Burma Refuses to Accept Lieutenant Arrested in Bangladesh

Dhaka: Burma’s border security force, Nasaka, has refused to accept a Burmese lieutenant who was arrested by Border Guards Bangladesh last week when he trespassed into Bangladesh territory, said a reliable intelligence source.

The arrested Burmese lieutenant was identified as Than Maung Hla, who claims he is a lieutenant from Military Engineer Battalion 58 stationed in northern Maungdaw Township near Taungbro, opposite Bangladesh’s Gaungdon.

According to the source, Bangladesh border guards informed officials from Nasaka soon after the man was arrested, but Nasaka refused to accept him and claimed he was not a Burmese army officer.

The Burmese soldier was arrested by a team of Border Guard Bangladesh led by Mozamal Haque, an officer stationed on the border, around 6 pm on 18 March, when the lieutenant entered into the Naikongchari area in southeastern Bangladesh, according to local media reports.

Bangladesh authorities have detained and questioned the Burmese army officer since his arrest.

Bangladesh officials also informed Burmese officials at the embassy in Dhaka of the arrest, but there have been no replies regarding the situation, said the source.

Burma typically agrees to take back its soldiers whenever they have been arrested in Bangladesh in the past.

Bangladesh authorities would like to hand over the claimed lieutenant to Burmese Nasaka officials at the next flag meeting, but Nasaka is unwilling to hold a flag meeting regarding the matter.

The lieutenant was arrested while the two countries are closely watching their land borders, after verdict in their maritime boundary dispute was announced.

Day Laborers Face Exploitation at Shwe Gas Construction Sites in Arakan

Kyauk Pru: Day laborers at Shwe Gas construction sites across Arakan State are facing exploitation of their daily wages by some contractors at the sites, said local worker sources.

Local day laborers in Madae Island

A number of local villagers are now working as day laborers at several Shwe Gas construction sites in Kyauk Pru Township, the heard of the Shwe Gas project in Arakan, where construction contractors have been taking advantage of the local day laborers on their daily wages.

“I am the boss of our carpenter group working at a construction site in Gon Shin Village. Our group was hired by U Kyaw Soe, a contractor, on the promise of 4,500 kyat per day for each worker, but after three days working at the site, a supervisor told us that he is only able to pay 3,000 kyat for a worker per day due to the low skill of the work. When we refused his offer, we were fired from the job,” said U Shwe Moe.

U Shwe Moe is a senior carpenter who led the 15-member carpenter group that was working at the construction site belonging to Myanmar Golden Crown in Gon Shin Village in Kyauk Pru Township from 15 to 17 March, 2012.

“We had left from the construction site without any compensation for our three days of work. U Kyaw Kyaw Soe had not refunded our tip money of 6,000 kyat per worker that we had to give to him illegally to get the job opportunity. However, they finally gave us our wages for three days and the 6,000 kyat after we told him we’d report the incident to exiled media and other concerned authorities,” said U Shwe Moe.

U Shwe Moe said that the major companies like CNPC and MGC are likely to give the full wages for day laborers in accordance with current rates, but some construction contractors and so-called worker supervisors have misappropriated the wages for the workers.

Such exploitation of day laborers is not only happening in Gon Shin but also other sites across Kyauk Pru Township, said U Kyaw Nu, a community leader from Madae Island where a big project including an oil tanker and deep sea port is being constructed by a Chinese company.

He said, “On Madae Island where there are three villages – Wra Ma, Pin Village, and Kyauk Tan with 700 households and over 2,000 people,” adding that most of the villagers are facing such exploitation by contractors at work sites.

“A villager is hired at a rate of 6,000 kyat per day at first, but in reality the villager is given only 2,000 kyat per day. If the villagers oppose and complain against [the contractor] about the wages, the villagers are fired from their jobs. The villagers in our area have to work for such wages even though they are cutting a lot of money from their pay because they have no other job opportunities,” U Kyaw Nu said.

Many villagers on the island have given up their traditional jobs like fishing and farming since the Shwe Gas project started in the area. “Many farm lands and orchard lands on the island were confiscated by authorities for the project and the fishing sectors on the island were also damaged by the construction of sea ports and a harbor for big cargo ships for the project,” said U Kyaw Nu.

According to local sources, most of the villagers who are working at the Shwe Gas construction sites as day laborers are illiterate and have poor knowledge about the rights of workers. Because of this the contractors and supervisors at the construction sites have been exploiting the workers for their own gain.

Police Stop Mob Attacking Indian Workers

Kyauk Pru: Angry villagers armed with slingshots, machetes, and rods besieged Indian workers at a work station in Kyuakpru, the main area of the Shwe Gas Project in western Burma’s Arakan State, leading police to take control of the situation with warning shots.

“Nearly 60 villagers besieged the KP-14 work station of the Indian workers in Krattain Village in Kyaukpru Township and first attacked the guards of the station with their slingshots on 20 March. As their attacks were getting intense, the local police had to come to the scene and disperse the crowd with gunshots fired into the sky,” said a local youth who witnessed the incident.

U Thandar Maung, a spoke person from the office of the Rakihne Nationalities Development Party in Kyaukpru, also said the Indian workers are from the Punj Lloyd Company and their misbehavior toward the villagers ignited the attack.

“The villagers attacked them as they could not tolerate their misbehavior any more. They have been misbehaving against the local people here since they arrived to work for the Shwe Gas Project. Few of them were injured by the attacks,” said U Thandar Maung.

According to the youth, the villagers destroyed and set fire to some of the machines in the station during the incident and ran away after police fired a number of gunshots into the air.

The officer on duty at the police station in downtown Kyaukpru however, said they had not yet received any information of the incident when contacted by Narinjara.

Krattain Village is situation 12 miles from downtown Kyaukpru and the Indian Punj Lloyd company is doing construction on the project nearby the village.

Farmer burdened with taxes on confiscated lands

Taungup: A farmer from Maunnchaung Village in Taungup Township in southern Arakan State is still being burdened with the official taxes for his farmlands that were confiscated by the army nearly a decade ago.

The confiscated lands ( Photo by Pho Htung)

“Four out of the six acres of  farmland owned by my father U Soe Aung were forcibly confiscated by the military team led by the Commander of the Military Operation Command or Sa-Ka-Kha (5), Myint Soe, and the Chairman of the Township Ex-Military Servicemen, retired Major Thein Soe Naing, in 2002-2003, but the government is still continuing to collect taxes from my father for those lands”, said the farmer’s son Khin Maung Soe.

He said his father now has two acres of land  left after confiscation but he has been paying the taxes for all six acres of land fearing that the remaining lands will be also confiscated if he fails to pay.

According to him, the lands were traditionally cultivated by his father for earning a livelihood for their family. They are situated in Ranmyoaung Village Group in the township and are still under official registration in his father’s name.

But the military army officers forcibly confiscated their lands on the pretense of state interest and have been leasing the lands to local private businessmen for their personal benefit.

Khin Maung Soe said his father wrote a complaint letter to President U Thein Sein requesting the return of the lands after it was widely reported among the local residents that those officers have recently sold off the lands to a local private businessman.

“My father has submitted a written complaint to the present government addressed to the President on the 3rd of January requesting the return of those confiscated lands to us because the lands are our ancestral properties on which we have been cultivating all through the ages. But the government is still neglecting to look into the matter though it is still collecting revenues for the lands from us”, he said.

He said that their confiscated lands are now being turned into teak and rubber plantations after the military officers have sold off the lands to U Than Min, the owner of the Min Min Jewelries Store in downtown Taungup.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visits Arakanese monastery worship for 11 viss new golden umbrella

Yangon: NLD president Daw Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday visited an Arakanese monastery, a Lodaw Pyi, in Yangon to worship the 11.50 viss golden tiered and ornamented pagoda, said U Kumara, a spoke person of the monastery.

He said that Saw Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at 3:30 pm yesterday along with other NLD senior leaders to worship the golden tired and ornamented pagoda which will be set up at the top of the ancient Maha Muni shrine located in Kyauk Taw township in Arakan state.

“ We welcomed Daw Suu by playing an Arakanese royal drum when she entered our monastery. Many people cheered Daw Aung San Suu Kyi inside the monastery for visiting and worshiping the golden pagoda umbrella,” U Kumara said.

U Kumara received Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the monastery gate and arranged to worship the 11.50 viss golden tired and ornamented pagoda.

“ Daw Suu put a golden ornament above the vane of the shrine on her head. During the time, I acclaimed and blessed her to live a long life,” U Kumara said.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi left the monastery after spending 30 minutes there for religious purposes.

Former Prime minister Lt Gen (retired) U Khin Nyunt and his wife Daw Khin Win Shwe also visited the monastery on 20 March to worship the golden umbrella.

The golden umbrella of the shrine will be moved to Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state, from Yangon on 23 March by Myanmar airway, in order to set up in the ancient Mahamuni shrine located in Kyauk Taw in Arakan state on 6 April 2012.

It is learned that many functions will be held across Arakan state from 23 March when the golden umbrella of the shrine will arrive in Arakan state.

 

Bangladesh Navy Patrols New Sea Boundary

Dhaka: The Bangladesh Navy has made its first patrol across the settled boundary in the Bay of Bengal after last week’s victory in a UN court on Bangladesh’s maritime boundary claims against Burma, according to a report of the The Daily Star.

The reported quoted a competent navy source who said that three ships from the Chittagong naval base and one from the Mongla base were deployed during the patrol on 15 March – a day after the verdict was pronounced. Of the four ships, two cruised down south straight from St. Martin’s Island.

 

According to the report, the Bangladesh has sailed up to 175 nautical miles into the bay.

 

There were no Burmese ships in the new territory, although Burmese navy ships are in Burmese waters nearby, the report said.

 

On 14 March, Bangladesh won the verdict at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which sustained its claim to exclusive economic and territorial rights in the 200-nautical-mile zone in the Bay of Bengal, while rejecting the claims of Burma. With this judgement, Bangladesh gained rights to a sea area of 1.11 lakh square miles.

 

Following this, Bangladesh for the first time patrolled the area without a hitch last week.

 

The navy will continue to patrol year-round, although the sea will turn to rough in April, said the report.

 

Previously, Bangladeshi fishermen would be detained or harassed by Burmese navy personnel if they were found in the disputed waters, the report added.

 

However, at present the US oil company ConocoPhillips is conducting a 2,200 kilometer seismic survey to explore oil or gas in the Bay of Bengal, including area that was previously claimed by Burma. The survey is expected to be completed next month.

 

Upon interpretation of the seismic data, if the company finds any prospects and decides to drill an exploratory well there next year, the navy would have to ensure necessary security. Back in November 2008, naval forces from Bangladesh and Burma were locked in a tense standoff for nearly a week when the latter brought in an oil and gas exploration ship to the disputed waters. The hotspot was located 55 kilometers southwest at 227 degrees from St. Martin’s Island.

 

Burmese authorities were escorting a Korean ship to start exploration activities there while ignoring warnings from the Bangladesh Navy. All diplomatic bids to end the face-off seemed to be failing until the South Korean company itself withdrew from the operation.

 

Now that the maritime boundary dispute is settled, it appears that the location where Burma brought the Korean ship falls within their territory. A naval officer said Bangladesh enjoys its rights up to 215 degrees southwest from St. Martin’s Island.

26 farmers sued for demanding the return of their confiscated farmlands

Rathedaung: 26 farmers from Rathedaung Township in Arakan State have been sued by an army backed businessman for their efforts to retain their own shrimp and paddy farmlands that were confiscated by the army during the tenure of last military regime.

The Town of Rathedaung is located at 20 miles north of Sittwe, the capital Arakan.

The farmers who are now being sued by the businessman U Saw Aung Thein are from the villages of Paungsar, Naypukhan, Kyunchaung and Kaungrechaung that are situated on the bank of the Mayu River in Rathedaung Township.

“Now that the pro-democracy civilian government is in power, the farmers have appealed to the government to return their shrimp farms and paddy fields that were forcibly confiscated by the army. As the government has been delayed taking action with their appeals, they started to mend the broken dykes of those farmlands in order to make a living like before. Then, U Saw Aung Thein who has leased those lands from the western command has sued them”, said a local youth close to the farmers.

The farmers were said to be detained in the Laungchaung Police Station just after U Saw Aung Thein filed a lawsuit against them, but later were released on bail.

 

“The township court in Rathedaung started to hear their case on 9th of March and examined the plaintiff U Saw Aung Thein and two of his 16 witnesses, and then appointed the next hearing to be held on 19 and 28 March”, said the youth.

He said the police stepped up security around the court, searched and restricted the defendants and their two lawyers and dispelled the local people who crowded to listen to the hearing 20 yards away from the court on the first day of the hearing.

He added that the police however favored the plaintiff U Saw Aung Thein and his witnesses allowing him to hold his hand phone inside the courtroom though they did not allow the defendants’ lawyers to do so.

The plaintiff U Saw Aung Thein is a well-to-do businessman in downtown Rathedaung, and has been taking leases on confiscated farmlands from the western command after bribing army officers based in the area.

“He has to pay kyat 60 lakh a year to the western command that has confiscated those shrimp and paddy farms from the farmers and 40 lakh kyat to the army officers from the area as a bribe to assist him in gaining priority for those farms. And then he hires out the farms to the local farmers again with a rent of 200-250 lakh kyat and monopolizes the products of shrimp and paddy from the farmers with low prices as well”, said the youth.

According to him, total 1,800 acres of shrimp and paddy farmlands owned by the farmers in Rathedaung Township were forcibly confiscated by the western command in 1998.

 

A lawyer who is voluntarily giving legal assistance to the farmers told Narinjara that it would not be easy for the farmers to win the lawsuit that is directly connected to the western command and not to U Saw Aung Thein.

“Actually the main plaintiff in this lawsuit is not U Saw Aung Thein, but the western command. There would be wide criticism if the command sued the farmers. That is why it has asked its sycophant to file lawsuit against them. Judge, officials of the court as well as police are found favoring the plaintiff because the army, the most powerful institution, is on his side and there is little or no hope for the farmers to win the lawsuit”, said the lawyer.

The lawyer said the farmers traditionally owned the farmlands and tried to take back their farmlands because they have been in poverty since the lands were confiscated by the western command.

“80 villagers including those 26 farmers are now in great trouble because they have to face the lawsuit while they are already stricken by severe poverty and they are now totally helpless”, he said.

 

Sources said such lawsuit against the group of farmers was never heard of in their region before and interest in the lawsuit is growing among the local peoples as well.

Sea Verdict an ‘Unbelievable Achievement’

Dhaka: Establishing rights in the Bay of Bengal through a legal battle with neighbouring Myanmar was an “unbelievable” achievement for Bangladesh, foreign minister Dipu Moni told parliament on Sunday.

 

“It was an unbelievable recognition for Bangladesh,” said the emotion-chocked foreign minister in the House while speaking on the last week’s judgment by International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) that upheld Bangladesh’s claim over the Bay of Bengal.

 

The Hamburg-based ITLOS on Wednesday gave its verdict giving Bangladesh the rights of enjoying 200 nautical miles (NM) as Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf beyond the 200 NM waters in the Bay.

 

Bangladesh on October 8, 2009 filed the legal suits against Myanmar and India as it failed to settle the dispute through bilateral talks since 1974. The legal suit with India has been in the process of disposal by the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in Hague. The court is likely to deliver its verdict sometime in 2014.

Dipu Moni took the floor to explain how Bangladesh settled the dispute with one of its neighbours keeping good relations.
She said Bangladesh believes in good neighbourly relations, but not at the cost of the country’s interest.
“We did not hesitate to take firm and courageous steps for the sake of national interest,” she said adding that all the decisions for peaceful settlement of the dispute were taken in the light of Bangladesh’s constitution and in line with the international laws and conventions.
The minister also gave a power-point presentation in the House. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked the foreign minister for her success in wining the legal battle with the next door neighbour.
Dipu Moni expressed her gratitude to the prime minister for her guidance in dealing with the sea delimitation case.
She said that the area of Bangladesh has increased after the ITLOS verdict. “It will continue to expand as long as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina remain in office,” the foreign minister said criticising the previous Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance for not taking any initiative to settle the dispute.

 

( Source: The Independent on 19 March 2012)

Newly-wed woman gang-raped by soldiers and paramilitaries

Ponna Kyunt: A newly-wed woman was gang-raped by three personnel of the Burmese army and the paramilitary group known as Swan-Arr-Shin in Ponnagyun in western Burma’s Arakan State on the 8th of March, after she was taken by them on the pretense of guest inspections.

 

Ponna Kyunt jetty

The victim is identified as 20 year old Ma——, a resident of Sanpateechaung Village in Ponnagyun Township. She was said to be raped while she was visiting her native village just after she married a colleague, they have been working together in a private fishery in Thandwe Township.

 

A lawyer told Narinjara that the personnel gang-raped the young woman after taking her away from her husband on the pretense of guest inspections while she was going with her husband to report their overnight stay in a ward in downtown Ponnagyun to the ward headman.

 

“The young couple had gone to report to the ward headman about their overnight stay in the house of U Aung Than Hlaing in Sanpya Sayronsu Ward in Ponnagyun around 8 pm on the day of the incident. But the headman was not at home and when they came back three personnel of the army and the Swan-Arr-Shin intercepted and inspected them for their guest information papers. As they had no papers, the personnel asked for 50,000 kyat from them. When they were unable to pay, the personnel asked the wife to go with them to the headman’s house, making the husband find more money for them”, said the lawyer.

 

“When the husband left the spot to find more money, the personnel forcibly took the wife under the hills of U-Rite-Taw Pagoda that is situated on the other side of the river in Ponnagyun and gang-raped her there without bringing her to the headman’s house.”

 

The lawyer said those three personnel are private Hla Thein Tun from the Light Infantry Battalion (550) based in Ponnagyun, and Maung Sein Shwe and Maung Phyu of the Swan-Arr-Shin group and they have since been arrested by the local police.

 

Two of the personnel private Hla Thein Tun and Maung Sein Shwe were said to be in their official uniforms when they raped the woman.

 

The local police station in Ponnagyun also confirmed that they have already arrested the alleged offenders and were preparing to take legal action against them.

 

Arakan Rangers and Government Troops Clash, One Injured, One Killed

Dhaka: The Arakan Rangers, formed by the Arakan Liberation Army to carry out inland activities, clashed with the government army on 14 March on Burma’s western frontier, killing one Burmese government soldier and injuring another.

Ko Soe Than, member of the department of organizing and information for the Arakan Liberation Army, told Narinjara that the clash happened while the Arakan Rangers were giving medical aid to local villagers on the border.

 

“The clash happened around 12:30 pm on 14 March at Pe-Taung Upper Village as the government troops approached the village when our Arakan Ranger troops were giving medical aid to the villagers there,” said Soe Than.

 

He said one government soldier was killed and another one was injured when the government troops were fired upon by the ambush patrols of the Arakan Rangers.

 

“Our informant told us that one government soldier was killed and another was taken to the nearby hospital after the clash with our troops. Our ambush patrols had to fire on them because they were approaching our forces who were giving medical aid to the villagers,” he said.

 

He added that the government troops were from Battalion 232 based in Sittwe, and they are currently deployed in Khamuangwa Village near Pe-Taung on the frontier.

 

The recent clash is the first since U Thein Sein’s regime invited the Arakan Liberation Army for peace talks. Deputy leader of the union-level peacemaking group, U Thein Zaw, offered peace talks to the ALP last January.

 

The Arakan Rangers are said to have been supplying medical aid and food to the villagers, who are now living in a state of internal displacement on the frontier in western Burma.