September 2015 report on Burma & North Korea

Street Collection:

  • A couple of people have dropped out of this, so if you have any friends or relatives who could spare two hours of their time on Saturday 10th October, please get in touch with me on 01225 316246 or wendyhug8@gmail.com.

Letterwriting:

  • As we did not have a meeting in August, I wrote, signed and sent out 17 letters on your behalf.

Burma:

  • Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy, has registered for the 8th November elections to challenge the ruling party which is backed by the military. Her party will contest almost all the 498 parliamentary seats. She submitted her papers amid flag-waving supporters at Thanlyin, a poor township south of Rangoon. Presumably this means as a MP, as we know she cannot be the President until the Constitution is changed.
  • Amazing news, DPA International reported that the President in early August sent a letter to 15 armed groups urging them to sign a truce as a first step ahead of political dialogue (which excludes 6 still actively fighting the military in Shan State) and so far 4 ethnic groups: Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen National Liberation Army – Peace Council and Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan Sate Army Group and the All Burmese Students Democratic Front expressed willingness to sign.
  • It has been reported that 13 prisoners have been released, 11 of them prisoners of conscience with five journalists and some Rohingya among them. At least 150 (Human Rights Watch say 170) prisoners of conscience still remain in prison and with about 400 being held before being charged.
  • The UN say that 103 people are dead and 1million displaced after flooding, the worst natural disaster in Burma since Cyclone Nargis killed 140,000 in 2008.
  • It was reported in The Independent in August that there has been a setback to the forthcoming election in November as the reform-minded and ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, former general Thura Shwe Mann tipped to be the next president has been ousted from the ruling party and confined to his home.
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in August that the 88 Karen Generation Student Organisation while trying to help small farmers to peacefully resist land confiscations in Karen State (27 farmers arrested in June, 9 in August) are being targeting. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of HRW says “These activists are forced to run a gauntlet of government intimidation, arrests and now, trumped up charges – just to try and help villagers to stay on their land”.
  • Those following the case of Andy Hall through Walk Free.Org who is the British activist fighting for the rights of Burmese workers in the pineapple factory owned by Thai Natural Fruit, he has been indicted and if convicted he will face 7 years in prison and $11million fine….let’s hope it doesn’t come to this.

North Korea:

  • North Korea has ruled out an Iran-style deal with regard to nuclear weapons. As we mark VJ day in August, NK announced that it is changing its time by 30 mins to reverse the change when it was under Japanese occupancy.
  • According to NK News.Org, Iran and NK are not just similarly ready to sponsor international terrorism but have also actively co-operated with each other (and with Syria, a third state sponsor) in this field. Also according to them, on 29th July a S Korean intelligence official announced that Yemeni rebels had purchased 20 scud missiles from NK which were subsequently fired into Saudi Arabia.
  • No doubt you have heard in the media about the tension mounting between the two Koreas as the S has been broadcasting propaganda through loudspeakers on the border. This was because earlier in the month 2 SK soldiers lost their legs in mine explosions during a routine border patrol which they suggested had been freshly laid. However, the S has now stopped the broadcasts and the N has apologised for the provocation.

Wendy Hughes

Burma & N. Korea Co-Ordinator, September 2015

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August 2015 report on Burma & North Korea

Letterwriting:

  • We signed 37 letters at the July meeting and as we are not having another meeting until Tuesday 1September, I have signed a number of letters on your behalf. Sadly the case of the execution of David Zink came in too late for us to take action and he was executed in Missouri on 14 July despite having brain damage and a history of psychological problems. The US have killed 18 people this year, 5 of them in Missouri.
  • After our letter with regard to 14 student activists in Thailand held in prison for peaceful protests, I am pleased to say they have been released but still face trial. Two Chinese activists about whom we also wrote, have also been released.

Burma:

  • This is what Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonweath Affairs said recently: “UK officials frequently visit Rakhine State and receive regular reports about the situation of the Rohingya, which remains of grave concern. The Rohingya continue to suffer from severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, on their access to livelihoods, schools, healthcare and places of worship. Burma’s refusal to ensure humanitarian access or recognise citizenship claims of the Rohingya has compounded the denial of the most basic rights. We continue to urge the Burmese authorities to work towards a long-term solution that brings peace and reconciliation and ensures the civil and human rights of all communities within Rakhine State, including full citizenship for the Rohingya. The UK has been concerned by the dramatic rise in the number of people taking boats from the Bay of Bengal to the wider region this year. We were deeply concerned by the discovery of mass graves in Thailand and, more recently, in Malaysia. Tackling this issue requires a coordinated regional response and we welcome the Government of Thailand’s decision to hold the 29 May regional meeting to discuss solutions. It is vital to address the scourge of human trafficking. The desperate living conditions faced by the Rohingya in particular, and their lack of basic rights, are driving many of these people to make the dangerous journey to other countries in the region. We will maintain our own humanitarian commitment in Rakhine State; DFID has provided over £18million in humanitarian support since 2012. We urge Burma, in turn, to address the dire situation of the Rohingya community there.”
  • In this regard, Thailand has prosecuted more than 100 people including an army general and 15 state officials implicated in a multinational migrant smuggling scandal which came to light when 36 bodies were discovered on the Thai/Malay border in May and believed to be from Burma and Bangladesh.

North Korea:

  • SK foreign minister has spoken of a “reign of terror” which has led to fresh defections of NK workers. In the 3.5years in power Kim Jong Un has executed 70 high-level officials as well as others including the manager of a terrapin farm after several terrapins died after a power cut.
  • The UN has reported that the NK government has reduced the amount of food it gives its people with regard to the drought.
  • Government workers, including those in factories and schools, have been ordered to start work at 5am to cope with the heat which is in the high 30’s with 80% humidity but which is making it difficult for children to get to school on time.

Wendy Hughes

Burma & N. Korea Co-Ordinator, August, 2015

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July 2015 report on Burma & North Korea

AMNESTY REPORT JULY 2015

Letterwriting:

  • We signed 35 letters last time and 37 this month.
  • I am delighted to report that two Sudanese activists, Yasir M. Abdabrahman and Nasreen A. Mustafa, about whom we wrote a letter last month, have been released.

Burma: 

  • Quoted in the paper 18 June: “Amnesty International claimed that the Burmese government has made increased efforts to restrict freedom of expression, and said that at least ten members of the media had been jailed over the past year. The government formally opened the press to competition but has aggressively prosecuted critical media outlets, which Amnesty called “repression dressed up as progress”.   Ye Htut, Burma’s information minister, denied the claims.
  • With regard to the latest on the boat migrants, mostly Rohingya from Burma, I attach a statement from Amnesty International (see end of post).

North Korea:

  • Reported on 15 June that NK test-fired 3 short range missiles, launching them into the sea from a site near its eastern city of Wonsan. Last month they claimed to have test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile.  However, experts have questioned the authenticity of this.
  • NK is facing its worst drought for 100 years which will of course have a repercussion with regard to food production and China is offering aid.
  • Private enterprise is creeping into NK in the realm of taxis, long haul transport, restaurants and fishing.
  • According to N. Koreans who have escaped to SK, there were 1382 public executions between 2000 and 2014 for crimes that include watching DVDs of SK soap operas.
  • According to a NK scientist who has defected to Finland, he has digital evidence of testing of chemical and biological weapons on mentally and physically handicapped children.

800th anniversary of Magna Carta: 

  • Jane and I joined the Salisbury Amnesty Group and Judith from Frome at the reading by Edward Fox of parts of Magna Carta followed by a debate with our own Kate Allen from Head Office, a rather radical Professor from LSE and Ben Rawlence who had been a researcher for Human Rights Watch, which was both informative and enjoyable.

Street Collection:

  • It is time for me to set this up initially, so next week I will be in touch again but do please email me either atinfo@bathamnesty.co.uk or wendyhug8@gmail.com or phone 01225 316246 if you would like to help us out for 2 hours either at 9 am or 11 am on that morning, please, being Saturday 10th October this year.
Wendy Hughes 
Burma & N.Korea Co-Ordinator
July, 2015

Statement from Amnesty International (referred to in report above):
1 July 2015
South East Asia: Inaction paves the way for future refugee disaster 
South East Asian governments have so far failed to take sufficient action to protect refugees and migrants one month after a key summit to address the crisis that saw thousands of people stranded on boats over the past months, Amnesty International said in an open letter today.
The Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean in Bangkok on 29 May brought 17 countries together
to discuss the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. “One month after the Bangkok summit, there are few signs that governments are doing what is necessary to address the desperate plight of migrants and refugees. There’s still inadequate coordination on search and rescue operations, and a lack of clear protection measures for people who have landed on their shores,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.
The International Organization for Migration at one point in May estimated that there were as many as 8,000 people – refugees and migrants mainly from Myanmar and Bangladesh – stranded on boats close to Thailand.
Indonesia and Malaysia have since committed to providing temporary protection for up to a year for 7,000 people on the condition that third governments resettle or repatriate the  The next sailing season will likely start in October when seas are calmer and refugees and migrants will again take to boats to leave their home countries.  “Inaction now could pave the way for disaster later. Although it might look like the worst of the immediate crisis at sea is over, it is likely to escalate again once the sailing season starts.
Those facing persecutions in their home countries will continue to flee to seek asylum. It is crucial that regional governments put measures in place to ensure that more lives are not lost, and ensure there are safe and legal means for seeking asylum or migrating,” said Richard Bennett.
In the open letter, Amnesty International urges the governments of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia and Bangladesh to take urgent measures to address the crisis. ASEAN foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 1-6 August 2015 Measures must include stepping up coordinated search and rescue efforts, ensuring that human rights of migrants and refugees are protected and respected, and addressing the root causes of the current crisis, in particular by calling on the government of Myanmar to end systematic discrimination against the Rohingya minority.
“Now is the time not to relax but to intensify efforts to address he situation of refugees and migrants who have or are likely to undergo dangerous journeys at sea. This latest episode in a long-standing crisis is by no means over and should be at the top of the agenda for regional governments. The upcoming ASEAN meeting is another opportunity to put in place comprehensive measures for regional action,” said Richard Bennett.
Background:
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June 2015 Report on Burma & North Korea

AMNESTY REPORT JUNE 2015

Letterwriting:

  • We signed 28 letters last month and 33 this evening [June 8th]
  • Great news, we wrote letters in July, August and December last year as well as signing 30 cards in Green Park as our anti torture campaign on behalf of Nigerian Moses Akatugba who was to be executed for stealing mobile phones which he admitted under torture he has written to us following his release:  “I am overwhelmed. I thank Amnesty International and their activists for the great support that made me a conqueror in this situation. Amnesty International members and activist are my heroes……”
  • We have also heard from Dr. Tun Aung for whom we campaigned for two years: “I am indebted to Amnesty International for all efforts to campaign for my release. After I was released I found out about all the campaigning Amnesty International and its members did for me. I greatly appreciated it. I found out how many people sent letters and cards and appeals. I can’t believe it, it’s amazing. I think I was released early because everyone was campaigning for me. There was a lot of international pressure on my case…..”
  • I am also pleased to report that we wrote for Willie Manning in December and he has become the 153rd death row prisoner to be exonerated in the US since 1973.
  • In the UAE the Qatari national we wrote on behalf of last Oct YAA al Mullah has been released and deported but the others have been sentenced and we will be writing again tonight.

Burma:

  • Better late than never (excuse my cynicism) it has only taken three years for the media to catch up and report on the plight of the Rohingya from Burma, those being trafficked and dying at sea, the appalling conditions of the camps with torture cages, the mass graves on the Malaysia/Thai border.
  • It has been suggested by some MPs that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon should take a personal lead in negotiating humanitarian access and address the issues of status and citizenship of the Rohingya.
  • Both the Dalai Lama and Archibishop Tutu have rebuked ASSK for her stand (or lack of) in this matter and for protecting the Buddhist vote in the run-up to the election. However, later in May the NLD performed an apparent U turn after international pressure and called for the country’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority to be granted citizenship

North Korea

  • South Korean Kang Gun tried to raise awareness in China of the human rights abuses in NK. No one knows where he is. Please sign the Petition that he should be released unless charged with an internationally recognised criminal offence.
  • It is thought that Defence Minister Hyon Yong Chol has been executed for “sleeping during military events and failing to follow orders.”

Wendy Hughes
Burma & NK Co-Ordinator

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May 2015 Report on Burma & North Korea

AMNESTY REPORT MAY 2015

Letterwriting: 

  • We signed 18 letters last month as part of the Individuals at Risk program and will be signing 28 at the next meeting

Burma:

  • The London-based Burma Campaign has reported that two union leaders have been arrested under the repressive law which bans protest without Government permission, for calling for a rise of $1 a day for garment workers in Rangoon who earn 43 cents an hour currently. If you feel strongly about this, do sign their Petition on their website please. This is not an AI campaign but we are also writing a letter about imprisoned activists this month as part of our ongoing letters campaign. If you would like the latest from Burma Link (the small NGO I worked for this winter) do have a look here
  • We raised the issue of the Unity Five (4 journalists and their chief executive) in April 2014 and again in Aug, Sept and Oct. All five have been sentenced to 7 years hard labour for “disclosing State secrets” for publishing an article about the alleged secret chemical weapons factory in central Burma. Increased media freedom was one of the key reforms highlighted by the international community as evidence of Burma’s transition to democracy but over the past year the situation for Burma’s journalists has deteriorated and they are facing increased harassment and restriction. If you feel strongly about this please inundate Burma’s Minister of Information’s Facebook page with Free the Unity 5 (this is actually a Burma Campaign request but as you can see it is also an AI campaign with the fact that at their request we have written 4 times already.)

North Korea

  • Reported in The Korea Herald (presumably a SK publication) this month that 1 in 6 NK children under the age of 5 have chronic malnutrition
  • Eritrea and NK have been named as the most censored countries in the world by (CPJ) Committee to Protect Journalists and incidentally Burma is in the top 10 also
  • Reported in the Independent that the US Ambassador to SK could face a “bigger mishap” than the knife attack on his face last month if he doesn’t stop insulting NK
  • Reported at the end of April that 15 senior officials (including 4 members of the State orchestra) have been executed.

Wendy Hughes
Burma & N.Korea Co-Ordinator

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April 2015 Report on Burma & North Korea

AMNESTY REPORT APRIL 2015

Letterwriting:  

  • We signed 26 letters last month and 18 have been sent through to be signed this month
  • GREAT NEWS:  Saudi Arabia’s Raif Badawi’s wife has sent huge thanks to all those who wrote in (we did at least 3 times) as the 1000 lashes he was sentenced to have stopped
  • Huge thanks have also come through from Claudia Medina Tamariz, who was tortured in Mexico, who has had all charges dropped. We not only wrote for her but she was 1 of 5 cases for whom we had 150 cards signed in Green Park in December
  • Dr. Amermal-Shawa was enforced disappeared in UAE and we wrote for him in Feb and he was released after 135 days but tortured and deported to Turkey.   LETS KEEP WRITING!

Death Penalty:

  • Reported 19th March Cecil Clayton (74) was executed in the US.  He had been brain damaged for about 24 years before he shot and killed a policeman, and before his accident he had not been a criminal.  We are writing a few letters this month on the Death Penalty in other countries but it seems barbaric that the US could kill someone suffering from severe mental illness, dementia and multiple brain injuries.

Burma:

  • Reported 10th March that students protesting about the education curriculum (marches that started in January) had 100 arrested and 100 injured
  • I have mentioned it before but a New Zealand and two Burmese colleagues have now been sentenced to 2.5 years’ prison with hard labour for creating an advertisement showing the Buddha as a disc jockey.  The increasing lack of freedom of religion is worrying, as is the growing influence of rhetoric by hard-line Buddhist nationalist groups.

North Korea:

  • Syria’s President Assad has said his country and that of North Korea are under scrutiny because of their “real independence” …there is seldom humour in Human Rights matters!
  • Two children of defectors have been sentenced to hard labour
  • Reported 4th April in retaliation for the annual series of joint exercises between South Korea and the US, North Korea test-fired four missiles into the sea off its west coast…perhaps a show of force with the impending visit to Seoul of the US Defence Secretary.

Wendy Hughes
Burma & NKorea Co-ordinator

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Bath Amnesty rocks Widcombe!

On the night of Saturday 21st March, Bath Amnesty held a fundraising gig at Widcombe School that went down an absolute storm with our local community.

Dancefloor action!

Dancefloor action!

We had an extraordinary number of keen attendees (so much so that we were at risk of running out of seating!) and raised a phenomenal £588.36 to continue our fight for Human Rights.

The night saw performances from the Widcome Choir, Walcot State Choir (both led by the wonderful Su Hart), comedy from Fitz, Joey Cannon and Philip Cooper and a dancefloor-filling set from local rhythm & blues band Big Ten Inch.

Widcombe Choir

Widcombe Choir

Walcot State Choir

Walcot State Choir

Comedian Joey Cannon

Comedian Joey Cannon

Comedian Fitz

Comedian ‘Fitz’

Comedian Philip Cooper

Comedian Philip Cooper

There was a fantastic atmosphere and spirit of generosity throughout the night, with hundreds of raffle tickets and refreshments being sold, plenty of social media engagement on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, and a whole lot of dancing and fun!

We were excited to be able to show off all this local talent to several of Bath’s prospective parliamentary candidates as well, so thanks go to Steve Bradley, Dominic Tristram, Loraine Morgan-Brinkhurst and Ben Howlett for their support too.

Big Ten Inch

Big Ten Inch

Big Ten Inch

Big Ten Inch

Big Ten Inch

Big Ten Inch

Similarly, thanks must go to the generous local donors who provided our brilliant raffle prizes, which proved incredibly popular on the night! The Theatre Royal Bath, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, Prior Park Garden Centre, Duchess Beauty, The White Company, Komedia Bath, Topping & Company Booksellers, The Little Theatre Cinema, the Fudge Kitchen, Colonna & Hunter, Nando’s Bath and the lovely Bath Short Story Award Team.

The gig was a roaring success and we look forward to putting on our next one, but in the meantime thank you Bath for coming together to stand for human rights and to support the work of Amnesty International!

Amnesty volunteers Wendy, Sally and Annie

Amnesty volunteers Wendy, Sally and Annie

(Photos kindly taken and provided by Kerrianne Gauld)

Posted in AIUK, Amnesty International, Bath Amnesty, Entertainment, Events, Fundraising Gig, General Amnesty info, Human Rights, Local Talent, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment