where the differences between the rich and the poor, which have always been huge, has increased enormously. We have a feudal society whose feudalism has just been reinforced by all of this.

And, you know, it's amazing. Just in the wake of Bush's visit, you can't imagine what's happening, say, in a city like Delhi. You can't imagine the open aggression of institutions of our democracy. It's really like courts, for instance, who are an old enemy of mine, are rolling up their sleeves and coming after us. You have in Delhi, for example -- I have just come from being on the streets for six weeks, where all kinds of protest are taking place. But you have a city that's been just -- it's just turned into a city of bulldozers and policemen. Overnight, notices go up saying tomorrow or day after tomorrow you're going to be evicted from here. The Supreme Court judges have come out saying things like, "If the poor can't afford to live in the city, why do they come here?"

And basically, behind it all, there are two facades. One is that in 2008, Delhi is going to host the Commonwealth Games. For this, hundreds of thousands of people are being driven out of the city. But the real agenda came in the wake of Bush's visit, which is that the city is being prepared for foreign direct investment in retail, which means Wal-Mart and Kmart and all these people are going to come in, which means that this city of millions of pavement dwellers, hawkers, fruit sellers, people who have -- it's a city that's grown up over centuries and centuries. It's just being cleaned out under the guise of sort of legal action. And at the same time, people from villages are being driven out of their villages, because of the corporatization of agriculture, because of these big development projects.

So you have an institution like -- you know, I mean, how do you subvert democracy? We have a parliament, sure. We have elections, sure. But we have a supreme court now that micromanages our lives. It takes every decision: What should be in history books? Should this lamb be cured? Should this road be widened? What gas should we use? Every single decision is now taken by a court. You can't criticize the court. If you do, you will go to jail, like I did. So, you have judges who are -- you have to read those judgments to believe it, you know? Public interest litigation has become a weapon that judges use against us.

So, for example, a former chief justice of India, he gave a decision allowing the Narmada Dam to be built, where 400,000 people will be displaced. The same judge gave a judgment saying slum dwellers are pickpockets of urban land. So you displace people from the villages; they come into the cities; you call them pickpockets. He gave a judgment shutting down all kinds of informal industry in Delhi. Than he gave a judgment asking for all India's rivers to be linked, which is a Stalinist scheme beyond imagination, where millions of people will be displaced. And when he retired, he joined Coca-Cola. You know, it's incredible.

AG:Thomas Friedman, the well-known, much-read New York Times columnist and author, talks about the call center being a perfect symbol of globalization in a very positive sense.

AR: Yes, it is the perfect symbol, I think, in many ways. I wish Friedman would spend some time working in one. But I think it's a very interesting issue, the call center, because, you know, let's not get into the psychosis that takes place inside a call center, the fact that you have people working, you know, according to a different body clock and all that and the languages and the fact that you have to de-identify yourself.

AG: And just for people who aren't familiar with what we're talking about, the call center being places where, well, you might make a call to information or to some corporation, you actually are making that call to India, and someone in a call center is picking it up.

AR: But, you know, the thing is that it's a good example of what's going on. The call center is surely creating jobs for a whole lot of people in India. But it comes as part of a package, and that package, while it gives sort of an English-speaking middle or lower middle class young person a job for a while, they can never last, because it's such a hard job. It actually is also part of the corporate culture, which is taking away land and resources and water from millions of rural people. But you're giving the more vocal and the better off anyway -- the people who speak even a little bit of English are the better off among the millions of people in India. So, to give these people jobs, you're taking away the livelihoods of millions of others, and this is what globalization does.

It creates -- obviously it creates a very vocal constituency that supports it, among the elite of poor countries. And so you have in India an elite, an upper caste, upper class wealthy elite who are fiercely loyal to the neoliberal program. And that's exactly, obviously, what colonialism has always done, and it's exactly what happened in countries in Latin America. But now it's happening in India, and the rhetoric of democracies in place, because they have learned how to hollow out democracy and make it lose meaning. All it means, it seems, is elections, where whoever you vote for, they are going to do the same thing.

AG: You mentioned the dams, and a judge just in the last week has ruled that one of the major dam projects is allowed to continue. Just physically on the ground, what does it mean, and who are the people who are resisting, and what do they do?

AR: I mean, that actually is something that reached fever pitch in the last few weeks in India, because, you know, the movement against dams is actually a very beautiful political argument, because it combines environmental issues, issues of water, of resources and of displacement, with a political vision for a new kind of society. No political ideology, classic political ideology has really done that properly. Either it's only environmental or it's only about people. Here somehow, that's why I got so drawn into it. But this struggle was against the notion of big dams, and it's been a nonviolent struggle for 25 years.

But now, the dams are still being built, and the argument has been reduced merely to displacement. And even there, the courts are now saying you build a dam and just give people cash and send them off. But the fact is that these are indigenous people. You know, you can't just give -- lots of them are indigenous people. The others are farmers. But you can't -- the levels of displacement are so huge. This dam, the Sardar Sarovar dam displaces 400,000, but just in the Narmada Valley you're talking about millions of people. All over India, you're talking about many millions who are being displaced. So where are they going to go?

Well, the court came out with a judgment with marked a different era in India, where they even stopped pretending that they were interested in resettlement or rehabilitation. They just said, "Build the dam." So it's very interesting that people were watching this nonviolent movement unfold its weapons on the streets, which is the activists who went on indefinite hunger strike. People paid attention, but then they got kicked in the teeth.

Meanwhile, across India, from West Bengal to Orissa, to Jharkhand, to Chhattisgarh, to Andhra Pradesh, the Maoist movement has become very, very strong. It's an armed struggle. It's taking over district after district. The administration cannot get in there. And the government's response to that is to do what was done in Peru with the Shining Path, which is to set up armed defense committees, which is really creating a situation of civil war.

You know, hundreds of villages are being emptied by the government, and the people are being moved into police camps. People are being armed. The Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh says, "You're either with the Maoists and Naxalites or you're with the Salva Judum," which is this government-sponsored resistance, and there's no third choice. So it's you're with us or against us.

And what has happened, which is something I have been saying for a long time, that this whole war on terror and the legislation that has come up around it is going to conflate terrorists with poor people. And that's what's happened. In India, in January -- I don't know if you've read about it, but it was a terrible thing that happened -- in Orissa, which is a state where all these corporations have their greedy eyes fixed, because they have just discovered huge deposits of bauxite, which you need to make aluminum, which you need to make weapons and planes.

AG: And where is Orissa in India?

AR: Orissa is sort of east, southeast. And it's got a huge indigenous population. If you go there, it's like a police state. You know, the police have surrounded villages. You can't move from one -- villagers are not allowed to move from one village to another to organize, because, of course, there's a lot of resistance. The Maoists have come in. And in Orissa in a place called Kalinganagar, where the Tata, which used to be a sort of respected industrialist, but now I can't say, are setting up a steel factory. So they, the government, took over the lands of indigenous people. The trick is that you only say about 20% of them are project-affected. The rest are all encroachers. Even these 20% are given -- their land is taken from them at, say, 35,000 rupees an acre, given to the Tatas for three-and-a-half lakhs, you know, which is ten times that amount. And the actual market price is four times that amount. So you steal from the poor; you subsidize the rich; then you call it the "free market."

And when they protested, there was dynamite, you know, in the ground. Some of them were blown up, killed. Six of them, I think, were injured, taken to hospital, and their bodies were returned with their hands and breasts and things cut off. And those people have been blocking the highway now for six months, the indigenous people, because it became a big issue in India. But it's been happening everywhere, and they are all called terrorists. You know, people with bows and arrows are called terrorists.

So, in India, the poor are the terrorists, and even states like Andhra Pradesh, we have thousands of people being held as political prisoners, called Maoists, held as political prisoners in unknown places without charges or with false charges. We have the highest number of custodial deaths in the world. And we have Thomas Friedman going on and on about how this is an idealistic -- ideal society, a tolerant society. Hundreds -- I mean, tens of thousands of people killed in Kashmir. All over the northeast, you have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, where a junior noncommissioned officer can shoot at sight. And that is the democracy in which we live.

AG: And the Maoists, what are their demands?

AR: Well, the Maoists are fighting on two fronts. One is that they are fighting a feudal society, their feudal landlords. You have, you know, the whole caste system which is arranged against the indigenous people and the Dalits, who are the untouchable caste. And they are fighting against this whole corporatization. But they are also very poor people, you know, barefoot with old rusty weapons. And, you know, what we -- say someone like myself, watching what is happening in Kashmir, where -- or in the northeast, where exactly what America is doing in Iraq, you know, where you're fostering a kind of civil war and then saying, "Oh, if we pull out, these people just will massacre each other."

But the longer you stay, the more you're enforcing these tribal differences and creating a resistance, which obviously, on the one hand, someone like me does support; on the other hand, you support the resistance, but you may not support the vision that they are fighting for. And I keep saying, you know, I'm doomed to fight on the side of people that have no space for me in their social imagination, and I would probably be the first person that was strung up if they won. But the point is that they are the ones that are resisting on the ground, and they have to be supported, because what is happening is unbelievable.

AG: Speaking of Iraq, let me play a clip of President Bush in Chicago Monday, where he addressed a gathering organized by the National Restaurant Association. In his remarks, the President talked about Iraq, which has just formed a new unity government:

President Bush: For most Iraqis, a free democratic and constitutional government will be a new experience. For the people across the broader Middle East, a free Iraq will be an inspiration. Iraqis have done more than form a government. They have proved that the desire for liberty in the heart of the Middle East is for real. They have shown diverse people can come together and work out their differences and find a way forward, and they have demonstrated that democracy is the hope of the Middle East and the destiny of all mankind.

The triumph of liberty in Iraq is part of a long and familiar story. The great biographer of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote, "Freedom is ordinarily born in the midst of storms. It is established painfully among civil discords, and only when it is old can one know its benefits." Years from now, people will look back on the formation of a unity government in Iraq as a decisive moment in the story of liberty, a moment when freedom gained a firm foothold in the Middle East and the forces of terror began their long retreat.

AG: President Bush in Chicago. Arundhati Roy from India here in New York, your response?

AR: Well, you know, how can one respond? I just keep wishing there would be a laugh track, you know, on the side of these speeches. But obviously, you know, the elections in Palestine, where you had a democratic government, now Palestine is being starved because they have a democracy, under siege because they have a democracy. But in Iraq, this fake business is called democracy. Forget about what's happening in Saudi Arabia.

So it's just -- you know, I think the issue is that people like President Bush and his advisors, or what's happening in India, the Indian government, they have understood that you can use the media to say anything from minute to minute. It doesn't matter what's really going on. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. There are a few people who make the connections and fall about laughing at the nonsense that is being spoken. But for everybody else, I think the media itself, this mass media has become a means of telling the most unbelievable lies or making the most unbelievable statements. And everybody sort of just imbibes it. It's like a drug, you know, that you put straight into your veins. It doesn't matter. And it keeps going. But what can you say? What kind of democracy is this in Iraq?

AG: What do you think has to happen in Iraq?

AR: I think that the first thing that has to happen is that the American army should leave. That has to happen. I have no doubt about that. Similarly, I mean, I keep saying this, but, you know, America, Israel and India, and China in Tibet, are now becoming experts in occupation, and India is one of the leading experts. It's not that the American army in its training exercise is teaching the Indian army. The Indians are teaching the Americans, too, how to occupy a place. What do you do with the media? How do you deal with it? The occupation of Kashmir has taken place over years.

And I keep saying that in Iraq, you have 125,000 or so American troops in a situation of war, controlling 25 million Iraqis. In Kashmir, you have 700,000 Indian troops fully armed there -- you know? -- and creating a situation, making it worse and worse and worse. So the first thing that has to happen is that the army has to come out, you know?

AG: I remember when you were last here, you were headed off to an interview with Charlie Rose. And so I looked to see you on Charlie Rose, and I waited and I waited, and I never saw you. What happened?

AR: Oh, it was interesting. He -- well, when the interview began, I realized that the plan was to do this really aggressive interview with me, and so the first question he asked was, "Tell me, Arundhati, do you think that India should have nuclear weapons?" So I said, "I don't think India should have nuclear weapons. I don't think the U.S. should have nuclear weapons. I don't think Israel should have nuclear weapons. I don't think anyone should have nuclear weapons. It's something that I have written a lot about." He said, "I asked you whether India should have nuclear weapons."

So I said, "Well, I don't think India should have nuclear weapons. I don't think the U.S. should have nuclear weapons. I don't think Israel should have nuclear weapons." Then he said, "Will you answer my question? Should India have nuclear weapons?" So I said, "I don't think India should have nuclear weapons. I don't think the U.S. should have nuclear weapons. I don't think Israel should have nuclear weapons."

And I asked him, I said, "What is this about? Why are you being so aggressive? I have answered the question, you know, clearly. And I think I made my position extremely clear. I'm not some strategic thinker. I'm telling you what I believe." So after that it just sort of collapsed into vague questions about world poverty and so on, and it was never shown. I mean, I wouldn't have shown it if I were him either, but -- because it was, you know, I don't know, treating me like I'm some kind of politician or something.

AG: Has he invited you back on in this new trip that you have had?

AR: No more, no, no. I don't think.

AG: Have you found that through your celebrity, through your writing, that you're invited into forums, into various places where when you talk about what you think, you're then shut down?

AR: No. I think what happens is that -- well, I don't come to, you know, the U.S. that often, and like, for instance, this time I came to do an event with Eduardo Galeano, but I really wasn't -- I didn't want to do any -- except for this, I made it clear that I didn't want to be working on this trip, because I want to think about some things. But I think it's the opposite problem that I have. I think that there are many ways of shutting people down, and one is to increase the burners on this celebrity thing until you become so celebrity that all you are is celebrity.

For example, I'll give you a wonderful example of how it works, say, in India. I was at a meeting in Delhi a few months ago, the Association of Parents for Disappeared People. Now, women had come down from Kashmir. There are 10,000 or so disappeared people in Kashmir, which nobody talks about in the mainstream media at all. Here were these women whose mothers or brothers or sons or husbands had -- I'm sorry, not mothers, but whatever -- all these people who were speaking of their personal experiences, and there were other speakers, and there was me.

And the next day in this more-or-less rightwing paper called Indian Express, there was a big picture of me, really close so that you couldn't see the context. You couldn't see who had organized the meeting or what it was about, nothing. And underneath it said, "Arundhati Roy at the International Day of the Disappeared." So, you have the news, but it says nothing, you know? That's the kind of thing that can happen.

Actually, I'm somebody who is invited to mainstream forums, and I'm not shunned out. You know, I can say what I have to say. But the point is, Amy, that there is a delicate line between just being so far -- you know, just being so isolated that you become the spokesperson for everything, and this kind of person that it suits them to have one person who's saying something and listen to it and ignore what is being said, and I don't want to move so far away from everybody else, that if you want to listen to me, then why don't you listen to so and so? Why don't you speak to so and so? Why don't you get some other voices, because otherwise it sounds like you're this lone brave, amazing person, which is unpolitical.

AG: I'm just looking at a KMS newswire story -- that's Kashmir Media Service -- May 23, just after you spoke here in New York. It says, "A human rights activist and prominent Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, has said India is not a democratic state. The 1997 Booker winner, Arundhati Roy, addressing a book-reading function in New York, said India is not a democratic society." Can you talk about that idea?

AR: Well, I do think that we are really suffering a crisis of democracy, you know? And the simplest way I can explain it is that in 2004, when the general elections took place in India, we were reeling from five years of rightwing communal BJP politics, the rightwing Hindu party.

AG: Would you make any parallels to political parties in the United States?

AR: Very, very much so. I mean, it was very similar to the Republicans versus the Democrats, and in fact --

AG: The Congress Party being the Democrats.

AR: The Congress Party being the Democrats, and the Republicans being the rightwing Hindu BJP. And, of course, in a country -- like in America, their politics, apart from affecting Americans to a great deal, also affects the rest of the world. But in India, India not being a world power, however much it wants to claim it is, turns those energies on its own people. So in Gujarat, you had in 2002 this mass killing of Muslims on the streets, a bloodbath where people were burnt alive, women were raped on the streets, dismembered, killed in full public view.

What happened after that, there were elections, and the man who engineered all this won the elections. So you're thinking, "Is it better to have a fascist dictator or a fascist Democrat who has the approbation of all these people?" Continues to be in power in Gujarat. Nothing has happened. It's a Nazi type of society, where hundreds of thousands of people are still economically boycotted Muslims, something like 100,000 driven from their homes. Police won't register cases. One or two important cases are looked at by the Supreme Court, but the mass of it is still completely unresolved. That's the situation, anyway, and while you're orchestrating this communal killing, you're also selling off to Enron and to all these private companies, and so on the one hand you're talking about Indian-ness and all this, and this nationalism in this absurd way, and on the other, you're just selling it off in bulk.

But during the elections, all of us were waiting with bated breath to see what would happen. And when the Congress came to power, supported by the left parties from the outside, obviously we allowed ourselves a huge gasp of relief, you know, walked on our hands in front of the TV for a bit. But the Congress campaigned against the neoliberal policies that it had brought in, actually.

But before even we knew whether Sonia Gandhi was going to be the prime minister or what was going to happen, there was an orchestrated drop in the stock market. The media's own stocks began to drop. The cameras that had been in all these villages, saying look at this wonderful democracy, and the camels and the bullock carts and everyone that's coming to vote was outside the stock market now. And before the government was formed, both from the left and from the Congress, spokesmen had to come out and say, "We will not dismantle this neoliberal regime." And today we have a prime minister who has not been elected. He is a technocrat who has been nominated. He is part of the Washington Consensus.

AG: I want to ask in our last 30 seconds: the role you see of the artist in a time of war?

AR: Well, I think the problem is that artists are not a homogenous lot of people, and some of them are as rightwing and establishment as they can get, you know, so the role of the artist is not different from the role of any human being. You pick your side, and then you fight, you know? But in a country like India, I'm not seeing that many radical positions taken by writers or poets or artists, you know? It's all the seduction of the market that has shut them up like a good medieval beheading never could.

AG: And what do you think artists should do?

AR: Exactly what anyone else should do, which is to pick your side, take your position, and then go for it, you know?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Last Call for Application for Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School 2006

LAST CALL for Application for Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School 2006 [2006. 02. 13]

Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School aims to contribute to the development of democracy and human rights throughout Asia. Twenty (20) invitees from all over Asia and five (5) local Koreans who have been working for human rights and peace organizations in their own countries shall be given an opportunity to learn and experience the history and process of the development of human rights and democracy in South Korea.

Participants will be introduced to Korean history, the movements and struggle for democracy, including the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, both through theoretical and practical experiences such as seminars, discussions and field trips to the sites of democratization movements in Korea.

Basic Criteria

1) Applicant must not be more than 35 years of age occupying a mid-level position.

2) Must have more than 3 years NGO work experience (human rights, democracy and/or peace organizations).

3) Facilities for English language (Korean an advantage) and demonstrate capacity for active participation in discussions and cultural events.

4) Application is endorsed by his/her organization.

5) Must be sensitive to cultural conditions and traditions of Korea/Koreans and co-participants.

Application and Process of the Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

1. Announcement and application forms will be released on February 2006 and the deadline for application will be on May 31, 2006. The final list of folk school participants will be announced on the month of August.

2. The folk school will be conducted for three weeks from September 4-22, 2006.

3. Applicants should fill-out the application form properly and submit via email to the foundation.

4. The May 18 Memorial Foundation - Education Committee, (composed of individuals from different organizations) is in-charge of selecting the final list of participants after a careful evaluation and assessment of applicants.

5. Guidelines of the Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School will be given to successful applicants.

Important Dates:

1. Period of event: September 4-22, 2006

2. Application deadline: June 20, 2006

Please download and fill out the application form found at the bottom of this article and email it to us: or

For information on the past folk schools visit:

Monday, April 17, 2006


Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas (PANDAYAN)
Room 207, Center for Community Services Building,
Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University,
Loyola Heights, Quezon City
Tel. 4265657, 09278775810, 09209066618
Contact: Jose Maria Dimaandal, Elaine Teope
17 April 2006

Pandayan condemns the murder of one of our members in Negros Occidental, Rico Adeva who was killed in front of his wife. It is unfortunate that Rico, an organizer of the Task Force Mapalad, became another statistic in the on-going campaign of summary executions against activists around the country.

It is no secret that violence related to agrarian reform has been happening in rural communities in Negros and around the country. Rico’s death looks like another incident of muzzling the efforts of agrarian reform advocates to distribute land to the powerless and hungry Filipino farmers. This demonstrates the failure of the government to act decisively on the issue of agrarian reform. It is a testament to its pathetic implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Moreover, this cowardly act of killing a defenseless NGO worker and agrarian reform activist also highlights the inefficiency of the Arroyo government to deal with people instigating these attacks against progressive elements of our society. It shows that her administration is really no different from Marcos’ repressive and brutal regime. It is getting to be really difficult for NGO workers and activists to continue their work under this climate of fear.

We ask the president: is the practice of murder now a public policy? If President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo truly values the sanctity of human life she should now put the brakes to these senseless killings. The culture of impunity must stop now.

Pandayan calls on the Filipino people and the international community to break their silence on the Arroyo administration’s grotesque human rights record. We must act now before it is too late. Public apathy will only encourages more killings.

Finally, Pandayan salutes Rico Adeva. We will continue his work in upholding the rights of the millions of Filipino peasants nationwide. We pledge to continue to pursue the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice.###

Monday, April 10, 2006

Summer Intensive Peace Building & Reconciliation Training Program, May 3 to 14, 2006

Applicatn Deadlne Extnded
1st Annual Peacebuilding & Reconciliation Program (APRP) Launched!

A summer intensive peacebuilding and reconciliation training program has been set for May 3 to 14 this year. It will be held at the cool and quite surroundings of the La Salette Shrine in Silang, which is 20 minutes before reaching Tagaytay on Aguinaldo highway. Funded mainly by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) - Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Program and the German International Capacity-building organization (InWEnt), known international and local co-trainers and resource persons will conduct simultaneous 5-day modules on various aspects of peace work, alternative dispute resolution, mediation, negotiation, active nonviolence, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Hildegard Goss-Mayr, the Austrian President Emeritus of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) leads one of the modules. She, together with her late husband Jean Goss, was a catalyst to the 1986 Nonviolent People Power Revolution, and she may be returning here for the last time. Other distinguished trainers include Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, DD, Bishop Edgardo Juanich, DD, Wendy Kroeker and Jonathan Rudy of the Mennonite Central Committee, Susan May Granada of the Nonviolent Peaceforce – Sri Lanka Field Team, Pete Hämmerle of the Austrian Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Alim Elias Macarandas of the Bishop-Ulama Conference, Annabelle Abaya of the GRP Peace Panel for talks with the CNN, Marites Guingona-Africa of the United Religions Initiative and Peacemakers’ Circle, Cesar Villanueva of Pax Christi Pilipinas, Rebecca Capulong of the Siliman University Peace Resource Center, Mike Alar of PIDO-OPAPP, Marides Virola-Gardiola and Maria Lourdes Aseneta, both of whom are private consultants and members of Brahma Kumaris.

A consultation process to gather the experiences and best practices in peacebuilding, conflict transformation and reconciliation was a deliberate effort to make the concept of an Annual Peacebuilding and Reconciliation Program (APRP) well attuned to the needs of peacebuilders who participated in the process. Enhanced by the encouragement of mentors from the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in conducting annual intensive training programs, this program called the 1st APRP this May 2006 has become a reality.

While conflict transformation and peacebuilding efforts have achieved significant strides in Mindanao, it is apparent that the same efforts must be taken to address the issues of the sixty-year armed insurgency elsewhere in the Philippines. The Mindanao peace efforts have succeeded in keeping armed hostilities in check in major fronts through the nurturing of a strong grassroots constituency for peacebuilding while there is much to be desired elsewhere. It has become evident that addressing the complexity of violent social change (insurgency) armed conflict is crucial in order to spur positive, transformative and constructive efforts that could bring just and lasting peace, human security and sustainable development in our communities and for the entire nation.

Transforming armed conflict and unceasingly encouraging conflicting parties never to resort to arms, assassinations, illegal arrest & detention, dispersals and other forms of violence is only half the goal of this initiative. We must believe that lasting solutions can only be achieved through serious negotiations, one careful step at a time and protracted over a number of years. We continue to explore nonviolent alternatives to achieve what is for the common good in the spirit of conciliation and openness to acknowledge the goodness in every human being. In the end, we continue to hope that we learn to respect and appreciate the many different perspectives of one reality and discover how we can work together each step of the way.

For more information, please write to or Deadline for applications is extended to April 18, 2006.

Chito Generoso
APRP Program Co-Director
Ellis Luciano
Institute of Reconciliation
APRP Program Office
1180 C. Roces Ave., SAV, Makati City 1202 Philippines

Fr. Jose Nacu, MS
APRP Co-Director
Institute of Reconciliation

Purificacion Obra
APRP Co-director
Asso. Dean
Graduate School,
University of La Salette

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Military Radicalism in Venezuela: Lessons for the Philippines

By Walden Bello*

In the light of the obvious turmoil and discontent within the Philippine Armed Forces, many questions and concerns have been circulating. One very important issue is: would military rebels merely serve as an instrument to get rid of the corrupt and illegitimate Arroyo regime, or would they be capable of doing something more, that is, lead or be part of a coalition for progressive social transformation?

To get a grip on this question, it might be useful to look at the prime example of military radicalism today, the Venezuelan Army, and try to make some comparisons between its experience and that of the Philippine military.

"An Army of the People"

That something interesting and unusual is taking place in Venezuela first really struck me when, in response to a sarcastic comment about an anti-war meeting of the 2006 World Social Forum taking place in an Air Force base, a member of the audience rose and, in the best pedagogical manner, told us foreigners, "Look, what we have here in Venezuela is not a regular army but an army of the people."

Venezuela is undergoing, if not a revolution, a process of radical change, and the military is right in the center of it. How could this been happening, many skeptics ask, when the military, especially in Latin America, is usually an agent of the status quo? Others, less skeptical, ask: Is Venezuela the exception, or is it the wave of the future?

Many explanations have been advanced for the behavior of Venezuela's military. Edgardo Lander, a noted Venezuelan political scientist, says that one reason could be that compared to other Latin American armies, there is a much higher proportion of "people of humble origins in the Venezuelan officer corps. "Unlike in many other Latin American countries, he contends, "the upper Classes have really looked at a military career with scorn here."

Richard Gott, one of the leading authorities on the American left, adds another factor, the mingling of officers with civilians in the country's educational system. "Beginning in the seventies, under a government program called the Andres Bello program, officers were sent to the universities in significant numbers, and there they rubbed elbows with other students
studying, say, economics or political science."

This "immersion" in civilian life had fateful consequences. One, the officers were exposed to progressive ideas at a time that "the left dominated the universities." Two, it resulted in a deeper integration of the officer corps with civilian society than in most other countries in Latin America.

Probably also critical, says Gott was that, for some reason, Venezuela appears to have sent far fewer officers than many other Latin American countries to the US Army-run School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, which is the main conduit of counterinsurgency training to the western hemisphere's military forces.

Now, these conditions may have contributed to making the Venezuelan Army less reactionary than others in Latin America, but they do not explain why it would be one of the spearheads of what is today the most radical social transformation taking place in the hemisphere. Gott, Lander, and other Venezuela specialists concur in one thing: the absolutely central role of Hugo Chavez.

The Chavez Factor

Chavez is many things: a charismatic figure, a great orator, a man who plays local, regional, and global politics with skill and verve. He is also a man of the army, one who reveres the military as the institution that, under Simon Bolivar, liberated Venezuela and much of Latin America from Spain, and who has acted on the belief that it is destined to play a decisive role in Venezuela's social transformation.

Chavez, according to his own account, joined the military because it would be a springboard for him to play professional baseball. But whatever his initial motivations, he came into the army at a time of great institutional flux. The army in the 1970's was engaged in counter-guerrilla operations at the same time that its officers were being exposed to progressive ideas through the Andres Bello program at the university and many were being recruited by leftist groups into clandestine discussion groups.

Instead of becoming a baseball star, Chavez became a popular lecturer in history at Venezuela's War College, while moving up the chain of command. When not performing his official duties, he was engaged in building a clandestine grouping of young, like-minded, idealistic officers called the "Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement." Disillusioned with what they perceived to be a dysfunctional democratic system dominated by corrupt parties—Accion Democratica and Copei-- that alternated in power, these Young Turks evolved From a study circle to a conspiracy that hatched ideas for a coup that would, in their view, inaugurate a period of national renewal.

As Richard Gott writes in his authoritative book Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, Chavez' preparations were overtaken by the "Caracazo" of 1989, a social cataclysm triggered by a sharp rise in transportation prices owing to pressure from the International Monetary Fund. For about three days, thousands of urban poor from the ranchos or shantytowns on the mountainsides surrounding Caracas, descended on the city center and affluent neighborhoods to loot and riot in what was ill-disguised class warfare. The Caracazo seared itself in the minds of many young officers. Not only did it reveal to them how the vast majority of the population had become thoroughly disenchanted with the liberal democratic system. It also made many bitter that they were placed in the position of having to give orders to shoot hundreds of poor people to defend that system.

When Chavez was given command of a parachute regiment nearly three years later, he and his co-conspirators felt that the moment was ripe for their long-planned coup. The attempt failed, but it catapulted Chavez to fame in the eyes of many Venezuelans…and to notoriety in the eyes of the elite. Chavez appeared on national television to ask participating units to lay down their arms, and, according to Gott, that "one minute of air time, at a moment of personal disaster, converted him into someone perceived as the country's potential savior." Chavez took full responsibility for the failure of the coup but electrified the nation when he declared that "new possibilities will arise again."

Chavez was imprisoned, and almost immediately after his release, began campaigning for the presidency. What he could not get by a coup, he was now determined to pursue by constitutional means. No longer in the military, he nevertheless kept in close touch with his fellow officers and with enlisted men, among whom he was tremendously popular. When he finally won the presidency by a large margin in 1998, it was not surprising that he recruited brother officers to head up or staff key government agencies. More important, Chavez gradually brought in the military to serve as a key institutional instrument for the change he was unleashing in the country. The massive disaster brought about by torrential rains in 1999 provided an opportunity for Chavez to deploy the military in its new role, with the army units mobilized to set up and man soup kitchens and build housing for thousands of refugees on army land. Then military civic action and engineering units were deployed to the new government's program to set up "sustainable agro-industrial settlements" in different parts of the country. Military hospitals were also made available for the poor.

Transforming the Military: Problems and Opportunities

The involvement of the military in a program of radical change was not, however, regarded positively in all quarters of the army. Indeed, many generals resented the populist ex-colonel and, when the process accelerated, as Chavez moved to implement land reform and take direct control of the oil industry, these elements began to conspire with the newspaper owners, the elite, and the middle class to oust him by force.

After a series of violent confrontations between the Opposition and Chavistas in the streets of Caracas, a coup put into motion by a number of high ranking generals, including the head of the armed forces, the chief of the staff of the armed forces, and the commander of the army, succeeded in toppling Chavez on April 11, 2002. However, most of the officers with field commands And most junior officers either stayed loyal to Chavez or remained neutral, and when thousands of urban poor descended on Caracas to demand Chavez' release, the loyalists launched a counter-coup, arrested the conspirators, and restored Chavez to power.

The coup attempt was a blessing in at least one way: it gave Chavez the opportunity to complete the transformation of the military. About 100 top generals and officers were cashiered for treason, with the key posts in the high command going to people loyal to Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. The purge probably deprived the US, which had supported the coup, of its key supporters within the Venezuelan military.

Chavez' project, which he has now defined as a movement toward "socialism," rests on the tremendous support he has among the urban and rural poor. However, the military is the only reliable organized institution he can count on to move things. The press is hostile to him. So is the Church hierarchy. The bureaucracy is slow and riddled with corruption. Political parties are discredited, with Chavez himself leading the attack against them and preferring to keep his supporters organized as a loose mass movement.

Given the centrality of the military as a reforming institution, Chavez has created an army of urban military auxiliaries or reservists to support the regular armed forces. Originally known as "Bolivarian Circles," this reserve force, which is projected to eventually number one million, is becoming instrumental in the organization and delivery of social programs in the shantytowns. These auxiliaries also now participate, alongside the National Guard, in the expropriation of private land for the accelerated agrarian reform program.

Skepticism in Some Quarters

With its central role in the Bolivarian Revolution, many observers are asking the question: is the military up to it?

For Chavez, according to political analyst Lander, the military is reliable because it is not corrupt and is more efficient than other institutions in delivering results. Lander questions this. "I don't think there is anything inherent in the military that somehow makes it less susceptible to corruption than other institutions." As for military efficiency, this is, he says, a half-truth: "Yes, the military may be effective when deployed to solve immediate problems like building schoolhouses or clinics staffed by Cuban doctors. But it is not a long-term solution. You need to institutionalize these solutions, and that's where this revolution is weak. You have a proliferation of ad hoc solutions that remain ad hoc."

Yet there is no doubt that among Chavez and his generation of officers, there is a reforming zeal that will fuel the revolution for some time to come. It is a zeal borne out of a tremendous sense of frustration, one which Chavez expressed to Gott in an interview a few years ago: "Over many years the Venezuelan military were eunuchs: we were not allowed to speak; we had to look on in silence while we watched the disaster caused by corrupt and incompetent governments. Our senior officers were stealing, our troops were eating almost nothing, and we had to remain under tight discipline. But what kind of discipline is that? We were made complicit with the disaster."

The Venezuelan and Philippine Militaries: Points of Comparison

The sentiments expressed by Chavez in the preceding paragraph would probably resonate with many junior officers in the Philippine military. Which brings us to the question: What are the lessons of the Venezuelan experience for the Philippines? More specifically, are there possibilities for a similar left-leaning socially progressive military to emerge in this country?

If the Venezuelan experience is any guide, the odds are against it.

First of all, unlike the Venezuelan military, the Philippine military does not have a revolutionary nationalist heritage. It is not a direct descendant of the Katipuneros and the Army of the Philippine Revolution. It was formed by the US, initially to act an auxiliary force to support US occupation troops, then to maintain public order during the colonial period, and finally to back up US forces fighting the Japanese during the Second World War. Since the granting of independence in 1946, the Philippine Armed Forces have maintained very close links to the US military via aid and training programs.

Second, the Philippine military has not had the equivalent of an Andres Bello program, where officers were systematically immersed in the civilian educational system and consistently exposed not only to the latest technical and managerial concepts but also to progressive ideas and movements. But even if such a program existed, the ideological hegemony of neoliberal economics in Philippine universities from the nineties till today would probably have nullified the positive effects of immersion.

Third, in Venezuela, officers had an ambivalent relationship with the political left, on the one hand, fighting them as guerrillas, on the other hand, absorbing their ideas and proposals for change. In the Philippines, in contrast, the military sees the New People's Army, with which it has been struggling for nearly 30 years, as its enemy unto death, both institutionally and ideologically. Not surprisingly, while groups like the Reform the Armed Force Movement (RAM) or Magdalo have periodically emerged, their programs have had little social and national content, their agenda being merely to seize power and put the military in command of society in order to purge civilian politics of corruption. Class analysis, imperialism, land reform—these are concepts that most officers see as belonging to the paradigm of a rival military force.

Finally, if there is a military that is so thoroughly permeated by the dominant social relationships of civilian society, it is the Philippine military. From top to bottom, the military is enmeshed in patron-client relationships with local and national elites. Competing civilian elites have cultivated and manipulated their factions within the military. Even military reform groups have often ended up in unhealthy relationships of dependency with traditional politicians and economic elites. The godfather relationship between the traditional politician Juan Ponce Enrile and the military rebel Gringo Honasan, for instance, was probably the key factor that stood in the way of RAM becoming a truly autonomous and progressive force.

But history is anything if not open. The Philippine military may still be capable of yielding surprises. After all, an observer of the Venezuelan military circa the late eighties would probably have wagered that with its cadre of corrupt senior officers tied to the US military, that institution would remain a faithful instrument of the status quo in the coming years.


*Walden Bello is professor of sociology at the University of the
Philippines (Diliman) and executive director of the research and advocacy institute Focus on the Global South based in Bangkok. He recently visited Venezuela.

source: From Business World, Feb. 28, 2006 and, Feb. 28, 2006

gpx sources:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

2006-2007 Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Fellowship Program

Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
2006-2007 Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Fellowship Program

Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy is located in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Founded in 1999, the Carr Center is a research, teaching and training program that critically examines the policies and actions of governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other actors that affect the realization of human rights around the world. Our research, teaching and writing are guided by a commitment to make human rights principles central to the formulation of good public policy in the United States and throughout the world. Since its founding, the Center has developed a unique focus of expertise on the most dangerous and intractable human rights challenges of the new century, including genocide, mass atrocity, state failure and the ethics and politics of military intervention.

The Carr Center is led by Director Sarah Sewall, whose recent work focuses on the civilian in war and includes facilitating a dialogue between the military and human rights communities on the use of force. The talented group of faculty and staff comprising the Carr Center also includes Center founder and current faculty affiliate Samantha Power, whose Pulitzer-prize winning book, A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, marked the culmination of the Carr Center 뭩 extensive research project on U.S. policy responses to genocide in the 20th century.

As an independent research center, the Center seeks to offer a forum in which diverse views about human rights can be considered. The Center seeks to bring new voices to the table, thereby extending and deepening the human rights dialogue. The Carr Center 's location in a school of public policy allows it to draw upon a range of disciplines and the case-based analytic approach for which the Kennedy School is known. For more information on the Carr Center , please visit

The Fellows Programs

The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Fellows Programs bring together a diverse group of human rights practitioners, scholars and activists to conduct research on human rights policy, contribute to the Center's programs, and participate in broader dialogue with students, faculty and researchers in the Harvard community. In 2006-2007, the Carr Center will offer two separate fellowship types: The Carr Center Fellowships for Academics and Scholars (non-stipendiary) and the Carr Center Fellowships for Activists and Practitioners (stipendiary). The eligibility requirements and application procedures differ. Please see our website,, for application information and details. Although we encourage applicants with a broad range of interests, we will also be forming a subset of fellows whose thematic focus is on children on the cusp between victims and actors, such as participation in armed conflict, trafficking, and terrorist acts.



Each year, the Center seeks a mix of fellows with different backgrounds and experiences. In particular, we seek to have a fellowship program engaging human rights activists and practitioners. Only human rights activists and practitioners working in developing nations are eligible for this fellowship.
Because we seek to draw applicants with a diversity of professional and human rights experiences, the Center will use no single criteria to measure eligibility. We do expect that successful activist/practitioner applicants will:

  • currently live in a developing nation and work on human rights issues
  • have at least 5 years of experience in human rights work or of professional experience in a relevant area (public policy, journalism, business, law, military, economic development, etc.)
  • have an interest in examining and reflecting upon this experience
    The Carr Center encourages applications from women, minorities, and citizens of any developing country. Fellows must be able to read, write and speak English fluently.


At the Center, fellows will have an opportunity to advance their own professional development by completing works in progress, bridging into new fields or disciplines, and interacting with a community of leading human rights scholars and activists. The networks and contacts developed at the Center often serve as a valuable resource when fellows return home.

Fellows are expected to spend the entire fellowship period in residence at the Center and should have no other significant professional commitments during this time. They are expected to attend all Center fellows colloquia and programs. Activist and practitioner fellows are expected to contribute to the Carr Center and Kennedy School of Government communities throughout their fellowship. More specifically, they may give seminars and lectures on particular topics in human rights about which they have first hand knowledge and/or explore issues and questions raised in their work through discussion and study. They will be expected to present some completed project (policy paper, briefing, etc.) over the course of the fellowship period.


The Center뭩 Activist/Practitioner fellowship program provides a stipend of $31,000 for the fellow to use for living expenses in Cambridge . Health insurance and benefits will be provided for the fellow (coverage for dependents can be purchased for an additional cost). While the Center will provide guidance in the fellow뭩 housing search, housing costs must be paid out of the $31,000 stipend. Activist/Practitioner fellows are also provided with office space, computers with LAN and Internet connections, and access to Harvard University libraries and other facilities.

Application Procedure for Activists/Practitioners

Each applicant should submit in hard copy:

  • 1. A curriculum vitae.

  • 2. A 3- to 5- page double-spaced statement that outlines a major research project to be completed during the fellowship and describes its relevance to the Carr research agenda. While the Center welcomes project proposals on any human rights-related topic, we have a particular interest in proposals on topics related to ongoing research at the Center including: the cusp between victims and actors (such as children in armed conflict, terrorism, and trafficking), the use of force and human rights, nationbuilding, terrorism and human rights, genocide prevention, rights based approaches to humanitarian aid, and capacity development among human rights non-governmental organizations. The statement should explain how the project will add to the body of knowledge about human rights policy, outline your qualifications to complete this research, and describe the methods you will use to carry out the project. Please put your name on each page of the statement, entitle it 밃cademic/Scholar Fellowship Application Statement.?/font>
    Materials submitted will not be returned to the applicant. Please provide three hard copies of the application.

Completed applications must be received at the Carr Center in hard copy by 5:00pm on March 31, 2006. If mailing the application poses a hardship, applicants should email and request permission to submit an application electronically. Applicants bear full responsibility for ensuring that all materials are received by the due date and will not be notified of incomplete applications. The Center will contact finalists regarding submission of supplemental documentation, which will include two letters of reference. Decisions will be announced by April 30, 2006. Resident fellowships will begin September 1, 2006 and end on June 30, 2007.

Contact Information
Eleanor Benkő
Telephone: (617) 496-0351
Mailing Address:
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
John F. Kennedy School of Government
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge , MA 02138

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No Internet Censorship in Pakistan

(Note: e blogging this petition by Pakistani Bloggers. By all means Rigt to expressions should be supported. Free the Bloggers Now!)

Support their Petition click or cut and paste link:

As the situation stands Pakistan internet exchange has blocked access to websites hosted by the largest and most famous weblog host The ban was first noticed by internet circles on the 27th of February 2006 and continues to be in effect till the filing of this petition on 7th march 2006. Almost all major internet service providers have been asked by the Govt. of Pakistan to observe this ban.

This ban has caused denial of access to more than a million weblogs hosted by blogger and citizens of Pakistan can no longer use the services of this web host.

The concerned authoritites are maintaining a tight lip over the issue. No official statement has been issued so far. The magnitude of this step taken by the authorities in the Pakistan internet exchange is not being realized. The only unofficial reason being sighted in their correspondence is that a few weblogs hosted by this host contain blasphemous caricatures of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

This in no way means that the rest of the million websites which contain no such offensive material rather most of them critisice these caricatures be blocked in order to prevent access to these few almost negligible number of unknown weblogs.

We, the Pakistani bloggers, stand by the Muslim ummah in condemning defamation of holy figures sacred to any world religion. But we feel that this condemnation should not cost us our right to free and unbiased access to information avenues. We also feel that certain values of common decency should at all times be observed by all human beings. This will ensure a fruitful and comprehensive dialogue between people from different backgrounds but a common, secure and prosperous future.

Weblogs form an integral part of cyberspace today. No talk of internet is complete without mentioning the due importance of weblogs. These weblogs have helped shape the cyber culture of the globe into a more humane and unmachenized entity. More often than not weblogs act as avenues of discussion and thought for the people belonging to different cultures. This exchange of ideas helps to promote feelings of love and harmony, thus discouraging hatred and prejudice.

Pakistani bloggers are an integral part of this weblogging community. They are the representatives and flag bearers of their national values and cultural thought. What they write on their weblogs helps build stronger bonds of understanding with the rest of the world.

Pakistani bloggers have never disappointed the world. Be it the deep monstrous waters of tsunami of 2004 or the deadly shocks of the South Asian earthquake of 2005. They have always stepped forward and gone beyond to fetch help and disseminate useful information. They are willing and ready to keep up this good work only if they are allowed to do so. Barring access of general public to a million websites of innocent and useful information is an infringement of human rights. We surely do not want to enact a cyber culture that is biased and far removed from reality of the world. This will only promote fundamentalism and extremist thoughts in the young intellectuals of the future.

Moreover we can only help continue our struggle of condemnation of any derogatory assaults on the holy figures of the world religions if we are allowed to voice our thoughts on the weblogs. Certainly no one wants to miss on this opportunity given a fair opportunity.

We therefore want a more comprehensive approach over internet censorship whereby a large number of innocent citizens are not affected. We want restored access to blogger domain in full as was possible before 27th February 2006. We want to the concerned authorities to take preventive steps so that in future such blunders are not committed. We ask for the support of the international community in helping us raise our civilized and reasonable voice over this issue of blatant censorship disregarding all values of decorum.

Created by moiz khan on March 6th, 2006 at 5:15 am AST

Friday, March 17, 2006

14 March "the countdown for Thaksin has started"

by Sittha Lertphaiboonsiri
Asia-Europe Institute
University of Malaya

"When the golden sky shines, the brightness emerges, people will be great on the land"

The morning of 14 March 2006 that started the countdown for Thaksin's resignation has been officially adjusted. The peaceful rally of the people power under the lead of People Alliance of Democracy that gathered and organized the demonstration since early February, has moved from Sanamluang to Government House. Tens of thousand of people have crystallized their aims and integrated intensively their solidarities that Thailand will not have Thaksin as the leader anymore.

The huge group of demonstrators were composed of various groups of Thai society, like the urban-based middle class, rural- based middle class, grassroots, students, activists, monks, elites, businessmen and including Thais abroad. This people's movement has been considered as the most varied in composition and also the most peaceful one in Thai history. They have an aim of struggling by using non-violent strategies.

The conflict instigated by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra since he stepped into power is contributing to the political transformation process of Thailand. The basis of participated democracy which consists of the check and balance mechanisms, independent watchdogs, freedom of the media and the right to expression and information has been blocked and marginalized. The democratic ideals enshrined in the 1997 People Constitution are not anymore functioning as they intended to be. Democratization in Thailand has stagnated and fragmented when the populist leader has step into power and promoted the principle of divide and rule to govern the country. With his infamous pronouncement, "which province elects me, I will take care first" has caused rift and vulnerability to populist drive among the Thai society.

"Hitler spent 30 years to divide the people in Germany, 22 years in the case of Marcos or even 32 years under Soeharto. But for Thaksin, he fast tracked Thai's society's fragmentation in so short period of time.

Because of these conditions together with low level of morality in leadership of the PM that includes: corruption in policy-making level that favored associates and families; privatizing the national properties in order to accumulate higher profits for his owned business empire and the most unacceptable issue of Shin Corp's stocks which were sold to Temasek Holdings of Singapore with total amount "7.3 Billion Baht" by paying no taxes; has increased the current of dissatisfaction among the mass that has spread throughout the country. The evidences to justify the immoral and corrupt practices of the PM has been gathered and collected. These massive and reliable information are reported by alternative and non-partisan media including unnamed reliable sources from the bureaucracy.

However, considering the consequences of democratization and economic development, it appears that Thai democracy has developed and progressed on as a capitalist economy. Various groups of capitalists have been gradually strengthened with the "growth of democracy" which provided them wider space of freedom but not the same exact freedom that ordinary people enjoyed.

The capitalists were on the edge of bureaucratic system during the 60's-70's military government. Then they turned to become business politicians in quasi-democracy during 80's-90's, and now they dominate at the core of the state's mechanisms. They play a role as the main driver not the dependent driver like before.

The democratization processes that transformed Thailand since 14 Oct 1973 "People Uprising" to "Black May 1992" that reached its peak in 1997 establishing the "People Constitution of 1997", seem to be stagnated if not further eroded by the "absolute capitalists" under the lead of Thaksin as if, "suddenly falling from the top to the bottom".

Thai people who had thought that "businessmen or capitalists" could bring back the prosperity for all people in the nation and maintain the level of democratization after the Asian Financial Crisis, have totally changed their notion of them. They have realized that the rich man is different from the good man, businessmen who tend to monopolize is different from economists who tend to decentralize. Capitalists are likely to allocate their profits to their alliances rather than to benefit the whole nation.

Few days ago, some scholars in Thailand have explained Thaksin's situation through the scene of Roman history. In the memory of The Great Empire of Europe, "The Ides of March" which has been recognized as "the day of end of Cesar", the fateful day that the Emperor Cesar had been killed. Somehow, it may implies that some significant changes would occurr in Thai society since the "middle of March". Thais should listen carefully whether or not the immortal sentence "Beware the Ides of March" is telling them that "the brightness of sky will shine again soon when the dark power has gone".

Or, will the end of Thaksin be replayed like that of the classical history of Roman Empire?

"Although, history may somehow or actually happened, what the Thais have done since 14 March is for real and it actually happened! "

gpx source: The Manager Online

Thursday, March 16, 2006

To End the War, U.S. Women Must Lead

by Christine Ahn

Every single woman in the United States, whether she is aware of it or not, is impacted by the war in Iraq. There is no more critical time than the present for U.S. women to step up and speak out against the war and the growing militarization of our country and world.

Women make up 20 percent of the U.S. military. Of the thousands of women soldiers now stationed in Iraq, over 45 percent are mothers with children waiting for them back home. More than 63 percent of women in the Army are women of color. For black women, whose unemployment rates are twice as high as white women, the military is often the only source of employment, health care, and education. Tina Garnanez, a young Native Am! erican Iraq War veteran now speaking out against the war says, "I knew that between my family situation and being from the reservation, I had few options for getting a college education."

As of February 2006, 48 female U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq. Female soldiers aren't sent to fight on the front lines, yet they face substantial risks as men because of the nature of the missions and because of troop shortages in Iraq.

But women soldiers aren't dying only in combat. According to Col. Janis Karpinski, several women soldiers have died of dehydration in their sleep. They refused to drink liquids in the evening because they didn't want to have to urinate after dark for fear of being assaulted or raped by male soldiers on the way to latrines. While incredible, it is not entirely implausible. According to the Miles Foundation, 30 percent of female veterans have reported rape or attempted rape while on active duty. Women of color, younger, poorer, and lower in rank are ! more likely to be assaulted, says a Defense Department report.

In the coming years, many women affected by the war as the mothers, daughters, sisters or wives of service men will need counseling themselves. Studies show that domestic violence is five times higher in military families than in the civilian population.

Since March 2003, Congress has given the administration $244 billion of taxpayer dollars to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, they will cut $39.5 billion in social welfare spending over the next five years. Single moms are the hardest hit by cuts in social spending and studies by Dr. Marion Anderson reveal that the majority of social service jobs cut to finance military spending are ones that employ women.

Our lawmakers are totally disconnected from the reality facing millions of Americans. They are completely ignoring a growing chorus of Americans who oppose the war, including the 72 percent of troops in Iraq that, accord! ing to a recent Zogby poll, want the U.S. out of Iraq now.

Apart from a handful of women Congressional representatives, such as the fearless Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, the majority of women in office continue to endorse the administrations plans to prolong the war. Instead of using her role as Ranking Minority Leader in the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has failed to use her leadership in Congress to oppose the war. She has failed women and her overwhelmingly anti-war constituency in San Francisco. We have hardly heard a peep from Senators Boxer and Feinstein in opposition to the war. All three elected officials have never found a military budget they didn't love.

While our elected women leaders lack the courage to speak out, ordinary women of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds on the grassroots level are speaking out against the war by writing letters to their representatives, organizing counter-recruitment drives, demonstrating, and running for offi! ce. Aimee Allison, an African-American Persian Gulf War veteran and conscientious objector, is now running for Oakland City Council on an anti-war platform.

On International Women's Day, we acknowledge the courageous women among us who speak truth to the powerful and corrupt. This historic day has been an important catalyst to mobilize women across national borders to unite for peace and justice.

It's clear that the Bush administration is intent on war without end. It's clear we cannot rely on our women elected leaders to bring the troops home. We need more brave women soldiers like Tina Garnanez and Aimee Allison and ordinary women like Cindy Sheehan to speak out against the war. We can stop our government's destructive policies if we can find the collective courage to act--for our own sakes and for women worldwide.

Christine Ahn is the Director of Peace and International Solidarity at the Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland, California. Tina Garnanez and Aimee Allison will be speaking on International Women's Day at the First Unitarian Church in Oakland. For more information, visit .