Friday, October 31, 2008

Banglore declaration

From: PVCHR <>
Date: Wed, Oct 29, 2008 at 6:05 PM
Subject: Banglore declaration
To: PVCHR <>

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Bangalore Declaration

The Bangalore Declaration
Adopted Unanimously By
All India Consultation: For A New Course of Cultural Politics of Indigenous People towards Critical Social Action for Transformation
Organised by
NAFRE –People’s Movement
Held at, Bangalore between 13-15th of October 2008

We the representatives and social activists from NAFRE peoples movement, assembled at the All India Consultation at Bangalore between 13-15 October 2008, to deliberate on the origin, machination and implications of the Contemporary Cultural Politics of Social Exclusion, Religious Marginalisation and Communal Fascism as experienced by the vast majority of indigenous people of this Indian Sub-Continent:

Declare our belief in establishing a democratic society based on the culture of Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity, as envisioned by Buddha, Mahatma Jyothi Rao Phule E.V.R.Periyaar, and Baba saheb Ambedkar,
Reveal that for centuries our Children from marginalised communities are snatched of their potential childhood where they are continued to be deprived, divided, excluded, enslaved, victimised and continued to be imposed with worst forms of violence unleashed by every structure of oppression/exploitation and exclusion which are sustained and controlled by the politics of hegemony.

Understand the ploy that Brahmanism has already laid strong foundation in the larger Indian mindset with Varnashrama Dharma, it polarises the entire society and ascribes caste, religious, gender, national, cultural based identities that becomes the source of all forms of discrimination, segregation, exclusion and persecution.

Recognise that the hegemonic ideology of Brahmanism is born out of the segregation of society into various unequal social groups with graded inequalities, destined by the birth of a person attaching with the notion of purity-impurity in order to produce, reproduce and sustain power, hegemony and control ,

Understand that the various streams of native philosophical structures basing itself with the common chord of materialism starting from Shramanism to Buddhism have been either co-opted or wiped out based on its levels of resistance against Brahmanism,
Identify that the contemporary crisis as imposed by the cultural ideology of Brahmanism and its functions through structured institutions like Caste, Patriarchy, Religion and Nation State.

Recognise that contrary to Brahmanical cultural Ideology, the indigenous cultural streams have promoted the Dignity of Individuals and Community, belief in Collective Ownership, Collective Wisdom, Collective life, celebrating symbiotic relationship with nature and belief in non-exploitative and non-hegemonic cultural fabric for thousands of years,

Recognise that Women, Dalits, Adhivasis, coastal communities all other Indigenous communities who continued to uphold the mantle of anti-Brahmanic, anti-Varnashrama cultural politics are the ultimate critical mass who will create and lead the alternate political culture ,

Analyse that the institutions of family, caste, religion, culture, politics where women from various social strata are subjugated to different levels of violence, discrimination, intimidation, cultural slavery and persecutions, including the dehumanised practice of prostitution are the creations of Brahmanical patriarchy.

Recognise that women especially from Dalit communities face multiple forms of discrimination and marginalisation including caste based, religious based and patriarchal ideology and practices,

Recognise that under the yoke of caste system, the entire social groups as Scheduled Castes (Dalits) are denied of any civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and are destined to live in servitude,

Recognise the fact that the theory of one Nation was promoted by the dominant caste groups led by the ideology of Hinduism (Brahmanism),curtailing the aspirations and natural evolution of several independent nations/nationalities in this sub-continent,

Understand that Brahmanism that got consolidated during the period of British Colonialism has also entrenched itself as Hinduism in state, Politics, Governance, Economics, culture and continue to rule and divide the people into imaginary majority and minorities to discriminate and persecute members of other religions like Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, etc

Understand that in the name of Religion what is attempted by the protagonist of Hindutva is not an issue of faith alone, but more the politics of polarising communities one against the other like Hindu vs Muslim, Hindu vs Christian, Hindu vs Dalits, Hindu vs Adivasis, etc in order to consolidate the Brahmanical Political hegemony,

Identify that the politics of Brahmanism and its culture of intolerance have already played havoc, more so in the post-independence period by unleashing communal tensions, wars where loss of life and blood shedding has seriously broken the canvass of cultural harmony resulting in communal fascism leading to mass murder and xenophobia

Recognise the fact that the remaining tribals across the sub-continent are under perennial and heavy pressure of the same Brahmanical forces to come under the system of slavery and in collusion with imperialist forces has been massively depriving not only their livelihood, resource base but also tribal’ culture and religious distinctness,

Recognise the ongoing war on the Nagas, Mizos and others of the North-Eastern Region is the ploy of the same Brahmanical Exclusion and in opposition to that the People’s aspiration towards self-determination to be upheld and implemented,

Understand the fact that the very intent of our constitution - equality, Democracy, freedom and Secularism – have been defeated by the successive governments and instead promoted the politics of hegemony in every structure and systems like - governance, legal and judicial system, economy, politics, education, infrastructure and control over natural resources and therby denying life with dignity to all historically marginalised communities.

Understand that the historical ploy of excluding the vast majority of the indigenous people from accessing quality education is to deprive human development by excluding them from knowledge and scientific/rational thinking, and this ploy creates the fertile ground to advance the rule of hegemony basing itself on mass illiteracy and ignorance ,

Recognise the fact that today the neo Brahmanism has colluded with the Neo-imperialism has brought draconian development policies (like SEZ, CMZ, all round privatisation) have further marginalised and excluded the historically disadvantaged communities, and imposed acute conditions of human existence (malnutrition, suicide and hunger deaths), livelihood crisis, deprived human development, forced migration, large scale displacement, etc have all resulted in shattered community life of vast majority of the indigenous people,

Recognising this form of vulgar development has opened the gate for restriction of development of people’s science, technology, art and literature and massively repressed individuals of all communities from the natural flow of healthy development but emerged as a source of Brahmanical version of capitalism, industry, trade, banking and all other branches of human life,

Analyse that clearly that the political hegemony of Brahmanism today has undermined the spirit of Socialism- being the core of our Constitution and enacted wholesale Privatisation blatantly denying the right of the vast majority of Indigenous Communities, from the access and control over the natural-common property resources and their rightful share in the country’s wealth (Land, Water, Forest, Coastal and Marine, mines and Minerals, Energy sources,) including Market,
Recall the struggles that innumerable leaders like Jyothiba Phule, Narayanguru, Ayothidas Pandithar, Periyar EVR, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Paditha.Ramabai, Rettamalai Srinivasan, have waged valiant struggles for the emancipation of the indigenous people of this country fighting the conspiracy of Brahmanism,

We, the undersigned unanimously consider these declaration vital keeping the future of our children at centre , Resolve to re-dedicate ourselves to take forward the struggle of the indigenous community to end all forms of domination, oppression, exploitation and achieve the human liberation and a life with dignity for all..

Dr. Lenin (Ashoka Fellow and 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee)
Please visit:

My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can loose our battle.. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality….
Dr. B.R.Ambedkar

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Article on Weavers

Date: Oct 26, 2008
Subject: Article on Weavers
To: 518 International Solidarity

Prashant Bhagat

Varanasi is an ancient, famous and culturally rich district of Uttar Pradesh State of India.
Varanasi is also a holy city which rests on the banks of the Ganges, and home to banarasi saris (Indian dress that women wear) that are woven predominantly on hand looms.
They are woven by highly skilled weavers, and are considered some of the finest saris in India, made of finely woven silk and decorated with elaborate embroidery and engravings.
Because of these engravings, these saris are relatively heavy.
The tradition of weaving these saris is almost 800 years old, and they have been in demand for centuries from almost all parts of India.
During the Mughal rule, this art reached its zenith due to the amalgamation of the Indian and Persian design and creativity.
Even today the workers weaving these saris are predominantly Muslims.
The weaving of saris is a household industry, with members of the family including women and children playing vital supporting roles.
However during the past two decades, this art and industry have declined rapidly, leading to severe impoverishment of workers and their families to such an extent that children of these families are facing severe hunger and malnutrition.
Yet in the face of this, attempts have been made on the part of the weaving community to get organized in some sort of force to demand justice and their rightful place and respect in the Varanasi society.

* Structure and Character of Banarasi Sari Weaving Industry*

The full production process from raw material (including silk and other threads for embroidery) to a finished sari, includes an intricate web of many actors such as weavers, master weavers, raw material suppliers, designers (card makers), etc. It is widely believed that the whole structure
is fairly feudal in character, where a majority of workers toil to weave the saris and a minority few have total control of markets, raw materials and other resources. These privileged few also behave as 'masters' and exploit the weavers to the fullest.
The total number of workers and families working in this trade is not known exactly, as there has not been any effort to carry out a thorough survey.
However unofficial estimates by various voluntary organizations put the total number of workers at about 500,000, a majority of whom have received very little or no education.
Banarasi saris are predominantly woven on a handloom with silk threads.
The technology is quite ancient, and there has not been much technological innovation in this sector, although in the past few decades some of the weaving has also been done on power looms. The trade is predominantly controlled by 'Gaddidars' or the traders who have the access to raw
materials and the market, and who also sometimes own the looms.
The weavers usually fall into one of two categories. Some are self-employed, where they
own their own loom and purchase their own raw material, but have no access to the market and have to sell their produce through the trader.
Even the access to raw materials is controlled by the traders as weavers do not have enough money to buy the raw materials in bulk, and thus even the independent weavers end up working for the trader.
Alternatively, some weavers work as wage labourers at the looms owned by the traders.
In either case the weavers are at the mercy of the trader for their livelihood.
Weavers earn only 300 to 400 rupees (about US$9 to US$10) on a sari that may take even 15
days to complete, and the traders pay the money only when the sari is sold in the market. Traders often point out defects in the saris either in weaving or in the embroidery just in order to push down the price.
Faced with a desperate situation, the weavers often end up taking out loans or advances from
the traders and being in a kind of bonded relationship.

Some weavers are also members of a cooperative organization.
However, the majority of cooperatives are controlled by the traders themselves.
These cooperatives were set up by government to end the isolation of weavers from the market—on one hand providing them with easily accessible raw material, and on the other hand providing them with easy access to the market.

However, even this institution has been corrupted and is under the control of the traders themselves who now enjoy even access to more raw materials.

*Women and Children*

Women and children are exploited in this industry, yet remain invisible, and often unpaid. Women play an important role in all stages of sari preparation yet their contribution is hardly recognized.
Women often spin thread, cut thread and do important jobs that are often considered as secondary or menial.
The job is highly repetitive and they have to work sitting in uncomfortable positions for long hours sometimes even six to seven hours at once.
Women are generally not paid directly, as they help the men in the household.
If they are employed by the traders, they are only paid 10 to 15 rupees a day (about USD0.25). They are not allowed to sit on the looms as the general perception is that women cannot weave saris.
The intense exploitation of women is subsidizing the whole production of banarasi saris.
Their labour is adding value to the product yet it remains unpaid or poorly paid, and thus the cost of production remains low.
Children also help their family members make saris, and they also have to work for long hours in very tiring conditions.
Children are also sometimes employed for 'pattern making' and other small jobs which help to speed up the whole process. Children are also sometimes forced to work to pay back loans that their parents or family members may have taken out.

*Increasing poverty among weavers in Varanasi*

A variety of reasons is given for the decline of the weaving industry since the 1990s.
Some blame mechanization. Some criticize the quality of the saris.
Some cite other reasons like the WTO and competition from Chinese silk saris.
But no proper initiative was taken either by state or central governments to counter this decline. Traders, on the contrary, have continued to make profits, without paying much to the weavers who have ended up in a situation of utmost poverty and destitution.
Local media has also neglected the declining process. Over the course of a decade, the hand
weavers' situation has become very pitiful, and weavers have started committing suicide because of hunger and poverty.
From 2002 until today, about 100 weavers have committed suicide or died of hunger in
Varanasi, and a lot are suffering from lung diseases because of silk and cotton fibres.
Many are dying from these lung diseases, which are commonly diagnosed as tuberculosis.
The children of weavers are suffering from malnutrition and they are forced to work for their meals.
Many weavers are supplementing their meager weaving income with other work, such as driving cycle rickshaws.

This informal sector – characterized largely by household production units – has no culture of unions, or in other words they are working in a scattered way and have previously not come together under a common banner.
The Muslim section of the community does have community councils, which are involved in
settling their social problems.
But these councils cannot address the problem of the whole weaving industry because they are religion-based, and they are not political forums.

In India theoretically all citizens – including informal sector workers – are covered by the public health system.
But in practice, the public health system is like elephant's teeth: only for show, not for eating.
In Varanasi nobody gets proper benefits, unless they have political contacts or are willing to give bribes to get access to medical facilities in government hospitals.
Weavers and their families suffer greatly from lack of access to medical treatment for common problems such as lung diseases like tuberculosis.
Eighty per cent of weavers' children are underweight and suffer from many diseases.

* The formation of a weavers' union*

When the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), a membership-based organization, became aware of the suicide of a weaver in 2002 they were shocked because weavers had a reputation for relative prosperity.
A fact-finding team visited Varanasi to find the reasons behind the suicide.
During this fact-finding mission they interacted with the problems of weavers and the weaving industry.
The entire mohalla Baghwanala (one of the weavers' colonies) seemed like a 'ruined forest', meaning no-one could be heard laughing, and not a single face bore a smile.
About 50 percent of handlooms were not in working condition because of lack of raw materials and no new orders for new saris.
PVCHR realized that without uniting weavers under a common banner they could not do any fruitful things for them.
PVCHR called a core team together for discussing the weavers and their problems, and it was decided to intervene in their problems.
Nearly 500 weavers came in contact with PVCHR and they decided that they were in need of a union of weavers, which would struggle to revive the handloom industry and lobby the government for better social security for weavers.
Finally Bunkar Dastkaar Adhikaar Manch (BDAM, or Forum of Rights of Weavers and Artisans) was established in 2003 and they elected Mr. Siddique Hasan, a weaver, as Convener of this union.
BDAM is a membership-based union and it is facilitated by PVCHR.
The work of BDAM has included both organizing and advocacy.
BDAM uses a 'folkway' strategy, which means giving people a chance to speak about their
experience in their own way.
The role of PVCHR is organizing and documenting what people are talking about and how they are seeing their problems.
BDAM has three primary focus issues: right to health, right to food and revival of the handloom industry.

*Health problems*

Almost all sari workers suffer from some kind of ailment owing to the very poor working conditions.
The looms are often in cluttered places with poor ventilation, and workplaces are very dusty. Weavers and their families often suffer from respiratory ailments from breathing in the dust and fine yarn from the fabric, as well as range of health ailments owing to the lack of nutritious food and excessive workload.
Children are suffering from malnutrition.
In light of the failure of the public health system, BDAM and PVCHR have been lobbying the government for improvements.
In the last three years, BDAM and PVCHR organized people's tribunals on three occasions, where weavers' stories and opinions could be heard. PVCHR also approached the Planning
Commission of India many times and as a result of this lobbying, the government approved a health insurance plan for weavers.
Under this scheme, the health expenses of weavers and their families, including husband,
wife and up to two children, are covered both in public as well as some designated private hospitals (capped at 15,000 rupees, or approximately US$350, annually).
This insurance scheme is implemented by the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI Bank).
Every weaver contributes 200 rupees annually, and for every weaver an additional 902 rupees is contributed by the Indian Government.
This is an achievement of PVCHR and BDAM. But unfortunately, like other government schemes, this also went into the jaw of corruption.
Instead of getting benefits from it, weavers have had to struggle through BDAM for fair and honest implementation of the scheme.
The most common misuse is that insurance cards of weavers were issued to some other persons who take benefits from the medical insurance.
Meanwhile poor weavers did not get the insurance cards nor the health care they were promised.
The formation of the BDAM union has helped to expose the cases of corruption and maladministration, and many of the weavers managed to get their insurance card after struggle.

* Right to food*

Due to the decline of the hand weaving industry, weavers are facing serious poverty and food crises.
India has a Public Distribution System (PDS) – characteristic of its socialistic policies of the past (ironically the official name of India is the Socialist Republic of India).
In the past, the majority of the public would have access to subsidized food distributed via
the PDS.
However, since the 1990s with the neoliberal reforms, much of the PDS crumbled to the 'market forces' and the 'Ration Card' that was issued to all families to access the PDS has now become more like an identification card and is used only for administrative purposes.
However, in the case of many impoverished communities, the government issues special Ration
Cards by which they can have access to subsidized food.
This allows poor communities to access basic food stuff at very low price.
Weavers are also identified in this category, and on paper can have access to this subsidized food.
However, in reality it is different, because corruption in the PDS system ensures that the eligible weavers are not provided with the 'Ration Card' and they and their families continue to suffer from hunger.
Instead, fake Ration Cards are provided to people who do not deserve one.
BDAM is trying its best to ensure the food rights of weavers, through monitoring and taking steps against corruption by writing petitions and filing complaints.
When members became aware of this corruption, they staged a demonstration at the district headquarters of Varanasi, with bread in their hands.
After the demonstration, they started collecting data and stories of individuals who were suffering from hunger.
They sent these stories to all relevant authorities, media persons and members of
Parliament and legislative councils.
It created a discourse in the world of intellectuals and government, which mobilized the government to start doing surveys and providing rations cards.

*Struggle to preserve weavers' culture and livelihood*

If state government and central government do not come together to support the revival of the hand loom industry, then in the coming decade there may not be a single man or woman in Varanasi remaining engaged in weaving.
Weaving is a culture and it has also been a means of livelihood for weavers for centuries. Weavers are artists who are making unique designs that are unmatchable, and there are is still no modern technology which will make saris similar to them.
However weavers and their children are dying of hunger and those artists whose hands are accustomed to making antique saris are committing suicide.
What kind of irony is this?
These weavers develop their own unique design according to their local ways, and likewise they developed their way of struggling, rather than following the way of any other trade union or political party.
Why do they look very different while protesting, demonstrating, or giving memorandums to
governments? After spending two years with them I realized that it is because of their identity as weavers.
They are not Muslims, and on the other hand they are not Hindu either.
They are weavers, and weaving is a culture.
It is not a religion, like some other fronts of social struggle.
The central issue here is their culture, as well as an occupation and means of livelihood.
When the culture of weaving is dying, how will the workers doing the weaving survive? How a community can survive without its culture?
That must be like life in a vacuum.
It means a land of uncultured people, who have to pass the tunnel of civilization again, in order to be part and parcel of this mainstream, so-called civilized society.

Dr. Lenin (Ashoka Fellow and 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee)
Please visit:

My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize;
Have faith in yourself.
With justice on our side I do not see how we can loose our battle.
The battle to me is a matter of joy.
The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual.
There is nothing material or social in it.
For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power.
It is battle for freedom.
It is the battle of reclamation of human personality.
Dr. B.R.Ambedkar

Long battle for Suu Kyi - Editorial

From: CHAN Beng Seng
Date: 2008/10/27
Subject: [ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 27/10/08

Long battle for Suu Kyi - Editorial
The Nation (Thailand): Thu 23 Oct 2008

Today, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will have been incarcerated for 13 years. The more the appeals for her release - from the United Nations, Asean and numerous world leaders - the more the Rangoon junta leaders harden their resolve not to let her free.

Why? They have learned that in the real world, nobody really cares about others. They do so for a period of time, but not all the time. It has been extremely unfortunate for the people of Burma and Suu Kyi since 1988. Whenever the international community came together, something happened that diverted attention away from Burma.

When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in early May, the world's sympathy immediately and readily poured into Burma to help the people. Suddenly, the atrocities of the armed soldiers against protesting monks and the ordinary people were pushed to the back burner. Of course, the junta leaders have benefited from the influx of financial aid as never before seen. They have not changed a thing and seriously they do not need to. Obviously, international humanitarian organisations have used the Burmese crisis for their own benefit.

The Western world and international organisations automatically dropped their hardline criteria because they wanted to help the cyclone-affected Burmese people. Earlier Burma's recalcitrance to allow foreign relief and rescue teams caused additional deaths. Now, nobody is talking about political reforms and ongoing political suppression. International organisations are happy because they have earned a name for themselves by helping the poor Burmese. They said more aid should be channelled to the junta leaders and their organisations because they will learn how to deal with foreign assistance. Never mind if they have benefited from all the assistance. After all, the Burmese people will get direct help. The problem is, the junta has not given anything away that could facilitate national reconciliation and dialogue.

Apparently, the junta leaders are very confident that their sevenpoint road map will serve as the main instrument to eventually establish their legitimacy. Come 2010, it will be a fait accompli. The ongoing global financial crisis will take the focus away from Burma. UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon believes that he can influence junta leader General Than Shwe to free Suu Kyi because he has made a good impression on the general. He is scheduled to visit Rangoon on December 19 after the AseanUN summit in Bangkok. Ban should not risk his reputation and that of the UN by such an endeavour. The UN's special envoy on Burma, Ismail Gambari, needs to improve his performance. He has yet to facilitate or bridge the gap between the junta and the opposition.

From the regional point of view, it is a win-win strategy for Burma. Just look at Thailand, which is in the political doldrums. As long as the Asean chair is in perpetual chaos, it cannot raise the Burma issue because it would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Indeed, it was fortunate that Singapore was the Asean chair last year during the Saffron Revolution because the island republic could issue a strong statement condemning the junta's heavy use of arms against protesters.

At this juncture, it seems that Western countries as well as Asean are sharing similar assessments - that the Burmese regime is very strong and its grip on power and the people is absolute. Nothing can be done about it. The best way is to work with the junta and take part in its political schemes. Conventional wisdom believes this is the best way because the regime might crack. Refusing to take part in the political process would immediately cut off future bargaining chips that the opposition or democracyloving people have.

It is heartrending to look into the future of Burma, knowing full well the political hypocrisy and vanity surrounding this issue. One can only hope that Suu Kyi will remain strong and robust and in good spirit. This is going to be a long battle.

Friday, October 24, 2008

NGO: Stop oil, gas search in Argao

Date: Thu, Oct 23, 2008
Subject: NGO: Stop oil, gas search in Argao

NGO: Stop oil, gas search in Argao

By Ma. Bernadette A. Parco
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 08:51:00 10/23/2008

A fact-finding monitoring team composed of non-government organizations (NGO) from Asian countries called on the national government to end oil exploration activities in the Visayas.

In their manifesto, the Mining Network and Oil Watch-Southeast Asia said they denounce the "unconstitutionality of the oil and gas exploration activities" in Central Visayas as experienced by the affected fisherfolks and their families.

Convenor Andry Wijaya said fisherfolks and their families were displaced as a result of the offshore drilling.

"Their children no longer go to school as a result of the reduced fish catch," he said.

The team announced the results of a study co-sponsored by the Pesticide Action Network in Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP) and the Fisherfolks Development Center (Fidec).

He also scored the failure or refusal of the government agencies to enforce the law.

The study done in the Cebu towns of Pinamungajan, Aloguinsan, Argao and Sibonga centered on the effects of offshore mining done by Japex Philippines Inc. on Tañon Strait and NorAsian at the Cebu-Bohol Strait.

Fidec director Vince Cinches said the fisherfolk in Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan towns told the team that their fish catch didn't improve even after Japex left the area.

He said the fishermen only catch one to two kilos of fish per day, a sharp drop from the 15 to 20 kilos caught per day prior to the seismic survey and drilling operations in 2005 and 2007.

Argao fisherfolk also reported a decrease in fish yield due to the oil exploration activities of NorAsian Energy Ltd. at the Cebu-Bohol Strait, Cinches added.

Regional Director Antonio Labios of the Department of Energy in Central Visayas (DOE-7) said the agency is validating the claims of fisherfolk that their livelihood is affected by the NorAsian oil exploration activities.

"Fish catch, according to the fishermen, is also affected by the season. The decrease in fish yield could also be permanent or temporary. We have to find that out," he told reporters yesterday.

"We would get baseline data from the municipal fisheries and the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources)," Labios said.

Labios said the target of the project is Argao town and that the agency already secured approval from 11 out of 14 barangays in the town.

Labios also admitted that there was no public consultation conducted on the NorAsian project.

"Oil exploration is not yet covered by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system, so there is no consultation required (for the activity)," the regional DOE-7 director said.

Vince Aureflor A. Cinches
Executive Director
Mobile: +63 905 2624 123
Telefax: +63 32 2561365
Skype: vince.cinches

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Report Reveals the Other Side of Post-Nargis Joint Assessment Report (PONJA)

From: Burma Partnership
Date: Thu, Oct 16, 2008
Subject: Press Release on New Report Launch*

For Immediate Release:

16 October 2008

Burma Partnership - National Press Club of Indonesia - AIPMC

Media Contacts:

Ko Shwe (KESAN) +
66 890107015

Khin Ohmar (Burma Partnership) +
62 811 893 126 (INA #)
Imelda Sari (NPCI) +62 811 971930

(Jakarta, Indonesia) Today a report entitled “Post-Nargis Analysis: The Other Side of the Story” was launched by nineteen of Burma’s civil society organizations. The report reveals cases of aid obstruction, human rights abuses, intimidation, and corruption that have occurred in the cyclone-hit region. The post-Nargis analysis report is released today (10/16) in Jakarta because Indonesia holds a key position within both the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations Security Council, and is the host country of the ASEAN Secretariat.

When we studied the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) report prepared by the UN, ASEAN and the Burmese regime, we realized that it failed to describe the obstruction of aid and human rights abuses committed by the military regime in the areas affected by the cyclone. So, as independent civil society organizations, we felt the need to tell the other side of the post-Nargis story by producing this report,” said Ko Shwe, one of the primary sources for the report and a Karen environmental activist who visited the delta in the aftermath of the cyclone.

The report stresses that the description in the PONJA report distorts the nature of the response by the military regime. Furthermore, the report claims that the PONJA report omits reference to cases of human rights abuses, intimidation, and corruption that have occurred in the cyclone-hit region.

It recommends that information on aid distribution and the PONJA report be made available to the public in local language, and an independent system be put in place to monitor and evaluate aid distribution to ensure that the assistance is being provided fairly and effectively within Burma. It also suggests that all parties involved in relief efforts for the cyclone victims, including governments, financial institutions, and international NGOs, maintain maximum transparency and provide public information regarding their activities by adhering to the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Operational Guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters.

“Given the limited access to independent information under the regime’s censorship, we believe our input and recommendations offer a crucial substantive contribution to the post-Nargis recovery,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership.

The report also urges the international community to consider having independent civil society groups as additional counterparts in the post-Nargis assessment and recovery implementation processes.

The Post-Nargis Analysis report delegation consists of Kraisak Choonhavan, the President of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) and a Thai Member of Parliament; Khin Ohmar, Burma Partnership Coordinator; and Yuki Akimoto, Director of the Burma Information Network (BurmaInfo). The press conference to release the “Post-Nargis Analysis: The Other Side of the Story” was hosted by the Burma Partnership and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, together with the National Press Club of Indonesia.

Karen Environment and Social Action Network (KESAN)

KESAN is a local organization working alongside local communities in Karen State, Burma, to build up capacities in nature resource management, raise public environmental awareness and support community-based development initiatives.

Tel: +66 890107015

Burma Partnership

Burma Partnership is a movement of organizations and individuals that aims to develop a strong broad-based partnership of peoples of the Asia-Pacific advocating and mobilizing a movement for promoting freedom, democracy and human rights in Burma.

Tel: +66 1 884 0772, +66 1 466 5406


ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus

18-2 Commercial Centre, Taman Adabi Indah,

Off Jalan Klang Lama, 58100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel +603-7984 7318, +603-7980 1393

Fax +603-7983 7318, +603-7981 7782


National Press Club of Indonesia

Gedung Ariobimo Sentral Lantai 4

Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav X-2 No 5, Jakarta 12950

Tel: +62 21 529 09152

Fax: +62 21 2525750



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post-Nargis Analysis – The Other Side of the Story

From: Burma Partnership
Date: Tue, Oct 14, 2008
Subject: Media Advisory*

Press Conference:
"Post-Nargis Analysis – The Other Side of the Story"
Lotus 3 & 4 room, Hotel Intercontinental Mid plaza Jakarta
14:30 – 16:30
October 16, 2008

Jakarta, 14 October 2008 – The Burma Partnership, ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus and National Press Club of Indonesia will host the release of Post-Nargis Analysis report to respond to the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) Report. The press conference event will be held on Thursday, 16 October 2008 at Hotel Intercontinental Midplaza Jakarta, Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav 10-11 from 14:30 -16:30 WIB. The Secretary General of ASEAN Dr Surin Pitsuwan will attend the press conference and officially receive the Post-Nargis Analysis report from Dr. Sann Aung, of the Members of Parliament Union (MPU) and Prime Minister's Office Minister (PMO-East) following a presentation of the report by Ko Shwe, a young Burmese activist from the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) and an independent journalist. A discussion on 'Post-Nargis Analysis-The Other Side of the Story' will follow with additional speakers from Burma and Thailand: Khin Ohmar, Burma Partnership Coordinator; and Kraisak Choonhavan, the President of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) and a Thai Member of Parliament.

The Post-Nargis Analysis report was compiled and written by Yuki Akimoto, Director of the Burma Information Network (BurmaInfo). The report came as a result of a workshop organized by the project Another Development for Burma in August-September 2008 in which a number of civil society organizations discussed the role of international financial institutions in Burma in general and in the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment process. The report is created to respond to the PONJA Report compiled by the Tripartite Core Group which consists of the ASEAN, Burma's military regime and UN. The PONJA report was launched during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Singapore on 20-21 July, 2008. The Post-Nargis Analysis report explores the obstructions to aid and human rights abuses committed by the Burmese military regime and corruption that have occurred in the cyclone-hit region. The Burma Partnership and other civil society organizations who had been observing throughout the relief phase felt the need to tell the other side of the story by producing this report.

Members of the media are invited to this event; special interviews separate from this event are also possible. Please contact Mira Maruto to set the interview schedule.

For further information please contact:

Khin Ohmar (Burma Partnership)
Mobile : +6681 884 0772 (Thai Number)
+62 811 893 126 (Indonesia Number)

Mira Maruto
Mobile: +62 819 705 998/021 3921617

Imelda Sari (NPCI)
Mobile: +62 811 971930

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where would Burma be without Suu Kyi?

from: CHAN Beng Seng
to: 21
date: Thu, Oct 9, 2008
subject: [ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 9/10/08

Where would Burma be without Suu Kyi?
by. Kyaw Zwa Moe

Irrawaddy: Fri 3 Oct 2008

Let's imagine a situation: Burma without Aung San Suu Kyi. Undoubtedly, the ruling generals would see this as a dream come true. But for the majority of Burmese, it would come as a great disappointment to lose the leader of the country's pro-democracy movement.

Suu Kyi may be a prisoner, but she still has immense power. She strikes fear into the hearts of heavily armed men, while giving moral strength to the powerless. She is the hope of the people of Burma, who have struggled to survive under the boot of their military rulers for the past 46 years.

Her recent refusal to receive food deliveries raised serious concerns about her health and worries about the country's future without her.

According to her lawyer and her doctor-the only two people who were able to meet her during her month-long ordeal, which began in mid-August-Suu Kyi's protest against her continued unlawful detention had left her thin and malnourished.

It was the first time in two decades that Suu Kyi had subjected herself to a hunger strike. Soon after beginning her first period of house arrest in 1989, she refused food and demanded to be placed in prison alongside her colleagues. After several weeks, she won guarantees that her fellow pro-democracy activists would not be tortured, and ended her protest. Her weight had dropped from 48 kg (106 lbs) to just 40 kg (90 lbs), and she suffered hair loss, impaired vision and a weakened immune system.

At the time, Suu Kyi was still in her early forties. Now she is in her sixties, and the impact on her health has presumably been much greater, even if she merely restricted her intake of food to the barest requirements for survival.

What would happen if Suu Kyi died or became so unhealthy that she couldn't continue her role as the political leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement? It is something we need to ask in light of the fact that she has spent 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest, without regular access to proper medical treatment and under immense psychological pressure.

Most people would prefer not to think of Burma's future without Suu Kyi. Her absence from politics would probably be a death blow to the already weakened democracy struggle, because she has no obvious successor as leader of the movement.

On the other hand, the ruling generals would probably see Suu Kyi's demise as an end to an era of trouble. After all, she is even now regarded as a threat to their hold on power.

From the generals' viewpoint, there are many reasons to believe that the future without Suu Kyi would be very bright indeed. For one thing, they would not have to fear a repeat of the non-violent confrontation that she initiated in early 1989, when she called on people to resist unlawful decrees imposed by the junta. The movement continued for months, until July 19, when the regime used an overwhelming show of force to stop a planned Martyrs' Day march. The next day, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for the first time.

Another reason the generals would be happy to see the back of Suu Kyi is that it would probably mean no more electoral upsets like the one the world witnessed in 1990. Despite the regime's efforts to ensure a victory for the pro-junta party, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy inflicted a stunning defeat, winning more than 80 percent of seats in parliament. It was Suu Kyi who urged her party to contest the election, despite the fact that she was still under house arrest at the time and not permitted to participate herself. Even within the confines of her home, she showed the generals that she could make life difficult for them.

It was also Suu Kyi who called for a boycott of the National Convention in 1995. She made this decision a few months after being released from six years of house arrest because she deemed the convention convened to draft a new constitution as undemocratic. The generals have never forgiven her for continuing to resist their plans even after they were good enough to give her back her freedom.

In 1998, Suu Kyi once again proved to be a thorn in the side of the generals. That was the year she spearheaded the creation of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament, a body that directly challenged the junta's right to rule. The generals wasted no time in arresting members of the newly formed group.

Since then, Suu Kyi has enjoyed a few brief interludes of relative freedom. Each time, she demonstrated that her immense appeal was in no way diminished by her long absence from the public eye. She campaigned around the country, drawing crowds of thousands eager to hear her speak. Her engaging and courageous speeches inspired hope in the hearts of countless ordinary Burmese-and intense anger among the country's military rulers, who watched her every move and did everything they could to keep her away from her adoring audiences.

All of these episodes have only served to convince the generals that they need to keep her on a tight rein if they want to carry through their agenda. Last year, they finally succeeded in completing their constitution, which they will use to usher in a new era of military-dominated "democracy" that excludes a democratic opposition. It is doubtful that they would have been able to achieve this long-pursued goal if they hadn't kept Suu Kyi confined within the walls of her residential compound for the past five years.

Suu Kyi's reputation as a troublemaker within the military government's ruling circles has earned her a further-illegal-extension of her current period of house arrest. Although she should have been released in May under Section 10 (b) of the State Protection Act, which only allows for a maximum sentence of five years, she is still in detention.

The regime is now preparing for the next stage in its transition to quasi-civilian rule-the 2010 election, which is intended to undo the damage of the 1990 vote. But in order to reverse the tide of history, the generals know that Suu Kyi must remain detained and silenced.

If Suu Kyi's health were to fail prior to the election, it would probably deliver the regime the victory that has eluded it for the past two decades. Her death would not spell the end of the democracy movement, but it would leave it greatly weakened.

Although Suu Kyi has spent most of the past two decades almost completely cut off from the outside world, she is still Burma's single greatest hope for democratic change. She is also a leader who is widely trusted by people of every ethnicity in Burma, and one who is respected by the international community, which will have a major role to play in helping to restore the country's economy.

She has the rare ability to speak to the generals in a straightforward, unflinching manner. Indeed, her power derives almost entirely from what she calls "plain honesty in politics." Her courage, dedication and steadfast adherence to the truth have empowered her to speak for the people of Burma in a way that no one else can at this point in the country's history.

After 46 years under military rule, Burma is very lucky to have someone who can still command such immense power through the sheer force of her convictions. Without her, life would go on, but the country would be impoverished in a way that makes even its current circumstances seem tolerable by comparison.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

[BurmaSolidarity] Please kindly sign the petition for freedom of burma

from: Burma Centre Delhi (BCD)
to: Burma Solidarity
date: Wed, Oct 1, 2008 at 10:46 PM
subject: [BurmaSolidarity] Please kindly sign the petition for freedom of burma

Dear All,

One year after "2007 Saffron Revolution" led by Buddhist monks, who were at the forefront of the demonstrations against military dictatorship in Burma, leaders of the bare-foot monks and democracy activists are behind bars facing injustice.

We cannot ignore the lives of people scarified in 1988 mass uprising when more than 3000 people were gunned down, we cannot forget 2007 Saffron revolution when soldiers and riot police beaten and opened fire on Buddhist monks and peaceful demonstrators and we cannot close the eyes to the suffering of the heroes of Burma who are now in prisons and who were in prisons sacrifice their lives, faced torture and brutal treatment in order to show their aspiration for democracy.

A tremendous responsibility rests upon the United Nations Organisation to a far better end, and we are looking for a more positive and bolder lead of the United Nations as military regime is trying to nullify the results of the 1990 elections result by planning to hold another election in 2010.

Burmese people show their destiny, their will and sacrifice their lives already. United Nations must step up further in order to solve Burma crisis and actions needed to be taken practically focusing on to implement 1990 Elections result. The solution for the crisis of Burma is to recognize 1990 election result to restore democracy and rule of law where everyone can enjoy the freedom of speech, press, beliefs and assembly that emphasizes the protection of individual rights.

Burma Democratic Concern launched the Global online petition to implement 1990 Elections result in Burma . Please check this link to sign the petition.(Everyone can sign the petition)

Please kindly sign this petition and spread as much as you can to show our unity and genuine desire.Your participation and your single signature means a lot to the freedom of Burma.Thanks.

Shin min oo
Burma Democratic Concern

First Floor Green Park Main New Delhi - 110016 Telefax: +
91-11-26511207 Burma Centre Delhi (BCD) is a non-profit and
non-partisan organization formed in August 2008 with the aim to restore
peace, justice, democracy and human rights in Burma.