Archive for the 'Asia' Category

(UPDATE) Irrawaddy Under Attack, Still Unavailable

SEOUL — THE BURMA-FOCUSED MAGAZINE The Irrawaddy sent a message to its on-line subscribers today saying that both its main and mirror sites are down due to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, one year after the beginning of the Saffron Revolution. The publication is, in the meantime, continuing to report from a blogger site.

On Tuesday, we received reports that the Internet in Burma was running slowly, suggesting a concerted effort to prevent information from going in or out of the country.

Then on Wednesday, our colleagues and subscribers in the US, Japan and Malaysia notified our Thailand-based office that they were unable to access our Web site.

A few hours later, I-NET, the largest host server in Thailand, confirmed: “Your site has been under distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack since around 5pm.”

I-NET finally decided to shut down our server.

Singlehop, which hosts The Irrawaddy’s mirror site, explained: “Your server is under a major attack. Due to the size of the attack our network engineers had to null route the IP to negate it. When the attack has subsided we will remove the null route.”

Singlehop told us that the cyber attack was very sophisticated.

Currently, our Web site is disabled and we have been forced to launch our daily news in blogs. Fellow exiled news agencies Democratic Voice of Burma and New Era were also disabled.

A Year Gone By: Looking Back on the Saffron Uprising

SEOUL — ON SEPTEMBER 24 OF LAST YEAR, Burma’s military junta issued a warning to the masses of gathering protesters, saying they were prepared to crack down on the Buddhist monks who had driven the demonstrations. The streets of Rangoon were filled with saffron robes and laypeople alike, in numbers not seen since the 8.8.88 democracy uprising. What had started as outrage over fuel prices was now a situation as volatile as gasoline, and both sides were tempting it to spark.

Two days later, it lit. Soldiers opened fire into crowds of protesters. Monasteries were raided. Myint Thein, the spokesperson for Aung San Suu Kyi’s democracy party, was arrested along with scores of other activists. Reports of monks being shot and killed sent ripples of anguish throughout the Southeast Asian nation, as images of Burma’s bloody struggle spilled onto front pages worldwide.

And then, the heaving streets were subdued — largely remaining so until the torrential rains of Cyclone Nargis wiped them from the map. The tension that had continued to roil under the surface was overwhelmed, drowned into despair.

Most of the news media have since moved on, but there are still some reports trickling out. George Packer writes from Rangoon for The New Yorker, interviewing writers and watching plays at the American Center. He wonders whether the people of Burma can improve their lives through their own civic activism without tangling with governments — as many have given up hope for a foreign invasion, and even more have realized their own administration wants nothing to do with them.

Radio Free Asia remembers the uprising through the eyes of a citizen activist and a monk. The man, who is referred to only as Zarni, recalls having to go into hiding and being divorced by his wife after talking to journalists towards the beginning of the protests. The monk, U Zawana, is the leader of the All Burma Monks Union and talks about why the sangha got involved.

And in a more recent development, The Irrawaddy says that its Web site was the victim of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, a day ahead of the anniversary of the beginning of the Saffron Uprising. The publication says reports have been coming in that Internet speeds in Burma have been extremely slow lately, indicating a concerted effort to choke the flow of information.

A year gone by, and still not much has changed.

Myanmar Pushes Referendum

BURMA’S IRRAWADDY DELTA REGION has been reduced to a vast stagnant pool and the official death toll from Cyclone Nargis is stretching towards 30,000. Yet even in the face of such epic loss Myanmar’s junta is coldly proceeding with its political wheelings, forcing citizens around the country to vote on a meaningless constitutional referendum.

The Asia Sentinel reported yesterday that Myanmar’s generals announced an overwhelming voter turnout on Sunday, outside of the 47 townships that were affected by the storm. Though journalists were barred from the polls, reports are circulating among Burma watchers and human rights groups that the process was unsurprisingly marred by corruption and fear:

Ballots were reportedly ripped out of hands and “yes” votes marked by election officials. Votes were cast in the presence of soldiers, police and fire fighters ‑ a normally benign group, but in Burma given paramilitary training – both inside and outside polling stations. There are also reports that the junta’s mass organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Association, and the paramilitary Swan Ah Shin, which was involved in the violent crackdown on protestors in September, were also present at the polling stations.

Related media: The International Herald Tribune reports that generals are upholding aid restrictions, as the Guardian posts video footage showing the relief effort and the toll the storm has taken on the country.

If you’re feeling helpless: Mike over at Vagabondish has posted that travelers Nora Dunn and Kelly Bedford are in northern Thailand organizing relief efforts. Read more to learn how you can contribute.

Don’t Be Caught Guilty in Japan

photo by tizzie.

LAST WEEK JAPAN’S JUSTICE ministry announced that it hanged three people in February, according to the BBC. The late disclosure highlighted the shroud of secrecy that accompanies death sentences in the country, and added momentum to the argument that Japan is ramping up its system of capital punishment.

And while that was bad news for human rights activists in the region (not to mention the families of those killed, who were notified only after the fact), a recent Economist article points out how it was worse news for innocent people unlucky enough to have caught the ire of the law — or who just happened to be the easiest scapegoat:

The notion of being innocent until proven guilty is not strong in Japan. Mr Hatoyama [the Justice Minister] calls it “an idea which I want to constrain”. But confessions are important and the courts rely heavily upon them. Apart from helping secure convictions, they are widely interpreted as expressions of remorse. A defendant not only risks a longer sentence if he insists he is innocent, he is also much less likely to be granted bail before trial—often remaining isolated in police custody, without access to counsel, for long enough to confess.

[…] Perversely, where little supporting evidence exists, the system helps hardened criminals, who know that if they do not confess they are unlikely to be indicted. Innocents, on the other hand, may crack—as in the Kagoshima case, or in a notorious 2002 rape case when the accused confessed under pressure but was released last October after the real culprit came forward.

In a nation that proves itself to be advanced in most other ways, Japan’s backwards system of criminal law is baffling. Juxtaposed against the current background of nations taking other allied countries to task for their human rights abuses — eh em, China — one has to wonder why there isn’t more international pressure for openness in a supposedly democratic state.

China and the Good Ol’ Boy Olympics

WITH THE OPENING CEREMONIES in Beijing drawing ever closer, I have increasingly struggled with whether China deserves the all the flak it’s getting. Especially as a resident of a nation that has a rather shameful track record as of late, I wonder, “Who are we to point a finger?” Beijing has continually fallen back on just that idea, using it to rail against environmental restrictions, political pressures regarding Burma and Darfur, and the politicization of its beloved Olympic games.

Part of me just wants to give it to them. I mean, they have come a pretty long way, right? But then shit like this happens, and like a flood it occurs to me that behind Beijing’s weakening excuses are mountains of injustice – from an editorial in the South China Morning Post, via China Digital Times:

Can the propaganda masters in Beijing get a grip on their horses and stop the kind of silly stunts like the one being conducted in Shanghai? Shanghai’s Xinmin Evening News reported last week that the government was looking for 40 young women between the ages of 18 and 24 and 168cm to 178cm tall to help present medals at the Games. According to the report, they must meet at least 15 requirements including such physical attributes as bones in every part of the body being well proportioned and symmetrical, muscles elastic enough to display a healthy, beautiful body – full-figured, not fat and cumbersome, and so on.

While the officials’ intention is to show the world the utmost attention they pay to every salient detail of the Games, this has come off as incredibly sexist and offensive to many people, including this writer. For heaven’s sake, you are looking for young women to present the medals and they should not be treated to a process as strict as that used by emperors to choose their wives.

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