Monday 12 August 2013

Ashin Issariya is one of the young Buddhist monks who, in September, 2007, led peaceful demonstrations in Burma that were crushed by the country’s military regime.

Ashin Issariya is one of the young Buddhist monks who, in September, 2007, led peaceful demonstrations in Burma that were crushed by the country’s military regime. I met him a few months later, in a sweltering monastery in Rangoon, where he had gone to hide from the authorities. Following the custom of many Burmese, he had adopted a pseudonym, King Zero, while underground. By then, many of his friends had been arrested. Restrained and bookish, he was still trying to organize his fellow-monks. “Democracy is something similar to the Buddha’s teachings,” he told me. Poverty and oppression have made Burma’s monks anything but otherworldly—they are among the regime’s most determined opponents. In late 2008, Ashin Issariya exchanged his saffron robe for civilian clothes and fled the country, one step ahead of arrest. He is now among the two hundred thousand Burmese refugees living in Thailand.
In May, Human Rights Watch sent the photographer Platon to Thailand, where he made portraits of Ashin Issariya and other Burmese. At first, I didn’t recognize the face. Platon, who often photographs celebrities, turns the hunted monk I met in Rangoon into an icon of glowing defiance—a true king. It’s as if only in exile could Ashin Issariya give full expression to the personality that had to be kept under wraps in the generals’ Burma. On November 7th, the military rulers will hold national elections designed to perpetuate their grip on power. Both the American and the British governments have condemned the vote as a sham, and the opposition, led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, is boycotting it. The country’s real leaders remain in prison, in hiding, in exile, under wraps, waiting for their chance. —George Packer;postID=4143793243394002912

Friday 26 October 2012

Peace Walk in Mae Sot, come and join!

30 May 2010, Group march and gathering to raise awareness and spread our desire for peace in Burma and Thailand. Starting Point: UNHCR Office in Mae Sot, Time: 8:30 a.m.
This date is also the one-year anniversary of the Best Friend Mae Sot branch, so we are hoping to have a celebratory live concert at the conclusion of the walk. If you are able to make it down to Mae Sot, you will not be disappointed.

Great news from The Best Friend Library!

Not only have we welcomed a large number of new members in the past few months, we have also greatly expanded our collection of materials, and are busy coordinating some interesting events for the coming weeks.
When the Chiang Mai branch of The Best Friend Library opened at the beginning of the year, we started with a small collection of around 150 books. As of today, we have more than 500 titles — 541 to be exact! (See below to see how the numbers break down by type of materials, and also see the attached file for the complete list.)
We would never have been able to expand so quickly if it were not for some very generous donations from several of our members and local organizations. Your donations of books and reports have enabled us to diversify our collection, and your monetary donations have made it possible to buy many new books — including many old and rare books purchased inside Burma last month that will be on the shelves very soon. Thank you to everyone who has helped us!
In the near future we will be holding several interesting events. The first is the “Peace Walk 2010“, which will be held in Mae Sot next Sunday, 30 May. That date is also the one-year anniversary of the Mae Sot branch, so we are hoping to have a celebratory live concert at the conclusion of the walk. If you are able to make it down to Mae Sot, you will not be disappointed. See the attached flyer for more information.

Burma Election Preparations Rife with Trickery and Deception – Part II

Ethnic Minorities and the Elections

The elections will be held the way the military junta wants them to be irrespective of the pressure exerted on it by neighbors or the international community. However, some expect a few concessions, such as the release of political prisoners and the acceptance of observers from neighboring countries, may be forthcoming just before the elections.
With or without the concessions, the biggest difficulty in creating an inclusive process may be in convincing the ethnic minorities that there is a reason for them to take part in the electoral process, even if they are not granted the concessions concerning autonomy that they desire.
40% the country’s population is composed of ethnic minorities and they control a sizable land mass all around the periphery of the nation. They joined the union at the time of Burmese independence from England. At the time, they were promised autonomy at a later date. However, autonomy has never been granted to any of the ethnic states.
The military junta has entered into ceasefire agreements with 17 ethnic rebel groups between 1989-94 with concessions to retain their arms and control of some parts of the territories occupied by the ethnic minorities.
In the 1990 elections most of the ethnic groups had joined hands and had fared well (especially the Shan National League for Democracy).

Burma Election Preparations Rife with Trickery and Deception – Part I

For the first time since 1990, the Burmese military regime has declared ‘free and fair’ multi-party elections will be held before the end of this year. However, the military’s announcement has been met mostly with skepticism by those familiar with the regime’s appalling human rights records and history of brutally stifling all dissent. The elections are in accordance with the new Burmese constitution, which was approved in a May 2008 referendum widely regarded as rigged.
The international community has expressed concern that the first general election in Burma in 20 years may not run fairly or freely following the issuance of a new law that effectively bans democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the contest. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate described the new election laws as “repressive” and “unjust.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in March said the new law ran counter to the hopes of the international community for a political process that involves all groups. He repeated his appeal for a wide-ranging political process that would produce a fair and transparent election, trusted by all Burmese people, and including the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Urgent: Water crisis in Burma

Burma is now facing a shortage of drinking water. Due to the high temperatures this summer, the underground water sources have run dry. The rural and slum areas do not have any pipe water supply and depend on natural water collection in ponds and wells.
Burmese social youth groups are trying to solve this problem on their own initiative by not only donating water, but also organizing the logistics. While helping the affected people, they dare not to let others know about it because the government is tracking down everybody for these donations.
Groups who want to take water to the affected areas must pay 50,000 Kyat to the government in order to get permission and travel passes. Then the military puts their stickers all over the water shipments to make it look like they are the ones helping the people!
In the area around Pegu (Bago) the people are suffering worst. According to reports from inside sources they are now also facing a severe diarrhea problem.

We need more tourists like Garrett

Ashin Kovida – member of The Best Friend and freedom fighter on Garrett Kostin’s spreading of the Peace in Burma now! sticker and his subsequent deportation
TBF: Can you please elaborate on the connection between the The Best Friend’s Peace Campaign and the monks and freedom movement?
Ashin Kovida: The Peace in Burma Now stickers are very nice. Burmese monks are traditionally and historically associated and connected with non-violence. When they are involved in political matters and in helping the people, this is non-violence. This is peace. So in this way, peace is connected to monks. I believe, that everybody who wants peace will be happy to hear about Garrett’s actions. Everybody who really wants peace will want many people to do something like this. Something like Garrett has done.
TBF: What are you trying to achieve with the Peace stickers?

Peace Now online

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Sat 10 Nov 2012
BABSEA 2nd Annual Access To Justice Public Interest Fair
"justify">Get information and help support local community-based organizations, build a network, and find out about job and volunteer opportunities at this fair showcasing the work of NGOs working in Southeast Asia.
Where: Kantary Hills Hotel, 44 Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 12, Chiang Mai
Time: 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Entrance: free

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