Friday, September 01, 2006

Su Su Nway Wins 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award

Our heroine Su Su Nway,who successfully challenged Burma's ruling military junta (SPDC) for its horrific practices of forced labour and was then imprisoned for 8 months for her out-spokeness and brave action, has been honoured with a prestigious human rights and democracy award "2006 John Humphery Freedom Award" yesterday.
Rights and Democracy that presents the award each year to an organization and individual said in its news release that her story moved us profoundly and represented the selfless commitment to justice, adding that she had accomplished a powerful tribute to human spirit. She was selected from more than 100 nominations.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Su Su Nway Has Been Released

“I take my prison uniform with me because I know that I will have to come back to jail until Burma gets democracy."
Excerpt from her interview with DVB radio

A heroine of our age, Su Su Nway, who was imprisoned last year by the ruling military junta of Burma for her courageous fight against forced labor practices was released from prison yesterday. Her unexpected release, several months earlier than her prison term, came amid the growing international call for her release, as well as pressure from the ILO (International Labor Organizations) meeting being held in Geneva, Switzerland. The news of her sudden release made headline throughout the overseas-based Burma media and people inside and outside Burma express their happiness to her release.

She was in prison about eight months and the military junta gave no reason for their release of her which occurred ten months earlier than her release date. However there are clear indications that the junta takes a call from convening ILO meeting for immediate release of all imprisoned labor activists as an imminent threat to their already-dwindling position of staying on power.

In her radio interviews given soon after her release from jail, Su Su Nway said that she would resume her fight for labor rights and she was not afraid of being arrested again, adding that she wanted all political prisoners to be freed as soon as possible like her.

The Burmese community and Su Su Nway School in Finland are planning to celebrate her freedom from jail and this Su Su Nway's Blog will continue to blog her activities.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NCGUB Tells UN about Su Su Nway

Su Su Nway: the defender of Human Rights
Submitted to
Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
Prepared by
Burma UN Service Office
October 26, 2005
777 UN Plaza 6th Floor. New York. NY 10017. Ph. 212-338-0048. Fax: 212-338-0049

“I know I will end up in jail one day for advocating the truth, however; I want my fellow citizens to continue their struggle selflessly and responsibly toward eradication of forced labor in Burma.” – Su Su Nway

Given the severity of oppressions by the military regime, it is not a mystery to see Burma silenced and stabilized by reign of terror and fear. However, it is provocative to witness a village girl standing up to regime’s unjust orders, triumphing her own fear, lodging a lawsuit against mighty and bully authorities and exemplifying herself as a defender of justice and shading light of hope on her fellow citizens who have been subject to the same fate of being driven into forced labor. Her courage shown in her epic struggle to defend her own freedom and that of her fellow villagers from becoming forced laborers and her defiant spirit is much loved and respected by the people of Burma. Her seventeen-month long and hard-fought battle against forced labor practice has transformed her into an icon of courage.


When an army becomes a utility of the unprincipled, the result is a sorrow nation – a nation suffering from perdition due to extreme dose of oppression and its citizens being eaten up by inferno of fear. Burma is an example of such nation. With threats to life so dire and direct if orders are not obeyed or governance is ever criticized, people of Burma live in fear and agony under highly authoritarian rule.

Burma’s military regime that came to be the de facto ruler of the country in 1988 through a violent coup d'état has never satisfied its thirst for attaining a permanent grip on the control of the state. During its seventeen-year rule, the regime has doubled the size of its army, spending more than 40% of the budget annually on expansion of its army and leaving a tiny fraction of the budget, less than 2%, on health and education sectors. With foreign investment shrinking and natural resources emptying, the country is left on the verge of economic devastation. With spending on education and health sectors not nearly enough to even understand the gravity of and far from being sufficient to tackle the problems, the country is accelerating at full speed toward social devastation. Under its rule, unnecessary losses of lives and human suffering have been rampant. In human term alone the magnitude of loss has been unimaginably huge, let alone other forms and kinds of losses.

In the face of multidimensional constraints, the regime sits on a utilitarian army and suffers a chronic disease of self-delusion. It always attempt to deceives itself and to the world by producing double-digit growth rate on paper. In trying to bridge reality on ground and inflated rosy statistics on paper, the regime runs into another dilemma of beautifying the country with empty pocket. The result is the inevitable use of forced labor that in an attempt to mislead the world, the regime called voluntary labor contribution. Regardless of what it is called, the practice fits the definition of forced labor.

The existence of forced labor in Burma has been confirmed and condemned by ILO for years. “It is not through the use of forced labor but through Burma’s traditional and noble culture of voluntarily contributing labor in the name of donation the construction and development projects are carried out,” the regime responded in the face of ILO’s continual criticisms and warnings. However, far from complying with ILO, the regime’s deployment of the practice has become more severe and prevalent over time and reached an alarming level where ILO cannot stay unheeded to the cries of forced laborers in Burma. In 2000, in an unprecedented move, ILO recommended its member countries the imposition of trade and other sanctions on Burma under Article 33. Thanks to the ILO’s stick, signals of willingness and commitment from the part of the regime to cooperate with ILO toward eradication of forced labor have been seen and for the first time ILO’s presence in Rangoon was allowed. Responding to ILO’s sanction stick, the regime has agreed to ILO’s recommendation as to steps needed to be taken and implemented. Consequently, Order 1/99 was issued, making the use of forced labor a criminal act and punishable under section 374 of the Penal Code.

Unfortunately, Burma’s supposedly independent legal system itself is the first casualty of military rule and has long been an obedient slave of the regime – effectively and tirelessly serving its master’s need to crush opposition and subdue and eliminate threat – perceived or real – from all directions. In a society where the house of justice where citizens come and seek for refuge and protection from the destructive forces of the unruly and abusive men has become inhospitable and blind to the notion of truth and justice, people are left at the mercy of the mighty tyrants and justice has lost its meaning. As a result, fear permeates deeper and wider throughout the nation and trust that weaves the fabric of society falls apart setting the nation on the course of devastation. Through the use of such legal system, thousands of students and political activists have been put behind bars, arbitrary killings and arrests have been justified and abusers have been granted immunity from existing laws.

Those who only see the existence of ILO office and the law that outlaws the practice of forced labor and draw conclusion that the regime is cooperative with the ILO are only seeing a fraction of the tip of the iceberg, for the road to ILO office is filled with threats to life. Because they once walked on that road to ILO to report about forced labor practices, three men were convicted of high treason and sentenced to death on charges that include contacting ILO regarding the situation of forced labor in Burma. ILO officers, within the space they can operate, have acknowledged, documented and reported piles of cases of the use of forced labor and incidents of arrests for attempting to contact ILO. Nevertheless, the force labor practice in Burma has been contagious and widespread, and so have the arrests and fear.

She who dares

Htan Ma Naging village is located about 200 kilometers away from the northwest of Burma’s capital Rangoon. Once a hub of trade and busy with merchants, the village now survives on farming. Six decades ago, the river on which the village sits ensured the flow of cargo ships, making the village flourished on trade. However, over times the river has formed sediments, preventing cargo boats from approaching the village. As a result, the village’s economy has fundamentally transformed from commerce-based to farming. The nearby town, Kaw Hmoo is four miles away from Htan Ma Naing. During monsoon season the road connecting Htan Ma Naing and Kaw Hmoo is unusable due to flood. Boats become only means of transportation for the villagers of Htan Ma Naing as roads get destroyed by flood. Surrounded by big shady trees, Htan Ma Naing is a village relatively pristine and approximately 400 household – mostly farmers – live there.

Su Su Nway was born to a family of farmers of Htan Ma Naing village. Third child of the family of seven and suffering chronic heart disease, she was raised and educated till eighth grade in her native village. Her parents, sympathetic to their frail and suffering daughter, never allow her to make strenuous effort. As her heart disease worsened when she was in her ninth grade, she became incapable of attending school and had to drop out. Her mother passed away when she was fifteen and her father seven years later.

Since becoming an orphan, Su Su Nway has been living with her two nephews – sons of her eldest brother Than Lwin who continues the family’s farming and spends most of his time in the farm. She manages her household, helps her nephews with their lessons and sells lottery tickets to help defrays part of her household cost of living.

Since childhood, she has been dreaming of becoming an attorney-at-law. She was so ambitious that while playing with her friends she always took the role of a lawyer. Unfortunately, the road to her dream had come to an end when she could not go to school. However, believing deeply in the value of education, she continued to learn from elderly politicians during her leisure times. The life of Burma’s Independence hero General Aung San is the topic of her interest. Enthusiastically, she learned about his leadership, selfless struggle and sacrifice to free Burma from British colonial rule. Equally enthusiastic topic for Su Su Nway is the leadership of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in trying to free people of Burma from authoritarian military rule. She learns from her speeches the notion of courage particularly the means to face fear. It is through her self-taught education and the gospels of her role models that shape her moral compass.

She heard many tragic stories of villagers filled with intense grievances due to forced labor practices. She knew of a family from nearby village that had to bring their belongings including their clothing and mosquito net to the pawn shop in exchange for cash so that they can redeem themselves from forced labor and its consequences. She also knew an elderly lady attempted to commit suicide as the lady found herself without any option left to be granted amnesty. These true and tragic stories prompted her to be ready should the same nightmare of forced labor befall upon her villagers.

In March 2004, the forced labor, the nightmare that ruptures thousands of family and the ill that everyone fears, struck Htan Ma Naing Village, requiring as usual a person from each household to dig the ground for road construction.

On March 23, 2004, village heads of Htan Ma Naing made an announcement that villagers must contribute unpaid labor for road construction or pay 2000 Kyats. Some villagers chose a choice. But, Su Su Nway chose none. In fact, Su Su Nway together with her two neighbors, Daw Phyu and Daw Ngwe, were directly ordered by village authorities to dig. As the authorities warned Su Su Nway, she requested authorities to not impose order on those who were elderly, weak or not in sound health. As her request was declined she bluntly resisted the order by saying straight, “I would neither dig nor give 2000 Kyats.” She also urged her villagers to resist and stay unbowed to unfair orders. “Should the authorities become forceful and more aggressive, I would go and let higher ranking authorities know about the situation since force labor is in violation of the law,” said Su Su Nway to her villagers. About fifty villagers stayed unmoved by the order and stood by Su Su Nway in defiant of the village authorities.

A month later, on Friday April 23, 2004, authorities, furious by the resistance, announced again with more specific and severe threat, “anyone who has not dug a hole as directed and as required by order must do so now and get the job done by tomorrow and those who fail to complete the task will be arrested.” Su Su Nway being the spearhead of the resistant determined as promised to notify ILO about the forced labor.

On Monday, Su Su Nway headed Rangoon where ILO office is located. Not knowing how to get there, she first stopped by NLD office where she managed to get an NLD member to accompany her to the ILO office. Once they arrived at the ILO office, they were met by ILO liaison officer Mr. Richard Horsey. Su Su Nway explained Mr. Horsey in detail the village heads’ coercion on the villagers to contribute unpaid forced labor. Mr. Horsey explained Su Su Nway about 1/99 – the law that outlaw forced labor – and the due process that could be taken to protect villagers including herself from being coerced into forced labor. He also explained to her about the hardships that await if the legal action is taken.

Su Su Nway had a tough choice to make. She could choose the legal path through which she brings to the court lawsuit against the authorities, defending for herself and fifty villagers who stood by her. Given the fact that there has been no case in history where a civilian sued the authority, won and escaped from imposed threats or danger, this choice is extremely hard. On the other hand, she could go back and convey to her fellow villagers the message of sorrow and bear together the burden of forced labor and punishments. Knowing the consequences and implications each choice will create, Su Su Nway chose the tough one, asking Mr. Horsey how justice can be done.

Su Su Nway knew well about the abused legal system that throughout the 17-year tenure of military rule has been so crippled and corrupted that judgments are meant to appease the rulers not to protect the civilians. In the eyes of Burma’s current legal system the matters of fact are irrelevant. It is the matter of who are involved in the legal proceedings that counts. In this particular case of Su Su Nway Vs. Authority, the plaintiff is completely at the mercy of the defendant. When asked why she chose this dangerous road, Su Su Nway replied, “I know choosing this path will be dangerous and it is highly unlikely that I will win the legal battle but my villagers will be free from getting arrested because authorities will try to harm me in every possible way to their best of their ability; thereby I and I alone will face all inflicted threats not my villagers.” “It is a fact that we are coerced into forced labor. If I would be arrested because of telling the truth, I will tell the truth anyway and never be sadden,” continued Su Su Nway.

After getting advice from Mr. Horsey as to how legal action can be taken against the authorities who forcefully drove villagers to forced labor, Su Su Nway started preparation work to sue the authorities. She went to Ton Tay to get a lawyer. She met Ye Than, an NLD legal advocate. When requested by Su Su Nway to write a statement, Ye Than was skeptical and unimpressed by her frail figure. It was only after her persistent and repeated request that the lawyer agreed to write the letter.

Bringing the letter addressing to the court, Su Su Nway went to Kaw Hmoo to submit her notice of legal action to the township court. Upon hearing Su Su Nway’s explanation of why she was here, the clerk was amazed and enticed her to give up her plan to sue the authorities. As a matter of fact, it is unheard of for a young girl to sue powerful authorities under the climate of impunity.

In spite of all threats deliberately imposed by the authorities on civilians critical of forced labor practices, the first lawsuit by a mundane village girl against the authority has emerged thanks to the assistance of the ILO and the NLD legal experts. Under the watchful eyes of international community and the ILO, the proceeding of “Su Su Nway Vs. authorities” began.

Being the first to sue the authorities, Su Su Nway drew international attention thanks to Democratic Voice of Burma and other media that broadcasted in detail not only the progress of the proceeding but also the life of Su Su Nway.

The legal battle between Su Su Nway and authorities began, and so was the spread of news about the case. Everyone in the region particularly Kaw Hmoo and Htan Ma Naing was amazed and awestruck by Su Su Nway’s courageous act that no one had ever dared to undertake before. It was under the curious and watchful eyes of the local public Su Su Nway’s case was being heard at the township court of Kaw Hmoo.

The villagers of Htan Ma Naing were overwhelmed with joy as Su Su Nway selflessly bulwarked from the face of danger imposed by the authorities so that villagers could live in peace and be free from forced labor. To support Su Su Nway’s case, eleven villagers willingly agreed to be witnesses.

Since day one of her legal battle, Su Su Nway has been under threat from the authorities. On her way back from Kaw Hmoo to Htan Ma Naing on the day of her submission of her case to the township court, while she was on the bus, authorities, knowing that they were being sued, explicitly warned and threatened her that MI (military intelligence) officers would soon come and arrest her. A few days later, village authorities sent for Su Su Nway’s eldest brother Than Lwin and urged him to slap Su Su Nway’s face as a punishment for her disrespect for the authorities and disobeying the order. Than Lwin replied, “Let me investigate into what has happened first and than and only than will I decide what to do.” Regardless of the pressure and threats, both direct and indirect, Su Su Nway remained unblenched and determined.

The monsoon season came and the authorities, unable to frighten Su Su Nway, used different means to create an atmosphere of fear under which Su Su Nway would be shun by the society and deterred from her pursuant of justice. The rising water level began to erode the road connecting Htan Ma Naing and Kaw Hmoo, making the commute by car impossible and boats the only mode of transportation. Su Su Nway, being in the middle of her hearing that required her to appear at the court often, found herself in great difficulty. As the boat owners were ordered by the authorities not to carry Su Su Nway, she often had to travel on foot to and from Kaw Hmoo through muddy road. At night time when the whole village slept in dark, Su Su Nway could not sleep as her home was trespassed and fence broached by some disguised figures causing the dogs to growl. However, hardships and threats did not even make a dent on Su Su Nway’s determination to fight injustice and Su Su Nway never miss a court date.

At a time when SPDC was being criticized strongly by international communities for not cooperating with the ILO, Su Su Nway’s case came to conclude. On January 31, 2005, the judge decreed defendants Sein Paw and Than Ke to eight months in prison, making the case the first ever to sue the authorities and won. The triumph of Su Su Nway has lifted the spirit of the oppressed and served as a twinkle star in a nation ruled by dark forces.

Whenever and wherever hero emerges, lives of many are profoundly touched. People of Burma look up to Su Su Nway and praise her for her tremendous courage and steely determination in fighting against the ill of forced labor. Honoring ceremonies of Su Su Nway sprouted here and there while the villagers of Htan Ma Naing enjoyed freedom from forced labor. However, Su Su Nway’s battle for justice is far from over.

Sentencing of authorities for coercing civilians into forced labor seems encouraging for ILO in its attempt toward complete eradication of forced labor in Burma. For the civilians, expectations that everyone can, through legal means, react and resist triumphantly if authorities demand unpaid labor has loomed. Unfortunately, such encouraging signs are short-lived as jailed authorities have another plan.

Having been sentenced to prison for eight months, authorities disappeared from the scene, and their very close associate Tin Aye became the village chairman. On April 22, 2005, purely out of spite, village chairman Tin Aye lodged counter-lawsuit against Su Su Nway for defaming the authorities and obstructing the duty.

Realizing and disgusted by the malice of the authorities, a villager Sein Kyi urged his fellow villagers to protect Su Su Nway and to tell the truth if required to testify before the court. On June 26, 2005, he was arrested. Necessary arrangement for authorities to win the case was made by replacing the judge Daw Mya Mya with Daw Htay Htay Win who has a track record of rejecting outright lawsuit brought by villagers of Hin Thada with regard to requisition by authorities of forced labor.

Without a doubt, Su Su Nway became a target of authorities to agitate. On July 22, 2005, former village authorities Sein Paw and Than Ke were released from prison. Authorities and their gang used their power to frighten off whoever is close to Su Su Nway with an intention to isolate her. She herself is not free from direct threat either. While she was attending teachers-parents conference at Kaw Hmoo, she was expelled from the conference hall by township chairman Khin Win and police. In September 2005, Su Su Nway slipped and needed to go to local clinic. The doctor who Su Su Nway visited was also threatened by the authorities.

Throughout the course of the trial, Su Su Nway was under strict scrutiny of the authorities. Witnesses to the case unequivocally testified that it was authorities, not Su Su Nway, who threat and spoke dirty and abusive language. However, judge Daw Htay Htay Win sided with the authorities and rejected those testimonies that were in favor of the defendant. After several testimonies had been heard, judgment day finally came on October 13, 2005.

Kaw Hmoo was pretty crowded and security tight. Anxious of the fate of Su Su Nway, about three hundred people waited outside the township court where the verdict of Tin Aye Vs. Su Su Nway would be heard.

“I have prepared everything and I know I would be sentenced to jail,” said Su Su Nway a few hours before hearing the verdict. With two prominent student leaders, Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, on either side and the crowd cheering and wishing for her, Su Su Nway, wearing a uniform that symbolizes democratic movement, went to the court.

“Su Su Nway was found guilty on two charges … Criminal Act – 506 for threatening and Act – 294B for using dirty, abusive language to the point of being a public nuisance and therefore was sentenced to eighteen months in prison,” the verdict came out.

The waiting crowd, knowing that Su Su Nway was unfairly charged, was furious. Su Su Nway, holding a bouquet of flower presented to her by the villagers and showing neither sadness nor anger, smiled and waved at the crowd on her way from the court to the awaited car that would bring her to the prison.

Defender of justice is locked up behind bars and deprived of medication she needs for her heart. But, the seeds she has sown – the spirit to fight selflessly and courageously against the ill practice of forced labor – are already sprouting in the hearts and minds of the people of Burma.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cash Aid For Su Su Nway From Japan

Burmese Community in Japan have donated 4400000 Kyat in Burmese currency to Burmese Heroine Su Su Nway, who was imprisoned for successfully defying against forced labour practice by the ruling SPDC military junta. Individuals and Burmese Democratic forces in Japan recently organized a fund-raising event for Su Su Nway and offered their donation in a form of cash aid to her in a ceremony held on 15 Janauary 2005. One of the fund-raisers for Su Su Nway said in an interview with RFA radio that they would find any possible legal means to channel their donation to Su Su Nway whose health condition is said to be worsening further in prison, according to her relatives.
In a further development, Burmese community in Finland have also donated undisclosed amount of cash aid to Su Su Nway after they renamed their Burmese school after Su Su Nway.
Su Su Nway's Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Killing her softly: Su Su Nway is ill in Rangoon Insein Jail

Killing her softly: Su Su Nway is ill in Rangoon Insein Jail
Nov 28, 2005 (DVB) - The health condition of Rangoon Kawmoo Township, Htan Manaing villager Su Su Nway who was sentenced to 20 months in prison on 13 November for reporting forced labour practices to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and successfully suing her local authorities over the matter, is said to be deteriorating.
A Htan Manaing villager who recently went to see the 34-year old human rights defender at the notorious Rangoon Insein Jail told DVB that she has been suffering for joint aches and dizziness, and she is still not allowed to receive medications or proper medical treatments for her chronic heart condition.
Moreover, the township authority chairman of Kawmoo, Khin Win has been giving monetary support to former Htan Manaing village authority members Than Khe, Sein Paul and gang who brought Su Su Nway to the court, by extorting 10,000 kyat from 58 villages under his control, the villager added.
At the same time, sympathisers throughout Burma and exiled Burmese around the world have been donating money for the care of Su Su Nway but it is not clear whether she is allowed to receive or enjoy the help intended for her.
Recently, Rangoon divisional court curtly rejected the appeal lodge on her behalf, and the lawyers who insisted that she has been detained wrongfully and the ILO officials, are preparing to continue to lodge an appeal at the High Court.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Su Su Nway's appeal rejected

Nov 24, 2005 (DVB) - A panel of judges at Rangoon Division court, on 24 November, rejected an appeal lodged on behalf of Burmese human rights activist Su Su Nway who is being detained at the notorious Rangoon Insein Jail. The rejection came after National League for Democracy (NLD) lawyers submitted a revised appeal which argued that 34-year old Su Su Nway was wrongfully imprisoned to her detriment.
The lawyers are planning to lodge an appeal at the High Court. Su Su Nway was sentenced to a total of 20 months in prison on 13 October by Rangoon Kawmoo Township court, having successfully sued her local authorities at Htan Manaing over forced labour practices in 2004.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Updated pictures of Su Su Nway School

The Burmese pupils studying Basic Burmese at Su Su Nway School

Su Su Nway School situated in Neulamaki Youth Club of Kuopio, Finland

The teachers and some pupils in the sports facility of Su Su Nway School

Monday, November 21, 2005

Su Su Nway School in Finland

Su Su Nway school teachs advanced Burmese to the adults who want to be fluent in Burmese

The pupils in Burmese language class at Su Su Nway School in Finland

Friday, November 18, 2005

Amnestry International Statement


Public Statement

AI Index: ASA 16/025/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 309
16 November 2005

Myanmar: Stop using forced labour and penalizing protesters
As the International Labour Organization (ILO) meets to discuss the practice of forced labour in Myanmar, Amnesty International expresses concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

The army continues to seize civilians for forced labour, including for the army, to confiscate land from farmers and to take children as soldiers. Moreover, the authorities are harassing and imprisoning individuals who have brought these violations to the attention of the ILO and state officials.

Amnesty International calls on the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to ensure that local officials and the military do not use civilians in forced labour projects, and that official decrees criminalizing forced labour are implemented. The organization also calls on the authorities not to penalize individuals for reporting on forced labour and other violations by the authorities, and to immediately and unconditionally release those wrongfully imprisoned for such peaceful activities.

In October 2005 villager Su Su Nway and lawyer U Aye Myint, both of whom had drawn authorities’ and the ILO’s attention to forced labour and to land confiscation were sentenced to 18 months and seven years’ imprisonment respectively. Three more people face trial in late November 2005 for assisting the family of an individual alleged to have died during forced labour to seek redress from local authorities.

Amnesty International is concerned by the recent secret trial of Shan politicians on charges of treason, following which they were sentenced to between 70 and 106 years' imprisonment The charges are believed to relate to their participation in peaceful political discussions.

Rights to due process are being flagrantly ignored in political trials and inadequate medical care has been given to prisoners. While a number of political prisoners were released in July 2005, more than 1,100 remain imprisoned, including elderly long term prisoners of conscience in poor health, and political leaders held without charge or trial, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin U.

Unpaid forced labour is in contravention of ILO Convention No 29, to which Myanmar is party. Despite the criminalization of forced labour in Myanmar in 2000, the practice continues. The ILO has adopted a series of measures in order to encourage the government to comply with Convention No 29, and most recently in June 2005 registered complaints to the SPDC that they have not implemented a number of recent ILO recommendations. At the June 2005 ILO Congress, ILO officials registered concern that the Myanmar authorities had stated “false complaints of forced labour were placing a great drain on government resources and undermining the dignity of the state… legal action would be taken against complainants or their representatives who lodged false complaints.”

The ILO also reported that the authorities have restricted the ILO liaison officer’s ability to investigate reports of forced labour, including by limiting his ability to travel freely outside of Yangon, his base. The state controlled press has published reports attacking the ILO and the liaison officer has received death threats.

The authorities continue to characterize legitimate activities in defence of the rule of law and human rights as activities intended to undermine the state. Individuals who have attempted to file complaints about human rights violations have been intimidated, harassed and sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Amnesty International urges the Myanmar authorities not to punish people who in good faith have submitted reports of forced labour or other abuses by government officials. The right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, to freedom of expression and to protest peacefully against human rights violations and government policies generally are rights recognized in international law and standards, including in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The SPDC must allow human rights defenders and any other individuals unhindered access to and communication with international bodies on matters of human rights.

Individuals recently imprisoned
On 31 October 2005, U Aye Myint, a lawyer in his 50s, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for passing to the government complaints of farmers whose land had been confiscated by the local authorities. He reportedly helped farmers compose a letter to the authorities, which was then copied to the ILO liaison officer in Yangon. The lawyer was sentenced under emergency legislation which allows for the imprisonment of anyone who does anything "intentionally to spread false news, knowing it to be false or having reason to believe that it is false" on the basis that it may then cause unrest. None of the farmers he has represented are known to have been prosecuted, and all reportedly testified in U Aye Myint’s trial that he was professionally carrying forward their legitimate complaints. U Aye Myint was released in January 2005 from a death sentence, commuted to three years’ imprisonment, for treason, partly on the basis that he had communicated with the ILO.

On 16 October 2005 villager Su Su Nway was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for defamation of village officials following an unfair trial. Her sentence is believed to be linked to her success in suing village officials for forcing her and fellow villagers to work on a road construction project. Officials reportedly made death threats against her following the suit, alleging that she had sworn at them.

On 5 November 2005 senior political representatives of the Shan ethnic nationality received sentences of between 70 and 106 years’ imprisonment in a secret trial, for treason. It is believed that they are being penalized for taking part in political discussions immediately before the reconvening of the National Convention in February 2005. U Khun Htun Oo, an MP elect for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and nine other Shan political representatives have been held without access to their families or to a lawyer of their choice since February 2005.

Later this month, U Thein Zan, a 67 year old lawyer and National League for Democracy MP, and two villagers will reportedly face trial for assisting a family to report to the authorities the alleged accidental death of their relative whilst undertaking forced labour.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Su Su Nway's Photo

These photoes were taken at her home and on her way to the court with her villagers and supporters.

Poem from Japan

A Poem From Japan by Nyo Htun

Su Su Nway honoured by Burmese activists in Finland

Su Su Nway honoured by Burmese activists in Finland
Nov 14, 2005 (DVB) - Burmese activists in Finland have renamed a Burmese community school from Aryon-U (Early Dawn) to Su Su Nway, in honor of the imprisoned Burmese human rights activist from Htan Manaing Village, Kawmoo Township in Rangoon Division.
Moreover, they wrote a letter to the Amnesty International urging the international community to taken care of Su Su Nway’s welfare who is suffering from heart diseases and contrive for her immediate release.
A Burmese activist

Thar Swe told DVB that their action is part of the efforts to highlight the plight of Su Su Nway who is still not allowed to receive proper medical cares and medicines, and the dire condition of Rangoon Insein Jail she is being detained in.
The school was set up recently by Burmese exiles in Finland with the help of local Finish friends, to teach the children of Burmese refugees their mother tongue and culture.

The children will also be taught to copy the brave and selfless behaviors of Su Su Nway who sacrificed her life for the benefit of her fellow villagers. She was sentenced to a year and an half in prison on 13 October for allegedly hurling abuses at her local authority members, whom she successfully sued over forced labor practices a year earlier.

Su Su Nway, Truly A Burmese Heroine

This blog is dedicated to Burmese Heroine Su Su Nway.
She lived in Htang Manaing village of Kawmoo town, Rangoon until her imprisonment. Originally she is a nobody among the down-trodden Burmese people. Her life is full of struggle suffering from heart attack and taking care of her younger siblings since both of her parents passed away. The sure thing she feels is she lives in an environment of fear overwhelmed by injustice, arbitrariness, bullying and intimidation.

She never thought of possessing a famous status as she is today.
However her National League for Democracy youth membership probably turns her simple thought into a brave one. One of her daily activities is regularly listening radio especially from overseas Burmese brocasting services, making her thoughts more open-minded on political issues. She starts to feel it would better off doing something than doing nothing.

Her fellow villagers respect her because she is a devout Buddhist, straightforward, polite and humble. She would never stop short if whoever asks her help. She always encourages her friends to be righteous and conscientious.
One day she and the villagers were given order to volunteer for road construction and dyke by the State Peace and Development Council authorities of their village. They were forced to go to the construction site and had to excavate a 25 meter-square trench each day. They had to work for many days from 6 a.m to 6 p.m virtually without any pay. If they could not finish one day's job, they had to pay 6000-Kyat fine and face legal means. The authorities call it Burmese traditional way of volunteering. The villagers have been subjected to many instances of this.

To Su Su Nway, it is a case to make. The time has come. So she reported their case to Rangoon-based International labor Organization office.

Then she sued her village authorities for coercing her and her fellow villagers into forced labor at Kawmoo township court. In early 2005 she won her case and the local authorities responsible for using forced labor practices in her village were all sentenced to prison. Noticeably the time of their sentencing coincides with a visit of high ILO delegation to Rangoon. Since the day she sued them, the authorities intimidated her and plotted many traps against her.

Not so long after she won the court decision, the authorities counter-sued her on the false accusation of using abusive language against and disrupting them on duty. On 13 October 2005 she was sentenced to one and a half year imprisonment by a court in Kawmoo township. It is widely known before the conclusion of her trial that the court decision against her was premeditated by SPDC junta and the course of her trial was a farce and she would be punished for speaking out against the forced labor practices.

She faced the unfair trial calmly and received unjust prison sentence with smile. She is never afraid of going to prison for standing on the side of people in trouble. She has proven herself a human rights defender even on the pain of imprisonment or at the great risk of her life.
Su Su Nway is truly a heroine of our age.

Free Su Su Nway Campaign

Free Su Su Nway Campaign

Date: 14 November 2005

Changing the Burmese language school’s name to Su Su Nway School

Campaign for Democracy in Burma (Finland), CDB-Finland, took a unanimous decision during its monthly meeting to change the name of Burmese language school from Dawn School to Su Su Nway School in honor of a courageous but ordinary Burmese woman, Su Su Nway, who was sentenced on 13 October 2005 to eighteen month’s imprisonment for speaking out about the forced labor practice used by the authorities of the ruling military junta (SPDC).

In addition, the Burmese community in Finland will donate money to Su Su Nway to show their support for her selfless and courage with which she successfully defined the climate of fear the junta has created since its 1988 bloody military takeover. The honor is also to mark Su Su Nway’s one month in prison and the change of the school name is to take effect from 13 November 2005.

Su Su Nway has inspired more confidence and determination in us to our struggle for democracy and her case also offers a window to look into the mainstream of our democracy movement which has yet to mobilize the mood of the general public into active resistance. Inserting individual idea and sacrifice into a common cause is not new to our movement, but Su Su Nway tactfully showed her bravery and sacrifice at the same time in her fight for the truth. It is a key to encourage the suppressed public to action.

These are the reasons why we give a great honor to her by changing the name of the Burmese language school to Su Su Nway School.
The CDB-Finland is carrying out “Free Su Su Nway Campaign” in cooperation with the members of Amnesty International (Finland) to help ensure her immediate release from prison. As part of this campaign the CDB-Finland today writes a letter to Amnesty International (AI). The letter urges AI to advocate a position of her immediate release.

Campaign Committee
Campaign for Democracy in Burma (Finland)

An appeal letter for Ma Su Su Nway

Date: 14 November 2005

Dear Ms Donna Guest,
Burma researcher
Director of Asia Pacific Region
Amnesty International

The Burmese military government is infamous in their use of force labor. In January 2005, one forced-labor case occurred in the Rangoon Division of Kawmoo Township, while the authorities were constructing a highway in the township.

Su Su Nway, a 34-year-old woman, sued local authorities from Htan-Manaing and Mya-Sanni villages for being forced into slave labor practices. In a historic court decision, Su Su Nway won her case, and the local authorities judged responsible for coercing villagers into forced labor were all given eight-month prison terms.

But Su Su Nway and the villagers’ happiness were short-lived. Authorities appealed the decision and responded by a counter-suit that Su Su Nway was responsible for ‘besmearing their reputation.’ During the second trial, Su Su Nway and her supporters were threatened both directly and indirectly by the authorities.

The authorities presented no evidence in the second trial, and witnesses told to the judge that Su Su Nway was innocence. In light of the facts and the falsities of the accusations, her lawyer and the villagers expected her to win again. However Burma’s judicial process is wholly subservient to the will of the military. Therefore, Su Su Nway was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

Su Su Nway heroically protested against the unjust military rule in Burma in a non-violent manner. As a result, she was awarded for advocating of human rights by Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Su Su Nway’s imprisonment is of grave concern to her family and her supporters, as she is known to be in poor health. She suffers from heart disease, and after a recent accident, was left unable to speak or walk properly. Though she was in great pain, the authorities intimidated a local nurse and coerced her into not giving Su Su Nway the proper treatment for her illness, and the authority bans any medical supply from her family. Because of the poor prison conditions and the ineptitude of the prison health care system in Insein prison (in several instances amounting to torture) we expect Su Su Nway’s illness to only exacerbate further and cause her greater suffering. She is now facing solitary confinement in infamous Insein Prison, Rangoon.

In addition, the authorities are planning revenge on Su Su Nway for her advocacy against forced labor. It is not determined whether she would be released after her 18 months prison-term (the junta has previously extended the prison terms of other political prisoners long after their official term expired). Therefore we, the Burmese community of Finland, are very concerned about her immediate needs for medical treatment for her health condition. We also believe that supporting Su Su Nway is not only beneficial to her, but also to the people of Burma, who are suffering under the military rule.

Therefore we, the Burmese community of Finland, request Amnesty International to take some action regarding the lack of health care available in Burmese prison and adopt a position advocating Su Su Nway’s immediate release.

Thank you very much for your consideration!

Respectfully yours,
Campaign Committee
Campaign for Democracy in Burma (Finland)

Contact persons:

Thar Swe
Vice coordinator
Ph: + 358 44 2621081

Thant Zin Htun
Ph: + 358 44 9170278