Nov 27, 2009

Irrawaddy: INGO work in Burma could stop during election period – Wai Moe

International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) operating in Burma are likely to suspend their activities next May, according to NGO sources in Burma.

Although no official announcement has yet been made by the regime, some government officials warned that INGO work could be suspended from May until October because of the 2010 election, said INGO sources.

“We have heard from government officials that possibly because of the election, INGOs in the country will temporarily close project activities in the country,” said an INGO staffer in Rangoon, requesting anonymity. “No written order has yet been made by government ministries, however.”

A veteran lawyer in Rangoon, Kyi Wynn, said a non-Burmese friend working for an INGO told him he had been informed by a government official that INGO activities would be halted during the election period.

Oct 17, 2009

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi positive about sanctions meetings: lawyer

Yangon – Myanmar’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said her recent meetings about sanctions with diplomats and a junta minister were positive, her lawyer told AFP Friday.

She held a rare meeting last Friday with top Western diplomats to discuss sanctions imposed on the military-ruled nation, having earlier in the week met twice with Aung Kyi, the official liaison between herself and the junta.

The pair had not met since January 2008.

The meetings followed a letter she wrote to junta chief Than Shwe, which offered suggestions on getting sanctions lifted, marking an easing of her stance after years of advocating punitive measures against the ruling generals.

“Daw Suu sees the meetings as positive and also she expects the meeting process to be effective,” her lawyer Nyan Win said, after meeting with the opposition leader for an hour on Friday. “Daw” is a term of respect in Myanmar.

The Nobel Peace Laureate wants to meet with diplomats again to get more facts and figures about sanctions, Nyan Win said, adding that they would not be releasing any more details of the talks for the moment.

On October 2, Suu Kyi’s appeal against her extended house arrest was rejected by judges, who upheld her August conviction over an incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside house.

The guilty verdict for the frail 64-year-old, who has spent around 14 of the past 20 years in detention, earned her an extra 18 months’ house arrest and provoked international outrage.

Nyan Win said they would now prepare a revision of the appeal to submit to the Supreme Court, which they also discussed with Suu Kyi Friday.

The junta refused to let Suu Kyi take power after the country’s last elections in 1990, which her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, leading Western countries to impose sanctions.

Her extended house arrest keeps her off the scene for elections promised by the regime next year, adding to criticism that the polls are a sham designed to legitimise the military regime’s grip on power.

The US recently unveiled a major policy shift to re-engage the junta but warned against lifting sanctions until progress is made towards democracy.

Myanmar opposition leader to appeal sentence at Supreme Court

Yangon – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday agreed to allow defence lawyers to appeal to the Supreme Court against her recent sentence to 18 months under house detention.

“We will appeal the case up to the Supreme Court level and are preparing the appeal now,” said Nyan Win, one of four attorneys in Suu Kyi’s defence team.

Nyan Win met with Suu Kyi Friday afternoon at her house-cum-prison in Yangon, where she had spent 14 of the past 20 years under detention.

On October 2, the Yangon Division Court rejected Suu Kyi’s appeal against a lower court’s verdict on August 11 that found her guilty of violating the terms of her previous imprisonment by allowing US national John Yettaw to swim to her house of detention, a family compound that sits on Inya Lake.

Originally the Insein Prison Court sentenced Suu Kyi to three years in jail, but the term was commuted to 18 months under house detention by Myanmar’s junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe.

The detention term is sufficient to keep Suu Kyi, who heads the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party, out of the picture while the junta stages a general election some time next year.

The election is expected to be neither free nor fair.

The NLD won the last election of 1990 buy a landslide, but was blocked from assuming power by the military which has ruled Myanmar since 1962.

Oct 14, 2009

Agence France Presse: Suu Kyi back in Myanmar’s political arena

Bangkok — Although still under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi has returned to an active political role by initiating dialogue with both Myanmar’s junta and Western nations, analysts say.

In the space of seven days, after a Yangon court rejected the pro-democracy leader’s appeal against her recently extended house arrest, her status appeared to shift rapidly from political prisoner to potential key negotiator.

“She is politically active and significant. She still has a role in Burma,” said Win Min, an activist and scholar in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, using Myanmar’s former name.

Events over the past week in the military-ruled nation have moved at a dizzying pace when compared with the stagnation of recent months.

Suu Kyi, detained for around 14 of the past 20 years, had two meetings with Aung Kyi, the labour minister and official liaison between her and the junta, the first such talks since January 2008.

The frail 64-year-old was subsequently granted permission by the ruling generals to discuss Western sanctions imposed on Myanmar with top United States, British and Australian diplomats in Yangon on Friday.

“She was very very engaged in the subject, very interested in going into detail on what she wanted to talk about and she seemed as ever very eloquent,” said British ambassador Andrew Heyn in an interview with BBC.

Suu Kyi wrote a letter to Senior General Than Shwe at the end of September offering her co-operation in getting Western sanctions lifted, after years of favouring harsh measures against the generals.

Contrary to expectations, the junta chief seems to have accepted her proposal — at least for the time being.

“She would like to see herself as a pivotal point in the relations between the junta and the US. They might be prepared to allow this to some extent,” said former British ambassador Derek Tonkin.

The military regime has promised elections for 2010, the first in Myanmar since 1990, when Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide but was never allowed to take power.

With the opposition leader set to remain out of the way next year thanks to the recent 18-month extension to her house arrest, many observers believe the polls are a sham that will only strengthen the junta’s power.

The reclusive regime chief, according to some analysts, is likely to try to use his opponent — whom he loathes — to restore his image for the elections.

“Than Shwe is the only one who took all these decisions,” said the activist Win Min, referring to the rejection of Suu Kyi’s appeal and her various subsequent meetings in recent days.

“He decided not to release her but to give her a little bit of freedom so that he could appear somehow as someone flexible,” he added.

But Suu Kyi’s lawyer Nyan Win was confident she could play an increasingly important part in developments over the coming months, especially following Washington’s recent decision to re-engage the junta.

“We assume that her meeting with diplomats to lift sanctions is the start of her political role because sanctions themselves are a matter of politics,” Nyan Win told AFP.

“Aung San Suu Kyi always has the right to participate in politics. It is not a concern whether or not she’s under house arrest,” he added.

Yet scepticism remains that the iron-fisted regime could repeat past behaviour and offer goodwill gestures before violently closing all doors to dialogue again.

One fundamental sign of progress would be a meeting between Suu Kyi and Than Shwe himself, as the pair have not met for years. Nyan Win raised the possibility of such talks on Friday.

But “The Lady”, as she is widely known in Myanmar, would have to consult with other NLD members first and also see minister Aung Kyi again before a meeting with the junta leader would be possible, former ambassador Tonkin suggested.

He acknowledged however that the two sides were at least finally communicating.

“We don’t know where this conversation is going to go. But it is taking place. It’s the best game in town at the present time and we need to see where it goes,” he said.”>

President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste: Statement in support of a global arms embargo on Burma – Jose Ramos-Horta

Earlier this month, Burma’s military regime provided a further example of its extraordinary inhumanity and intransigence, with its decision to reject the appeal by my fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi against the verdict last month which imposed a further term of eighteen months under house arrest. I deplore this decision, and call for her immediate and unconditional release.

The events of the past two years in Burma have shocked the world. The military regime’s brutal suppression of the peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007, followed by the assassination of Karen leader Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, the tragedy of Cyclone Nargis, the sham constitutional referendum, the escalation in the military offensive against civilians in eastern Burma, the famine in Chin State, attacks on ethnic groups on the China-Burma border and the trial and continued imprisonment of my fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are all examples of the desperate political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burma today.

Sep 25, 2009

Filipino Workers to commemorate 2nd Anniversary of Saffron Revolution

About 50 members of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilimpino (BMP), an active member of the Free Burma Coalition - Philippines (FBC-Phils) will hold a silent protest action tomorrow infront of the SPDC-Myanmar Embassy in Makati City in commemoration of the historic Saffron Revolution in Burma.

The group will light candles and will offer flowers for the "martyrs" of Saffron Revolution.

It will be remembered that thousands of monks, youth and students and other activists flooded the streets of Burma in 2007 to protest the aggravating economic and political conditions in Burma triggered by then series of fuel price increases in the said territory.

Jul 5, 2009

Myanmar leader promises clean election?

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said Saturday that Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe has promised him the Southeast Asian country will hold a fair and inclusive general election in 2010.

Ban was speaking at a press briefing late Saturday during his stopover at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the Thai capital of Bangkok after concluding a two-day official visit to Myanmar.

During his stay in Myanmar's new capital of Nay Pyi Taw, Ban had two meetings with Than Shwe, who is chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, on Friday and Saturday.

Ban said the meetings covered a broad range of issues including Myanmar's forthcoming general election in 2010 and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

Ban said Than Shwe told him that Myanmar would continue to follow its seven-step roadmap, released in August 2003, to national reconciliation and democracy.

Than Shwe promised that Myanmar's government would promulgate in time the Election Law, which is being drawn, to fairly enable organization of political parties to participate in the election and make the election inclusive, the UN chief said.

Ban said it was a difficult job for him to convince the Myanmar government to release Aung San Suu Kyi.

Jul 1, 2009

UN chief urges Myanmar to release Suu Kyi

UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Myanmar on Tuesday to free all political prisoners, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, days ahead of a visit to the military-ruled country.

Ban is due to arrive in Myanmar on Friday for rare talks with the military junta, but Aung San Suu Kyi’s party says he must also meet her if he hopes to make real progress toward democratic reforms.

“They should release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Ban, who was in Japan en route to Myanmar where the Nobel Peace laureate has been detained for 13 of the past 19 years.

“They (the junta) should immediately resume dialogue between the government and opposition leaders,” he added after talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.

His diplomatically risky two-day trip starts on the day a Myanmar court is due to resume its trial of the 64-year-old on charges of violating her house arrest after an American man swam to her lakeside home.

“We welcome Mr Ban Ki-moon’s visit,” Nyan Win, the spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and a member of her legal team, told AFP.

He said the visit would focus on three issues: “to release all political prisoners, to start dialogue, and also to ensure free and fair elections in 2010.

“Regarding these three things, he needs to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi.”

A UN statement said Ban looked forward to meeting “all key stakeholders,” but did not specify whether he would meet the woman he described in May as an “indispensable patron for reconsidering the dialogue in Myanmar.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is currently being held at Insein prison in Yangon where her internationally condemned trial is taking place alongside that of American John Yettaw. She faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

Her NLD won a landslide victory in Myanmar’s last election in 1990, but it was never recognised by the military and she has spent most of the intervening years in detention.

Ban decided to go ahead with his mission after being briefed Sunday by his special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, who paid a short preparatory visit to the country last week.

Gambari met twice with Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win in the generals’ remote administrative capital Naypyidaw before holding talks with Singapore’s ambassador and UN staff in Yangon, but did not meet with Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN statement said Ban would highlight a resumption of dialogue between the government and opposition as a necessary part of reconciliation.

He would also focus on “the need to create conditions conducive to credible elections,” as well as on the release of political prisoners, it added.

The junta has vowed to hold elections in 2010, but critics say they are a sham designed to entrench its hold on power and that Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial is intended to keep her behind bars during the polls.

Diplomats at the United Nations said Ban had faced a dilemma in responding to the invitation from Myanmar’s rulers.

Refusing to visit would be seen as not fulfilling his role as UN secretary general, but to accept and return empty-handed would be seen as a slap in the face, said a diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Other diplomats said Ban faced conflicting pressures.

Veto-wielding China, a traditional ally of Myanmar, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, were pushing Ban to go without setting conditions, they said.

But Western nations were pressing him to secure at least some concessions from the military regime.

Ban’s last Myanmar trip was in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in May last year, when he visited devastated regions and pressured the junta into allowing foreign aid workers into the hardest-hit areas.

He was the first UN chief in 44 years to visit Myanmar but was effectively barred from bringing up issues of political reform.

Jun 22, 2009

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's 64th Birthday, Activists' Verdict: NOT GUILTY!

On June 19, 2009 at Makati City, Republic of the PHILIPPINES about one hundred activists and supporters of the Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBC-Phils) trooped to the SPDC Myanmar Embassy to celebrate the 64th birthday of Burma’s democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and to demand for her immediate and unconditional release from illegal detention.

Chanting the slogan, “Aung San Suu Kyi, Not Guilty!” the rallyists from the trade union, urban poor, youth/student, human rights workers and informal workers’ sectors brought with them floral arrangements bearing the words “NOT GUILTY” and a birthday cake with two candles formed in number 64. The activity is held as part of the simultaneous global actions celebrating Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday.
“We know that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is Not guilty of any of the charges trumped up by the military junta to silence her and Burma’s cry for genuine freedoms and democracy,” said an old lady holding a photo of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “She must be freed together with other political prisoners,” she continued in local language.

The demonstrators lighted the cake candles and serenaded Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with songs of freedom for her birthday. The demonstrators dispersed peacefully after the one hour program. About 20 local and foreign media agencies covered the activity.

FBC-Philippines thanks all the organizations and individuals who participated in the solidarity action – Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC), Alliance of Prograssive Labor (APL), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP-Solidarity of Philippine Workers), Partido ng Manngagawa (PM-Labor Party Philippines), Task Force Detainees Philippines (TFDP), Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Tagalungsod (KPML-Urban Poor Assembly), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), SANLAKAS, Teatro Pabrika (Wokers’ Theatre), independent young bloggers.

Joining the international celebration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's 64th birthday, more than a hundred solidarity activists under the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines and Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) today held a rally in front of the Burma embassy in Makati City and further denounced the recent detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by Burma's military regime.

In Rangoon, National League for Democracy (NLD) members were making preparations at party headquarters for a similar celebration to those in previous years, including giving breakfast to Buddhist monks.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has already spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest, and is currently undergoing a trial for allegedly breaching her term of house arrest after an American war veteran swam to her house and refused to leave. If found guilty, her jail terms would be extended to another five years.

Protesters brought a huge cake and red roses shaped in a slogan N-O-T G-U-I-L-T-Y symbolizing the groups’ opposition to the current trial of the world's only imprisoned Nobel laureate.

Egoy Bans, FBC-Phils spokesperson said, “Calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate and unconditional release would be the best gift that we could offer on her birthday. Her current trial is an outright insult to justice and a counter-productive move that will not contribute any significant political progress in Burma.”

The FBC-Phils spokesperson quickly added, “How could we trust a trial where the junta is acting as witness, prosecutor, and judge all at the same time? The junta has a world of its own and would like to rule Burma using just the edicts of the barbaric era.”

“Teatro Pabrika” a cultural group of trade union activists also staged a “harana” (serenade) for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi singing songs of freedom.

“Aung San Suu Kyi is still widely recognized as the crucial and unifying factor to realize genuine democracy and fair governance in Burma. There is no way Burma can achieve genuine national unity if the junta generals continue to persecute those who oppose them," Bans explained.

Moreover, FBC-Phils called on the ASEAN and United Nations to immediately craft concrete steps to help the other 2,100 political prisoners languishing in Burmese jails today.

A global petition was delivered on Monday by Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now campaigners to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, signed by more than 670,000 people from 220 countries including the Philippines, calling for the release of all Burma’s political prisoners, especially Aung San Suu Kyi.

Bans stressed, “Aung San Suu Kyi and the rest of Burma’s political prisoners need more than “statements of support.” The ASEAN and UN should find an avenue where they could translate the world’s outrage to concrete political action for change to happen in Burma.”

Bans concluded, “Burma and its peoples need help. The Burmese regime is blinded with so much power making the junta generals incapable of seeing the actual suffering of their own people. Now, it is everybody's duty to act.”

Jun 17, 2009

Thai Prime Minister:Suu Kyi’s detention affects Asean’s credibility

If the junta fails to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (Asean) credibility will be “affected inevitably,” Thai Prime Minster Abhisit Vejajjiva told The Far Eastern Economic Review recently.

During the Far Eastern Economic View’s interview published on Tuesday, 16 June, Abhisit, who is now chairman of Asean, said Burma’s political process will have to be inclusive to gain the acceptability and respectability of the international community.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, center, is surrounded by security guards. (Photo: AP)

However, the Thai PM said the Burma issue is the responsibility of the international community and not just Asean.

“I think it would be unfair to single out Asean and I think the whole international community puts in an effort and if its not succeeding, why single out Asean?” he said.

“On the contrary, we think that Asean has helped to facilitate possible channels and processes by which the situation there can be resolved and we’ll continue to do that,” he said, adding that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would also play a role in the issue.

Commenting on Burma’s membership with Asean, Abhisit said Asean did not want to isolate or alienate the Burmese military further.

“I doubt that that would make the situation better now,” Abhisit said, stating that it would be wrong to say it was the fault of Asean that things were not going as well as people would like.

“We accept our responsibility and we’re doing what we can,” he said.

Answering a question about how confident Asean’s was of Suu Kyi’s release, Abhisit said: “It’s difficult to say. It’s difficult for anybody to say with certainty.”

Abhisit said that what Asean is looking at more is the direction that Than Shwe and the leadership of Burma will take, which clearly begins with how the trial plays out.

“So we’ll watch that,” Abhisit said.

Jun 6, 2009

Suu Kyi’s trial delayed a week

The trial of Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for allegedly violating conditions of her house arrest was delayed for a week over efforts to reinstate three defense witnesses, one of her lawyers said Friday.

Suu Kyi’s trial was adjourned until June 12 while a higher court hears a request by her attorneys to reinstate the defense witnesses who were earlier barred from testifying at her trial, lawyer Nyan Win said. The decision on those witnesses was expected later Friday.

The lower District Court earlier disqualified all but one defense witness—legal expert Kyi Win. Those rejected were all members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

They include prominent journalist and former political prisoner Win Tin, the party’s vice chairman Tin Oo, currently under house arrest, and lawyer Khin Moe Moe.

“The next session will be coming (next) Friday, but there won’t be final arguments that day,” Nyan Win said.

Suu Kyi was detained last month after American John W. Yettaw swam to her lakeside home without her consent and stayed for two days. Yettaw, a part-time contractor from Falcon, Missouri, claims he had a dream that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and he went to warn her.

Suu Kyi has pleaded not guilty. Her defense team acknowledges that the 53-year-old Yettaw swam to her lakeside home, but they argue it was the duty of government guards outside her closely watched house to prevent intruders.

Both Yettaw and the Nobel Peace laureate could face up to five years in jail.

The trial has drawn condemnation from the international community and Suu Kyi’s local supporters, who worry the junta has found an excuse to keep her detained through elections planned for next year.

Suu Kyi, 63, has already been held in detention for 13 of the past 19 years, including the past six.

Jun 1, 2009

A Candlelight Vigil for the Release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and All Political Prisoners in Burma

In Unity for Her Liberty

(A Candlelight Vigil for the Release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

and All Political Prisoners in Burma)

Participating organizations: The Free Burma Coalition - Philippines (FBC-Phils), Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), AKBAYAN Citizen's Action Party - Women Youth, Bagong Kamalayan Collective (New Awareness - women survivors of sexual violence), Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP), and Partido ng Manggagawa - Women (Workers' Party - women's wing)

Donning fresh yellow flowers in their hair, the women will stage a candlelight vigil at the front steps of the EDSA Shrine as a symbol of solidarity to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They will bring photos of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with slogans demanding for her immediate release.

The activity is part of the solidarity among peoples of southeast Asia dubbed as
"In Unity for Her liberty" holding simulatneous activities in Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize (1991) laureate who has been placed under house arrest for nearly two decades. The house arrest was set to expire at the end of this month but recent new charges against her seem designed to deliberately prolong her detention.


She is being tried on charges that she violated the terms of her current six-year house arrest after an American man swam across a lake in central Rangoon and spent a night at the waterfront villa where Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest. If found guilty she will spend another 5 years in detention.

The number of political prisoners in Burma has now reached 2,100 according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB) but the military regime of has just ignored all international demands for the unconditional and immediate release of prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Join us and let our voices be heard!


May 24, 2009

8,888 Petitioners From the Philippines Calling for the Release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and All Political Prisoners in Burma

The Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils) and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) wish to announce that it has reached the number of 8,888 faces and signatures as part of its campaign for the release of all political prisoners in Burma including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

As of the last count, close to 9,000 signatures, personality sketches, photos and messages of support were gathered by FBC-Phils and IID to conclude the 2-year campaign which began in late 2007 during the 2nd National Assembly of the FBC-Phils.

The 8,888 signatures will form part of the global campaign called “Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now!” (FBPPN) launched in March 13 this year. The global campaign aims to gather 888,888 signatures for submission to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Through various fora, campus tours, factory hopping and public exhibits, the 8,888 faces were gathered by the FBC-Phils and IID which can be proudly reflected as the Philippine peoples' contribution to Burma's struggle for genuine peace, human rights and democracy.

Kindly visit for preview of the photo petition. IID and FBC-Phils are in the process of uploading the photos, names and signatures to the website. A full report of the activities and locations where the signature campaign was done over the past two years will also be posted soon.

May 18, 2009

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi on trial

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has gone on trial at the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon.

Undercover BBC correspondent: 'People here are very angry'

She is charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest, because of a visit by an American man who swam across a lake to her house earlier this month.

Dozens of supporters gathered near the jail as the trial got under way. It has now been adjourned for the day.

Many observers see the charges as a pretext to ensure Ms Suu Kyi is in jail during next year's elections.

Ms Suu Kyi has already spent 13 of the past 19 years in jail or detained in her home, and faces a further three to five years' imprisonment if found guilty of these latest charges.

It is unclear how long the trial will take, but estimates range from a few days to several weeks, as the government is expected to summon 22 witnesses to support its claim.

Two of Ms Suu Kyi's assistants are on trial with her, and Mr Yettaw is also being tried.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won landslide elections rejected by the military in 1990, and she was awarded the Nobel peace prize soon after.

Wire barricades

Security is tight around Insein prison, says a BBC reporter in Rangoon - whose name is being withheld for his safety, because all foreign journalists are barred from Burma.

Dozens of supporters, including prominent members of her National League for Democracy party, gathered near the jail in quiet protest.

But riot police set up barbed wire barricades to prevent them getting too close and plain-clothes officers filmed them.

The ambassadors of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy were barred from entering the prison, but the US consul was reportedly allowed in, possibly to see Mr Yettaw.

Mr Yettaw was thought to be in the courtroom with Ms Suu Kyi on the first day of the trial, though it is unclear whether he was being tried as part of the case against Ms Suu Kyi.

There are no outside observers, but unnamed Burmese and opposition officials said proceedings had now been adjourned until Tuesday, after several hours of testimony.

Mr Yettaw arrived on her back lawn in Rangoon earlier this month, after swimming across a lake using home-made flippers.

He was almost certainly uninvited, and Ms Suu Kyi's lawyers say she will plead not guilty to breaking the terms of her house arrest, saying he was allowed to stay only because he pleaded exhaustion.

Ms Suu Kyi's home is one of the most closely guarded locations in Rangoon, and her supporters believe the military authorities must have allowed the man to reach it, as he tried the same stunt unsuccessfully last November.

According to Burma's constitution, Ms Suu Kyi was scheduled to be freed on 27 May after six consecutive years of house arrest.

The misguided exploits of an apparently well-intentioned individual have now given the military government a pretext to keep her locked up, say correspondents.

Analysts say the trial shows that the military junta still fears Aung San Suu Kyi's influence over Burmese people, despite the fact she has been in detention for most of the past two decades.

They are keen to keep her detained in the run-up to the elections in 2010 - largely derided as a sham by the international community.

Foreign protests

Ms Suu Kyi's prosecution is taking place in such haste and secrecy, and on such bizarre charges, that it has already been dismissed as farcical by many governments around the world.

Protests against the trial took place at outside Burmese embassies around the world on Monday.

US President Barack Obama formally extended sanctions against Burma on Friday.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday that the European Union should also consider toughening sanctions against the Burmese regime.

But so far there has been no official reaction from Burma's two large neighbours, China and India, or the South East Asia regional group Asean, which counts Burma as a member.

May 8, 2009

Myanmar arrests US man for entering Suu Kyi home

Myanmar's detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi received an unexpected guest while under house arrest — an American who swam under the cover of darkness to her lakeside home, sneaked in, and stayed two nights.

Suu Kyi, founder and head of the opposition National League for Democracy party, is allowed virtually no visitors under the terms of her house arrest and her neighborhood, with the U.S. Embassy nearby, is normally one of the most closely guarded areas in Myanmar's biggest city.

Even swimming in Inya Lake in the vicinity of Suu Kyi's compound is not allowed.

But according to a report in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper Thursday, a U.S. citizen named "John Willian Yeattaw" confessed that he swam in the lake to Suu Kyi's home on Sunday night, "secretly entered the house and stayed there," and left Tuesday night.

"Further investigation is being made to find out his motive for secretly entering the area that is out of bounds on security grounds," it said.

Yeattaw was arrested when "security personnel found a suspicious-looking foreigner swimming" at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, said the report. Suu Kyi's home is more than a 1 1/4 mile- (2-kilometer) swim from where he was found.

It was unclear whether Suu Kyi was in contact with the intruder. Nyan Win, spokesman for her party, said he had no information about the American visitor aside from what he read in the local press. But he said it was worrisome how easily the man accessed the tightly guarded home.

"We are very much concerned of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's security. What happened shows a security lapse," Nyan Win said. "Daw" is a term of respect in Myanmar.

Dozens of police entered Suu Kyi's compound Thursday morning and stayed until late afternoon, according to neighbors who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals in the military-ruled country.

Yeattaw was unavailable for comment Thursday.

It would be the first known instance that anyone has sneaked into Suu Kyi's compound, or swam across the lake in an attempt to get there.

The man was found with an empty 1.3-gallon (5-liter) plastic water jug — presumably to use as a floatation device — as well as a U.S. passport, flashlight, pliers, camera, two $100 bills and some local currency, the report said.

A spokesman from the U.S. Embassy in Yangon said consular officers were "seeking access" to the man as is routine in any case of an American citizen arrested overseas.

"Right now we don't know anything more than what is generally known, that this man was arrested for swimming across the lake and wound up being at Aung San Suu Kyi's house," said embassy spokesman Richard Mei, who said he could not immediately confirm the man's identity or spelling of his name.

By the end of Thursday, Mei said, there was "no response from police with regards to our request to see him."

Apr 6, 2009

U.S. to seek seat on Human Rights Council

In but the latest sign of a subtle shift in U.S. foreign policy by the administration of Barack Obama, the U.S. has indicated that it will seek election to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The announcement, delivered yesterday, reverses a policy of the Bush era which witnessed steady opposition to both the Human Rights Council and its forerunner, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

"The decision is in keeping with the Obama Administration's 'new era of engagement' with other nations to advance American security interests and meet the global challenges of the 21st century," remarked U.S. Acting Deputy State Department Spokesman Gordon Duguid on Tuesday.

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, reaffirmed the decision to change tack, saying, "Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the Council to be balanced and credible."

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba and Russia have all previously won seats to the Council.

Rice went on to add that "[t]he U.S. is seeking election to the Council because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights."

In stark contrast to the Obama initiative, the Bush administration remained highly critical of the Rights body and its predecessor, accusing the body of serving as a refuge for some of the world's worst human rights violators, including Burma.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, previously summed up the Bush administration's rejection to the formation and projected ineffectiveness of the Council in 2006, articulating: "The real test will be the quality of membership that emerges on this Council and whether it takes effective action to address serious human rights abuse cases like Sudan, Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe, Belarus, and Burma."

In support of the Bush position, a conservative Washington-based think tank, The Heritage Foundation, highlighted the fact that well known human rights abusers Burma, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe all voted in favor of the new Council.

However, the shift in direction is supported by a number of international rights bodies, including Amnesty International.

Amnesty, in a paper proscribing changes to the means by which the then incoming Obama administration should conduct U.S. foreign policy, argued: "The new administration must be ready to end US isolation in the international human rights system and engage constructively with the UN Human Rights Council."

It is unclear what the change in U.S. approach may signal for the administration's Burma policy, a policy the State Department has indicated is under review.

The move from the State Department also comes on the heels of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement that the U.S. is ready to meet with moderate members of Afghanistan's Taliban movement, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's airing of the opinion that all sanctions should be dropped against the Taliban and its leadership.

The Human Rights Council consists of 47 elected members and is scheduled to undergo a systematic review in 2011. Obama's administration will run through the year 2012.

Forced relocation for border fence in Maungdaw

Some families in Maungdaw Township have been ordered by the Burmese army to relocate because their houses are located near army godowns where many goods, including barbed wire fencing and cement, are being stored, said a resident who is among those being asked to move.

“They ordered us last week to move from the village as our houses are close to the army godown but they did not instruct on where we have to go,” he said.

The households that have been asked to move are in Ka Yin Chaung Village in Maungdaw, and have been in the village for generations.

“In our village there are only ten houses, and among those, three have been ordered to relocate by army officials from the engineering battalion who came to our area recently to implement the border fence project,” the resident said.

The three households that have been ordered to move are those of Daw Thit Mu, U Sein Hla, and U Zaw Chay. All three are Arakanese Buddhist.

A relative of Daw Thit Mu said, “They do not know where they will be moving because they are unable to buy plots to build their new houses on because they are poor families.”

According to local sources, the three families are now facing many problems with the forced relocation, and have requested help from elders in Maungdaw.

This is the first time families have been ordered to relocate for the fence construction along the border, but many lands that are located near the fence site are being confiscated by the army authorities without compensation.

Mar 26, 2009

UN rules detention of Aung San Suu Kyi illegal

The United Nations has ruled the continued detention of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi violates the country's own laws as well as those of the international community, a legal document says.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest, with the ruling junta yearly extending her detention despite international outcries.

"The latest renewal (2008) of the order to place Ms. Suu Kyi under house arrest not solely violates international law but also national domestic laws of Myanmar," said a legal opinion by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions that has been sent to the Myanmar government.

Although the ruling is unlikely to spring Suu Kyi from detention, it is uncommon for the world body to accuse a member country of violating its own laws, and while the junta has always marched to its own tune it has also resented being regarded as an international pariah.

The working group, an arm of the UN Human Rights Council, said Suu Kyi was being held under Myanmar's 1975 State Protection Law, which only allows renewable arrest orders for a maximum of five years. This five-year period ended at the end of May 2008.

The opinion also questioned whether Suu Kyi represented a threat to the "security of the State or public peace and tranquility," the provision of the 1975 law authorities have pointed to as the reason for her continued detention.

Jared Genser, a Washington-based attorney retained by Suu Kyi's family who provided the document to The Associated Press, said while the United Nations group earlier found her detention arbitrary and in violation of international law, it was the first time it cited the junta as failing to abide by its own law.

He said the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has not responded to the UN's legal arguments and has not commented on why Suu Kyi is still being detained.

Suu Kyi, who rose to prominence during a pro-democracy uprising in 1988, was placed under arrest before her party swept the 1990 general elections, which the junta did not recognize. Over the years, the government released her several times only to have her virtually isolated again in her compound in Yangon.

The United Nations has for years attempted without success to bring about political reform and a dialogue between Suu Kyi and the military.

"I am under no illusion that the junta will be listening to the United Nations," Genser said in a telephone interview. "There is no quick and easy answer to the problem of Burma, so we have to take it one step forward at a time."

In Myanmar, the spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, Nyan Win, said over the weekend that her lawyer had sent a letter to Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein on March 13 asking for a hearing to appeal for her release when the one-year detention period expires in May.

The lawyer, Kyi Win, sent the appeal letter last October but has had no response from authorities, the spokesman said.

"The reason for her detention is false because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who advocates a nonviolence policy, has not caused any threat to public order," he said.

Nyan Win said every time Suu Kyi's detention is extended, authorities read out the order "but no explanation or reason was ever given for the extension or detention."

Asked if Suu Kyi's detention might be lifted in May, Nyan Win said, "It is very difficult to make any predictions as the government does not have a transparent policy."

Activist groups, under a Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now Campaign, are attempting to collect 888,888 signatures for a petition calling for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 other political prisoners.

The petition is to be sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The number "8'' is regarded as highly auspicious by many Burmese.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. Its leaders have scheduled elections next year that they say will lead to democracy. Critics say the balloting, held under a junta-orchestrated constitution, will merely perpetuate military control.

Related Link:

Coalition Group will not Contest 2010 election

Burmese political coalition group the Forum for Democracy in Burma has stated that it opposes the planned 2010 elections and will educate Burmese people about the problems with the election.

The statement was made at the end of a five-day seminar, which took place from 18 to 22 March, held at an unspecified place along the Thai-Burma border.

The FDB is a coalition of exiled organisations and activists. The seminar was attended by 32 coalition group members and five observers.

Dr Naing Aung, leader of the FDB, said the coalition had chosen to stand strong against the ruling State Peace and Development Council’s plan to hold elections in 2010, and vowed that the group would cooperate with the public for their campaign.

“We will be educating our people more about the election,” he said.

“The aim of the election is to bring the 2008 constitution to life which would lead us to remain as slaves of the military the same as 20 years ago,” said Naing Aung.

The 1990 elections were won by the opposition National League for Democracy in a landslide victory but the military government ignored the results and has continued to rule.

“We will be looking for various methods to fight for our rights,” he added.

“It is unlikely that we would be on safe ground when calling for our rights since Burma is ruled by an oppressive government.”

Related Link:

Mar 13, 2009

Activists launch Global Campaign to Release All Political Prisoners in Burma; RP Envoy to the ASEAN asked to engage Burma rulers

Responding to the global campaign calling for the release of all political prisoners in Burma, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and to mark Burma's Human Rights Day, activists from Free Burma Coalition-Philippines today held a rally in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Pasay city.

The group unfurled a “huge tarpaulin” containing faces of thousands of Filipino supporters from various parts of the country demanding the release of all political prisoners in Burma.

FBC-Philippines with the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) jointly organized a project called “8.888 Faces” photo petition which will be part of the global petition of 888,888 signatures for submission to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

“The plight of Burma’s political prisoners merits the attention of the world especially those in power. This campaign symbolizes our support to the peoples of Burma for their unrelenting struggle for genuine democracy and human rights, “ Egoy Bans, spokesperson of FBC-Phils said.

FBC-Philippines as a sign of “pabaon” (send off message) to former Senator Orly S. Mercado, the newly appointed Permanent Representative to the ASEAN, delivered a letter to the DFA containing the group's petition to the Philippine government to continuously engage ASEAN to effect democratic reforms in Burma and exert more pressures to Rangoon generals for the release of political prisoners including NLD leader and Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The group pointed out that the release of all of Burma’s political prisoners is a crucial step in creating an atmosphere conducive to the process of genuine national reconciliation in Burma and ASEAN in this regard has an important role to play.

“We urge former senator Mercado to put among his priorities the issue of Burma when he assumed office. Mercado's slogan of “Kapwa Ko Mahal Ko” must now be translated to his future work in the ASEAN. We would like to hear envoy Mercado say that ASEAN must do something about Burma situation,” Bans explained.

Thailand based groups like the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP), Burma Partnership, and Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB) are simultaneously launching today the Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now! campaign with the support of various advocacy groups in the region including the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines.

Schedules of solidarity actions and other activities in the region and other parts of the world as part of this global campaign to free all political prisoners in Burma:

1.) THAILAND: Press Conference at Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Bangkok (Friday Mar 13 @ 10 am) 2.) JAPAN: March 13 (Tokyo) 2pm: Demonstration in Gotanda organized by the Joint Action Committee of Burmese Community in Japan (JAC) 3.) INDIA: Signature Collection Campaign for 888,888
4.) AUSTRALIA: Burma Campaign Australia- Will be launched in Sydney with NSW parliamentarians and to get support from the unions to assist with collecting signatures.5.) KOREA: Signature collection for 888,888

Mar 9, 2009

PUP Campus Harassment: “Student activists” tear down FBC-Phils. exhibit on Burma

MANILA, MARCH 6 -- At 1:30pm today inside the campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila, a group of young students claiming to be “genuine activists” forced the members and volunteers of the Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBC-Phils) to fold down a photo exhibit on political prisoners in Burma, confiscated their campaign materials, and pushed them out of the campus, threatening physical attack if they do not leave.

The activity is hosted by a class of management students who had applied for, and was granted, a permit to hold the activity by the school administration. The exhibit was about the 8888-faces photo petition campaign calling for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma anchored by the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and FBC-Philippines.

Members of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) and FBC-Phils volunteers from the school have just finished setting up the exhibit when the incident happened. A group of students (about 20 of them) claiming to be “genuine activists” from a group called ANAKBAYAN ganged up on them, tore copies of the 8888-faces leaflet in front of the volunteers and commanded them to fold up the exhibit. “You are not allowed to set up the exhibit here, counter-revolutionaries -- with or without permit from the school administration. You are fake activists.”

Teody Navea, BMP secretary-general and part of the campaign team, tried to negotiate with the students, stressing what the campaign was about and that it is part of an international solidarity effort in support of the people of Burma. The “activists” led by a certain “Jojo Kulot” then started a countdown, further threatening to attack the FBC volunteers if they do not fold up the exhibit.

To avert any further violent confrontation, the FBC team volunteered to fold up the exhibit. But not satisfied, the “activists” from ANAKBAYAN even grabbed the tarpaulin exhibits and the BMP banner and all other materials. Navea tried to calm down everyone and appealed to the activists to return the materials as they are packing up. The “activists” started pushing and shoving FBC-Phils volunteers, slapping one in the head, as they violently escorted them outside the school gate and on to the thoroughfares.

As these things happen, other members of the “activist” group explain to all bystanders and onlookers that “these things will happen to you if you organize activities like these and if you join these and other organizations.”

We condemn, in strongest terms, this barbaric act of “gangster activism.” The issue of Burma’s political prisoners is a legitimate international issue and to prevent any group from holding this kind of campaign in any venue is not just a show of “sheer ignorance” to the issue but also an act only the “military dictators” of Burma can appreciate.

FBC-Phils is a coalition of individuals, trade union workers, NGOs, peoples’ organizations, youth and students, church groups, human rights and women organizations. This campaign of 8888-faces is just one of the many expressions the coalition can contribute in the spirit of international solidarity. It’s ironic and disgustful that this legitimate democratic campaign was attacked in the name of the so-called “revolutionary ideals?”. Where in this world you can see one “activist group” attack the very basic right to freedom of expression?

As activists, we SHOULD hate dictatorship whatever its name, we must abhor undemocracy; we ousted Marcos because of military dictatorship and now Burma is suffering the same kind of rule. Our message to these “activists” is simple: LET US NOT BECOME THE EVIL THAT WE DEPLORE!

Mar 2, 2009

Activists demand to put Burma on ASEAN Summit agenda; urge regional bloc to start “human rights monitoring”

PHILIPPINES --- With drums and bugles, about 90 activists under the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines today held a rally in front of the Thai Royal Embassy in Makati City* in time for the 14th Asean Summit.

Organizations present during the rally were: Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), Sanlakas, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), KPML, Bagong Kamalayan, ZOTO, and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).

Activists urged ASEAN member states to put on the summit’s agenda the human rights issue in Burma saying that the summit should serve as a “hot seat” for the Myanmar delegate.

“The military regime of Burma has a lot to answer. Its human rights record is not showing any degree of significant improvement and the ASEAN Summit ministers and delegates should not take a blind eye into this issue,“ Rasti Delizo FBC-Phils Convenor said during the rally.


The group said ASEAN should come up with mechanism to “monitor human rights record” of Burma as the country's ruling regime remain secretive and intransigent to the international clamor for political reforms in the said territory.

Delizo stressed,“The issue of continued human rights violations in Burma is as important as the issue of global financial meltdown. In the face of this financial crisis, you have here one member in the ASEAN that treats Burma’s coffers as its personal purse. The peoples of Burma are suffering politically and economically because their government doesn’t care even if
millions will die in extreme hunger.”

ASEAN slogan brags about achieving a caring and sharing ASEAN community and one of the ASEAN Charter’s key pledges is to set up a regional human rights body.

"If this is true,”Delizo continued, “we challenge the ASEAN to begin monitoring the human rights situation in Burma; schedule a visit to Burma’s labour camps, detention centers, and try to see and feel the atmosphere of dictatorship there. Right now, ASEAN should go beyond its usual rhetoric and act concretely.”


From the Thai Royal Embassy, the group proceeded to the Burma Embassy.With a replica of a “prison cell” with “prisoners” tied in shackles, the group dramatized the plight of political prisoners in Burma. Unimpressed over the release of prisoners in Burma last week, FBC-Phils
dubbed the move as an “old trick” by the military regime to deodorize the awful smell of its dismal human rights record.”

The group said that all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi must be released unconditionally. “Torture, rape and murder are normal occurrences inside Burmese prisons.
The junta cannot hide the fact that political prisoners suffer torture day and night and their families are even prohibited from visiting them. The entire country is like a huge garrison—there is no rule of law,”FBC-Phils explained.

Recently, prominent leaders of the popular Saffron revolution including their lawyers were sentenced by the military court to serve 65 years in prison.

“Burma is a dangerous place not just for activists but also for lawyers. Protection and promotion of human rights which is a very basic duty of the state is not happening. It is in this case that the international community has the obligation to act,” Delizo concluded.

Feb 4, 2009

Members of the Free Burma Coalition - Philippines (FBC-Phils) held a silent protest in front of the SPDC Myanmar Embassy ar Gervacia Tower, Amorsolo Street, Makati City last September 26, 2008 at exactly 10 am. Donning crimson red sashes, the activists will sit on the pavement and light incense sticks to offer solidarity and support to the people of Burma in commemoration of the first year anniversary of the bloody crackdown against peacefully demonstrating people during the Monk-led Saffron Revolution a year ago. The crackdown has not ended. Arrests, detention and intimidation continue as the SPDC military junta steps up its campaign to silence the dissent of the freedom-loving peoples of Burma. FBC-Philippines demands that the crackdown stops, and calls on the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to pressure the military junta to stop repressing its people and heed the calls for a genuine dialogue.

Activists call for humanitarian aid for cyclone victims in Burma; ask the junta to postpone referendum

PHILIPPINES---Following reports that the military junta of Burma will pursue its National Referendum on May 10 despite the heavy impact of Cyclone Nargis that already claimed thousands of lives and property damages in Burma, activists in the Philippines today held a demonstration in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Makati City to demand to the Burmese military government the smooth entry of humanitarian aid and the immediate postponement of the planned May poll.

According to the latest information, more than 10,000 people were killed by the cyclone in the Bogalay town alone in Irrawaddy Delta region. The total death toll as of this writing is at 22,464 people and may rise further with about 41,000 more still missing or feared dead. Up to a million people may be displaced.

While the junta already welcomed international humanitarian aid support, other reports confirmed that there are "certain restrictions" in the entry of aid agencies. Some UN aid workers are reportedly still waiting for visas to enter the country. Supplies have been collected by different aid agencies to send to the disaster struck areas.

People are in desperate need of medicine, food and drinking water. In Rangoon there is no electricity since Friday and hardly any organized aid work is seen on the streets yet. It's reported that people are reportedly angry at the regime for not helping them in this situation. Also, hospitals in major townships are either destroyed or with scant medical supplies.

Reports say that teams of foreign aid workers were trying to assess the damage and aid needs, but their access and movements are restricted by the military. UN disaster experts said it could be days before the extent of the damage is known because of the government's "tight control of communications."

Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils) commented that it is "improper and untimely" to pursue the referendum considering that the entire country is in mourning. The junta according to the group should instead give more focus on resolving the damages of the cyclone and allow "free movement" of agencies extending international humanitarian aid for the victims in the disaster-struck areas.

Meanwhile the SPDC have announced that the referendum date will be postponed in cyclone hit areas. In seven townships in the Irrawaddy division and 40 townships in Rangoon division the new referendum date will be on May 24, while in all other places people are expected to go to the poll stations on Saturday as scheduled.

"Relief first before referendum. The military regime should learn how to weigh things and prioritize them. The situation in Burma requires expertise of these international agencies, and it is the duty of the junta to provide assistance that would include safety and mobility of aid workers," FBC-Phils spokesperson Egoy Bans said.

It has been reported yesterday that authorities in some towns of Burma have begun its pre-referendum 'Yes' vote collecting from the people. In Kachin State authorities are holding out threats to residents in a village around Mai Ja Yang in the Kachin Independence Organization's (KIO) controlled area to cast the "Yes" vote in the ensuing referendum to approve the constitution on May 10.

Bans added, "While the people are so worried about survival in the midst of this disaster, the junta is "too pre-occupied" thinking on how to pursue its referendum. While millions of people struggle for clean water, food and medicine, we have here a government bullying the citizens to vote YES on May 10. This is downright insensitivity."

To express solidarity with the victims of cyclone, FBC-Phils in front the Burma embassy then launched their "own version of referendum." With Ballot Box bearing the slogan "RELIEF BEFORE REFERENDUM", protesters lined up and wrote on their "ballots" not "yes" or "no" but WATER, FOOD, MEDICINE, SHELTER.

And to further dramatize the plight of the cyclone victims, one protester wrapped his whole body with bandages. He is holding dextrose with printed slogan RELIEF BEFORE REFERENDUM.

"This is to tell the junta the actual needs of the people of Burma. Burma is in emergency situation and the people do not need referendum right now. We hope the regime would now set-aside self-interest for the sake of their own suffering people. The referendum can wait, " Bans concluded.

FBC-Phils actively campaigns for the rejection of Burma's roadmap to democracy saying that the junta remains insincere to effect tangible democratic reforms in the said country.