Land Owner Threatened for Demanding Compensation

Rambree: The authorities in Rambree in southern Arakan State have threatened to arrest a local land owner for demanding compensation for his farmland that was confiscated for road construction in the area.

“The land owned by U Kyaw Nyan was confiscated by the municipality and was dug up for rocks to pave the road in the Kyaukchaung and Kyauknimaw Road Project. His farmland was also damaged very badly. The municipality did not pay for his land and when he demanded compensation, the township administrator became angry over his demand and ordered him to come to his office,” said a close friend of U Kyaw Nyan.

 

He said the township administrator, U Aung Thu, has now threatened to arrest U Kyaw Nyan because he did not go to see him when he was summoned to his office on 14 March.

 

“He did not go to see the administrator because he was threatened with being jailed when he prevented the road construction team from digging his land for rocks. He is now suffering not only from losing his land, but also from threats from the authorities,” he said.

 

The authorities confiscated two acres of U Kyaw Nyan’s land, situated on the Kyauknimaw – Kyaukchaung road that is being constructed as part of an island ring road in Rambree Township.

 

The land was confiscated by the municipal engineering office during construction of the ring road by the border area development team.

 

The island ring road in Rambree Township is now being constructed to cross through Rambree. Kyauknimaw, Kyaukchaung, Zeetaw, U-Ga, Aunghlapyin, Kyauknagar, Zaratpyin, Kinn, and Maronn in the area, and will connect to the main town of Kyaukpru.

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

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

 

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.

The maritime award

Sunday Pouch

Ashfaqur Rahman

Last week, Bangladesh received one of the best news in many decades. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) located in Hamburg, Germany, gave its judgment on the dispute with Myanmar on the delimitation of our maritime boundary. It awarded us what we bargained for and more. It was indeed a great victory for Bangladesh. The credit goes particularly to this government, which initiated the move to seek international arbitration to resolve the dispute. The credit also goes to a select few in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs who used their professionalism to pursue the case with single-minded dedication and a sensible strategy.

In the landmark judgment, ITLOS awarded Bangladesh a 200 miles exclusive zone following the concave nature of our coast in the Bay of Bengal, with full territorial and economic rights. It also gave us a substantial share of the outer continental shelf beyond 200 miles. The Tribunal also awarded a full 12 mile territorial sea (TS) around St Martins Island in Cox’s Bazaar district, trashing Myanmar’s assertion that Bangladesh should get only 6 miles of the territorial sea there.

The Tribunal based this historic ruling on the principle of equity which Bangladesh had been fighting for in the last 38 years, rather than on the principle of equidistance. ITLOS took note of the configuration of our coast, its length, the large population of our country, the nature of dependency of the people as well as our Gross National Product among other factors. Myanmar had, however, argued that the maritime boundary should be drawn simply on the principle of geometric equidistance from their coast.

If this was to happen, then the maritime boundary so determined would have cut directly into Bangladesh’s coastline and truncated its maritime jurisdiction. With India also arguing in favour of the principle of equidistance to our west, we would have got a 130 mile wide outlet to navigate to the high sea. We would also be denied our right to the living and the non-living resources in this huge swathe of maritime territory. Indeed, hostile powers could have locked Bangladesh in this virtual lagoon so created, circumscribing our movement from the close confines of our coast.

The 151 page judgment was passed with 21 judges voting in favour with only one judge differing. The decision given is now final and there is no appeal.

By this award, we have got 111,000 square kilometers area in the Bay of Bengal (almost the same size of Bangladesh) with all the resources there and whatever resources we may discover in that area in the future.

The award has many short, medium and long term implications for Bangladesh. In the short term, we can now start to drill again for oil and gas in our 200 mile economic zone, as the area is no more disputed. We can start to allocate blocks to international companies for exploration. We also now have exclusive right over the fish resources and other marine life in this area. We can begin to scientifically exploit them for benefit of our people. Safe passage for ships from all over the world is now guaranteed.

In the medium term, among other things, it could have an effect on the maritime dispute we still have with India. India has been insisting, like Myanmar, on the principle of equidistance instead of equity in demarcating the maritime border with us. Since we have not been able to resolve the matter amicably we have invoked “Annex VII” under Article 3 of the dispute resolution clause of the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. A five member arbitral tribunal (three members from the ITLOS who have already ruled in our favour and one ad-hoc member each from Bangladesh and India) will sit in the Hague to decide on the issue. They will give their ruling by 2014.

The settlement with Myanmar, based on the principle of equity may now discourage India from insisting on the principle of equidistance. But we would have to wait and see. India may in the meantime proffer other arguments to get round this established principle in the Bay of Bengal. But we could be hopeful for a decision in our favour.

The long run implication of the ITLOS award may be somewhat heart warming for the people of Bangladesh. As technology improves and cost reduces, we could be in a position to harness alternative energy from the sea waves and from the sea wind on a massive scale. This will definitely add to our repertoire of the available sources of energy. We would also be able to mine the sea bed in our economic zone for valuable minerals. We would be able to farm the sea too for marine life and harvest it for our growing population. A whole new generation of Bangladeshis can now grow up consuming the rich proteins that can be sourced from the sea. In future, our people would not remain mal-nourished as they are at present.

But what do we require to do now to protect and promote the huge resource that has been made available to us because of this award?

Our navy needs to be upgraded and modernised post haste. We cannot allow international poachers to come into our exclusive economic zone and steal our fish and marine life. We also cannot allow international pirates to roost here. A quick and cheap way to boost our navy is to acquire submarines to protect our sea lanes and our sea resources. Naval platforms where sea planes and helicopters can operate from must be acquired. We also need detailed survey of the Bay. For this we should procure a multi-purpose survey vessel.

Next, we must open marine research institutes in Bangladesh. They will not only be able to find and analyse new and unknown species of plants and marine life, but will also help their cultivation and harvesting. Our universities should open marine studies and train persons who will be knowledgeable and skilled in these areas. Intensive research programmes must be introduced in our higher seats of learning.

Last but not the least, we may consider setting up a Bay of Bengal maritime commission under the aegis of the Ministry of Defense to provide our government policy options to protect and promote our maritime resources. It would primarily introduce the best practices prevailing in various maritime countries and regulate the exploitation of the resources. The commission would have experts and policy planners and help to convert our economic zone into a resource bowl for Bangladesh.

Let us not forget that Bangladesh is only one of the many littoral states along the Bay of Bengal. We must therefore cooperate with the other states and try to jointly develop the resources in the Bay.

A wise man had once said: “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” Till last week Bangladesh had great worries over the Bay of Bengal. We still have anxiety over what the result will be of the arbitration on the maritime boundary with India.

But this week, the clouds circling over our dispute with Myanmar have faded. The Bay now holds promise for us. Let us therefore recall the past when the Bay had fed us and eased our travels. Let us now think what more it can give us in the future. Let the wrinkles now disappear and the smiles again appear.

The writer is a former Ambassador and is a regular commentator on contemporary issues.

No need for talks with Myanmar: Says Rear Admiral Khurshed

Unb, Dhaka

Bangladesh no longer requires any negotiation with Myanmar to draw the country’s maritime boundary after the verdict of the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

“There is no legal requirement to sit with Myanmar… we’ll draw our boundary according to the chart given by the ITLOS,” Additional Secretary (UNCLOS) at the Foreign Ministry Rear Admiral (retd) Khurshed Alam told the news agency yesterday evening.

He said there is no convention of setting pillar in the sea to demarcate the maritime boundary.

The ITLOS verdict given on Wednesday sustained Bangladesh’s claims to a full 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Bay of Bengal, and to a substantial share of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) beyond 200 nautical miles.

Khurshed said after the verdict no foreign country can come for fishing within the 200 nautical miles in Bangladesh territorial waters. “What’s important is that we’ll have to increase the strength of our navy to intensify the guard within our maritime boundary.”

He said the ITLOS verdict has bestowed Bangladesh with the undisputed right to fishes in the waters and natural resources beneath the seabed.

The Tribunal also awarded Bangladesh a full 12-nautical mile territorial sea around St Martin’s Island, overruling Myanmar’s argument that it should be cut into half.

Rumors of Burmese Troop Buildup After Maritime Verdict

Dhaka: There are rumors spreading along the border that Burma has built up its troops along the border, particularly in northern Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships after the maritime verdict announced by the ITLOS, says a border reporter of Narinjara.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on regular patrol on the Naff River

He said that the downtown area of Maungdaw is normal, but most of the border areas close to Bangladesh are experiencing tension because authorities have reportedly beefed up security with more troops along the border.

“As far as I know some additional troops on the Burmese side have been deployed at some border areas, including Taungbro, and Kyin Chaung in Maungdaw Township, and some villages in northern Buthidaung Township after the maritime dispute verdict announced by ITLOS, but I do no know the number of troops in the area,” he said.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) delivered its judgment on Wednesday in favor of Bangladesh in the maritime dispute between Burma and Bangladesh. Afterwards, troops were reportedly deployed along the border.

An official from Buthidaung said that he heard the Burmese army has commandeered five ferry ships in Buthidaung to bring troops from Sittwe to the border area, and the ships are now in standby position. However, he could not confirm when the troops would be brought to the border.

A local resident in Maungdaw, the border town of Burma close to Bangladesh said, “There are many rumors in Maungdaw that Burmese troops are being deployed along the border but no one has seen the troops. I do not know exactly what happens on the border.”

Some Bangladesh newspapers and television channels also reported in the last few days that Burma has mobilized a huge number of troops along the border with Bangladesh, but Bangladesh authorities have denied such reports, calling them propaganda.

A high-level team of Border Guard Bangladesh visited the Burmese border on Thursday after the reports came out.

“We could not find any evidence of military build-up along the borders during our visit,” said Lt. Colonel Khalequzzaman, Commander of 17-BGB Battalion in Cox’s Bazar, after concluding their visit around 5:00 pm.

Burmese authorities on Thursday reported on the verdict of the ITLOS in the maritime dispute on its state-run MRTV channel, calling it a fair and just verdict and stating their acceptance of the verdict.

Life imprisonment for Man Nyein Maung politically improper: A prominent lawyer

Dhaka: Sentencing Phado Man Nyein Maung, a central committee member of the Karen National Union, to life imprisonment is not in accord with present politics, said a well-known lawyer U Aung Thein.

“Peace is now at arm’s length and it is quite unseemly to sentence Man Nyein Maung who is a central committee member of the KNU to life imprisonment, and this should not be done to him in this political situation. I think his imprisonment may cause some hindrance to the peace process”, said U Aung Thein.

He also said the present political situation should take precedence rather than the enacted laws in the case of Phado Man Nyein Maung.

“I have nothing to say about the law because he is a central committee member of the KNU that has been fighting against the central government all through the ages and he is entangled with the state’s laws, but in the present day while political changes are taking shape, the harsh punishment on Man Nyein Maung may hurt the peace process in the country a great deal”, he said.

Phado Man Nyein Maung was sentenced to 3 year imprisonment due to section 17(1) communication with an illegal organization in addition to the life-term imprisonment on section 122(1) of high treason by Rangoon’s Northern District Court, one of the special courts of Insein Prison on the 13th of March (Burma’s Human Rights Day).

He was arrested at Kunming Airport in China and handed over to Burma in July last year and sentenced to six months in prison on the immigration act 13(1). He is now sentenced to life imprisonment after he was sued on charges of connection with an illegal organization and high treason on the day he was about to be released with the recent presidential amnesty.

This is the second time Phado Man Nyein Maung has been punished to life imprisonment on charges of treason. He faced the similar punishment during the reign of the U Nu-led former parliamentary democracy government as well.

 

Mining coral reefs for gas pipeline probably caused the deaths of two 20-feet long whale sharks

Maungdaw: Many valuable marine creatures inhabiting the Arakan coast are being killed due to the mining of coral reefs for the construction of a gas pipeline that will connect to China.

The observers said the two whale sharks that were found dead on the 7th of March on a beach in southern Maungdaw Township were probably killed after sustaining injuries from the mining of coral reefs for the gas pipeline construction.

It is learnt that the dead whale sharks were a pair of male and female— the male shark was 21-feet long and 12-feet in girth while the female one was 18-feet and 8-inches long and 8 feet in girth.

“Nasaka officers came and asked the directorate of fisheries in Maungdaw about the sharks, in order to report to their higher authorities. The directorate told them that the fishes were not from of the sea of Maungdaw, but they were the from the sea of Kyaukpru and Thandwe, and remarked that the fishes probably moved here from those areas for some reason”, said an official of the fisheries.

It is learnt that many fishes in and around the undersea coral reefs in Kyaukpru Township are being killed or forced to flee as the coral reefs are being blown away by mines for the laying of the gas pipeline.

“The Maungdaw District Directorate of Fisheries could not confirm why the sharks were killed. It said that they were from the sea in Kyaukpru and Thandwe and supposed to be killed after running aground on the beach after being caught in a fisherman’s net and released. There was lezz possibility that they were killed after being released from the nets, but mostly likely after sustaining some injuries”, said a fisherman from Maungdaw.

It is also learnt that the hunting of whale sharks is being banned by the central directorate of fisheries in Burma.

“Those sharks were likely killed by the explosions of mines because they were in the sea in Kyaukpru and Thandwe Townships. The coral reefs are now being blown away with mines and so many creatures are being found killed in the sea especially near the villages of Thankyauk, Sunpanshein, Saichrone” said a resident of Kyaukpru.

It is learnt that the unlevel coral reefs at the Sunpanshein Village, opposite of Kyaukpru Town as well as at Mingan or Thankyauk on Masarai Island are being destroyed with mines.

Kyaukpru’s resident said that Thankyauk Village was the place from which iron ore was extracted during the reigns of Arakanese Kings and it was described in an article in the special publication on the 10th anniversary of Rakhine State.

It is learnt that those fishes were found on the morning of 7th of March on a beach nearby Inndin Village that is under Nasaka Area No. 8 in southern Maungdaw and the skeletons of the fishes are now planned to be taken to Rangoon.

It is also learnt that the whales and the whale sharks are already scarce due to a lack of systematic preservation though they were once the plentiful in Arakan coast.

Bangladesh envoy to Burma called back

Dhaka: Bangladesh government has called back its ambassador to Burma, said a report of The Daily Star today quoted an official notification.

The notification was issued yesterday by the Bangladesh Ministry of Public Administration where Bangladesh ambassador to Burma, Maj Gen Anup Kumar Chakma has been called back.

However, there is no reason in the notification behind his withdrawal.

Maj Gen Anup Kumar Chakma would be put back into his former position in Bangladesh army, the report said.

He was appointed Bangladesh ambassador to Burma in 2009.

Bangladesh FM leaves for Germany for Maritime dispute verdict

Bangladesh Foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni is leaving for Germany to hear the maritime dispute verdict delivered by the judges of The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). She is scheduled to arrive in Hamburg at 3:10 am Bangladesh time on Wednesday, to be present during the deliberation of the verdict.

The ITLOS will deliver its verdict on the dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday.

The ITLOS, based in Hamburg, is an independent judicial body, established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the convention.

The tribunal has 21 judges from 21 different countries, including one from India. Bangladesh and Myanmar have nominated one judge each to take the total number of judges to 23, according to foreign ministry officials. Thomas Mensah of Ghana has been chosen by Bangladesh, while Myanmar has chosen Bernard Oxman of the USA.

The tribunal will sit at 4:30 pm Bangladesh time (11:30am German time) in the main tribunal courtroom.

Judge José Luis Jesus from Cape Verde, presiding judge in this case, will read the judgment to decide if Bangladesh will have to limit its access to 130 nautical miles (NM) of the sea area or a 200NM (370 kilometres) economic exploitation zone, and continental shelf, extending up to 400-460 NM southwards from the country’s coastline.

The verdict of the tribunal is final and mandatory and there can be no appeal against the judgment.

Foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni is scheduled to be present during the deliberation of the verdict. Additional foreign secretary (UNCLOS) Khurshed Alam will also be present.

On December 14, 2009, proceedings were instituted before the ITLOS regarding delimitation of the maritime boundary, after India and Myanmar cut off a significant portion of Bangladesh’s maritime area in the Bay of Bengal.

Additional foreign secretary (UNCLOS) Khurshed Alam will also be present.

Complaint on Recruitment of Child Soldier Filed with ILO

Pauktaw: Parents from Pauktaw in Arakan State have recently lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organization through a local human rights group, stating their underage son was tricked and recruited into the Burmese military.

Child soldier in Burma ( photo by Irrawaddy)

 

U Maung Maung Lay, a member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters network, said the child’s parents have sought assistance from the network to bring their child back home from the military.

“We have now complained of the matter and submitted evidence to the ILO office in Rangoon as well as to Burma’s National Human Rights Commission, and hope that actions will be taken soon for the child,” said U Maung Maung Lay.

He added that the child is 16-year-old Maung Oo Hla Win, son of U Maung San Win from Taungphue Village in Pauktaw Township in Arakan State, and he was wrongfully recruited into the military after being tricked by a recruiter last year.

“Maung Oo Hla Win is now posted at the army’s Light Infantry Battalion 409 in Dawai after he was trained at Training Center No. 10 in Ayadaw Township in Sagaing Division. It was also heard that he is being kept under a new name in the army,” he said.

According to U Maung Maung Lay, recruitment of children into the armed forces is continuing in Burma, and the army widely uses the tactics of threats, trickery, and incentives in order to recruit children. He added that Maung Oo Hla Win was recruited after being tricked and threatened.

He said the Burmese army typically delays handing over child soldiers to their parents after it is reported that the child was conscripted.

“Whenever a case of a child soldier is reported to our network or the ILO, we take immediate action to get the child out, but the army usually delays in these cases and it takes at least six months and up to one or two years to return the child to their parents. This means the regime and the army are still failing to take necessary steps to eliminate the recruitment of child soldiers in the country,” said U Maung Maung Lay.

The HRDP is not an officially registered organization in Burma, but it has been working for the improvement of human rights in the country, and it has a branch in Arakan State.

The Arakan branch of the HRDP also issued a press release on 24 February strongly objecting to the Burmese regime in the matter of the recruitment of Maung Oo Hla Win as a soldier.

The release said the new Burmese regime has officially announced there are no child soldiers in the army, but claimed this is just an open lie by the regime to its own people and the international community.