February 2015 Report

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.

Wendy Hughes,

Burma & N.Korea Co-Ordinator

9th February 2015

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Amnesty Fundraising Gig March 21st 2015

band pic - big ten inchCome and join Bath’s branch of Amnesty International for an evening jam-packed with musical talent and entertainment!

Local rhythm & blues band Big Ten Inch will be performing along with other special guests (to be announced in due course).

There will be a bar, raffle and plenty of dancing so get your glad rags on for a great cause and come down to Widcombe School (Bath, BA2 4JG) on March 21st at 7.30pm.

Other details (including ticket price etc.) will be announced very shortly…

Facebook event here (share and invite friends!)

 

 

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January report 2015

AMNESTY REPORT JANUARY 2015

 

STOP PRESS: Although not an Amnesty thing but of mutual interest I hope, I delighted to report that for my private and 4th trip to the Burmese refugees on the Thai/Burma border I have received donations from members as well as funds from the Burma evening, as wished by those who worked on it, of £435 which is an enormous sum over there.   This will be divided between Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot which is the main medical centre for all 9 camps as well as operating backpack doctors to remote areas.   For the Aid Assistance for Political Prisoners centre who get food, clothing and medical supplies to those in prison and pay fares for poor families to visit them.   To the Burma Link organisation which runs courses to repatriate the Karen people where I will be working and to the remote Ban Don Yang Camp and I have attached my friend’s latest reports about this camp. Thank you so much to all those who so thoughtfully and generously gave funds.

 

Letterwriting: we wrote 38 letters last month and 26 greetings cards, many thanks to those who came along and this month it will be 16 letters. I am pleased to report that the Dominican Republic has decriminalised abortion in certain circumstances about which we wrote last month, so a great success.

 

Abbey Petition: we gathered 174 signatures from only 2 weeks at the Abbey and this has now been sent to Federica Mogherini, who took Baroness Ashton’s position as the EU Foreign Policy Chief and if you remember the petition was to put pressure on the Burmese President to release ALL political prisoners.

 

Burma: reported on 13Dec that a New Zealander and Burmese owners of a new bar in Rangoon have been sent for trial for showing Buddha sporting a pair of earphones, considered an insult.

 

North Korea: I imagine you are all aware of the upset that the film The Interview has created and the subsequent hacking into Sony’s computers. Obama has announced more sanctions as a result of this. I have since read that a NK defector and activist now in SK plans to fly 100,000 copies of it by balloon into NK. However, balloons are often shot down and even if successful it is rare for any NK families to own a DVD player or computer with which to play it.

 

Merrill Newman, An American was detained for 42days in late 2013 and has subsequently been billed $3241 for his detention!

 

UN’s Bank Ki Moon has welcomed the announcement yesterday of high level talks between NK and SK while SK is providing $620,000 aid to the North through the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia & Pacific.

 

Wendy Hughes,

Burma & NK Co-Ordinator

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December 2014 Report

AMNESTY REPORT DECEMBER 2014

 

Letterwriting: We have been writing letters on behalf of Dr. Tun Aung, Burma for the last 2.5 years and with 120,000 messages for him, he has had his 17year sentence reduced and due to be released next year. Yorm Bopha of Cambodia was released on bail in Nov 2013 after the authorities received nearly 253,000 (at least one from us). The journalist Eskinder Nega in Ethiopia is still serving his sentence but his wife was overwhelmed by the solidarity messages (at least one from us) “I cannot emphasise enough the positive impact and encouragement we got from the campaign”. Miriam Lopez of Mexico is still fighting for justice for her kidnap and torture by soldiers about which we wrote and has said “thank you for supporting me, even though you don’t know me”……More good news, Zainab al Kawaja of Bahrain has been released after only one month and we wrote a letter last month. AI has advised that the Afghani Gov has officially undertaken to protect the 10 year old Brishna who was raped, you will remember we received a letter about her from the Embassy last month.   We have now heard from the Moroccan Embassy to which we wrote in Oct about Baber and others and their mistreatment in prison.   They have given very detailed news of these men but the point is that we have their attention and hopefully their treatment will improve according to the letter. We wrote 20 letters last month and tonight we will be signing 38 letters and writing greetings cards for the 12 on the Write for Rights campaign.

 

Human Rights Day Action: While this is on Wed 10December we marked this occasion on Saturday 6December at Green Park with the Stop Torture campaign.when the public signed 150 cards on behalf of five victims.   Thank you to all helpers.

 

Burma: was in the news in the last month thanks to President Obama attending a Summit of East Asian leaders there and spoke of the “backsliding” on freedom of the press, freedom to protest and above all the fate of the stateless Rohingya people 140,000 of whom have been driven from their homes by Buddhists mobs including monks. He also said that the US “is watching the electoral process very closely” “this election will be critical to establishing a representative democracy that reflects the aspirations of all the people of Burma and of course it will shape how the US engages with the country going forward”. Also reported that Aung San Suu Kyi recognises that she will not be able to stand in next year’s elections and instead is seeking an alliance with one of the generals who imprisoned her for 15years….that is Shwe Mann, the Speaker of the lower house of the Burmese parliament and the No. 3 in the junta that ruled Burma until 2011.   This compromise would appall many of her supporters who suffered torture, persecution and detention for their peaceful opposition to the junta.   Shwe Mann is said to be a moderate and would reduce the number of military seats and make it easier to change the constitution clearing the way for ASSK to later become president, so it is said now! However, the current President favours Min Aung Hlaing and has long been a rival of Shwe Mann.   Richard Lloyd Parry wrote in The Times about the Rohinyga who have become boat people, the “stain on Burma’s international reputation” as these people often drown or fall prey to human traffickers.

 

North Korea: I went to Salisbury Amnesty group twice in Nov: to help with their Petition “Close the Camps” and make a You Tube clip which you can see on www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQNdmmo8Dkc&feature=youtube_gdata_player and I am the one holding the O in Close!! If this does not work, then type in YouTube Salisbury North Korea and you should be able to access it through that link, I was introduced to a North Korean Joo il Kim (a prison camp guard defector) and who now has his own NK News.org website. I also went to hear a talk by Bona Shin a S. Korean lady who runs the non profit organisation Theatre 4 All dedicated to art, music and performance in order to help the N. Korean community of 691 in New Malden, Surrey.   I think both of them would make good joint speakers for us in the future?   Reported on 20Nov that the UN General Assembly voted 111 to 19 to support the resolution (tabled by the EU and Japan) for N. Korea’s leaders to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. This resolution will go to the Security Council this month when it will almost certainly be opposed by China and Russia.   Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong has become vice department director in the Central Committee of the ruling Workers Party of Korea (WPK) …..she is certainly better looking!   It is said that Kim’s aunt has died of a heart attack having an argument with Kim about the execution of her husband which made international news.

 

Wendy Hughes

Burma & NK Co-ordinator

8December 2014

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Bath Group Report November 2014

Letterwriting: great news that individuals at risk in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been released recently.   I received a reply to the letter we wrote to the Afghani Embassy about the 10 year old raped girl Brishna. The Ambassador says that legislation was passed in 2001 to protect females from honour killing as well as programmes raising awareness about the immorality and legal consquences of such actions.. At least we got a reaction.   We signed 30 letters last month. Reported in the press this month from the Committee to Protect Journalists based in New York about nearly 400 journalists having been killed in the last decade with no one being convicted in 90% of the cases. This Committee says 100 were killed in Iraq in the last decade and with their record not being much better in Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Brazil, Somalia, Syria and Russia with 20 “missing” in Syria.

Burma: reported in the media a meeting on 31October between Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein about the possibility of her standing for the elections next year. However, she was not very positive about this development stating that it was probably in order to give the impression of flexibility before a visit this month by President Obama for a regional summit.   In that connection ASSK has said that there has been no meaningful political reforms in Burma in the last two years and accusing the US of being overly optimistic over their attitude towards the Generals.   They have failed to curb abuses by the majority Buddhists against the Rohingya muslims in the NW of the country and at least 16 journalists have been arrested over the last year in a renewed crackdown on the media.   At the 10th Asia Europe Meeting in Milan on 16October the President said that the EU should stop submitting annual reports on human rights in Burma even though the UN Special Rapporteur for Burma, Yanghee Lee, released a report on the “possible signs of backsliding” with regard to the above two points.

North Korea: as usual good and bad news: reported today 2 Americans released from prison after an “earnest apology” from the US authorised by Obama. Reported on 4Nov they are developing their own version of Britain’s Trident: a submarine with the potential to launch nuclear-armed ballistic missiles while S. Korea says the capability could take a year.   Reported on 6Nov: that they had begun operating a new nuclear plant, enabling it to double its potential output of uranium nuclear warhead according to S. Korea. This was detected by heat emissions by infrared cameras on US spy satellites.   Reported 29Oct: trying to prevent Kim Jong Un and others being prosecuted for crimes against humanity, they may allow an unprecedented visit by a UN human rights investigator as part of a concerted attempt to stall efforts to refer its leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.   Reported 31Oct: Experience North Korea had a stand at the World Travel Market in London …..as the article says while 20million people are starving, 20,000 political prisoners languish in its gulags and that it has a rogue nuclear weapons programme……why not see the “unspoilt scenery”!! Reported 30Oct: that 50 people were executed, including ruling party cadres, for crimes such as watching imported soap operas, bribery and “philandering”

Wendy Hughes, Burma & N. Korea Co-Ordinator, Bath Amnesty 10 November 2014

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Myanmar: Ensure independent and impartial investigation into death of journalist

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PUBLIC STATEMENT

Index: ASA 16/028/2014
30 October 2014

The Myanmar authorities must ensure a comprehensive, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the death of journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, aka Par Gyi, who was reportedly killed while in the custody of the Myanmar Army in Mon State, Eastern Myanmar, earlier this month. Failure to adequately – and transparently – investigate such serious allegations and hold perpetrators to account would further entrench impunity in the country, and have a chilling effect on other journalists.

According to credible sources, Aung Kyaw Naing, 48, a freelance journalist, was detained by the police on 30 September 2014 in Kyaikmayaw Township, Mon State and later transferred to Myanmar Army’s Light Infantry Battalion 208. At the time of his arrest Aung Kyaw Naing was reporting on recent fighting between the Myanmar Army and armed Karen groups, which erupted in September.

His fate remained unknown for about three weeks, when on 24 October the Secretary of the Interim Myanmar Press Council said he received a statement from the Myanmar Army informing him that Aung Kyaw Naing had been shot dead on 4 October while trying to seize a gun and escape military custody. In the statement the Army alleged that Aung Kyaw Naing was a “communications captain” for the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization, an armed group operating in and around Karen State. The Klohtoobaw Karen Organization later denied links to Aung Kyaw Naing. According to the Army statement Aung Kyaw Naing’s body was buried in Shwe War Chong village in Mon State.

Ma Than Dar – Aung Kyaw Naing’s wife and a renowned human rights activist – had travelled to Mon State on 19 October where she met with local police and the military and unsuccessfully tried to obtain information about her husband’s whereabouts. However she was reportedly told in private by a police officer from the Kyaikmayaw Township police station that he had seen Aung Kyaw Naing in military custody and that it appeared Aung Kyaw Naing had been beaten. Amnesty International has also received reports that eyewitnesses claimed to have seen a man being tortured by military soldiers around the same time and in the same place Aung Kyaw Naing is believed to have been detained.

Kyaikmayaw police have reportedly opened an investigation into Aung Kyaw Naing’s death, following Ma Than Dar’s filing of a complaint. Amnesty International calls on the Myanmar authorities to ensure that the investigation is independent and impartial. Aung Kyaw Naing’s family should be kept informed of the status of the investigation, and the results should be made public. All those found responsible for Aung Kyaw Naing’s death – including those with command responsibility – must be brought to justice before an independent, civilian court, in trials which meet international standards of fairness and which do not impose the death penalty. His family should receive effective remedies, including adequate reparations.

Human rights activists in Myanmar have reacted strongly to the news of Aung Kyaw Naing’s death, and on 26 October staged a peaceful protest in front of Yangon’s City Hall calling on the authorities to conduct an investigation. The next day, Kyauktada Township police informed the media that prominent human rights activist Moe Thway, who was present at the protest, had been charged with protesting without authorization under Article 18 of Myanmar’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. Amnesty International believes that Moe Thway has been charged solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and calls on the Myanmar authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against him.

Myanmar, as a UN member state, is legally bound under the UN Charter to promote respect for, and observance of, human rights. Furthermore, Myanmar is bound by rules of customary international law, which among other things, prohibit extrajudicial executions and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (ill-treatment) in all circumstances.

However, Amnesty International continues to receive reports of human rights violations by members of the Myanmar Army. These include allegations of unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and rape and other crimes of sexual violence. Independent and impartial investigations into such allegations are rare and suspected perpetrators are rarely held to account, contributing to a culture of impunity in the country.

Amnesty International urges the Myanmar authorities to take immediate steps to guarantee human rights protections and to ensure victims and their families have access to an effective remedy. As a first step, the organization calls on Myanmar authorities to ratify at the earliest opportunity the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), and incorporate their provisions into domestic law and fully and effectively implement them in policy and practice.

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Monthly Report including Burma talk

AMNESTY REPORT OCTOBER 2014

Letterwriting: we wrote 22 letters in September and 30 this month.   This campaign was specifically mentioned by our speaker on the Burma evening as not only being successful in some cases but in giving people hope and that some prisoners receive better treatment by the authorities …….an inspiration I hope you will agree to continue. You will have received my email with regard to our street collection’s wonderful total of £734.28 much of which will be used for this campaign.

Forthcoming events: please put in your new diary, the Amnesty Regional Conference will be held in Bristol on Saturday 21February, details later.

In celebration of the 800 years of the Magna Carta in 2015 it is being proposed that each regional group takes on one of the tenets of Declaration of Human Rights and convey it in a tapestry.   It should be 1ft x 1ft and all of them will be stitched together and displayed in Salisbury Cathedral in March (as one of the three places with an original copy of the Magna Carta)…….is anyone talented?? Someone will co-ordinate this so that we do not all take on the same article.

Burma: You will also have heard about our wonderful Burma Talk evening last Monday when Ko Aung came to speak to us together with Robert Gordon, ex Ambassador and Chairman of Prospect Burma.   Ko Aung had been a political prisoner and if anyone who could not make it would like me to email his story (7pages) to them please let me know wendyhug8@gmail.com He is now a human rights lawyer in London.   Prospect Burma which was started with Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize money, provides grants to educate Burmese refugees and I am so hopeful that my friend who works in one of the camps on the Thai/Burma border will be able to secure one or two for those there.   The speakers were wonderfully complementary to each other and I hope had the desired affect of keeping the subject of human rights in Burma in the forefront.   Three or four letters mentioned above were for some of those prisoners.     We also had the Abbey Petition there to be signed and which will be in the Gethsemane Chapel of the Abbey in advent which starts 1st December and reads: “We the undersigned support AI in calling upon the EU to press the authorities in Burma further in upholding the now overdue commitment by the President to release ALL political prisoners.   We also join AI in urging them to repeal any laws which contravene international human rights standards and laws” so I hope you will find time to sign it either at our November meeting or in the Abbey in December.   I attach an AI Statement which is much on the same lines. I have a contact at the Aid Association of Political Prisoners in Mae Sot on the Thai/Burma border and they confirm at least 75 political prisoners and with 130 awaiting trial.   On 7 Oct, 3015 prisoners were released but only 2 or 3 were political according to them.

North Korea: Much speculation about Kim Jong Un in the press this month, firstly that he had gout and then that foreign doctors had treated him for a leg injury…..but the precise nature of this injury remains unclear. Always conflicting reports about everything as a NK senior aide made an unprecedented visit to the South at the closing ceremony of the Asian Games and then a few days later threatening remarks were made……

 

Wendy Hughes

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