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Along Myanmar's border with China, illegally felled timber is transported to China, according the Britain-based group Global Witness. From there, it becomes flooring and furniture for European and American homes.
Global Witness said most of the logging takes place in an area described as "very possibly the most biodiverse, rich, temperate area on earth," home to red pandas, leopards and tigers.
About 95 percent of Myanmar's total timber exports to China are illegal, Global Witness said, costing its treasury $250 million a year. Much of the profits go to Chinese firms as well as regional military commanders and ethnic guerrilla groups, it said.
The borders along China and Thailand also are host to massive, unregulated markets that sell everything from illicit gems to animal parts. At the Tachileik market on the Thai border and Mong La market on the Chinese border, vendors openly sell tiger and leopard skins, bear paws, ivory and live turtles.
The markets are filled with Western tourists looking for souvenirs and Asia businessmen supplying traditional medicine and food markets in China and other Asian countries, activists said.
"Given the high demand and extent of the trade in Myanmar, many species will be lost," said Chris Shepherd, a senior program officer for conservation group Traffic. "Rhinos in Myanmar are probably already extinct due to trade. Tigers are on a huge decline. Elephants are in huge decline. The list goes on and on."
Sim describes Singapore’s usefulness to Burma. “Many successful Myanmar businessmen have opened shell companies” in Singapore “with little or no staff, used to keep funds overseas,” he notes. Sim says the companies are used to keep business deals outside the control of Burma’s central bank, enabling Singaporeans and others to do business with Burma in Singapore.
He may be referring to junta cronies like Tay Za and the druglord Lo Hsing Han. Lo is an ethnic Chinese, from Burma’s traditionally Chinese-populated and opium-rich Kokang region in the country’s east, bordering China. Lo controls a massive heroin empire, and one of Burma’s biggest companies, Asia World, which the US Drug Enforcement Agency describes as a front for his drug-trafficking. Asia World controls toll roads, industrial parks and trading companies.
Singapore is the Lo family’s crucial window to the world, controlling a number of companies there. His son Steven, who has been denied a visa to the US because of his links to the drug trade, even married a Singaporean, Cecilia Ng, and the two reportedly control a Singapore-based trading house, Kokang Singapore Pte Ltd. The couple transit Singapore at will.
A former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert Gelbard, has said that half of Singapore’s investments in Burma “have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.”
The ecosystem and environment along the Gyaing River is in peril because of large scale excavation of sand for export to Singapore. The Burmese military junta, which permitted the export, has kept local villagers in the dark about the Myat Wadi Trading Limited project, inhabitants of a river-side village said.
The Myat Wadi Trading Limited collected sand from along the Gyaing River and exported it to Singapore 10 times in a month, claims a source from the 'Weekly Eleven Journal' last month.
"Although villagers saw the boats, they thought they were being used for construction in town. We only found out what they were really being used for when I asked them. Authorities did not inform anyone about the project, not even the village headmen along the river," a Kaowao reporter was told by a villager.
The mass movement in Burma is unlikely to be defeated by removing its most visible components because they have organized themselves around a conceptualization of power that does not depend on the guidance of just a small group of people. The resistance is based on the notion of people-power, a genuinely bottom-up form of authority that finds its strength in numbers and scope, not in the charisma or strategy of one or two key individuals. So, the more the regime attacks, the more likely it is that movement's numbers will actually increase. In fact, on Thursday, the Industrial Zone Workers' Union made a public declaration of their solidarity with the movement, and declared its members would join in "when a general strike comes up." They also "exhort all workers of Burma to work for our country's cause."
In making that fatal error to use violence against the soul of Burma, the regime has very likely sealed their fate. To paraphrase Lech Walesa, former leader of the Solidarity trade union federation, which ultimately undermined Communist Party power in Poland, it was at that moment - with the decision to respond so violently to nonviolence - when the regime revealed they were losing the conflict. As in the Polish and other even more repressive country examples of the past half century, the Burmese junta can (and likely will) try to drag out the inevitable for several more months or even years, but in doing so, they will only continue to reinforce people's will to resist them, as well as the growing international pressure on them. So, it is not only the misery of the people of Burma the regime and its security forces are prolonging, but ultimately their own as well.
[---] But beneath the surface, anger, uncertainty, hopelessness — and above all, fear of the junta — prevail.
“It’s not peace you see here, it’s silence; it’s a forced silence,” said a 46-year-old writer who joined last month’s protests in Yangon and was now on the run, carrying with him a worn copy of his favorite book, George Orwell’s “1984.” “We are the military’s slaves. We want democracy. We want to wait no longer. But we are afraid of their guns.”
[---] “Keep your pen and piece of paper in your pocket; there are spies everywhere,” said a 62-year-old retired man in Yangon’s Chaukktatgyi Pagoda. “Please don’t tell anyone my name. Big trouble for me.”
[---] By perpetrating what most Burmese felt was unthinkable — the beating and killing of monks — the ruling generals proved that they would stop at nothing to keep their grip on power. People were again cowed into subjugation. Now dissidents worry that the world, after its initial uproar, will again leave the Burmese people to cope with the junta on their own.
“We want to explode our feelings, but if we do, who will help us?” said a 58-year-old businessman who, like many, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The U.N.? The U.S.? China? They all said they would help us. But all they did was blah, blah, blah.”
[---] Since the crackdown, up to 90 percent of bookings by tourists have been canceled, according to travel agencies and airlines, further damaging the economy. Now garment factory owners, who hire hundreds of thousands of workers, are bracing for a new wave of economic sanctions.
“Sanctions only hurt people like us and the workers; the government here doesn’t care,” said a factory owner. “No orders are coming from Europe because they don’t trust this government. I am thinking of how to close my factory.”
Posted by Harry Oo on Sunday Sep 30
Late yesterday, the Serilanka educated, professor of sacred Buddhist scripture, Venerable Shin-Thila-Wuntha died in a torture-cell of Myitkyina Prison in Northern Burma.
The highly respected Buddhist monk was detained along with hundreds of other monks during the violent raids on many monasteries all over the State Capital of Kachin State, Myitkyina, by the Burmese Army since last Friday.
Major General Ohn Myint, the Commander of Burmese Army's Northern Command Division and the notorious Warlord of occupied Kachin State, is known to have ordered the arrest and personally involved in the brutal torture of Reverend Shin-Thila-Wuntha.
He has also ordered the medical staff from Myitkyina Hospital to doctor the death certificate to say the cause of death as a severe Heart-Attack.
In Rangoon, a reliable source confirmed that at least four of the 300 detained monks in a labor camp near Insein GTI were killed during the torture sessions. (News courtesy of DVB Oslo)
The leader of a Burmese ethnic army has urged all opponents of the ruling junta to unite in the aftermath of last month's uprising.
"All those battling the regime must co-operate," said Colonel Yawd Serk, of the Shan State Army (SSA).
"If we cannot unite, and if the international community does not come to our help, then nothing will change in Burma for a decade."
"As long as China, Russia and India continue to arm the regime then civilians will suffer."
Civilians have been systematically targeted by government troops, with some 3000 villages destroyed and, according to the latest estimates, almost 100,000 people currently in hiding.
Half a million have been forced to abandon their homes.
The SSA says it has already begun preliminary talks with Burma's main democratic opposition group, the National League for Democracy, and also with representatives from another ethnic group, the Karen National Union, to try to seek a common negotiating position.
But most ethnic forces - like the United Wa State Army, whose frontline forts are within shouting distance of the SSA on the neighbouring hilltop - have signed ceasefire deals with the junta.
The KMT rapidly took over and expanded the opium trade in the region, but Chan Chi-fu and his gang gradually began to exert their influence during the 1960s.
Allied with the Burmese government, they are thought to have fought against both the KMT and the Shan nationalists in exchange for being allowed to continue trading opium.
The term Golden Triangle was coined during this period to describe the drug-producing region on the border of Thailand, Burma and Laos.
But Chan soon fell foul of the volatile alliances drug crime engenders.
He had annoyed the government by cosying up to the Shan nationalists, and was thrown into jail in 1969.
On his release five years later, he took the Shan name Khun Sa and allied himself to the cause of Shan separatism.
An already devoted band of fighters was consolidated on the Thai border and eventually became the Mok Tai Army - a fighting force of more than 20,000 troops.
By the 1980s officials estimated that Khun Sa controlled more than half of the opium going through the Golden Triangle - which in turn was said to account for half the world's heroin.
A renewed offensive waged by the Burmese government during 1994, combined with fierce fighting against the rival Wa hill tribe, was beginning to take its toll on the Shan separatist movement.
With the situation increasingly desperate, Khun Sa made his boldest play.
He convened a Shan "parliament", attended by hundreds of delegates, and later announced the formation of an independent Shan State - of which he declared himself president.
But control of his own forces had begun to slip, and a faction calling itself the Shan State National Army broke away from the Mok Tai Army in 1995, accusing Khun Sa of using Shan separatism as a front for drug running.
Facing increasingly determined foes, and with his movement falling apart, Khun Sa did what to many must have seemed unthinkable - he surrendered to the government.
SOURCE |news.bbc.co.uk | Read more...
1937 - Father passes away - Mother remarried to Khun Ji, Chief of Mongtawm
1939 - Mother passes away - Khun Sa goes to live with paternal grandfather Khun Yihsai, (Zhang Chunwu), Chief of Loimaw
1960 - (6 January) Approached by Col Maung Shwe, Commander, Eastern Region Commander, with an offer to set up a pro-Burma Army militia
1964 - (17 May) All 100 and 50 kyat banknotes demonetized without compensation (15 June) takes up armed struggle under the leadership of Bo Deving, a hero of Tangyan battle (1959); Arrives in Ban Hintaek, Chiangrai province; breaks up with Bo Deving; joins the newly-formed Shan State Army (SSA) - N.B.
He later decided to return to the Burma Army fold
1967 - “Opium War” against ex-KMT remnants in the Golden Triangle, losing opium caravan to Gen Ouane Rattikone, Laotian army commander (He claims to get it back from Ouane afterwards)
1969 - (20 October) arrested and sent to Mandalay prison; his troops, led by his Manchurian chief of staff Zhang Xuchuan (Falang), take up the name Shanland United Army (SUA) and return to the armed struggle
1973 - (16 April) Two Russian doctors working in Taunggyi abducted by a trusted aide Charlie Yang to be held as hostage in exchange for Khun Sa’s release
1974 - (7 September) released but kept under “protection” of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) in Mandalay
1976 - (7 February) escapes to Shan State and then to Ban Hintaek
1977 - (16 April) meets Joseph Nellis, aide to Congressman Lester Wolff, then Chairman of the US House Select Committee on Narcotics, to present “Six Year Plan” to eradicate opium production (18 July) proposal rejected by the Carter administration
1982 - (21 January) his force in Ban Hintaek attacked by the Thai Border Patrol Police (BPP) “hired by the DEA”, according to him; he later attacks and occupies Doilang, opposite Chiangmai’s Mae Ai district
1985 - (3 March) joins generals Gawnzerng and Zarm Mai to form a new Shan State Army (SSA), which later becomes the Mong Tai Army (MTA); elected as Vice President of the newly formed Tai Revolutionary Council (later Shan State Restoration Council); establishes HQ in Homong, opposite Maehongson Additions
1991 - (11 July) Elected President of the Shan State Restoration Council (SSRC) following Gawnzerng’s death
1993 - (12 December) declares Independence
1994 - Forces moving up to Sino-Burma border attacked and dispersed by Burma Army
1995 - (6 June) Mutiny by Col Gunyawd who breaks away to set up Shan State National Army (SSNA), plus combined attack by Wa and Burma Army and blockade by Thailand, weakens MTA
1996 - (7 January ) surrenders to Burma Army; moves to Rangoon to live under protection at MI base Ye Kyi Aing
2004 - Protégé Gen Khin Nyunt ousted; moves to home in Rangoon but still under “protection”
2007 - (28 October) passes away at 06:30 (Burma Standard Time) - (30 October) remains cremated at Yeway cemetery, North Okkalapa
SOURCE |www.shanland.org| Read more...
In 2004-2005 AUSAID funded training 'for senior officials in the theory of counter terrorism recognition and collaboration for combating terrorism'. The project funded counter-terrorism workshops, later delivered to 600 government personnel in Burma.
Since 2004 the Australian Government has funded Burmese intelligence training through the 'Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation' . The Centre receives $6 million a year from the Attorney Generals Department, funds attributed to the Australian Government aid effort.
The Centre plays an important role in training Burmese police and intelligence officers. In November 2006, for instance, 20 senior intelligence officers from the Burmese government were trained by three Australian Federal Police at the Centre.
Police intelligence training directly serves the military regime. In Burma there is no civil command: since 1995 the Police force in Burma has come under the control of the military, the Tatmadaw. Police intelligence and the 'Special Branch' is subordinate to regional military command structures. Human rights groups such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Brussels based International Crisis Group highlight the increased use of police intelligence against pro-democracy groups in Burma, especially since 2004. Intelligence and police training for the Burmese Government, paid for by Australian taxpayer, directly implicates the Australian Government in these human rights abuses.
SOURCE | burmagateway.org | Read more...
A major rally to demand that the Australian government to stop its secret cooperation with the Burmese Military Junta will be held in Sydney on November 15.
The rally organised by the Sydney based Joint Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (JACDB) will take place at Martin Place, Sydney.
Just recently the Manly Daily local newspapers revealed that five police officers from Burma had been trained at the Australian Institute of Police Management in Manly, Sydney over the past five years.
SOURCE | shanland.org | Read more...
In a move to beef up border security a significant number of new Chinese troops have been deployed along the Sino-Burma border in Northern Burma, since early this month, said sources on the border.
A Chinese officer in Mangshi city, who is responsible for border security of Dehong Prefecture in Yunnan Province told KNG today, "We have stepped up security along the Burma border on the direct orders of the central government. The security forces have been deployed keeping in mind security perceptions on the border before next year's '2008 Olympic Games' in Beijing."
"Security personnel have been increased on the Burma border for security concerns in the wake of Burma's political instability," the officer added.
China has been taking security precautions on the border since 2005 by constructing roads along the border areas and setting up several military checkpoints, according to KIA and NDA-K sources.
The Chinese security forces have not been seen in such big numbers along the Sino-Burma border in Northern Burma before, said eyewitnesses.
SOURCE | bnionline.net | Read more...
At the time of Asia Times Online's investigation in the area, rumors were rife that US paratroops had infiltrated northern Myanmar to establish an air force base there. ATol confirmed that the rumor originated from the PLA barracks and soon spread among the local residents. Informed sources in Washington and Bangkok told ATol that the rumors were totally groundless. Some Bangkok sources insisted that the Thai government would not tolerate any such unilateral US action in neighboring Myanmar.
SOURCE | atimes.com | Read more...
"I wish to thank all those who have stood by my side all this time, both inside and outside my country. I am also grateful to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for his unwavering support for the cause of national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in my country.
"I welcome the appointment on 8 October of Minister Aung Kyi as minister for relations. Our first meeting on 25 October was constructive and I look forward to further regular discussions. I expect that this phase of preliminary consultations will conclude soon so that a meaningful and timebound dialogue with the SPDC leadership can start as early as possible.
"In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue...
SOURCE | truthout.org | Read more...
And the military leadership, long disdainful of the outside world's opinions, appeared to snub Mr. Gambari.
He was denied a meeting with the country's top general, Than Shwe, and his initiatives were publicly rejected, including the suggestion that he directly broker talks between Mr. Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of the junta.
Mr. Gambari was lectured by the country's information minister, Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan, and the minutes of their meetings were published in the New Light of Myanmar, the government mouthpiece. For an otherwise opaque and secretive government this was a strikingly transparent act of diplomacy.
General Kyaw Hsan accused Mr. Gambari of being biased in favor of big Western powers, suggested he was ignorant of Myanmar's history, declared his previous visit did not bear fruit and warned him that "it would be a very serious mistake if Myanmar's affair is viewed superficially."
He demanded that Mr. Gambari "play a leading role in organizing and persuading others to relieve and lift sanctions" on Myanmar.
Aung Din, a former Burmese student activist who is now policy director of the United States Campaign for Burma, a Washington-based lobbying group, said he believed that the ruling generals were sensing a rift between the United States, which is pressing for a harder stance against them, and some European countries that are currently debating whether the government should be given offered enticements - financial assistance, possibly - for reform.
"They know to play game to divide the international community," Mr. Aung Din said.
SOURCE | truthout.org | Read more...
The junta has lifted a nighttime curfew, restored Internet access and ended a ban on assembly. But monks remain targets. The junta said recently it was still pursuing four monks who led rallies.
One of them, U Kovida, spoke to The Associated Press from the Thai border, asking that his location be kept secret for fear Thai authorities would send him back.
"At the moment you will hardly find a monk in Yangon. Monks are running away from danger. They are being arrested and sent to labor camps, tortured and killed," said U Kovida, 24.
Kovida is officially accused of having hidden 48 blocks of TNT in his monastery before moving them elsewhere. He was hunted for three weeks by authorities and arrived at the border Oct. 18. He says the allegations are false.
"Whenever they want to arrest a leading monk, they have to make up some story because they know people have such great respect for monks and Buddhism," he said.
A heavy police guard remains outside a handful of monasteries in Yangon, the former Rangoon, where some of the country's best-known shrines were flashpoints of the violence.
But a tour of some of the monasteries indicate there's little left to guard.
The Ngwekyar Yan monastery in northern Yangon is empty. It used to have about 180 monks, said U Yewata, the chief abbot, who was ordered by officials to move out. He said 70 monks were dragged away on the night of Sept. 26 and more were arrested later.
An abbot at a monastery in Ahlone township, in western Yangon, said he had sent most of his 1,200 monks home fearing he could no longer control them. Only the elderly monks remain.
The junta has long regarded monks as a potential threat. It has tried to intimidate, bribe and spy on them, and to gain control over the official state committee of monks, giving some of its 47 members cars, cell phones, TV sets, refrigerators and other gifts considered luxuries in the impoverished country formerly named Burma.
But many say that this time, in targeting monks and monasteries, the generals went too far. In this 90 percent Buddhist country of 54 million people, monasteries are sacrosanct.
Josef Silverstein, a retired Rutgers University professor who studied Myanmar for more than a half century, doesn't expect to see monks back in the front line for some time.
"Religious sayings and prayers were no match for the guns and determination of the military," he said.
But other experts say the monks' treatment won't be forgotten.
"The next wave of protests may have to be led by student leaders and political activists," said Pornpimon Trichot, a Myanmar specialist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. "But monks will remain an inspiration that lends legitimacy to the movement."
SOURCE | truthout.org | Read more...
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 7 — At least 31 people were killed in Myanmar during the military government’s crackdown on protests this fall, and arrests of and nighttime raids on suspected demonstrators are continuing, a United Nations human rights expert who visited the country last month said on Friday.
In a report released in Geneva, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, a special rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, said that the death toll was twice what the government had reported, that 500 to 1,000 people were still detained and that 1,150 political prisoners held before the demonstrations had not been released.
In addition, 74 people are listed as missing in the aftermath of the clashes, which occurred in August and September, when monks and thousands of civilians took to the streets to protest rising fuel prices and falling standards of living.
“The figures provided by different sources may underestimate the reality, as not all family members reported missing persons, fearing reprisal and severe punishment,” the report said.
The ruling junta has acknowledged the deaths of 15 people, but Mr. Pinheiro said he had uncovered evidence that at least 16 others had been killed.
Mr. Pinheiro gathered the information during a five-day visit to Myanmar, formerly Burma, in mid-November and meetings on two following days in Bangkok with diplomats, United Nations agency officials and civil society organizations.
In Myanmar, he met with a number of government officials and law enforcement officers, senior abbots from the Buddhist clergy, leaders of nongovernmental groups, 20 ambassadors based in Yangon, the main city, and five detainees at the Insein Prison there.
He said in the report that he had been kept from seeing the military officers directly involved in putting down the protests and from visiting a crematory where he was told a large number of bodies, some of them with shaved heads — suggesting that they were monks — were burned during three nights in late September by special teams that replaced the normal work force.
SOURCE | nytimes.com | Read more...
The junta tightly controls access to its large gem and jade mines, but remote places such as Kharbar offer a glimpse of a struggling people's helpless, yet strengthening, rage against the government.
The junta's violent crackdown against pro-democracy street demonstrations in September, the largest in two decades, sparked new calls for an international boycott of the government's biggest moneymakers, including rubies, sapphires, oil and natural gas.
First Lady Laura Bush has urged jewelers not to buy gems from Myanmar, also known as Burma. Some of the world's biggest names in precious stones, such as Cartier, Bulgari and Tiffany, say they won't sell Myanmar's blood-tainted treasures anymore.
But as Western shoppers shun Myanmar's jewels, buyers from neighboring China are rushing in to scoop up the country's gold and jade, highly prized by the growing middle class and by the fabulously wealthy, eager to find more ways to flaunt their new wealth.
It's one of the main reasons why the junta is still strong after years of sanctions: When Western countries try to tighten the economic noose, neighbors led by China, India and Thailand loosen the knot by increasing trade and investment in Myanmar.
Government officials say jade replaced rubies as the main attraction at a state-run auction held last month in Yangon, the country's principal city, also known as Rangoon. The fourth auction this year, it raised about $125 million for the junta in badly needed foreign currency.
But the junta doesn't let much trickle down to places like Kharbar, a remote northern stretch near the Himalayan foothills, close to the Chinese border.
It's a spectacularly beautiful, unforgiving place where villagers live in thatched huts with walls woven from bamboo. Thin as cardboard, they are flimsy shelter against frigid winter winds. And as the cost of food and fuel rises, so does the villagers' resentment, which roils like the rapids of the Nmai Hka that taunts them with tiny gifts of gold.
It is grueling, risky work. To separate gold particles from the slurry, miners squeeze drops of mercury from strips of cloth soaked in quicksilver, exposing them and the river fish they eat to dangerous levels of the heavy metal, which can damage kidneys and the nervous system.
For all the prospectors' pain and risk, most pans come up bust. So they dig deeper, push the limits harder.
Desperate to hit pay dirt, dreaming of finding a rare nugget instead of just flecks, some villagers rig up hand pumps onshore to homemade breathing hoses, and wade to the middle of the river. They work up to three hours at a time underwater.
As the economic chasm widens between Myanmar's people and their corrupt military rulers, places that were once synonymous with the sparkle of precious stones are now earning a darker reputation as hotbeds of political dissent.
One is Mogok, for centuries the entrance to the Valley of Rubies, which lies 200 miles south of Kharbar but might as well be a thousand, because the government rarely allows foreign visitors to see for themselves what is happening there.
SOURCE | latimes.com | Read more...
A woman has been injured in a bomb blast in Burma's commercial capital, Rangoon, officials say - the third bombing incident in three days.
The latest explosion occurred at a public toilet in a Rangoon railway station, witnesses said.
On Friday, a woman was killed by a blast in a railway station toilet in Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital.
And another man died, and four people were injured, when a bomb exploded in Pyu, north of Rangoon.
The government has blamed both incidents on the Karen National Union (KNU), a group fighting for greater autonomy for the ethnic Karen people.
Bangkok, Thailand - Burma's junta has stepped up surveillance of the Internet, arresting one blogger who wrote about the stifling of free expression in the military-ruled nation, a media advocacy group said.
The blogger, Nay Myo Latt, was taken into custody in Yangon on Wednesday after writing about the suppression of freedoms following last fall's crushing of pro-democracy demonstrations, Reporters Without Borders said.
Despite international condemnation and pressure following the demonstrations, there is little evidence that the junta is easing its repressive rule or moving closer to reconciliation with pro-democracy forces led by Suu Kyi.
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Police in Myanmar have given DVD hawkers strict orders not to stock the new Rambo movie, which features the Vietnam War veteran taking on the former Burma's ruling military junta, a Yangon resident told Reuters on Friday.
Despite the prohibition, pirated copies of the movie are widely available on the streets of the former capital, where it is fast becoming a talking point among a population eager to shake off 45 years of military rule.
"People are going crazy with the quote 'Live for nothing, die for something'," one resident said, referring to the tagline of the fourth Rambo installment, which opened in the United States this week.
Defying international calls to relent, Myanmar's junta is still hunting down activists involved in September's monk-led protests, causing scores to flee to Thailand, fugitives and aid workers said on Wednesday.
"They will not stop," said one 36-year-old former political prisoner who arrived in the Thai border town of Mae Sot on January 1 after three months in hiding in Yangon, the old capital and hub of the pro-democracy demonstrations.
His account of a dramatic escape to Thailand exposes as a lie the junta's assurances to United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari in November that it had stopped its arrests.
A worker at another refugee agency in Mae Sot, who asked not to be named, said four times as many fugitives were now crossing the Thai border compared to before the crackdown.
With Bangkok refusing to allow the United Nations refugee agency to start the asylum process for new arrivals, all those who make it across the border live in constant fear of arrest and deportation as illegal migrants.
"It would be like a death sentence for me," Nay Tin Myint said. "They have accused me of being a terrorist. I would be sent to prison for a very, very long time."
The secretary general of Burma's largest rebel group, the Karen National Union, has been killed.
Pado Mahn Shar, who was in his sixties, was shot at his home in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, his family said.
He was targetted by two men in a pick-up truck, while sitting on the veranda of his home. He died instantly.
The KNU and its military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, have spent nearly 60 years fighting the Burmese government.
The KNU, through its armed wing the KNLA, has been fighting for greater autonomy since 1949
The KNLA split in half in 1994, with the new group, the DKBA, making a pact with the government
The KNU and the junta reached a 'gentleman's agreement' in 2003, but it quickly broke down
The Karen are just one of many ethnic minorities in Burma. Much smaller rebel groups still exist in the Shan, Karenni and Mon states
SOURCE | news.bbc.co.uk | Read more...