Wednesday, January 27, 2010

18 member Burmese monks delegation in Dharamsala --

Pride of Burma -- response to Narayan in Bangalore --

Alas, I also would love to have seeds of Amherstia, but I have been living in exile now for 2 and a half decades, and don't even live in the tropics.

I did see trees in the Singapore Botanical Garden, so try them or other great botanical gardens of world such as Kew Gardens.

For me to go to Rangoon University campus would require Democracy to grow in Burma first.

That does not look likely in my lifetime.

Kyi may Kaung

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wearable Art at Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Clowns without Borders -- in Burma

URGENT APPEAL -- please write for freedom of Nyi Nyi Aung and Burmese political prisoners -- will be sentenced Friday

--- On Tue, 1/26/10, wawa maw wrote:

Subject: Fwd: BURMA: Activist due to be sentenced over alleged bombing plot
Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2010, 2:06 PM

Please find the AHRC's urgent appeal on Nyi Nyi's case.
Wa Wa
"Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem; it merely creates new and more complicated ones." Martin Luther King, Jr.

-----Original Message-----
From: AHRC Urgent Appeal
Sent: Tue, Jan 26, 2010 4:54 am
Subject: BURMA: Activist due to be sentenced over alleged bombing plot

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Urgent Appeal: AHRC-UAC-004-2010

26 January 2010
BURMA: Activist due to be sentenced over alleged bombing plot

ISSUES: Rule of law; military government; torture; freedom of expression


Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been closely following the case of democracy activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin, whom the military regime in Burma has accused of involvement in a bombing plot. Authorities at the airport arrested him in September 2009 and he has been tried for a number of offences but none have any connection to the plot and none have any validity. He has also allegedly been tortured and held in a dog pen. The verdict is expected tomorrow, 27 January.


As has been widely reported in the media, Kyaw Zaw Lwin (a.k.a. Nyi Nyi Aung), a former student activist from Burma who has settled in the United States, was arrested as he arrived at Rangoon airport on 3 September 2009 to visit his ailing, jailed mother.

Military intelligence and Special Branch police reportedly took Kyaw Zaw Lwin to one interrogation centre after the next and then finally to the central prison, where according to a relative who visited him, he has been kept in a dog pen. According to his US-based lawyer he was also assaulted and denied food and sleep during interrogation.

On 24 September the state media claimed that Kyaw Zaw Lwin was involved in a bombing plot–which in Burma is as good as announcing his conviction even before a trial has begun. Three charges were laid against him on three different dates: for allegedly lying to immigration personnel, for a foreign currency offence and for allegedly having a fake identity card. However none of them relate in any way to the contents of the media reports. Like other politically-motivated cases in recent times the case was heard in a closed court, from October 2009 to January 2010.

The AHRC has studied documentation on the case and has found that the charges against Kyaw Zaw Lwin are invalid for a number of reasons.

1. The charge concerning the identity card is invalid because--as the police officer prosecuting the case admitted in court—the detainee did not produce the card at the airport and the police do not have any other record of him using the card; without intent the charge cannot be made.

2. The charge concerning foreign exchange is invalid because Kyaw Zaw Lwin was taken away by military intelligence even before he could make any declaration to customs. The next day the intelligence personnel came to customs, took the forms and returned them as completed. This process is completely illegal.

3. The third charge is also invalid since it can only apply to residents of Burma, of which Kyaw Zaw Lwin is not one.

Notwithstanding these, the district court handling the case has proceeded with the trial, the outcome of which will have been determined by persons not sitting in the court. The court is expected to give the verdict and sentence of those persons on 27 January.


Kyaw Zaw Lwin fled Burma after the 1988 uprising and later settled in the United States, where he took citizenship. His mother, Daw San San Tint, is currently serving a five-year sentence in Meikhtila Prison, Mandalay, for allegedly having had contact with activist groups abroad. She is suffering from cancer.

His female cousins, Ma Thet Thet Aung and Ma Noe Noe are serving 65 and seven-year sentences each for alleged involvement in the September 2007 protests, as is Thet Thet Aung's husband, Ko Chit Ko Lin, again for seven years.

Despite his activist background and the imprisonment of his family members, Kyaw Zaw Lwin had reportedly been able to travel on his American passport to Burma a number of times since 2005. The state media reports alleged that it was during these trips that he met with activists and became involved in the alleged terrorist plot.


In recent years many activists have been accused in concocted terrorist plot cases, including U Myint Aye, the founder of local group Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (UAU-018-2009). Like Kyaw Zaw Lwin, Myint Aye was 'convicted' in the state media before he was ever tried in court.

Myint Aye and his two co-defendants also allege serious torture of the sort alleged in Kyaw Zaw Lwin's case. In addition to the accounts of torture documented in Urgent Appeals, the AHRC highlighted the prevalence of torture in Burma in a recent open letter (OLT-001-2010) and also in recent statements (STM-220-2009; STM-199-2009). For more information on the situation in Burma, see the 2009 AHRC report, reports in bi-monthly journal article 2 at (search for 'Burma') and the AHRC Burmese-language blog.


Please write to the persons listed below to call for the release of Kyaw Zaw Lwin. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma, and Rangoon, Yangon.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar, on human rights defenders, and on torture; to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and to the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.


Dear ___________,

Re: MYANMAR: Illegal detention, baseless charges and alleged torture of US citizen

Details of victim: Kyaw Zaw Lwin, a.k.a. Nyi Nyi Aung
Date and place of arrest: 3 September 2009, Yangon International Airport
Prosecuting officer: Police Captain Than Soe, Special Branch (opening case)
Charges and trial: Penal Code, section 420/468 (cheating and forgery); Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947, section 24(1); Residents of Burma Registration Rules, 1951, section 6(3); heard by Yangon Southern District Court, Felony Nos. 50, 54, 60/09, at a special court in Insein Central Prison

I am writing to express my concern over the arrest, imprisonment, trial and alleged torture in Myanmar of Kyaw Zaw Lwin, an American citizen.

According to information that I have received, Special Branch and military intelligence officers arrested Kyaw Zaw Lwin after he disembarked a flight from Bangkok on 3 September 2009. They took him to various interrogation centres and later to the Insein Central Prison. On 24 September the state media carried reports accusing him of involvement in a terrorist plot.

On 14 October hearings opened against him in Mingalardon Township Court in the first of the three cases, Judge U Than Lwin presiding, and on 30 October the case was transferred to the district court after the second case was opened, on the complaint of the airport customs investigation unit. The third case was only opened on 29 December on complaint from the Botahtaung Township office of national registration. None of the cases relate explicitly to the contents of the earlier news reports.

I am informed that the charges against the accused are invalid for the following reasons:

1. Under section 468 of the Penal Code, read with section 463, there must be intent to commit forgery for the purpose of cheating. However, Police Captain Than Soe admitted in court on 5 January 2010 that the accused at no time produced the supposedly forged card and nor do the police have any record of his having used a forged card or of any intent to use one, so there is no act or intent to act upon which to lay this charge.

2. The foreign exchange charge is baseless because personnel of Military Affairs Security (MAS) intercepted and took away Kyaw Zaw Lwin even before he had given any declaration forms to customs. The next day, 4 September, MAS personnel came to take forms from the concerned office and then returned them, completed, to airport customs. This completely illegal procedure was openly admitted in court by the fifth prosecution witness, U Khin Maung Cho, Assistant Director, Customs Department.

3. The charge under the rules for residents is also without any validity, as per section 33, because Kyaw Zaw Lwin is an American citizen and resident, and so these rules do not apply to him.

Furthermore, the case was heard inside a special closed court in the central jail, which I note is in violation of the Judiciary Act 2000, section 2(e), as there is no law that permits trials to be conducted in this manner in Myanmar.

In light of all the above failures of law I urge that irrespective of the outcome of the trial the concerned authorities take immediate and necessary steps to release Kyaw Zaw Lwin.

In addition to the above failures of the case against the accused, I am aware that his lawyer in the United States, Beth Schwanke, has previously notified the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture of the alleged torture of her client while in custody. According to her, he has been assaulted and denied food and sleep. He has also allegedly been held in dog pens; this is a form of incarceration that other former detainees have also at times reported in which the detainee is kept in a tiny space adjacent to dog pens. All these allegations of torture and degrading treatment are credible and consistent with those of other detainees.

In this respect I take this opportunity to remind the Government of Myanmar of the need to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to places of detention as a matter of the utmost urgency. I can see no reason as to why the government has failed to agree to the ICRC mission in accordance with the terms of its international mandate and has for the last few years refused it access. The only conclusion that can be drawn from looking at the case of Kyaw Zaw Win is that the authorities in Myanmar are intent upon using the sentences passed through courts as a means to pursue other forms of extraordinary cruel and inhuman treatment in prisons and other places of custody. The persistent refusal to accommodate the ICRC and allow it access to detainees like Kyaw Zaw Win is one of the reasons that Myanmar's international reputation remains among the worst in the world, and it will continue to be that way until the Government of Myanmar changes its position on this matter.

Yours sincerely,



1. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

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Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
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Burmese media inside Burma blocks Haiti coverage + Burmese Dr Myat Thu missing --

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Burmese votive tablets of 10th century -

"oueen chipe" must be a typo for Queen Saw.

Col. Ba Shin a well known historian wrote that there were 3 queens named Pwa Saw in the Bagan (formerly spelled Pagan) period, other than the famous Queen Saw of Maurice Collis's She was a Queen.

Gum disease in mother linked to stillborn child.

My father U Kaung's trip to Harvard University from Burma in 1952

Picasso of Sand -- Commentary on Kseniya Simonova's sand art by Kyi May Kaung

Very talented and would do very well in animated film.

Though very young, with sensibilities of an old person -- like the Haitian writer Edwidge Dantikat (Krik Krak etc.) who says she was "born old."

I have done a variation of this process, without an empirical referent (in this case here War), starting in Boulder CO with artist David Chamberlain, who generously shared his process in a workshop.

He teamed us up randomly,three at a time, then two by two.

Only two who were brothers (musicians Don and Dave Grusin -- Dave famous for music for On Golden Pond, Little Drummer Boy, Year of Condor etc.) knew each other and David Chamberlain previously.

They added me because, the day before, I heard the Conference on World Affairs secretary say "She's a poet," and they added a ballet dancer and an Aboriginal artist from Australia also.

The music played for us was jazz, but at home now I use operatic arias.

Chamberlain produces mono-prints (single unique prints, such as one's fingerprint or footprint).

Prints are made (like this light box) on plastic plates (like plate glass) on acrylic paints spread with a brayer (roller).

We also used brayers and our hands in gloves to make marks.

The master printer in the print shop then picked each plate up carefully and placed them face down on a printing press, covered the plate with blankets and pressed with a hand crank (or mechanical press) and put finished paper prints (on paper worth $2-3 per sheet)sheet by sheet to dry on a special rack.

I was teamed about 15 minutes each with Don, and a Thai artist Rungsak from Chiangmai University. There is no time to talk or discuss, and anyway the Thai artist did not have enough English and I have almost no Thai.

In three mornings spread over three Conferences over three years we made about 40 prints each morning, working non-stop 9-12 noon. We were on our feet throughout the workshop and after each print, had to scrub off the plates and clean the table.

It was a bit like cooking together and every family knows how potentially murderous that can be.

The Conference kept most of the prints, but we were allowed to bring home the ones we worked on ourselves.

The master printer got the first choice and he truly had an impeccable eye for art.

A great deal of trust is needed, because once one turns one's back, the art partner may erase it all in an instant.

I longed to use color, but Dave made us start with black and white (for artistic rigor!) and I could only sneak in a light strain of yellow ochre. I have this print now. It shows hills like those near the Pearl River in China.

Later the Conference expanded this 1997 version, where I also read poetry to music to --

1. poetry and music with dance


2. A thirteen writer/artist extravaganza with music, poetry/prose and painting in a light box which was projected on a screen.

The correct name is Abstract Expressionism or Action Art.

The true print process above is very expensive (need a full press and workshop) and so now I work directly on paper or canvas (therefore no reverse print) and use brayers or a splash/pour/print technique.

"Versos?" where Mary Cassat, for instance, laid a piece of paper on her finished painting to produce a reverse print -- now will sell for close to 1/2 a million I think -- depending on how well known the artist is.

But the monoprints I/we made are single edition -- I did go to a DuPont-related facility, Qoro, in Wilmington DE and made high quality digital scans (Qoros) of one. The founder/owner of Qoro used to work as a DuPont engineer.

At the scan facility, I saw a big scanner that could scan a human being and an art original by Andrew Wyeth's father of a pirate scene.

-- The other type is Sand Mandalas, made of colored sand on wood plastered with yak butter.

This is part of Tibet Buddhism. Madalas are made to honor the Buddha, beautiful scenes like The Sermon in the Deer Park, the very first sermon preached by the Buddha.

I saw Tibetan monk make this in Philadelphia at the University Museum. They used little cones to shake/scrape down colored sand. There may have been a tape of a monk chanting in the background, but I remember best the sound of the cones scraping against each other, like cicada's wings.

The monk may have been Lopsang Samten, who was later in film about Tibet, written by Harrisan Ford's then wife Melissa Ford, but I don't think it was.

The monks do not keep the mandalas at all. They scrape it all off completely and then go in a procession with the community and throw the sand in a river for the water creatures.

Mandalas are amazingly intricate.

Commentary copyright Kyi May Kaung.

Original post from Internet follows:

This video shows the winner of "Ukraine™s Got Talent", Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. Her talent, which admittedly is a strange one, is mesmeric to watch.

The images, projected onto a large screen, moved many in the audience to tears and she won the top prize of about $130,000.00

She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear and the happy scene is obliterated.

It is replaced by a woman's face crying, but then a baby arrives and the woman smiles again. Once again war returns and Miss Simonova throws the sand into chaos from which a young woman's face appears.

She quickly becomes an old widow, her face wrinkled and sad, before the image turns into a monument to an Unknown Soldier.

This outdoor scene becomes framed by a window as if the viewer is looking out on the monument from within a house.

In the final scene, a mother and child appear inside and a man standing outside, with his hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.

The Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Ukraine, resulted in one in four of the population being killed with eight to 11 million deaths out of a population of 42 million.

Kseniya Simonova says: (??? Editor)

"I find it difficult enough to create art using paper and pencils or paintbrushes, but using sand and fingers is beyond me. The art, especially when the war is used as the subject matter, even brings some audience members to tears. And there's surely no bigger compliment."

Please take time to see this amazing piece of art.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Recent article by John Badgley puts unreal positive spin on Burma "engagement" by Dr. Zarni

Beware of Spin-filled Burma Analyses Fwd: * THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AND MYANMAR (BURMA)
Monday, January 18, 2010 2:39 AM

Dear Friends,

I am sharing with you an analysis with a disturbingly positive spin.
Although I disagree strongly with the issues as framed and I find the
empirical evidence given is flimsy, I am posting so that people are
aware of spin-and policy-driven analyses that dot the world of Burma
watchers, who generally go on whirlwind tours in various spots and
gather oral evidence from Burmese elite who speak English and have
their own local elite-spin. The English-speaking Burmese elite is an inconsequential number in Burma, despite the impression that because it was a former colony many people
speak English - but how many is many?

{Copy editor’s note: I can only count less than 20, of which most are woefully out of date and isolated. You also have to take into account that few people will come forward to offer opinions under such a repressive and ignorant regime).

What is most interesting, nah, disturbing, about this brief analysis
is not what it says but what it chooses to OMIT.

The situation is dire for many parts of the country. The
analysis doesn't even consider worth mentioning that Burma's rulers
have just spent $600 million in their latest purchase of MiG-29s while the
agriculture-based economy has nearly collapsed.

Curiously, it talked about the regime consulting with economists as if ostentatious acts of
consultation had a direct correlation with policy improvement or detectable behavioural change on the part of the SPDC.

Senator Jim Webb's meeting with Than Shwe and ASSK was billed as
"a breakthrough". Webb is no longer a credible voice on Burma, and no
one in Washington looks to him for his intellectual or political
leadership, when it comes to Burma. The cowboy manner in which
he went to Burma on a rescue mission to bring back mentally deranged
Vietnam vet John Yettaw, or the Swimmer (across the lake to enter Suu
Kyi's compound) has made even die-hard unconditional regime
engagers uncomfortable.

A regime security official in Nay Pyi Taw who cares about the
well-being of the public wrote me saying that he agreed with my
characterization of General Than Shwe's Nay Pyi Taw or the new royal
capital as the 'graveyard for engagers'.

Washington is no longer enthusiastic or hopeful about the prospects of
engaging with the regime. I was in Washington before and after
Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell went
to Burma. I did meet the USG officials, whom I am sure are the same
officials whom the analysts of the essay also met with.

For the record, Washington's premature hype about the new engagement
is no longer there, after Dr. Campbell's trip. Washington simply
doesn't really care - Burma is NOT N. Korea or Iran. The Obama
Administration doesn't spend much time thinking or talking or doing
anything about Burma. That's just a plain fact.

(Editor’s note: Besides 2 wars which aren’t going well, the economic downturn and the health care reforms, the Obama administration is currently engaged in a big way in helping Haitian earthquake victims. Here too contrast the US response and acceptance of US aid in present-day Haiti with what happened in Burma with first the blocking, then the leakage of Cyclone Nargis aid in Burma in 2008).

Back to the dire economic situation in Burma, which the
positively-spinned "analysis" below does not deem worth-mentioning.
It is a stroke of public relations genius to discuss how generous the
Americans are ($75 million) and how quietly cooperative the regime is
on the humanitarian front. Yet the analyst chose NOT to mention what kind of economic conditions triggered this humanitarian tragedy.

(Editor’s note: Haiti and Burma both suffer from the legacy of dictators, who took out everything and put the cash in Swiss accounts – in the case of Burma, also in Dubai and Singapore).

In many parts of the Delta, people are being forced to skip even the
most basic rice-based meals. I am reminded of an African
mother who responded to the news that Bill Gates wanted to make
computers available (I am sure installed with Windows, not Linux
operating system) for every African child, by asking "can my kids eat
computers?" Intellectual goods are by nature of secondary importance
to those who scavenge for daily meals.

The number of people going hungry is growing simply because they can't afford
enough rice for their daily intake while the morally complacent urban,
educated elite pronounce the restoration of (colonial) Burma's status
as the world's top rice exporter.

Similarly, a lengthier and more elaborate foreign report contains toxic spins.

An FAO/UN report released in Nov 2009, framed the Nargis-hit Delta as
“entering the rehabilitative phase.”

A normally calm Burmese friend of mine who works in the Delta was
moved to write these few email lines to me this morning, upon reading
a UN agency report on the situation on the ground:

"The delta is NOT in a rehabilitation and early recovery phase. It is
mired in near-famine conditions. Well, nobody’s falling dead from
hunger yet, but we have a case of paddy farmers entreating us for
How on earth could an international agency state there is a clear lack
of reliance and reduced dependency on food assistance. Can they really
feel hunger and see things from the rural people’s perspective?"

Optimism as a source of positive energy is one thing. But a positive
spin completely devoid of a dose of unpleasant realities is another.
Most analyses (800 word-essays or 20,000 word-reports) fall under the
latter category - positive SPIN with blatant disregard for the
realities as lived by the Burmese people on the ground.

Furthermore, the brief essay below talks about elections and the youth
of Burma today are known among the Burmese political classes
as simply UN-INTERESTED in either the regime or the opposition -
politics in general, election or no election, revolution or no
revolution, unless they are watching trashy DVDs and participating in acts of mourning the death of Michael Jackson are to be interpreted as “progressive behavior”
which will somehow contribute to the country's desperately needed

The favourite motto among Burmese youth, especially those who
live in the ethnic minority states, which captures their collective
aspiration is “to cross over the mountain” - meaning going to China,
India, and Thailand in search of greener pastures.

As for the election, except for those who will run in it and/or benefit from endorsing it publicly, most people believe it will be rigged. According to first hand reports by Irrawaddy magazine etc, the election is NOT on the minds of any Burmese, youthful or nearly dead.

The author talked about minorities whose loyalty has been doubtful to
the great Union of Burma, and yet failed to mention that many
peripheral regions of Burma have never really been a part of
present day Burma. How could a central power consolidate its rule
over territories which, for all intents and purposes, it never really had under its administrative

The analyst simply repeats the 60-year old local Burmese
historiography puffed up with tin-pot local imperialistic aspirations
and views.

(Editor’s note: Evidently Badgley takes the view, like Robert Taylor in The State in Burma apparently does, that the larger and more powerful the central state, the better. This is not necessarily true. Many of the most sustainable and long-lived societies are highly democratic, with weak central administration, for example see Jared Diamond’s analysis in Collapse of some very small Pacific islands and of New Guinea. Balinese agriculture is also very democratic. The farmers work out the irrigation rotations on their terraced farms on their own by discussion).

Finally, the analysis takes the view that the Obama Administration
should go easy on the regime for its human rights violations -
massive and well-documented - while phrasing the invasion of Chinese
migrants, traders, etc. into Burma as something that should cause
alarm - not that one would look to Washington for defending human
rights, but the sentiment behind this exhortation makes my stomach

So much for educating the English-speaking world about Burma. So much for liberally
educated American minds!

Welcome to the Burma world of delusions, distortions and outright
lies. If this Burma world of both half-baked experts and
self-aggrandizing tyrants is not pathetic and pathological, I don't
know what is.



---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 2:31 AM

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dear Thirsters Worldwide:

A few weeks ago I asked Thirster from Cornell University JOHN BADGLEY,
political scientist, information systems specialist, and long-time
Burma scholar, to think about giving us a policy essay on Burma
(Myanmar), based on his most recent visit to that long-suffering
country. What, if any, are the glimmers of hope? How should American
policy be fashioned to magnify that hope?

John responded with the following important essay, just in today. He
was stimulated by a ThirsterGram, * IRAN’S ONGOING REVOLUTION II:
U.S. STRATEGY AND TACTICS, dated Sunday, January 3, 2010 (provided by
Thirster BILL BEEMAN), in which Columbia Prof. Gary Sick outlined ways
in which the US could conduct itself so as to maximize chances of
having a positive influence on that troubled nation. He sees the need
for a more or less similar approach in Myanmar.

John has lived in Burma for some years, visited it frequently, and
maintained a decades-long interest in the promotion of authentic
development there. Here, he comments on findings from his most recent
trip, from which he returned about two months ago.

Thanks, John!





Gary Sick does a great job of analyzing how the Obama administration
stays officially above the fray in Iran, yet keeps open the doors to
Congress as well as to the layers of Ahmadinejad’s opposition. I would
like to accomplish the same thing in this short essay, following our
exchange with Thirsters at our watering hole last month.

As we dig more deeply in U.S./Iran relations, some parallels with
U.S./Myanmar become inescapable. Long an outlier with his own reasons
for hostility to the U.S., Senior General Than Shwe has nonetheless
accepted avenues of contact with President Obama. Unlike Iran, the
Burmese regime has responded positively in several ways to
Washington's overtures. While keeping the door closed on past
priorities for the U.S.—release of political prisoners and demands of
the NLD opposition-- they have allowed numerous US supported
humanitarian INGOs to operate throughout the country. Throughout 2009
the governments collaborated unofficially but closely through the U.S.
military attaché’s office and AID to distribute $75 million worth of
assistance following Cyclone Nargis.

Under U.N. auspices and through private international aid groups,
American private and public humanitarian assistance has seeped into
every division of the country. Hundreds of American teachers have
flooded private schools in Yangon and Mandalay, breaching visa
barriers with some cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Under the radar is a favored expression on both sides as youth culture
changes dramatically through these outside influences, not only in
major cities but in distant towns and regional capitals as well. For
nearly a half-century Burma’s leaders aspired to maintain isolation,
but global influences are not to be denied. Upcoming elections this
year are a feature of that response, a fifth step in the regime’s
vaunted seven-step road map to “disciplined democracy”.

As neighbors Thailand and Bangladesh demonstrate, holding elections is
only a partial guarantee of liberty and freedom. Backsliding to
despotism comes easily throughout the region; thus the critical need
to keep avenues of influence open. Western societies are imbued with
high tech communications, reinforced by tens of thousands of tourists
visiting Myanmar from the West, Japan, Australia and Singapore who
leave a vital lingering influence via other avenues than
government-to-government relations. Barack Obama, having won his
election by taking command of networking in the digital revolution, is
playing the same card in both Iran and Myanmar. Youthful citizens in
both countries were equally fascinated by that election process. The
means and method were not lost on them.

In my recent trip I briefly toured several Irrawaddy Delta towns &
villages to visit libraries destroyed by the Cyclone Nargis and meet
local library boards. They are sustained by business families and the
monks they patronize. Theirs is a vital private sector, a feature of
community extant for many years yet overlooked by foreign analysts
focused on central government. International TV and radio news is part
of their lives, local magazines and news is no less important. Myanmar
now has several hundred serial publications dealing with news and
entertainment, compared to fewer than a dozen twenty years ago.
Children watch many of the same DVDs one finds pirated in Bangkok,
China and the rest of Asia. Michael Jackson’s death was no less
mourned by youth in the delta than it was in Yangon, Chiang Mai, Dacca
or Shanghai.

My point is that the hard sell, the poke in the eye, the tit-for-tat
nature of Burmese-American relations is dysfunctional in terms of
meeting hopes of society. I believe most U.S. officials experienced in
dealing with Myanmar understand this; increasingly staff members on
the Hill are coming around to accept that reality as well. This
session of Congress is experiencing fewer fruitless attacks on the
military junta than in past two decades; more House and Senate leaders
are permitting the Administration to grope through the current impasse
in search of better relations. Since Obama’s election I participated
in several meetings and had conversations in Washington D.C. with
officials confirming an altering relationship. From Secretaries
Clinton and Gates the marching orders are a bit furtive, but within
the U.S. Embassy is a mood unlike any I’ve experienced in decades.

Assistant Secretary of State for Far East, Kurt Campbell, his
assistant, Scot Maricel, and the Burma Desk officer, Laura Schiebe,
visited Nay Pyi Daw while I was in Yangon. They also met separately
with a seasoned group of Burmese economic leaders plus a group of
Americans directing humanitarian relief programs. In like manner,
several western scholars have been consulted this past year by senior
officials. Following Senator Jim Webb’s breakthrough meeting with the
Senior General and Aung San Suu Kyi in August, the two sides are
moving haltingly to some civility.

Reconciling sixty years of strife will not happen quickly.
Negotiations were pursued by Prime Minister U Nu in the ‘50s, by
General Ne Win in the ‘60s, and by Premier Khin Nyunt two decades ago.
He established armistices with 17 armed ethnic armies, most of which
remain in place. As part of the settlement these insurgents kept their
arms to maintain police functions in their areas. Khin Nyunt was
deposed and put under house arrest in 2004; since then groups in the
frontier regions have been uneasy about their future. The central
government is now pressing them to imbed army officers with their own
commanders, an order rejected violently by Kokang leaders last month
when thousands fled to Yunnan. Beijing warned against further
aggravations which could destabilize their own minorities in Yunnan
and elsewhere as they struggle to deal with Uighur and Tibetan issues.

The Obama Administration is prudent to quietly drop past policies
supporting militant opposition to Nay Pyi Daw while it consolidates
control over frontier regions of doubtful loyalty since Independence.
Human rights violations will happen and will likely continue; but the
continuing invasion of Chinese migrants, investors, and commerce is
surely not in the interest of Burmese society or the United States.
Reporting the violations and presenting them as one important issue
among others is appropriate, but hingeing U.S. policy solely on that
cause is self-defeating, in Myanmar as in other countries.



Reminder to Thirsters: We foregather at our Toping Table EVERY
Thursday of the year except holidays -- rain or shine, earthquake,
fire or flood -- anytime between 7 and 11 PM. Pop in when you wish,
leave when you wish. We meet at McMenamin's Tavern, 1716 N.W. 23rd
Ave at Savier St., opposite Besaw's Restaurant. There is never an
agenda, so no special "preparation" is needed or possible. Whenever
logistics permit and mood conduces -- which we hope will be often --
please feel free to join us at our Table. -- Bob

thirsters-total mailing list



Asian Human Rights Commission -- Police torture endemic in Burma

Quotes and Excerpts of the Day:

"Officers including Sub-inspectors Aung Thwin, Hsan Lin and Win Myint
Htun allegedly forced Than Htaik Aung to stand with toothpicks
inserted into his heels, to drink putrid drain water, and allegedly
also came into his cell and urinated. Officers including Police
Captain Zaw Lwin and Sub-inspectors Thet Wei, Kyaw Myo Hlaing and Kyaw
Htoo Naing allegedly forced U Nandawuntha, a monk, to stand throughout
two days of interrogation and then forced him to kneel on sharp gravel
while an officer jumped up and down on his calves. If he didn’t give
him the answers that they wanted then they hit him on the head with a
wooden rod."

"The systemic consequences of these and other similar rulings are
twofold: first, courts at all levels in Myanmar routinely accept as
evidence confessions that have been obtained through the use of
torture; and second, anecdotally the use of torture is now more
widespread than at any time in recent decades. The AHRC has over the
last couple of years received many reports of the use of torture,
including extreme forms of torture normally associated with
politically driven inquiries, in ordinary criminal cases. The making
of payments to police officers to have them not torture detainees is
also reportedly commonplace,"

"Once deeply embedded in a system of policing torture is, as you know,
extremely difficult to remove. Whatever happens in Myanmar in coming
years the use of torture will remain endemic."

Myanmar: Open Letter to the UN on Torture
Tuesday, 19 January 2010, 10:03 am
Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

An Open Letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture by the Asian
Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Professor Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment
CH-1211 Geneva 10

Dear Prof. Nowak

MYANMAR: Extensive use of torture by police in recent cases

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has followed with concern
reports of the most recent criminal cases targeting persons deemed
threats to the state in Myanmar, and in particular the alleged use of
grave forms of torture to extract confessions from them.

Among these is the case of Dr. Wint Thu and eight others accused over
their involvement in a prayer campaign for the release of political
prisoners, and of having had contact with groups abroad that the state
has designated unlawful, whom it is alleged that from September to
their trials in December the Special Branch held incommunicado and

Officers including Sub-inspectors Aung Thwin, Hsan Lin and Win Myint
Htun allegedly forced Than Htaik Aung to stand with toothpicks
inserted into his heels, to drink putrid drain water, and allegedly
also came into his cell and urinated. Officers including Police
Captain Zaw Lwin and Sub-inspectors Thet Wei, Kyaw Myo Hlaing and Kyaw
Htoo Naing allegedly forced U Nandawuntha, a monk, to stand throughout
two days of interrogation and then forced him to kneel on sharp gravel
while an officer jumped up and down on his calves. If he didn’t give
him the answers that they wanted then they hit him on the head with a
wooden rod. Dr. Wint Thu and Ko Myo Han were also both allegedly
forced to stand throughout interrogations of two and four nights

Four officers at the Aungthapyay interrogation facility in Yangon
Division, including Sub-inspectors Win Myint and Soe Aung allegedly
dripped candle wax onto the genitalia of co-accused Wei Hypoe,
splashed him with boiling water and tied him to metal bars then
assaulted him with bamboo rods. They also applied a stinging substance
to his open wounds.

In a related case Special Branch officers Sub-inspector Thet Wei and
Kyaw Htoo Naing alleged injected a detainee from Nyaung-U by the name
of Ko Zaw Zaw with an unknown substance during interrogation.

All of the victims of alleged torture were sentenced to long jail
terms in December, at a closed court inside a prison. Their
convictions were reportedly based upon the confessions that the police
obtained through the use of torture.

Although the Evidence Act and other parts of law prohibit the use of
confessions obtained during police interrogation, the current Supreme
Court of Myanmar has enabled their use and has thereby encouraged the
practice of torture by virtue of a number of orders, including two
rulings from 1991. In the first of these, the U Ye Naung case, the
court overturned all previous precedent and effectively also the
Evidence Act itself by allowing for evidence obtained during a
Military Intelligence interrogation to be admitted to trial where the
accused could not prove that it had been obtained through duress.
Similarly, in the second, the Maung Maung Kyi case, the court placed
the burden of proof onto the accused to show that he had not been
tortured and threatened into making a confession.

The systemic consequences of these and other similar rulings are
twofold: first, courts at all levels in Myanmar routinely accept as
evidence confessions that have been obtained through the use of
torture; and second, anecdotally the use of torture is now more
widespread than at any time in recent decades. The AHRC has over the
last couple of years received many reports of the use of torture,
including extreme forms of torture normally associated with
politically driven inquiries, in ordinary criminal cases. The making
of payments to police officers to have them not torture detainees is
also reportedly commonplace, although the making of such payments does
not apply in cases like that of Dr. Wint Thu where the families of
victims are not even able to locate the whereabouts of their loved
ones, much less do anything to stop their suffering through the
payment of money or by other means.

Once deeply embedded in a system of policing torture is, as you know,
extremely difficult to remove. Whatever happens in Myanmar in coming
years the use of torture will remain endemic. Clearly, it is not
something that will be addressed through some modest international
interventions or expressions of concern. Notwithstanding, the Asian
Human Rights Commission takes this opportunity to urge you to take up
the incidence of torture in Myanmar with the Special Rapporteur
assigned to monitor the situation of human rights in that country and
together with him to communicate your concerns with a view to
impressing upon the members of the senior judiciary at the very least
that until they reverse the earlier rulings that have enabled the
sorts of practices described in this letter and instead issue orders
to prohibit unequivocally the use of torture by police then they
should be considered complicit in this abuse and should be subject to
international scrutiny and censure in same measure a s the torturers
Yours sincerely

Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

David Cope -- Two sequences for mother and father -

Interview of Jim Cohn

Hopper in Thailand --

Story from "The Corkscrew"

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Spoof (Satire) re-posting. Presdt. Obama visits Burma during Cyclone Nargis

2010 poem( for Nyi Nyi Aung and Wa Wa Kyaw) by Kyi May Kaung

"Don't rely on UN" poster, from Internet.

2010 poem
(for Nyi Nyi Aung and Wa Wa Kyaw.)

So we are even
in the first year of the first decade of the new millennium
already, and what has changed, since
I watched TV New Year 2000, with my friend from Brazil and her three
mad aunts – one a ballerina and the sad widow, of an opera singer – about midnight
she started, not actually dancing but striking, dance poses. Her face sad as a funeral. Watching Peter Jennings
walking, talking and broadcasting, from behind, the curved plate glass windows on Times Square
Paula said “Look at that!”

I think she meant, “How powerful! The most powerful nation on earth.”
But since then 9/11, Jennings dead of cancer, a three trillion $ war etc.
For us Burmese and Burmese-Americans, even worse.

January 4, tomorrow, the 62nd anniversary of Burma’s independence from Great Britain
only a few years after I was born. Almost my whole life already and what have we achieved?
A civil war still on-going. Some of the worst human rights abuses in human history.
Since the junta’s 1962 coup, a continuous, descent into
a trash heap hell of the junta’s own making. At least a million internally displaced persons and
orphans tramping around inside Burma,
a chain of refugee camps like sad pearls, produced when oysters die,
along the Thai-Burma border.

Wa Wa (“Goldie”) and Nyi Nyi (Younger Brother)
before mid-September last year, I didn’t know you
I barely remembered Nyi Nyi, though I did when I saw his photo.
So many demonstrations for democracy
in front of so many buildings, in Washington DC and New York.
I felt I had to help you, in the beginning there was only one other woman helping you,
before Jonathan Hulland wrote of Nyi Nyi’s Sept. 3 arrest at Rangoon airport, in the Huffington
Post. Since then, NPR and AP wrote about you. Then Nyi Nyi’s hunger strike, very worrying,
and after he broke his hunger strike, instead of giving him medical attention, they put him in a
dog cell with trained German Shepherds sit khway (army dogs) barking at him night and day.
At least now he’s back in a “normal cell.”
I’m glad Wash Post, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Malaysia Times and Straits Times now all write about you, but sad to know, you are still in prison and
still have to go through a sham trial, against trumped up charges, just like
Aung San Suu Kyi did. Senator Webb went in to “rescue Yettaw” the Mormon man who swam to Suu Kyi’s house. But so far only statements. Sen. Webb has not yet flown to Burma, on another mission, prompting questions, “Is it because of Nyi Nyi’s skin color? Is it because he’s a hyphenated American?”
Nyi Nyi and Wa Wa, for you and the over 2100 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo, Su Su Nway, Min Ko Naing, Zarganar, Ko Ko Gyi, Mi Mi etc.
We wish for you, Freedom and a Happy Reunion, with your loved ones.
Sen. Webb and Kurt Campbell, please go to Burma and help Nyi Nyi and the others.
Presdt. Obama -- I, a naturalized citizen and I hope not a neutralized one,
voted for you. I’m not too keen about your new health care plan. Not happy it takes from Medicare, and mandates health insurance for us
we may not be able to afford.

Please review the review of your Burma-U.S. policy.

It’s not all up to you of course
but please move us closer to the Change we believe in.

Copyright Kyi May Kaung
Jan 3, 2010

Kyi May Kaung's comment on Ko Aung Zaw's Letter from Kathmandu

Shadowy dictator in Naypyidaw (King's Royal City) from Internet

My comment left on Irrawaddy site 1-7-2010.

This is a beautifully written piece, poetic in its sadness.

And you have not even touched on the mass murder that took place in the Nepalese royal family some years ago.

The sight of all the white-draped royal corpses the next day is also a poetic metaphor that says it all, just like the pariah dogs.

If you think of it, why should Burma and Nepal, so small geographically, be "ungovernable?"

Why then is the USA "governable" when Burma is always said to be only the area of Texas?

This has been the intellectual puzzle of my adult life, which I have tried to answer with my own theory about run down systems as explicated in my doctoral thesis.

Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Burmese junta pushes election 20 years after ignoring NLD win.

Woman reporter in Burma given a 20 year prison sentence

Monks demonstrating in Burma in 2007.

For interviewing monks.

Medical horror story from Burma

Burmese army ready to kill civilians -- from Internet

Remove 11 teeth from someone with renal failure!

Kyi May Kaung's comment on Dr. Zarni's "Chasing Change in Burma"

Re-enactment of "Burmese Kingdom" in Mandalay -- from Internet

I agree with what Zarni says and I am not a mono-theist!



They don't understand that in an equation there can be several independent (causal) variables & one dependent variable (Burma). (One English prof. talking about air crashes, did not understand difference between causality and correlation, & wrote same things that happened on date of crash must have caused it. Ridiculous.
2. Sanctions-engagement is a continuum, not on-off like a light switch(binary, zero-one ). See my BBC Hardtalk interview.
I explained it all in my Burmese paradigms and models article in Asian Survey in 90s.
Mono-cause leads to mono-theism "have one hammer and hit everything with it."
Non-profits ruled by catch phrases & key words.
My own mantra of "system change" is NOT mono-theistic, because system change involves many things, from the political institutions, to market prices, to floating exchange rates, to micro- and macro-economics.
Junta thinks "disciplined democracy & 2010 elections." It's PR, no real change intended.

Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)
Left on Irrawaddy site 1-5-2010

Kyi May Kaung's Sept 09 art exhibit -- Identity: Mostly Burmese Monks featured on Kefa Cafe video

Squiggly scripts -- comment left on a travel blog.

Burmese reading -- from Internet

At least Burmese is a Tibeto-Burman language. It has no relation to Chinese (Mandarin or other Chinese languages like Cantonese) though of course there may be some loan words. That's why it looks entirely different and is written left to right, not top down.

Burmese and Tibetan have the same sounds for the alphabets and the same number of alphabets.

Thai has 5 tones and Burmese has 3 tones.

As a Burmese, I cannot read Thai script or understand it it all, the Shan (or Tai) in Burma can.

I never heard or read anywhere that the Thai "came from China."

Also you can't compare the Indian/Hindu influence of centuries ago with the Chinese influence now.

I envy you your means to travel as a family for 8 months. That means you have an open mind and are open to other cultures.

However, your blog contains some inaccuracies and sweeping statements which are unsubstantiated.

I hope this comment inspires you to find out more.

I think the ancient Cambodia script as I see it on inscriptions in Angkor are more Sanskrit-related than Pali-related. Sanskrit is older than Pali.

The historic Buddha spoke a regional Indian language called Magadha. The same way that Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Latin.

Maghada may not have had a written form, I am not sure.

The Buddhist scriptures were written down only about 100 years after his death.

The scripts you were looking at were Pali and Thai written in modern Thai script.

In Burma we also have both Pali (like Latin) and Burmese written in Burmese script. That does not mean Thai and Burmese are the same as Pali. For instance I can write a Burmese sentence nay kaun lar? in English.

Pali, like Latin is for Christianity, is the language of the Buddhist scriptures.

Pali and Sanskrit are no longer in daily use as living languages.

Old Burmese and old Thai are different from modern forms of the languages.

This is about all I know, for more info. you need to consult a linguist or do more research.

Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D) -- my doctorate is in political economy.

Burmese pessimistic about 2010 election -- so-called.

Burmese pessimistic about 2010

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Kyi May Kaung's short story The Lovers -- re-posting -- from Wild River Review

I think it does capture the raw atmosphere of W.Phila. and the desperation of refugees well.

The editor's son found the very appropriate photo from his collection.


Burl Ives-Ave Maria