Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Proof of Human Rights Abuses at the Hands of the Burmese Army

We need immediate resolutions to these injustices. They are blatant violations of the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from inhumane rape, torture, forced labor, etc. Fighting for these rights is why our team is going to Thailand to work with NGOs and refugees firsthand. Afterwards, we are still obligated to convey the human rights message to our community in the US. Along with the many other overlooked conflict zones, Burma has not gotten the attention that it needs - we hope that evidence like this will continue to be disseminated so that the mainstream media will catch on and bring further awareness to the civil war and genocide that Burma has suffered for decades.

Please discuss using the comment box or tell us your thoughts during Sat. training.

1. Bringing Justice to Women of Burma

2.Journeyman Pictures is an excellent media agency that focuses on conflict zone stories - they have a lot of ones on Burma on their Youtube channel. Here's a great one:

Burma - New US Drugs War

3. Convict Porters - DVB (forced labor)

4. On a more positive note, the NLD has set up schools where children can attend for free! No more propaganda-filled curriculae!!

Democratic Voice of Burma TV - Education on the move in Burma

Again, please comment on whatever you want - feelings, criticisms, rants, etc!

Myanmar: A Welcome From China

I think both China and the US are trying to exert power of the new regime of Myanmar. Not a good thing when China steps in my opinion....
- Hong

 Myanmar: A Welcome From China

Vice President Xi Jinping of China welcomed the leader of Myanmar’s military on Monday in a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and called for closer military ties between the countries, in what appeared to be a response to the visit by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Myanmar later this week.
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Mr. Xi, the heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, met Min Aung Hliang, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s military, and said that China would “work with Myanmar to further bolster the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation,” according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Myanmar has been a close ally of China for decades, as Mr. Xi also pointed out. But new leaders in Myanmar have begun to tolerate some political freedom and have started mending ties with the West, prompting President Obama’s decision to send Mrs. Clinton there.
Myanmar and China share a long and often porous border, and Chinese companies have built dams, pipelines, highways and other big projects in Myanmar for many years, even as most Western governments and companies shunned the country because of its human rights abuses.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Alternative Break Session 5: 11/19

Icebreaker Activity about Identity

Purpose of the activity: What have we learned about ourselves and the other people around us?

The trouble around diversity, then, isn’t just that people differ from one another. The trouble is produced by a world organized in ways that encourage people to use difference to include or exclude, reward or punish, credit or discredit, elevate or oppress, value or devalue, leave alone or harass (Privilege, Power, and Difference, 2001, by Allen G. Johnson)

Social Identity: race, class, gender, ability, age, religion, sexual orientation, language

Experiences privileges: Middle-aged white men, middle class (?), women and men, Christian - where?, Jewish, middle-aged people in traditional occupations, technology occupations - youth, heterosexuals, English (American)

Experiences oppression: Latino/Hispanic, Asian, Black community, middle class (?), women and men, transgender, non-gender confirming, mental/learning disability, Muslim, outwardly religious people, senior citizens, non-heterosexuals, non English speakers, accents

Definition of an ally: “An individual who experiences privilege and rejects the dominant ideology; taking action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression is mutually beneficial to both people who experience privilege and people who experience oppression.”

Characteristics of an ally:

1. Comfortable with/proud of their own identity

2. Takes responsibility for their own education

3. Acknowledges unearned privileges

4. Recognizes unlearning racism, etc. as a lifelong process

5. Willing to take risks; try new behavior

6. Acts against social injustice in belief their own self interest

7. Uses privilege to work against oppression

Article #1: BBC News - Suu Kyi’s NLD democracy party to rejoin Burma politics

Article #2: Burma law to allow labour unions and strikes

- Positive press regarding Burma lately

- Is the change cosmetic?

- More press could be an impetus for the Burmese government to change; more governments could hold them accountable

- Burma has a chair in ASEAN

- Schedule prisoner was released this upcoming Monday

- Can Aung San Suu Kyi’s involvement in government help?

- How would ethnic minorities feel about the move?

- Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burman (majority) representing the minority groups

Cultural Presentation #1 by Erin Q: Thai language phrases - Erin will send us links online.

Cultural Presentation #2 by Erin O: Thai Do’s and Don’ts when traveling, courtesy of Erin’s Thai friend (advice given for her boyfriend from Ohio). Feet are considered dirty! Do not point your feet, and try your best not to cross your legs. Don’t wear a lot of jewelry. You may get robbed. *Please refer to the handout

CBO/NGO #1: Monk Chat - University program that provides an opportunity for foreigners to chat with monks informally on general topics that include the monk’s way of living, Thai culture, Buddhism, etc. *Please see handout

CBO/NGO #2: Democratic Voice of Burma - Norwegian non-profit organization run by Burmese expatriates that has four primary goals:

1. The provision of “accurate and unbiased news to the people of Burma”

2. To “promote understanding and cooperation” among Burma’s religious and ethnic populations

3. To “encourage and sustain independent public opinion” and to provide for “social and political debate”

4. To “impart the ideals of democracy and human rights” to the Burmese people

Travel tips:

1. Do not travel by yourself. Use the buddy system!

2. Do not mention the BBL because the Burmese immigrants’ livelihoods in Thailand will be endangered because they are illegal. Just say that you are a tourist.

3. Be responsible with your passport and money. *We will exchange our money there

4. Beware of tuk-tuks that approach you. You must approach them. The same rule applies to taxi drivers. Taxi drivers must turn the meter on. Use the pink taxis. They are reliable in Bangkok.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Clinton Set to Visit Myanmar as Obama Cites Progress

BANGKOK — Citing “flickers of progress” in Myanmar’s political climate, President Obama announced Friday that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit next month, the first by a secretary of state in more than 50 years.

Jason Reed/Reuters

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India with President Obama in Bali, Indonesia, on Friday.

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The decision was announced in Bali,Indonesia, where nations from Southeast Asia were meeting on Friday with leaders from across the Pacific Rim, including the United States, China and Japan.

“For decades Americans have been deeply concerned about the denial of basic human rights for the Burmese people,” Mr. Obama said. “The persecution of democratic reformers, the brutality shown toward ethnic minorities and the concentration of power in the hands of a few military leaders has challenged our conscience and isolated Burma from the United States and much of the world.”

But he added that “after years of darkness, we’ve seen flickers of progress in these last several weeks” as the president and Parliament in Myanmar have taken steps toward reform.

“Of course there’s far more to be done,” Mr. Obama said.

The decision to send Mrs. Clinton came as Myanmar took another step away from its diplomatic isolation on Thursday when its neighbors agreed to let the country, which had been run for decades by the military, take on the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014.

Myanmar has long coveted the rotating chairmanship of the organization, known as Asean. The country renounced its turn in 2006 in the face of foreign pressure over human rights abuses.

“It’s not about the past, it’s about the future, what leaders are doing now,” the Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, told reporters in Bali about the chairmanship. “We’re trying to ensure the process of change continues.”

Myanmar inaugurated a new civilian system this year after decades of military rule. The new government, led by a former general, Thein Sein, has freed a number of political prisoners, taken steps to liberalize the nation’s heavily state-controlled economy and made overtures to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel laureate who was released from house arrest last year.

In a telephone conversation flying from Australia to Indonesia, Mr. Obama sought assurances from Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi before approving the visit and she “confirmed that she supports American engagement to move this process forward,” Mr. Obama said.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party won elections in 1990, but the result was ignored by the military. Her party, the National League for Democracy, has said it will decide on Friday whether to rejoin the political system after having been de-listed as a party by the junta.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Youtube Videos - Backgrounder on Burma

I gathered some clips from Youtube that provide a bit of information on the situation in Burma concerning human rights abuses, the 2010 election controversy, the Saffron Revolution, etc. A few of the videos are from the awesomely hard-working guys at US Campaign for Burma - PLEASE SUPPORT THEM! www.uscampaignforburma.org

http://youtu.be/W0VlzHiYHis - only link available, professionally produced by Journeyman Pictures.

This last video is special because we had the opportunity to meet Myra Dahgaypaw, USCB's Campaigns Coordinator for one of our training sessions. She was also at our protest against the Myitsone Dam project.

Pre-trip Training Session 4

An overview of our meeting on November 12:

Thailand-Burma Border AltBreak Training
Session 4

1. “flash” word game icebreaker – grad/undergrad, feelings about the trip
2. Article discussion – “How Burma Can Show It’s Really Changed” (Washington Post)
a. Only cosmetic change, not real structural change
b. Curbing Chinese involvement (i.e. Myitsone Dam project) is an attempt to impress Western nations, possibly for funding
c. Aung San Suu Kyi is being cautiously optimistic in approaching the military gov (possibly giving them too much credit?)
3. CBO presentation 1 – Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma - AAPP)
a. Founded by former political prisoners
b. Supply them with basic necessities
i. Directly to prisoners and their families
ii. Medical care, education
c. Reports stats, collects photos
d. protects, finds support for prisoners (during all stages of process)
e. works w/ NGO’s (e.g. UN, Human Rights Watch), foreign governments
f. media advocacy
4. CBO presentation 2 – The Best Friend (libraries)
a. Free libraries w/ access to internet, reports, books, etc.
b. Started by 2 monks
c. Unfortunately only 3 out of the original 15 libraries still exist, others shut down
d. Patrons sometimes arrested
e. Support refugees who have resorted to living in houses made with things found in rubbish dump
f. Water purification fund
g. Annual walk
h. Website is comprehensive (Twitter, posters, videos, etc.) and links fully-functional
5. Culture Lesson
a. Breakfast items include rice soup, porridge
b. Protein sources are primarily pork, chicken, shrimp
c. Rice-based noodles
d. Curries contain coconut milk
6. Cultural lesson 2 – etiquette
a. Constitutional monarchy – absolutely no disrespecting the king
. Do not step on threshold of building entrances – a spirit resides there
c. Take off shoes in homes
d. Only use right hand to touch, eat, etc.
e. Don’t touch the head of a Thai/pass object over it - held sacred
f. “wai” – greeting used with palms-together (gesture towards chest, no higher than nose)
i. Monks do not return a wai
g. Introduce yourself w/ first name i.e. Ms. Britney
i. lower-status participants first i.e. child before parent
ii. Last names only used in very formal occasions, written communications
7. Fundraising
a. Krispy kreme – sell in dorms, money up front, pre-order/tabling
b. Salt dough Christmas ornaments
i. Sell to family
ii. Tabling
iii. Low-cost
8. Logistics
a. Transportation to JFK
b. Bus, carpool – day before?
c. At least 5 hours before to take into account weather, traffic, etc.
d. First-aid kit – make our own, enough for whole group
9. Activity
a. Free Burma VJ Postcards Project - http://www.freeburmavj.org/news-and-report/send-hope-burma%E2%80%99s-jailed-vjs-send-them-home-made-postcard
b. to political prisoners, actual names listed
c. specific guidelines on website
d. Possibly bring some for other AU students to make during tabling/fundraising
*You can participate too! You can send up to 5 postcards from home, for the exact specifications please visit the link.

Pre-trip Training Session 3

We had our third meeting on Saturday, November 5 on the topic of "Refugees and Ethnic Groups".
·       Ice-breaker
·       Presentation of the issue (guest speaker)
·       Presentation of CBOs: KHRG and TBBC (participant presents; group signs thank-you cards)
·       Cultural training (participants presents)
·       Follow-up on Budget; Fundraising
·       Discuss logistics: Register for State Dept. updates; Protest
·       Q&A / concerns / action items (paperwork, payments, etc)
·       Wrap-Up Activity!

Guest Speaker: Myrah, US Campaign for Burma
·         History—Burma independent in 1948
o   Many ethnic groups (as seen on map)—Independence from British in 1980, this is when many tensions were created
o   Minority states—rich in natural resources.  Problem w military regime in Burma right now is greed and power—fighting w ethnic minorities, keep pushing them out of their villages to keep power
§  ex. Karen State, ended up in Salween River (sp?) once they crossed over, would become refugees in Thailand
o   What is going on in ethnic areas? Rape, killing, human rights abuses on a daily basis. From June-September there were 35 cases of gang rape—do we know about this in international community? no. is still closed to media.
o   Regime has brainwashed people of Burma—views of people in ethnic areas by people in central Burma, same as view of people in central Burma by those in border/ethnic areas
o   Service contracts
o   Questions:
§  Where are most refugees? Thailand (red area on map), will find 9 refugee camps. Some in Bangladesh and India, these do not get as much assistance as Thai/Burma side
§  How did you leave Burma and come to America?  Was an IDP in Burma, had to migrate bc of regime, ended up at Thai-Burma border refugee camp, work she did was illegal, was followed by spies.  Decided to come to US to leave situation—went to college in Hawaii
·         when 12 years old approximately
·         Opportunity for education in camp? Education gap to America, but yes some education/schooling
§  Relationship between ethnic minority groups and larger population, larger cities
·         information channels back and forth—mediator
§  Challenge as IDP in Thailand?  IDP is challenging in every way, no right to live as a human being. Right to live safetly is the most challenging. In refugee camp, behind fence is quite safe
·         young people in camps typically get more drunk)
§  Refugees will not be as outgoing as us will need to approach them, ask qusestions
§  Are people still ethnically group once divided once campaign
§  Technically Thai are not responsible for Burmese immigrants, but take responsilibility bc of involvement by international influence instruments points
Presentation: Free Burma Rangers- Phoebe
·         Vision: free press and to stand for human dignity, justice and reconciliation in burma (please see handout)
·         Many org.s send their members to the Free Burma Rangers for training
·         Requirements: 1. Love (work for free) 2. Ability to read and write 3. Physical and Moral Courage (bc are going to war zones)
o   cannot run away from people they are resisting
·         Trained more than 110 teams, conducted over 300 humanitarian missions, 1000-2000 patients.
·         Puts emphasis on faith, putting people together with different faith backgrounds
·         Primarily based in Burma (are never allowed to be in contact w Burmese army), push back from the army depends on army’s level of knowledge of their presence
Presentation: TBBC, Thailand Burma Border Consortium- Erin
·         (please see handout) TBBC is a consortium of 12 INGOs from 10 countries providing food, shelter and nonfood items to refugees and displaced people from Burma
·         The Weaving Project—provides people with materials to make their own clothing
·         Emergency response—currently responding to flooding, updates can be found on website
·         one of the largest organizations—are the life blood of the refugees, HQ in Bangkok
US budget cuts greatly affecting programs such as this bc cutting foreign aid. Giving money to refugees and cross-border assistance, IDPs, included in load of money that goes to refugees. TBBC org. handles money and distribution of money. US also gives money inside Burma through USAID.

Cultural Lesson:
·         Etiquette—public displays of emotion (excessively) are frowned upon, elders are greatly respected
o   Nonverbal—do not pass anything over someone’s head,
§  show repect to elder, kneel down
§  meeting monk—put palms together and gesture down
§  mindful of embarrassing others
o   Culture inspired by Buddhism
§  Men have greater status than woman, believing in reincarnation—women should strive to be men in next life
§  Man- breadwinner, turns money over to wife- financially responsible for family
§  rights through education and business
§  Family ties—typically live in same home or live very closely, intimate atmosphere
§  Age—if someone is of a higher age than you, you are required to respect them
o   Onji (sp?)- traditional wrap (clothing)
·         Food—some examples of traditional dishes
Cultural Lesson: Erin
·         Classical music- emerged form royal courts about 800 years ago—each type of classical music uses small cling hand cymbals and the krap wooden stock to mark the primary beat reference
o   Piphat
o   Khruang Sai
o   Mahori
o   Traitional/Folk Music
§  Mor Lam
o   Popular Music
§  Phleng pheua chiwit (influenced by western rock)
§  String (string pop, mainstream music now)
o   Room 39—popular band, Thai but now in LA
Budget, Fundraising (IMPORTANT!)
Border Link—brochure on Blackboard, ThayBay Education Network Brochure

Blackboard—go to Alt. break Groupàright hand side, Thai/Burma Winter 2011-2012àFile Exchange or Group Blog to upload docs or

Pre-trip Training Session 2

Here's an idea of what we've been doing to prepare for our work in Thailand.

October 29, 2011 

Topic: Democracy and Freedom (or lack thereof) in Burma 

I. Discussion of Democracy and Freedom (what are the road signs of democracy and lack of
democracy?) Activity split between two groups -

Group 1:
Signs for democracy:
. Human rights
. Active citizenship
. Effective voting systems
. Effective rule of law
. Peaceful regime changes
. Pendulum of ideologies
. Separation of military and government
. Separation of powers within
. Economic well-being
. Strong infrastructure
. Tolerance of opposing ideas, religions,

Signs against democracy:
. Corruption
. Dictatorship
. Lack of free and fair elections
. Not allowing opposition/one-party
. Poverty
. On-going conflicts

Group 2:
Signs for democracy:
. Immigration into and out of the country
. Open-market system
. Tourism
. International support
. Freedom of speech and press
. Communication
. Civil society
. Community involvement
. Transparency
. Ability to have change happen

Signs against democracy:
. Lack of freedom (freedom of press,
speech, religion, etc.)
. Human rights abuses
. Press censorship
. Violence/conflict
. Ineffective policing
. Corruption in government
. Under martial law
. Inequality (social, economic, etc.)

II. Articles

. CANVAS (Center for non-violent action strategies)
o They travel around and give trainings on how to have a non-violent revolution
o What is a non-violent revolution? It is war without weapons
o They have been instrumental in bringing down other regimes
o Are now working with the Burmese
o They take their blueprint and then shape it to the local context
o Burmese is so different b/c the regime is so repressive in Burma

o Came up with a lot of good ideas, but in the end, participants said, “It’s not practical.”

. Burma Censorship
o Trying to uplift censorship laws in Burma
o They lifted laws on not having to approve lottery numbers or sports articles
o Even with these changes, jail sentences continue for journalists speaking out against the


National Council on the Union of Burma 
(NCUB) (http://www.ncub.org/AboutNCUB.htm#)

o Background
. Started in 1992
. Combination of 4 organizations of political movements that got together;
inspired by 1990 election fiasco that SLORK said they won
. Pro- freedom, democracy
. Against current govt
. Aim to achieve a democracy

o Objectives
. Abolition of military dictatorship
. Internal peace
. Democracy
. Establishment of a genuine Federal Union

o Want to bring empowerment to the people
o Seem active (but website full of broken links; hard to get good information on their

. Burma Partnership
“Strengthening Cooperation for a Free Burma”

o Vision: envisions a free and democratic Burma that upholds the principles of human
rights, equality, and justice
o Partnership of 4 NGOs that are operating
o Mission: network of organizations, advocating for and mobilizing a movement for
democracy and human rights in Burma
o Current campaigns
. 2010 elections
. Crimes Against Humanity
. Environmental and economic justice

IV. Logistics

. Turn in!!! . Forms, AUID, Passport photocopy, health insurance card photocopy, consent form,
alcohol agreement
. Service project: PROTEST!!!
o Anne sending out info to list servs
o Kristen’s making a flyer
o Kate’s passing out flyers
o Facebook event
o Post on Today at AU
. Vaccines (malaria, typhoid pills, hep-A, hep-B, diarrhea pills)