Parents of Burmese Men Accused of Koh Tao Murders Arrive in Thailand
CHIANG MAI, Thailand — A British labor rights activist in Thailand made a second prison visit to two Burmese men accused of murder in southern Thailand on Wednesday, as the migrants’ parents were briefed by Thai lawyers on the case in Bangkok.
On Tuesday, the accused were also visited by members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, and the case lawyers said the men had retracted confessions made to police earlier this month, according to The Associated Press.
Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21-year-old Burmese migrants, were detained by police on Oct. 2 for the alleged murder of two British tourists, whose bodies were found the morning of Sept. 15 on Koh Tao island in southern Thailand.
Andy Hall, a British labor rights activist and international affairs advisor to the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), said the accused were happy to learn of their parents’ arrival in Koh Samui, where they are being held.
Hall said he was asked by the men to deliver a message to their parents “to be happy and not to worry about them as they didn’t commit the accused crime.”
The MWRN visited the prison on Wednesday for a second time this week, to provide the accused with requested accessories and deposit money into their prison accounts.
Meanwhile, the parents of the two migrants met the Lawyers Council of Thailand and Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok upon their arrival to Thailand on Wednesday, according to Kyaw Thaung, director of the Myanmar Association in Thailand. The parents will depart the Thai capital to visit their sons in Koh Samui on Thursday.
Thailand’s human rights commission vowed this week to launch an inquiry into allegations of police torture of the accused, who exhibited “pains consistent with internal injuries,” the Bangkok Post reported on Monday.
The MWRN advisor Hall also met the prison warden and asked him to reconsider the “unfair practice” of shackling the men—who have yet to be tried—24 hours a day.
“[The prison warden] said he would consider the complaint,” Hall told The Irrawaddy.
The British activist said the accused have been in shackles without reprieve and were having difficulty using the toilet and showering, as well as suffering pain in their ankles.
“So we brought socks and basic supplies they asked for, such as toothpaste, towel, soap and shampoo, during our visit,” added Hall.
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS # MYANMAR MUSIC AWARDS 2014
This is (10) Minutes Video Highlights of Myanmar Music Awards 2014 Monsoon Season, was grandly staged at the Myanmar Event Park in Yangon on October 18, 2014. Sai Sai Kham Leng, Hlawn Paing, Aung Yin, Big Bag, Wai La, Lwan Yait Zaw, Wyne Su Khine Thein, Ni Ni Khin Zaw and Mi Sandy were awarded for the best & freshest songs of Monsoon 2014.
Lu Min Comment on Movie Censorship Resume
Lu Min, Chairman of Motion Picture Organization, made comments on a Movie Censorship Process that will be resumed again on December 1, 2014 by Ministry of Information.
Burma Qualifies for U-20 World Cup With AFC Tournament Win
RANGOON — Burma’s Under-19 national team advanced to the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup with a 1-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates on Friday, in the process qualifying for the U-20 World Cup for the first time ever.
Than Paing scored the winner for Burma, finding the back of the net in the 52nd minute at Rangoon’s Thuwunna Youth Training Center Stadium before a crowd of 29,000 people. The team on Monday faces the winner of a quarterfinal match between China and Qatar, scheduled for later Friday night.
The U-20 World Cup will be played in New Zealand from May 30 to June 20 next year. Burma will be one of just four Asian countries represented at the 32-team tournament.
Following Than Paing’s go-ahead goal on Friday, the Burmese team settled into a defensive stance and possession was dominated by the UAE, making for a nerve-wracking final stretch that included a whopping seven minutes of stoppage time.
Burma is hosting the AFC Asian Cup this year, with the final scheduled for Oct. 23 in Rangoon. North Korea also advanced to the semifinals on Friday, beating Japan in a penalty kick shootout and securing the team a place in the 2015 World Cup alongside Burma.
First Hilton luxury hotel opened in Nay Pyi Taw
Eden Group opened the first Hilton branded five-star hotel at the National Guest House compound in yesterday morning.
"I welcome the arrival of the international brand Hilton Hotel to Myanmar. Now, international hotels like the Kempinski Hotel and Royal Park Hotel have been opened in Nay Pyi Taw," Htay Aung, Minister of Hotels and Tourism, said during the hotel's opening ceremony.
The Hilton Nay Pyi Taw is located on 100 acres of land and over US$47 million has been invested in the hotel.
"We plan to open five Hilton hotels in Bagan, Inle, Mandalay, Ngapali, and Nay Pyi Taw. All of the investment has been made by us so it is a local-owned hotel. Hilton provided us the management and the rating," said Than Htut, director of Eden Group.
Eden Group and Hilton Group also plan to open Hilton Ngapali Beach Resort this year.
"We expect to open the rest of the hotels within two or three years," said Than Htut.
Eden Group signed a management agreement with Hilton Group on June 11 this year.
The Hilton Nay Pyi Taw features 201 rooms and over 300 staffs. The hotel has been opened in time for the 25th Asean Summit and the East Asia Summit, which will be held next month. U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Southeast Asia to attend the regional meetings and also the Asean Summit.
"I've heard that rooms have been requested at the Hilton Hotel and the Kempinski Hotel for U.S. officials to stay, but I can't confirm it," he added.
Parliament rejects bid to amend Official Secrets Act
A motion to amend the Burma Official Secrets Act failed to muster enough support to pass Parliament on September 25, but Lower House Speaker Thura Mann Shwe says there may still be a way to alter the colonial-era law that was written in English.
It may be possible to modify, revise or amend the Act after it is officially translated into Myanmar language, he said, adding that he will request that this be done soon. MPs can then scrutinise the translation and the judicial and legal affairs committee can revise it and submit it Parliament for approval, Thura Mann Shwe said.
“We also need to consider whether or not to pass by-laws or announcements to make the law more specific,” he added.
The law was used to sentence four reporters – all of whom are in their 20s – and the CEO of Unity Journal to 10 years in prison with hard labour on July 10, following a lawsuit filed by the President’s Office over a January report in the now-shuttered journal. The report alleged that chemical weapons were being produced at a military facility in Magway Region’s Pauk Township. The verdict was appealed at the Magway Region Court at the end of last month, with the lawyer who represents the five saying, “Dictators believe that journalists should write whatever the government wants. This view has no place in a progressive society.”
The motion to amend the law was submitted to the Lower House by Thein Nyunt, an MP from the New National Democracy Party who represents Yangon’s Thingangyun Township constituency. His amendments aimed to prevent the government from jailing journalists for reports that displease officials, he told Eleven Media last month.
The MP argued that the 1923 law was out of step with the current social and political atmosphere as well as the 2008 Constitution, which makes Myanmar the country's official language and guarantees rights to Myanmar citizens that the British did not. The act also violates the Media Law, he said.
Previously, he told Eleven Media that it requires defendants to prove that they are innocent, while little more than assertions of guilt were required from the prosecution.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Brig-General Kyaw Kyaw Tun said the Act should not be amended because it was required to protect the security of the state at this time, a view that was supported by most MPs from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Thein Nyunt argued that citizens have the right to gather information. “When I took a look at the Act, I saw that there were some sections that we must amend. One thing about is that it is in English … ordinary people cannot understand it. When judges actually make a judgement, they have to reference the Act with a Myanmar version,” he explained. The differences between the two versions were particularly confusing in terms of the right to report and gather news, he said.
Thein Nyunt cited sections of the Constitution and the Media Law in his bid to amend the act, saying it should be changed so that it did not violate either.
Myanmar Peace Festival 2014 In Yangon
Mob Attacks Mosque Near Bagan After Allegations of Buddhist Maid’s Abuse
MANDALAY — A mob of about 100 people damaged a house, shop and mosque on Saturday in Myit Chay, a small town near the popular tourism destination of Bagan, after rumors spread that a Muslim man had beaten his Buddhist maid in the latest case of communal violence to hit Burma.
Heavy security has been deployed and the situation was reportedly calm as of Sunday night, with no injuries or deaths resulting from the incident. Myit Chay sits just across the Irrawaddy River from Bagan, a tourism hot spot known for the thousands of Buddhist temples that dot its plains.
According to witnesses in Myit Chay, an angry mob gathered and attacked the town’s mosque on Saturday evening, after word spread that a Muslim man named Moe Win had beaten his Buddhist maid after she asked him for her salary.
“The news that the Buddhist girl was beaten and chased away by the dog of the Muslim man, and was later admitted to the hospital, was spreading since Saturday evening. The mob gathered and threw stones at their house and shop,” said an eyewitness who asked for anonymity, fearing reprisals.
A duty officer from the Myit Chay police later refuted the rumors that the girl had been hospitalized.
“Actually, the girl is not hospitalized. But she said she was beaten up and had some pain in her arms and chest. We are trying to take action against those who caused the mayhem,” he said.
Residents of Myit Chay said Moe Win’s house and a construction shop owned by his brother were attacked, as was the town mosque. Police estimated the damages at 400,000 kyats (US$400).
“Elders from the town are urging the people to go back home and are controlling the situation and trying to preventing the violence from spreading,” said a resident.
According to police sources, Moe Win and his wife were arrested on Sunday, and are facing four charges under Burma’s Penal Code in connection with the alleged abuse of the maid.
The chief minister of Magwe Division, Phone Maw Shwe, paid a visit to Myit Chay on Sunday, asking residents to do their part to prevent the spread of violence beyond the town.
The situation is currently under control, with the security presence in the town bolstered by the Pakokku District police. Pakokku is located about 20 miles east of Myit Chay.
According to the district police office, security forces have been deployed in Myit Chay, and Pakokku as well, to prevent the potential spread of clashes.
Saturday’s mob attack was just the latest incident of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma, which has seen similar cases play out in nearly a dozen towns in Burma over the last two years. Most recently, Mandalay was the scene of three days of rioting after rumors—later found to be false—that a Muslim man had raped his Buddhist maid spread largely via social media.
Hope fades for missing climbers
Ko Aung Myint Myat and Ko Wai Yan Min Thu were last heard from shortly after ascending Myanmar’s highest mountain, 5881-metre Hkakobo Razi in Kachin State, on August 31.
Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of U Tay Za’s Htoo Group, has been spearheading the search for the pair, sending two helicopters to remote Putao. The army has also provided one helicopter but bad weather has hampered the search.
Htoo Group spokesperson U Myo Tun told The Myanmar Times in Putao that there is little chance the pair could have survived more than two weeks in freezing conditions.
“There is little hope left that we can find them alive,” he said. “We are shifting from a rescue operation to a search and recovery operation because … we are now looking for their bodies.
“[Recovering their bodies] is very important for their families.”
Captain Som Kiat, one of two Thai helicopter pilots hired by Htoo to help find the men, said conditions had made the search difficult.
He said he had been mostly moving food and fuel up to forward bases set up in Panangdeng and Tahundam villages to supply rescue teams.
“It is necessary to have good weather conditions to move the supplies by helicopter and we have had to wait a long time for good weather,” he said.
According to the military’s Northern Region Command, ground crews are searching at an altitude above 4800m, or 16,000 feet. Another Htoo Group spokesperson, U Soe Than Win, said the company had also hired a pilot from Nepal and mountaineers from the United States to assist the search.
U Na Ma Johnsein – a Myanmar citizen of Tibetan ethnicity who, with Japanese climber Takashi Ozaki, became the first to climb Hkakabo Razi in 1996 – is also among those helping with the search on the ground.
U Soe Than Win said the mountaineers were carrying a global positioning system device that they could use to alert designated recipients if they encountered trouble.
However, it has not been used since they reached the peak on August 31, he said.
“They used it once when they were at the top of the mountain and they used it once while they were climbing the mountain before they reached the top. But contact was cut after they reached the top,” he said. – Translation by Thiri Min Htun
Brain may 'compensate' for Alzheimer's damage
The human brain may be able to compensate for some of the early changes seen in Alzheimer's disease, research in Nature Neuroscience shows.
The study suggests some people recruit extra nerve power to help maintain their ability to think.
Scientists hope the findings could shed light on why only some people with early signs of the condition go on to develop severe memory decline.
But experts warn much more research is needed to understand these processes.
Continue reading the main story
I think it is very possible that people who spend a lifetime involved in cognitively stimulating activity have brains that are better able to adapt to potential damage”
Dr William Jagust University of California
The study, led by researchers at the University of California, involved 71 adults with no signs of mental decline.
Brain scans showed 16 of the older subjects had amyloid deposits - tangles of protein that are considered a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.
All participants were asked to memorise a series of pictures in detail while scanners were used to track their brain activity.
They were then asked to recall the gist and later the detail of all the pictures they had seen.
Both groups performed equally well but those with tangles of amyloid in their brains showed more brain activity when remembering the images in detail.
Scientists say this suggests their brains have an ability to adapt to and compensate for any early damage caused by the protein.
Dr Laura Phipps, at the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "This small study suggests that our brains may have ways of resisting early damage from these Alzheimer's proteins but more research is needed to know how to interpret these results.
She added: "Longer term studies are needed to confirm whether the extra brain activity seen in this research is a sign of the brain compensating for early damage, and if so, how long the brain might be able to fight this damage."
Scientists say they need to understand why some people with an accumulation of this protein are better at using different parts of their brain than others.
Dr William Jagust, a researcher on the study, said: "I think it is very possible that people who spend a lifetime involved in cognitively stimulating activity have brains that are better able to adapt to potential damage."