Letterwriting: we signed 16 letters last month and will be signing 2 at the next meeting, many thanks to those attending. Wonderful news is that Dr Tun Aung, the Rohinyga community worker about whom we have been writing for two and half years was freed on 19th January. Let’s keep writing the letters….
Burma: the British whistleblower Andy Hall, who raised the issue of the treatment of Burmese workers in a factory in Bangkok has had his sentence lessened. Embassy staff attend his hearings and the issue has also been raised in the British Parliament.
I have visited the AAPP (Aid Association for Political Prisoners) and advised that currently there are 82 (Burma Campaign says 161) political prisoners in prison and that more than 200 are in prison awaiting trial and we are getting more and more letters from Amnesty about others all the time. In December a young girl called KHIN WIN was shot dead while peacefully protesting about land takeover with regard to the Letpadaung Copper Mine project and about which we will be signing a letter and there are two other cases about Burma for letter signing too. On 20th January AI issued a statement about two Kachin girls aged 19 and 20 who were raped and murdered allegedly by Burmese Military Battalion 88, Infantry503 who were in the village that night in N. Shan state and on the same day an attempted rape by members of Battalion 77 also in N. Shan state despite Burma having been the 150th signatory in June 2014 of the Declaration of Commitment to end sexual violence in conflict. I think it would be fair to say that our Government’s engagement with the Burma military is not working.
In the meantime, I have had a letter from our Foreign Minister Hugo Swire on 8th January giving the usual platitudes that while some of us feel the reforms in Burma have stalled and in some cases reversed, he assures us that our government has raised with the Burmese government not only the appalling situation and human rights abuses with the Rohingya but the recent intimidation, detention and sentencing of reporters and political activists and the ongoing conflict in ethic areas. Some of us would say, that is not enough.
With regard to my time here on the Thai/Burma border and because it is a private trip, I thought I would report to you about it separately and on return, but all the donations specified in my last report were duly paid over, with all their grateful thanks.
North Korea: While the NK website I received everyday said that there would be a meeting between NK and SK on 19th January, I have heard nothing further about it and believe a condition of rather a lot of aid has been placed on such talks. However during the past 9 years the UN has already paid out $US98.9million in humanitarian assistance – so much for taking a stand against the regime’s shocking human rights record.
NK has a 300mile border with China and as there have been some murders recently by NK of Chinese, the Chinese gov have placed more militia on that border which will of course make it more difficult to escape NK on that popular route out.
AI’s UK director Kate Allan has announced that AI are putting out The Other Interview: “we should all be worried when blackmail, threats and the hacking of private data are being used to censor and silence”. Unlike the comedy, it illustrates the shocking treatment of escapees. See the trailer here.
A bit of good news: because of recent reforms which allow agricultural farms to keep one-third of their harvest, grain production has increased.
Burma & N.Korea Co-Ordinator
9th February 2015