Chinese police rescue slaves

China has rescued 31 people forced to work for a year as slaves, according to China Shanxi News.  A brickworks, run by the son of a local Communist Party official, supplied them only bread and water. They received no pay.  The factory is near Linfen in the inland province of Shanxi, China.

Eight of the workers now can only remember their names. One slave was beaten to death with a hammer for not working hard enough. All of the survivors have bruises, wounds and burns, having been made to carry uncooled bricks and walk barefoot in the kiln.

They were guarded by dogs and “thugs” at the factory. The boss was allowed to get away with the bad treatment because of his political connections. The workers are still living at the brickworks while the local government tries to get their wages.

 Millions of migrant workers from poor rural areas have flocked to urban areas to find work. They often work for as little as $2 a day or less.

 Many of these laborers work without formal contracts. They have little legal recourse in case of disputes.

 For more information, please see:

http://www.einnews.com/china/newsfeed-shanxi

www.edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/06/08/china.workers.reut/index.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6733045.stm

Malaysia court rejects Christian conversion

In a divided two to one decision, Malaysia’s highest court refused to recognize a Muslim woman’s conversion to Christianity.  Lina Joy tried to change her religious status and remove the word Islam from her identity card to marry her Catholic fiance.  Under separate laws in Malaysia, Muslims must marry within the faith.  The abandonment of Islam is sometimes punishable by fines or imprisonment.  Here, the Islamic Sharia court rejected Ms. Joy’s appeal.

Ms. Joy, born Azlina Jailani, has lost her job, been disowned by her family, and went into hiding last year after receiving death threats.  She now may seek asylum in Australia.

Malaysia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but declares all ethnic Malays are Muslim and thus are not allowed to convert.  In this multi-racial country, Muslims constitute sixty percent of Malaysia’s population of nearly 25 million people.  Critics say this ruling underlines the increasing separation of Muslims from others. Additionally, it reinforced the notion that Islamic laws should have primacy over secular laws in some aspects of Muslims’ lives and the question of the separation of religion and state.

For more information, please see:

Malaysia rejects Christian appeal

Malaysia Top Court Doesn’t Honor Muslim’s Conversion

China coal mines destroy homes above

Coal mines in Da Antou, China, are cracking and destroying the homes above. Over the last several years, buildings have slumped and split apart because of the caverns created by the coal mines. Because of China’s growing economy, and thus need for energy, coal companies are expanding production. Coal meets 70% of China’s energy needs. More than half of the houses in Da Antou, forcing 400 people to move. In Shanxi province, Government officials estimate that more than 7,700 square miles have been hollowed out by miners, leaving the earth riddled with empty caverns and causing the crust to sink in more than 1,800 places. 

 The increase in mining also effects farmers. After the coal is extracted, it is trucked across the province. The black dust then falls on corn and wheat crops. The mining has effected the Da Antou water system in, forcing farmers to haul water from a communal pipe installed in the village square, which also sometimes goes dry. Also, according to farmers, terraced fields have been left unworkable because of the sinkholes.

 The Chinese Work Safety Administration reported 4,746 miners were killed in Chinese coal mine accidents last year, making it among the world’s deadliest. 

For more information, please see:

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/31/AR2007053102191.html chinadigitaltimes.net/2007/06/chinas_energy_rush_shatters_village_edward_cody.php

www.freeinternetpress.com/story.php?sid=12027

www.newsique.com/world/chinas_energy_rush_shatters_vill/

Thai Rak Thai Political Party Banned from Politics

A Constitutional Court in Thailand banned the Thai Rak Thai political party and barred over one hundred of its leaders from politics for five years.

Founded by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai is the country’s most popular political party. The party aggressively courted poor rural voters and won mandated elections in 2001 and 2005.

According to the New York Times, the court found the party guilty of election fraud, paying small parties to run against it in the April 2006 election to satisfy a requirement for minimum participation. The Court acquitted the Thai Rak Thai’s rival, the Democrat Party, which ruled the kingdom before the Thai Rak Thai’s election in 2001. The Democrat Party faced similar charges of election fraud.

The rulings have been described as one of three major hurdles for the government in its attempt to steer the country back to democracy. Thai Rak Thai supporters, however, may pose strong opposition to these rulings and make these hurdles difficult to overcome. Analysts say this dissolution of Thailand’s most popular party would undermine the military’s claim to restore democracy.

Demonstrators have called for an end to the current military leadership that came to power after a coup that ousted the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, prior to an election that his Thai Rak Thai party was expected to win. Demonstrators criticize the Court as a military appointed tribunal. Shinawatra is now living in self-imposed exile.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Thaksin Supporters Rally Over Ban – 31 May 2007
Channel News Asia – Thai Security Clampdown Indefinite: Coup Leader – 31 May 2007
FT – Thaksin’s ban from politics raises doubts on democracy – 31 May 2007
Channel News Asia – Thaksin Ban Reshapes Thailand Politics – 31 May 2007
BBC News – Thai ex-PM’s Party Ban ‘Unfair’ – 31 May 2007
The New York Times – Thai Court Disbands Former Prime Minister’s Political Party – 31 May 2007

Myanmar lengthens Nobel winner’s sentence

Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, will spend another year under house arrest in her Myanmar home, according to the Associated Press. After spending 11 of the past 17 years in confinement, the Myanmar government was due to release her this week.

The government has held Suu Kyi because they claim that she threatens public order. As head of the Myanmar’s National League for Democracy party, her party won the general election in a landslide in 1990. After the victory, the military government refused to hand over power.

Although the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union have strongly condemned her continued sentenced, the Myanmar’s military junta continues to hold her and approximately 1,200 other political prisoners.

This week, National League for Democracy party supporters held a 300 to 500-person rally for her release. In response, the military government stepped up security around Suu Kyi’s home.

For more information, please see:

Myanmar military rounds up Suu Kyi supporters

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/276485/1/.html

Myanmar extends Suu Kyi’s house arrest

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070525/ap_on_re_as/myanmar_suu_kyi_5

Birth control crackdown in rural China sparks riots

China launched its one-child per couple policy in 1980 to try to maintain swift economic growth and feed and control the country’s growing population of 1.3 billion people. Recently, however, the central government in Beijing announced it was time to strictly enforce the one-child policy. In Bobai County of the Guangxi Province, primarily a rural, farming village, family planning officials threatened families who failed to pay fines for having more than one child. Some officials have even been accused of forcing women to submit to abortions or sterilizations. In response, however, thousands of peasants and townspeople gathered at government and birth control centers, clashing with police. Twenty-eight people have been arrested for instigating riots against China’s one-child policy.

Locals in Buffalo Village, however, have managed to beat China’s system. The records at the county maternity hospital are filled with lists of multiple pregnancies.  Mothers have used fertility drugs to get around the one-child policy by having twins, triplets, quadruplets, and even quintuplets. China does not impose fines on a mother who has multiple children at a time.

For more information please see:

Washington Post – Birth Control Crackdown Sparks Riots In Rural China – 23 May 2007

BBC News – Chinese Challenge One-Child Policy – 25 May 2007

Channel News Asia – China arrests 28 in family planning riots – 23 May 2007

Cambodia’s ‘Killing Fields’ Pillaged

Looking for gold, destitute peasants of Sre Leav, Cambodia have dug up about two hundred graves of victims of the Khmer Rouge from the 1970s.  The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and is blamed for the death of 1.7 million people through starvation, illness, overwork, torture, and execution.  The killing fields, which are scattered throughout Cambodia, are mass graves where the Khmer Rouge unloaded victims. 

Of the thousands of killing fields researchers have documented, this is the first reported looting and raid.  Even as Cambodia prepares a trial of Khmer Rouge leaders, some experts find the pillaging to be an indication that past traumas are beginning to fade.  Digging has stopped, however, as villagers pray for forgiveness, fearing  ghosts of the victims will take revenge.

For more information, please see:

Time Magazine – Looting Cambodia’s ‘Killing Fields

The New York Times – Ghosts Wail as Cambodians Plunder Killing Field Graves – 20 May 2007

IHT – Villagers find and loot Cambodian killing field – 15 May 2007

Violence, international pressure increases in Sri Lanka

International donors have suspended aid due to Sri Lanka due to the government’s recent offensive against the Tamil Tiger separatists. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany suspended new aid because of the increased numbers of killings. 

Amnesty International has alleged that both the military and the rebels have been killing civilians in indiscriminate artillery raids.

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission has recorded more than 100 abductions and disappearances so far in 2007. Last year, 1,000 people were reported missing. More than 4,800 people have been killed since December 2005. More than 69,000 people have been killed since the war began in 1983.

The Tiger rebel group wants a separate state with full control over its law enforcement and government entities.  But a large majority of the island’s Tamil minority want a system based on federalism and a decentralization of power.

 

For more information, please see:

Aid weapon used against Sri Lanka http://www.ft.com/cms/s/54315d20-087b-11dc-b11e-000b5df10621,_i_email=y.html

600 killed in Sri Lanka battles http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070520/ap_on_re_as/sri_lanka

Sri Lanka: Tamil Tigers abducted us, say Indian fishermen http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070520/wl_sthasia_afp/indiasrilankaunrestkidnap

Moves by Sri Lanka Military Worry Human Rights Group http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/17/AR2007051702386.html?referrer=emailarticle

20 Tamil rebels killed in fresh fighting: Sri Lanka http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070517/wl_asia_afp/srilankaunrest

8 reported killed in Sri Lanka fighting http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070514/ap_on_re_as/sri_lanka

Foreign aid cut fear as Sri Lanka fails on human rights http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/275876/1/.html

China to Send Military Engineers to Darfur

China will send about three hundred military engineers for a U.N. peacekeeping force to Sudan’s Darfur region. The arrangement would further the “Annan” peace plan, an effort to place U.N. forces alongside the African Union forces already in Darfur who have failed to stop the violence. The continued bloodshed in the ethnically-mixed region was initiated when rebel groups accused the government of neglect and took up arms in 2003. The violence has since killed approximately 200,000 people and displaced another 2.5 million.

China, a primary buyer of Sudan’s oil and a member of the U.N. Security Council, has faced criticism and pressure for its Sudan policies. Although China has resisted plans to send U.N. peacekeepers without
Sudan’s consent, in an effort to balance pressures over the region China has also used its influence to urge Sudan to accept peacekeepers. In April, an envoy was sent to inspect refugee camps there.

Some critics of China’s policies have urged a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News – China confirms will send engineers to Darfur – 08 May 2007

Update: Troops Surround Monasteries in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar- In attempts to prevent further pro-democracy protesting against its reign, the Myanmar junta government has sent truckloads of troops to guard a number of monasteries.  Security personnel have been placed in a park near the Sule Pagoda, the site of some of the biggest recent protests.  The government is now waiting to see if the monks and other protesters will continue their demonstrations in defiance of government directives.

During the night two well-known dissidents, U Win Naing, a veteran independent politician and Zanagar, a popular Myanmar film comedian, were arrested by the junta for supporting the marches.  Over the weekend they had prepared a meal for the monks in a show of support.

The first dusk-to-dawn curfew ended this morning, and the ban on five or more people assembling remains.  Officials state that these measures will remain in place for at least 60 days.

BBC correspondent Jonathan Head says the current scene in Yangon is similar to 1988, when the junta repressed pro-democracy protests and opened fire on unarmed demonstrators.

The young monks heading the protests have vowed to keep up the demonstrations; according to BBC News, that vow is certain to put them on a collision course with the army.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Burma troops surround monasteries – 26 September 2007

Reuters – Myanmar troops guard activist Yangon monasteries – 26 September 2007

Myanmar Pro-Democracy Protests

By Elizabeth O’Loughlin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YANGON, Myanmar- Small protests continued today in Yangon.  The demonstrations were quickly addressed as security forces took protesters away in trucks, and there are some reports of protesters being beaten.  The number of protesters has decreased dramatically since the government began its crackdown earlier this week.

The United Nations’ Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived in Myanmar today.  He will be meeting with junta officials in Naypidaw, however it is not clear if he will be meeting with leader General Than Shwe or pro-democracy leaders.

There is local and world pessimism over whether Gambari’s visit will cause change.  Western nations have insisted that the UN act more forcefully to quell the junta’s actions.  The United States has been trying to persuade nations to cut off investment and trade into Myanmar.  China however has been blocking these efforts to destabilize Myanmar.

The authorities have continued to shut down communications, including cell phones and internet access.  Since its rise to power in 1962 the junta has attempted to keep information from leaving the country, but Myanmar news has reached the world community via internet and blogs.  The internet has been especially important in sharing the news of the protests and government crackdown over the past month.
Captbk10709290846myanmar_protests_2

This AP photo, released by the Free Burma Rangers, shows protests on Tuesday in a remote village on the border of Thailand.

For more information, please see:

Yahoo! News (AP) – Myanmar protests falter after crackdown – 29 September 2007

AHN – Pro-Democracy Protests Resume in Myanmar Despite Crackdown – 29 September 2007

The New York Times – U.S. Steps Up Confrontation With Myanmar’s Rulers – 29 September 2007

ABC News – Blogging for Political Change: Myanmar’s Dissidents – 29 September 2007

Impunity Watch – Authorities in Myanmar Cut Communications Amongst More Protests – 28 September 2007

Impunity Watch – UN Holding Emergency Talks on Myanmar – 26 September 2007