Friday, April 28, 2006

Off on a trip

I'm going offline for a while, possibly as long as 3 weeks. Will be away on business without a computer and probably without access to the internet.

I've been enjoying writing these blogs and will miss the enjoyment of it all. Right now I must stop and back up my computer before I put it to sleep.

God bless you all!

Little Maria's opportunity for life

Little Maria Soares has finally had open heart surgery to give her a chance at life. This is a heart warming story which I pray will have a good ending for her and her family.

Her life in their hands … at last - National -


With one last kiss on her two-month-old daughter's temple, Lorencia Soares leaves Maria to members of the cardio-thoracic surgical team who over the next five hours repair the hole in her heart and grant her a new lease of life.

At 4pm yesterday doctors declared the operation a success while Maria lay in the intensive care unit at Sydney Children's Hospital, recovering with her mother by her side.

The tiny East Timorese girl had been facing a death sentence when the Herald highlighted her plight last month. Her condition - a ventricular septal defect - had been identified but her country did not have the resources or specialist to fix it. Moved by her story, doctors from the Sydney Children's Hospital volunteered to perform the operation and she was flown to Sydney two weeks ago.

Maria's surgeon, Peter Grant, said the next two days would be critical to her recovery and warned her condition remained serious. Anaesthetist Alan Rubinstein said her low body weight and fragile health meant the operation was both delicate and challenging.


Lloyd Roever, from the Rotary-funded ROMAC - Reaching Overseas with Medical Aid for Children - has supported Mrs Soares during her time in Sydney.

Maria is expected to stay in hospital for at least a week, and then with her mother will spend a fortnight at Mr Roever's house, preparing for the journey home.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Texas hospital to 'kill' sick woman!

Tragically, we begin to see ethics gone mad. Because so much has been developed in the medical world to make it possible for the serious ill to be artificially kept alive, we now see many who "live" life unable to care for themselves. In past days these would have died quickly but now they live on with the aid of ventilators and other technologies and life sustaining medications. This kind of care is expensive. So, now the dilemma... we've been too clever by far with our inventions, and now we have this unforseen consequence... the struggle with the ethics of keeping someone alive artificially or of allowing them to die gracefully and peacefully. I don't have an answer for such a dilemma. I would not like to serve on any ethics committee.

Thanks to Lost Budgie for alerting us to this article in World Net Daily
WorldNetDaily: Hospital to 'kill' sick woman?
An ill woman in Houston could die within days because a hospital ethics committee has voted to take her off life support – this despite the fact the 54-year-old is not in a coma, is not brain dead and wants to go on living, her family says.

On April 30, Andrea Clark is scheduled to be on the receiving end of a Texas law that allows a hospital ethics committee to terminate care with 10 days' notice, giving the patient's family that length of time to find a different facility.

"They just say, 'Well she's miserable.' Well, to me that's a quality of life decision that is up to her and her family," Lanore Dixon told KHOU-TV. "That is not a medical decision."

Dixon recently protested at the St. Luke's Hospital on behalf of Clark, her sister, who has been hospitalized there since November.

In January, Clark underwent open-heart surgery and later developed bleeding on the brain. A ventilator, which the committee voted to remove Sunday, helps her breathe.

Talking about the Texas law, Dixon told KHOU: ""If their ethics committee makes a decision, it doesn't matter what the patient wants. It doesn't even apparently matter what the patient's condition is, because our sister is not in a coma; she's not brain dead."

Clark's family says though she cannot speak, they are able to communicate with her by moving her lips and blinking her eyes.

Columnist and attorney Wesley J. Smith, who wrote extensively on the Terri Schiavo case in Florida, chimed in on his blog:

"Note that the treatment is apparently being removed because it works, not because it doesn't – which means, in effect, that the hospital ethics committee has declared the patient's life to be futile."

Noting that the family wants Clark to live, Smith noted, "It is as if Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers wanted Terri's care continued but the hospital said no."

Smith described the Texas law as allowing "private decision-making that will result in death without even the right to a public hearing, to cross examine witnesses or a formal appeal."

Some have charged the law is meant to benefit insurance companies who want hospitals to get critical patients "off the books." [emphasis added]

According to the TV station report, Clark's family is doing all it can to find another facility that will treat Andrea.

More good news on coffee...

Well, now I'm really happy! I love my coffee and have always believed it was "good" for me. After all the hoo-haa about how bad it was for you, like chocolate, they're finally discovering that coffee is not that much of a problem at all. YEAH!! However, I must add that I don't smoke and drink almost zero alcohol, but I do use aspirin (for arthritis).

Take heart, coffee's not a disease risk after all - World -

Go ahead and have that second cup of coffee - or the third, or fourth. A new study shows heavy, long-term coffee drinking does not raise the risk of heart disease for most people.

The study, which followed 128,000 men and women for as long as 20 years, showed that drinking filtered coffee - not espresso or French-style brews - did not raise the risk of heart disease. Heavy coffee drinkers did tend to smoke and drink alcohol more often and those two factors clearly did raise heart risk, the researchers reported in the journal Circulation.


Researchers also found no link between heart disease and how much caffeine, tea or decaffeinated coffee people drank. But this does not mean everyone can overload on coffee with impunity, said Dr Rob van Dam of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "We can't exclude the association between coffee consumption and the risk of [heart disease] in small groups of people."

A study published last November found no link between coffee drinking and high blood pressure, but an apparent association with drinking caffeinated sodas. [emphasis added]

Those who drank six or more cups of coffee a day were also more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and use aspirin.


Big blow misses Darwin but belts Maningrida

The good news is that Cyclone Monica changed direction and basically bypassed Darwin. It did pound Maningrida though. No lives were lost. That has to be a God-thing, surely.

Pounded for 12 hours … and still everyone's safe - National -

CYCLONE Monica hammered the small Aboriginal community of Maningrida on the West Arnhem Land coast with devastating force for more than 12 hours.

"It was amazing nobody was hurt," said an emergency services worker, Olga Wrzesinska, last night.

A wind recording instrument at the police station broke after registering 170 kilometres per hour early yesterday.

"The gales were much higher [than that] - it came in as a category five storm, which is very frightening," Ms Wrzesinska said. "The eye of the storm was only 10 kilometres off the coast from here." [...]

In Maningrida, trees were snapped and uprooted, and sheets of iron, exhaust fans, timber and rubbish bins were turned into deadly missiles that shot through the darkness, often spearing buildings.

As 30 people huddled together in the high school, the roof of an adjoining building was blown off. "It collapsed onto the rooms where the people were sheltering," said a photographer, Jake Nowakowski. "How nobody was hurt I don't know … It seemed like it would never end."

Bradley Mason, 21, surveyed the devastation of what had been his family's house. "It's just as well we went to a shelter - the house is totally destroyed," he said. "I don't know what we will do now - find somewhere to sleep, I guess."

A schoolteacher, Kevin Rennie, said the emergency plan had worked quite well. "People had designated houses and shelters to go to," he said.

About 2100 of Maningrida's 2300 residents are indigenous.

"The Aboriginal people take these things in their stride," Mr Rennie said. "Their ancestors rode these things out."

Weather forecasters said that as Monica tracked slowly over the sea towards Maningrida it was the most intense cyclone ever recorded in the Top End.

Yesterday, as workers cleared debris, some people delivered hot food to hungry neighbours.

"It's surreal. Like … all that terror never happened," Ms Wrzesinska said. "This has brought out a great sense of community spirit."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anzac Day, looking back at the horror of war

Yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald has a timely article about the soldiers who went crazy because of the horrors of what they experienced during their military service. The article reports on those who had obvious signs of distress. I'm sure many more suffered severely throughout their lives from the nightmares, the depression, and the emotional pain of what they went through... and, it isn't just the great war, it's all wars.

My own father (WW2) seemed quite normal to everyone but as I look back now on his life I realise he suffered from depression. He would never talk about his war experiences. I knew nothing until several years after he died. My mother told me that one of the jobs he'd had during the war was to bring the bodies back from the Kokada Trail. That kind of job would be just awful! That one piece of information explained a lot to me. It was no wonder he had not been able to be emotionally present to us, his children. How could he? His life spirit was dead in PNG. As a result, he avoided conflict at all costs. He just could not bear it. He couldn't stand us kids arguing about anything. And, he left just about everything to our mother.

I've met Vietnam vets who to this day still have nightmares. War is so awful, so destructive. The suffering is so great.

Military madness of diggers lost in legend - National -
An army major is challenging the Anzac legend, which he says hides the reality of mental illness among diggers. Cynthia Banham reports.

BURIED alive four times - once at Gallipoli and three times in France - by 1916 "Private A" of the 18th Battalion could not stop the tremor of his head or limbs.

"Fred" from the 4th Battalion was blown up by a bomb at Lone Pine, redeployed a year later to the Somme, where he, too, was buried alive, remaining unconscious for two hours. By 1917 he had been admitted to a military asylum, nervous, suffering headaches, tremulous. Private Alfred Kirkwood, of the 7th Battalion, was gassed twice in the trenches, and eventually diagnosed as suffering shell shock.
Private Alfred Kirkwood
(Photo: Australian War Memorial)
These are the diggers most Australians rarely think about when they celebrate the Anzac legend, as they will tomorrow.

They are the disenfranchised soldiers who sustained psychological injuries in the Great War, and they are the diggers whom a serving army major says Australians have "let down".

Published to coincide with Anzac Day, Madness and the Military: Australia's Experience of the Great War, by Michael Tyquin, is the first comprehensive study on mental illness in World War I. It shatters the stereotype of the tough Anzac, an icon that he argues Australians look up to today - but which never existed.

Major Tyquin says of the soldiers who were "mentally shattered" by the war - some of whom recovered, though many did not - "I think we've erased them from our public memory. We like to celebrate Anzac, and I use 'celebrate' now because I think we're getting away from the original intent.

"There's nothing really in society that we can focus on - king and country and religion seems to have gone - and we're clinging onto this Anzac myth. And there's no place in that myth for anyone that's less than perfect."

In challenging the legend, Major Tyquin lays much of the blame at the feet of the wartime journalist and historian C.E.W. Bean, who he says manufactured the icon for a new nation. But he argues that in doing so, Bean chose to ignore any evidence of the diggers who, psychologically, emerged from the war in poor shape. "He was very conscious of this nation-building task that he took upon himself. I do think he shut off aspects of the Australian military that didn't fit in to that mould."

Major Tyquin, who is in the army's medical corps, began researching the book after reading "dozens and dozens" of diaries written by Gallipoli troops, and discovering that in a great number of them "all was not well".

"There was a sense of disturbance coming out of those."

War history, he says, does not dwell on the unlucky, the weak, the fragile. And so he aimed to record a part of what he calls the forgotten history of a generation of soldiers who, because the medical profession and the military viewed them as "somehow morally inferior or genetically prone to neurosis", have been effectively locked out of Australia's collective memory of war.

Despite the lack of knowledge of psychology at the time, the military did try, towards the end of the war, to understand what was going on with its soldiers who were presenting with symptoms of what eventually became known as shell shock.

After the war soldiers with psychological injury were admitted to special military asylums, such as Callan Park in Sydney.

But the onset of the Depression meant the public lost sympathy with the mentally ill diggers, who became, he says, the first to fall victim to the cynicism and budgetary constraints.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What next in Burma?

What next in Burma? Now you can get into strife for "obstructing" an official. It shows up that there are them that's "in" and there are them that "ain't" -- tough luck if you're one of the latter!

And, it seems as if the judgement is a foregone conclusion against the student. Students definitely aren't "in"!!

Democratic Voice of Burma - Burmese student sued for accidentally hitting authority car with a ball:
A Burmese university student from Rangoon South Okkalapa Township was taken to court for playing football in a field by a roadside and accidentally hitting a car driven by a former local authority member.

22-year old Phyo Wai Soe, a third year student from Dagon University, was sued by the owner of the car, Maj. Win Nwe, former Eastern Rangoon District authority secretary, in early April with Act 186, for obstructing an official on duty at South Okkalapa court,- and the trial is due to end this coming week with the sentencing of the defender, according to his friends.

The trial is being presided over personally by South Okkalapa Township court judge Thet Swe Oo, and he promised Win Nwe that he would let him win the case for sure even before the sentence is passed on the defendant. Win Nwe himself has been threateningly bragged to people that students need to be taught harsh lessons so that they know their place, according to local residents. (emphasis added)

A big blow heading for Darwin

The Northern Territory is bracing for Monica! It sounds like this could be worse than cyclone Tracy that devastated Darwin years ago.

Warning: cyclone Monica's a monster - National -

As Cyclone Monica bears down on Darwin, the weather bureau has issued a stark warning: "It's as strong as any cyclone we've seen in the Australian region.''

The category five storm, which has wind gusts up to 350 kmh at its core, was 70 kilometres off the coast of Millingimbi in the Northern Territory at 1600 AEDT.

"[From] the analysis we've been doing, [Cyclone Monica] is as strong as any cyclone we've seen in the Australian region,'' said supervising meteorologist Andrew Tupper at Darwin's Bureau of Meteorology.

He said the cyclone is expected to make landfall tonight somewhere between Maningrida and Croker Island - about 350 kilometres from Darwin - before slowly tracking its way towards the Territory's capital.

If the weather bureau's predictions prove correct, Darwin will feel Monica's full force by tomorrow afternoon - but the bureau can't say exactly how strong it will be by then.

"Even if it hits Darwin, we don't expect it to be quite that strong. [It will be] anything between a category three to five,'' he said.

Darwin's Anzac Day march and services cancelled

The cyclone has forced the cancellation of Darwin's Anzac Day march and services.

Darwin RSL manager Mussy Shaw today said the decision was made to protect both marchers and military equipment.

"We made the decision because we didn't want to damage some of the old war equipment we use in the march and obviously we need to protect the people as well," he said.

Mr Shaw said the decision was not made lightly.

"It's Australia's biggest day and we have to cancel it, so people are very upset," Mr Shaw said.

Darwin residents have been urged to secure their homes and stock up on essential supplies.

Monica would prove to be a serious threat even if it weakened, Mr Tupper said.

"Our most optimistic forecast is it will be a category three at Darwin. We're preparing for a category three and a category five would be the most pessimistic.

"A category three cyclone is still a very serious cyclone - we're tracking it very carefully and hoping it will change course.

"We're expecting gales will affect Darwin. There's almost no way around that.

"The edge will hit about dawn tomorrow and the core will approach later in the day.

"Even if the track changes, Darwin will still receive a glancing blow."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bad omen!

!! I can believe it... the heat in this part of the world has been extreme this year. As for it being a bad omen... well, if the rulers are afraid of dark forces anything can be taken as a bad omen. Sounds more like stupidity to me, stupidity requiring men in full uniform to stand for hours in the blazing heat!

Democratic Voice of Burma - Bad omen: 18 die from extreme heat after Burma’s Army Day parade
18 security personnel including soldiers died from extreme heat after the taking part in the Armed Forces Day parade at Burma’s new capital near Pyinmana in the central of the country, according to sources close to the Burmese military HQs. The majority of those who died were said to be members of fire brigades and the Navy. They died from extreme heat and exhaustion, having taken part in the rehearsals for the parade which was held on 27 March in the middle of an arid plain. The family members of the ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) chairman Gen Than Shwe, had to cancel their plan to celebrate the Burmese New Year at the new capital because of the deaths for fear of contracting evil influence, a soldier in charge of the security of the capital told DVB on condition of anonymity.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Thailand's Songkran festival generates US$660.8 mln in spending

All I can say is, "Wow!"
... that's a lot of money!
and, a lot of tourists! I can't say I noticed as I stayed dry in my house...

Thailand's Songkran festival generates US$660.8 mln in spending
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said the traditional Songkran water festival generated Bt25 billion (US$660.8 million) in tourism-related spending across the country, with Bangkok topping the league with Bt2 billion followed by Chiang Mai with Bt1 billion. Declaring Songkran a major triumph in boosting tourism, TAT spokesman Wansadet Tawornsuk said that between April 9-15, Songkran festivities across the nation led to Bt25 billion in tourism-related spending.

* Bangkok still proved a magnet of tourists as over two million foreign and Thai revellers contributed Bt2 billion spending during the period, according to TAT's estimate.

* Chiang Mai was just as busy, with over 90 per cent of its hotel rooms were booked in advance.


Tourism Authority of Thailand says traditional Songkran water festival generated US$660.8 mln in spending


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cambodia's horror

Lest we forget!

Bangkok Post News: Cambodians look back in horror
Thirty-one years ago yesterday [April 17], as the communist Vietnamese neared victory in Saigon and the Thai people debated the direction of their still novel democracy, the first stories emerged from Cambodia. They were so shocking that many were inclined to dismiss them on April 17, 1975. The Khmer Rouge, one day into their Cambodian war victory, were emptying cities, forcing everyone to the countryside. Well-known personalities, including royal family members, were shot down in cold blood when they went to welcome the new rulers.

Thus began an extreme experiment, using real people, which resulted in millions of deaths, unimaginable hardship and, to this day, a total lack of justice.

Since the peace treaty of 1989 ended that long and blood-stained conflict, it has become a cliche{aac} to say that war crimes tribunals are expected to begin soon. Lethargy, some apathy and especially the current Khmer government of Prime Minister Hun Sen have conspired to deny such courts and chance of a fair hearing for the survivors, victims and their families. If the always coming, never arriving tribunal weren't bad enough for the hope for justice, the real unfairness is the treatment of the men and women who should have been in the dock years ago. The top Khmer Rouge _ those who have not died like their leader Pol Pot _ live at home, among families and friends, reminiscing about their old days in the war and when they ruled the country.

After 31 years, it is easy to say "enough is enough", but that should have been said more than a decade ago. Premier Hun Sen and his supporters have dragged out the process of appointing a court and setting its rules for well over 10 years. And certainly it is easy to lay the blame on Hun Sen. He himself was a Khmer Rouge soldier, present 31 years ago and prodding the sick from the hospitals, the old from their beds and singling out people wearing glasses as "intellectuals" to be shot, or enslaved until they died of exhaustion. He invited his old leaders, even including top Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, to Phnom Penh where they joked and bantered while the cameras rolled.

But Hun Sen alone would have been unable to delay a tribunal for the top Khmer Rouge. The international community committed some unpleasant actions, even if they were justified at the time. China, Singapore, Thailand and the United States allied to force Vietnam to give up its armed occupation of Cambodia. But they do not brag of their alliance of convenience with the Khmer Rouge for part of that period of resistance. Vietnam seems proud of overthrowing Pol Pot and ending the worst of the horrors in 1979, but does not brag of its early training and support for the Khmer Rouge. The United Nations itself ran the largest international armed intervention in its history, yet left the Khmer Rouge as a viable force, an unworkable and undemocratic government, and introduced Aids to Cambodia.

The victims of all of this are, of course, the people of Cambodia. They also were the victims of the undoubted, heavily documented atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Dictators have killed more citizens than the Pol Pot gang, but Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and their like never visited the horrors to all citizens that the Khmer Rouge brought. Cambodia had no money, no markets, no religion, no institution. Then, with the total control of the country and all citizens, the Khmer Rouge killed all resident foreigners and perhaps half of all Cambodians in the country, in a period of just 44 months.

Perhaps Cambodians would not find closure with a war crimes tribunal that probed and laid the correct responsibility for the atrocities. But they might avoid the cynicism that affects them today. For 31 years they have suffered _ at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese invaders and a callous government unwilling to represent its own people. The UN and its members, and the Hun Sen government have not helped them. And on the anniversary of the atrocities, that is shameful.

Tough times for the Lao Hmong

It's not the life any of us would wish for. These folk can do nothing about their situation. They're now stuck in a no-man's-land with no prospects and no hope. I wonder if they regret helping the US during the 60's and 70's?

Bangkok Post News: Tough times for the Lao Hmong
Life remains difficult for Sir Sae-yang, a 60-year-old Lao Hmong, and his eight family members who crossed illegally into Thailand's Ban Huay Nam Khao village from Laos two years ago.

A former guerrilla fighter in the US campaign against communists in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s, Sir Sae-yang and his family members came to the village, hoping to start a new life or to be resettled in a third country.

Unfortunately, the Thai government has not helped them, insisting Sir Sae-yang's family and about 6,000 other Hmong refugees at the village be deported back to Laos soon.

"We don't want to go back to Laos because we're afraid that Lao soldiers will kill us if we're caught. So we want to live here or be sent to a third country," said Sir Sae-yang.

The lives of Sir Sae-yang and his family have not improved since they arrived in the village. The same goes for other Hmong refugees who were recruited by the US to fight the communists in Laos.

Sir Sae-yang and his family live in a 6-by-4 metre thatched hut covered with a large plastic sheet. At night, they sleep on old mats on tiny bamboo litters. His small nephew and niece do not have enough thick blankets to protect them from the cold.

The thatched hut they call home is one of hundreds of bamboo houses along both sides of the main road between Ban Khek Noi and Ban Huay Nam Khao villages in Khao Kho district.

There is no electricity or running water in the village. The family uses candles for light and gets its water from the nearby Khek Noi river.

Sir Sae-yang and his sons are jobless because Thai authorities do not allow the Lao Hmong to leave the area to find work. His wife and daughters earn a meagre living doing embroidery. They make around 60-100 baht a piece of embroidery with each item normally taking a month to complete.

"Nowadays, our family has to wait for food assistance from NGOs. They come to the village every 10 days to give rice to us and other refugees," said Kua, 26, one of Sir Sae-yang's sons.

"The best meal we've had for a long time is a bowl of rice with salt and vegetable soup as we have no money to buy pork and chicken meat from Thai vendors at the village," he said.

Mr Kua, who has a five-month baby son, said he worried for the health of his baby son once his wife stopped breastfeeding. He feared his son would lack nutritious food to eat.

Mr Kua called on people to donate healthy food and other necessities to children in the village.

The Thai government stopped giving the Lao Hmong refugees humanitarian aid about a year ago. Instead it allows NGOs to take care of them.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, a Paris-based NGO, entered the village about a year ago to provide the refugees with health and contraception counselling and basic medical treatment, while International Red Cross (IRC) oversaw the building of a sanitation system in the village.

Kannika Leelapattanakit, 27, a Thai Hmong dressmaker at Ban Khek Noi village, said local authorities and police have ordered all Thai Hmong not to give any help to the refugees. They threatened to arrest those who disobeyed the order on the charge of harbouring migrants.

"The Thai government should now do something to send these Lao Hmong people back to their homes as quickly as possible as we don't want outsiders to misunderstand that we Thai Hmong at Ban Khek Noi played a part in bringing them to Thailand because we are of the same ethnic group," Ms Kannika said.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is gravely concerned over the issue of humanitarian relief aid to the Lao-Hmong and it will ask the Thai government to review its role.

[emphasis added]

Wa under pressure to surrender their weapons by Burma junta

Hmmm... I wonder what this really means? Personally, I would be very suspicious of any invitations from the ruling junta.

Democratic Voice of Burma: Wa under pressure to surrender their weapons by Burma junta

One of the most powerful armed ethnic national groups which signed ceasefire agreements with Burma’s military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the United Wa State Army (UWSA) has recently been "invited to exchange arms for perpetual peace”, according to a report by Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) citing Thai and Wa sources. According to the report, the "invitation" came during a meeting held in Tachilek, opposite Thailand’s border town Maesai, on 9 April a Thai source who is in the logging business told S.H.A.N. “When I contacted (phoned) them (UWSA), I was told that it was not surrender of the weapons as such; but exchange of arms for perpetual peace,” S.H.A.N editor Khun Seng told DVB. “Therefore, I asked them if there is any plan for them to surrender their weapons. It will be very difficult for us (to do that), I was told. So I asked them the details. When the meeting was held, where and who attended it, I asked them. They told me that they have no rights (permissions) to say that.” Khun Seng added that there are two significant points about the report as the meeting took place three days after the visit in the city by Lt-Gen Kyaw Win, who commands three military regions: Lashio-based Northeastern, Taunggyi-based Eastern and Kengtung-based Triangle. “Another thing is, this month is the same as the time when SSNA (Shan State National Army) and Palaung (State) Liberation Front were forced to surrender their weapons.” When the offensives jointly carried out by the UWSA and Burmese troops were not successful against the Shan State Army – South last year, the UWSA was also under pressure to lay down their weapons, said Khun Seng.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cooler weather predicted for Thailand

Cooler weather can't come quick enough. It has been miserably hot in Chiang Mai lately. On Saturday we had a heavenly wind blow in from China. The temp dropped 15F in 30 minutes... and sometime later the heavens opened and the rain teemed down. It happened again last night. This has made for a very pleasant couple of nights and a lovely Monday! Aaahh...

MCOT : TNA: English News Meteorology department predicts cooler, wetter summer
It's summertime, and the weather is -- well, cooler than expected as cold winds from China have brought unseasonal rain and somewhat cooler weather. [...]

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Russia's irresponsibility!

So, Russia is going to give Burma arms in exchange for oil! Humph! How irresponsible can a country get? Burma has been slaughtering her own people and she doesn't need more arms to make it easier to exterminate her people. Will she use them to complete the job?

Regional security and stability? I hardly think so.

Democratic Voice of Burma: Myanmar seeks Russian arms for oil

MOSCOW, April 4, 2006 (AFP) - Yangon has agreed to allow Russia to share in exploiting Myanmar's oil fields in exchange for weapons, the Kommersant newspaper said Tuesday. Commenting on the deal signed Monday between General Maung Aye, Myanmar's second most senior figure, and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, the financial newspaper said that the two sides were discussing delivery of Russian arms. Kommersant said Myanmar was seeking Russian help in developing an anti-aircraft system. "The rapprochement between Moscow and Myanmar, a pariah on the international scene as a result of its serious restriction of freedoms, is not only explained by economic reasons," the newspaper added. It was also intended as a contribution to regional security following President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to China. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov received his Myanmar counterpart, Nyan Win, describing the two countries as brothers, agencies said. It was the first such high level visit by a Myanmare leader in 40 years.

Horrific death toll on Thai roads during Songkhran

Every year the death toll is horrific during the Songkhran Water festival. And these figures are only up till Friday. There's still several more days to go. Motorcycles are involved in over 86% of the accidents. It seems like insanity to ride a motorcycle during these days. Most of the deaths are probably young people... out for a good time but become a tragic statistic instead.

Songkran road accidents result in 393 deaths in eight days MCOT - TNA English News :

BANGKOK, April 15 (TNA) - The death toll in road accidents nationwide during the Songkran festival holiday from April 7-14 reached 393 on Friday, while the number of those injured was recorded at 4,979.

Anucha Mokkhavasa, Director General of the Interior Ministry's Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, said that on April 14 alone, the eighth day of the Songkran festival, there were 699 road accidents with 50 deaths and 780 persons injured, lower than earlier predicted.

Mr. Anucha, in his capacity as the National Road Safety Command Centre Secretary, said drunken driving remained the main cause of the accidents, with 43.49 per cent of the overall tally, followed by excessive speed or 19.60 per cent overall.

Motorcycles are involved in 86.43 per cent of the total road accidents.

The total number of roadway accidents from April 7-14 stood at 4,435, resulting in 393 persons dead and 4,979 injured.

Statistically, the northern province of Chiang Rai reported the most accidents and the northern province of Phitsanulok recorded the highest number of fatalities at 16, followed by the northeastern of Nakhon Ratchasima, the central province of Lopburi and the eastern province of Rayong.

Only five provinces have been casualty-free so far, including Trat, Pattani, Phrae, Ranong and Samut Songkhram. [...]

Toronto City TV Goes Pro-Life - Unintentionally

Good post by Lost Budgie on unintentional pro-life broadcast at Toronto City TV. Thanks!

Lost Budgie Blog: Toronto City TV Goes Pro-Life - Unintentionally
On Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 7:43am, the Toronto television station "City TV" broadcast a very pro-life video of ultrasonic imaging of a baby in the womb.

What's so special about that? Everything.

City TV is a fairly left-wing media organization that has been very pro-abortion rights in the past. Now, with the host of their "Breakfast Television" show expecting her baby and growing larger every day, we are seeing a "humanization" of the "fetus" as we have never seen before on this particular television station.

Tuesday's show featured "3D Baby Fetal Imaging" - a Toronto company that offers ultrasonic imaging in a family environment so everyone can see the little baby moving around in the womb. They will also create a DVD and/or post your baby's imaging video on the web for all your friends and family.

Inescapable in all this is the fact that the only difference between the baby on TV and another baby scheduled for abortion is that one baby is wanted and the other is not.

Public videos of a living child in the womb sucking it's thumb and grabbing it's own feet effectively end the "it's not a real child" argument. During the show, the words "baby", "dad", "mother" and other humanizing terms were readily and naturally used by all. Nobody says "fetus" when looking at their own live, moving baby in the womb.

Abortion is no longer a public argument about the "humanity" or "personhood" of an unborn baby. It is simply a debate about execution - who has the right to execute - kill - an unborn baby and under what circumstances.

The abortion industry - a multi-billion dollar worldwide business - will eventually be defeated not by blocking the clinic doors, but by videotapes of live babies in the womb - and videotapes of the reality of what happens in an abortuary, and what comes out the back door. [...]

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Thailand -- Mae Ai children still lack citizenship

This story seems rather odd. Maybe not enough money has gone under the table!

Bangkok Post: Children still lack citizenship
The nationality problem continues to dog the families of 1,243 Mae Ai villagers in Chiang Mai, despite a landmark verdict by the Supreme Administrative Court to return Thai citizenship to them. The Department of Provincial Administration (DPA) has refused to return Thai nationality to their children unless the group comes up with evidence to convince the authorities.

One of the villagers, Boon Phongma, 42, said almost 100 children have been unable to obtain Thai citizenship although they were born in Thailand.

The department's refusal might go against the 1965 Nationality Act, which automatically gives citizenship to children born of legally-wed Thai parents.

The children were born to some of the 1,243 Mae Ai ethnic villagers whose citizenship was revoked between April 2002 and Sept 2005, when the DPA removed their names from the house registration list. The DPA cancelled their nationality after a scandal in which some state officials took bribes to produce fake identity cards.

The villagers sued the department in the Administrative Court. DNA tests were undertaken to prove the villagers' nationality. Their citizenship was returned after the court ruled on Sept 8, 2005 that the DPA's action was illegal.

''We are again Thai citizens. Surprisingly, some of us have found that our children are not,'' said Mrs Boon, also head of the Mae Ai Human Rights Group.

''District officials have insisted these children must go through a citizenship verification process. Their parents must provide evidence of their birthplaces and answer questions like whether they are real parents. That's a painful process and should not happen to Thais,'' she said.

The DPA has insisted on investigating the citizenship of the children born to the 1,243 villagers on a case-by-case basis.

''If they want Thai nationality for their children, they have to follow the registration process. These children will become Thai if they have proper birth certificates,'' said DPA deputy secretary-general Suwat Tunprawat.

Died alone in London, and no one noticed!

There is a sad story in today's SMH of a 40 year woman who died alone in her flat in London and was not discovered till 2 years later... even though her rent was in arrears, she had family, and she'd been provided with housing by a shelter.

It seems as if people are becoming more and more disconnected from one another. Days come and go and no one notices that something might not be right.

I don't know why these lonely deaths affect me so much but they do. It seems such a sad commentary on our western world. We've lost community and looking out for one another. I suspect we have closed in upon ourselves because of fear; fear of abuse, of violence, of being taken advantage of, of being rejected further, of any number of possibilities. With the increase of terrorism and criminal actions the disintergration of community appears likely to continue, and to grow worse.

How to counter this disintegration? Comminity and caring for one another need to be fostered, and not for any ulterior motives except the motive of love.

We're celebrating Easter this weekend. Jesus died a horrible death on a cross for love, and his was a wholesome healing love. He lived love. He didn't just preach it. He eschewed violence even though he was condemned to death as a result. In some mysterious way his death on that cross and then his rising from the dead broke an evil power over us; a power that had kept us from heart wholeness and freedom, and from becoming who we could be and were designed to be. He made a path of peace for us. He alone transforms our hatred and violence. He alone brings us to peace, a deep deep heart peace.

The best community is the community that Jesus grows in us as he transforms our hatreds into compassion and mercy.

Woman dead in flat two years before rent arrears sent landlord calling - World

A WOMAN who died alone in her flat in north London lay unmissed by anyone for more than two years while her television set remained on and mail mounted up.

Carol Vincent's body was discovered in her tiny studio flat in Wood Green, with a bag of shopping by her side and Christmas presents under the tree. [...]

She died at Christmas, all alone!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Chiang Mai's Night Safari Zoo, a white elephant?

There's been a lot of publicity about the night safari zoo in Chiang Mai. I can't for the life of me understand why Chiang Mai needs another zoo. They have a perfectly good one at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain. I suspect it may be an idea implemented without really thinking through the implications and the practicalities. I for one don't intend to ever visit it. has the following article: Thailand’s Booed Zoo (by Joel Gershon)
Some environmentalists, and many animal rights advocates, believe zoos are inherently inhumane; others argue that if zoos use kind practices, they’re valuable to society and help preserve wildlife. But in the case of the Chiang Mai Night Safari in northern Thailand, there’s been widespread outrage from many observers. The “night safari” is a zoo in which animals are kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures that are thought to simulate natural habitat, while guests visit at night.

But according to Chiang Mai-based Joe Cummings, the long-time author of the Lonely Planet Thailand guidebook: “It’s a project that seems to be more reviled than loved,” noting that at first there was “a furor over the land use” that infringes on an important watershed for locals and is near a sacred temple.

Another persistent issue has been where and how the animals were obtained and if they have been procured legally, as there has been no public record. When asked if the roster of the animals’ origins was available, a Night Safari spokesperson questioned the necessity for “details,” adding there was “no need to clarify for the public since we already have the internal control office to check on us.”

This cryptic reaction isn’t surprising given the zoo’s recent controversies. The driving force behind the safari, Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (who is originally from Chiang Mai), went to Kenya in December to secure 175 animals—including giraffes, flamingoes, hippos, zebras, dik-diks, impalas, buffaloes and gazelles—in exchange for a reported $1 million to go towards Kenyan conservation efforts, and a promise to train Kenyans in the way of the Thai mahout (elephant trainers, whose practices many consider harsh).

Unfortunately, the deal was in apparent violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), causing an immediate uproar. Kenya’s High Court halted the trade.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, Night Safari Director Plodprasop Suraswadi had just released details of the destination’s menu, which was to include tiger, lion, elephant, giraffe, crocodile and zebra meat. After public outcry, he retracted the idea.

A few weeks later, during a television debate with two activists, Suraswadi grew noticeably frustrated. Afterwards, Suraswadi’s aides were videotaped assaulting his opponents physically. The matter has since been turned over to the legal system.

Meanwhile, the 323-acre zoo, meant to hold 1,500 animals, has obtained a thousand of the first residents. The official opening date was April of last year, but it’s twice been bumped up. Some members of the public have been let in for free, and there have been reports of hyenas fighting each other; cranes looking gloomy and overcrowded; llamas having trouble acclimatizing to the tropical weather and overall discomfort from animals that have endured bright lights shining on them at night.

But according to the safari spokesperson, “there are no problems whatsoever so far.”

What is the Burma regime up to?

The Democratic Voice of Burma has the following disturbing article: Burmese soldiers ‘clearing’ Karen villages from central Burma
Apr 11, 2006 (DVB) - Burma’s military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) troops have been carrying out offensives against Karen villages and driving out their inhabitants at Taungoo and Nyaunglebin Districts in eastern central Burma, according to the Karen National Union (KNU). The ‘clearing’ activities have been carried out reportedly for the security of the country’s new administrative capital in nearby Pyinmana District and the soldiers are committing extra-judicial killings, rape, looting and the destructions of homes and farms in the process, causing Karen villagers to flee their homes, said KNU spokesman David Takabaw. “They launch artillery shells into the villages. After the villagers are gone, they mine the villages. They do not allow them to go to the farms or paddy fields. They block them thus. Then, some people who are under suspicion are beaten up and tortured to death…(five) suspects are lined up and shot dead…in Taungoo District. It happened in Taungoo District at Shazipho area.” The clearing of Karen villages is being carried out not only for the security of the new capital, but also for the strategic control of Mawchi area in nearby Karenni (Kayah) State which is rumoured to harbour deposits of uranium and tungsten ores, according to Takabaw.
See also "Burmese regime steps up bloody crackdown around new capital" at
Colonel Nerdah Mya, spokesman of the Karen National Union, said the army had killed more than 100 ethnic Karen people. They also forced thousands of people to flee their homes and burned villages and crops. He said: “The military junta moved thousands of troops from Rangoon (Yangon) to the new capital Pyinmana. They kill, they rape, they loot, and they burn everything, so people have to flee. If you are Karen, they will attack you. They are pushing the Karen out of Burma.”
“Villagers have been captured, shot, killed and beheaded in Western Karen State, Toungoo district, resulting in over 2,000 in hiding and 1,000 who have already fled to the Thailand,” added the Free Burma Rangers, a volunteer group supporting the Karen. The group has published an article to denounce the army action on the internet, complete with photos.
Follow all this news at Free Burma Rangers.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Suicide bombing kills 47 in Karachi

Muslim against Muslim... to what end? Is there any rationale that can in any way justify such bloody mayhem? I doubt it. What is the world coming to? What is the Muslim world coming to? Who is really disrupting what? And, to what ends?

Is it mostly men who do this? What's wrong with them? Have they no compassion? or mercy? or love? Is there only hatred and violence taking over?

God help us!

Suicide bombing kills 47 in Karachi - World -

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Heartwarming story...

It always warms my heart when I read stories of people's generosity to the plight of others. With so much hatred and virulent anger raging around in the world today, this story gives us another view of kindness and hope. May little Maria survive the journey and operation and grow strong and healthy. God bless the family and those who have made this all possible.

Operation open heart - Maria flies in - World -
[...] The Herald revealed last week that the baby would die in East Timor because doctors did not have the equipment or expertise to perform the operation that is routine in many Australian hospitals. Maria's story prompted a flood of offers to help save her, including from doctors at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, who wanted to perform the operation.

Dr Murphy, 61, described the flood of offers to help Maria as amazing. He said he hoped publicity about her plight would help raise awareness about other Timorese in need of urgent medical treatment not available in East Timor, a country which remains one of the world's poorest four years after gaining its independence.

Dr Murphy, who has worked in East Timor for eight years, is regarding by Dili's poor as a saint. With three volunteer doctors from Britain, Dr Murphy treats up to 500 patients a day, who start queuing outside the clinic before dawn.

"I have a book with a list of 100 patients, most of them children, who need medical treatment that is not available in East Timor," he said. "I'm being greedy, I know … but I hope they can be helped as well."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Clinic on Thai Border Caught in Turmoil

The tide of sufferers coming from Burma for medical help in Thailand keeps on rising. The military junta is the cause of all the suffering and there is no let up. Dr Cynthia's clinic is one place where the sick and injured can get help.

VOA News - Clinic on Thai Border Caught in Turmoil
A clinic on Thailand's border with Burma is struggling to treat a rising flood of Burmese patients -- a reflection of the country's political repression and economic woes. [...]

Dr. Cynthia Muang, an ethnic Karen, set up the clinic in 1989, after she fled to the border area, like so many of her compatriots, after Burma's military crushed pro-democracy protests and calls for reform in 1988. In the early days, Dr. Cynthia, as she is known, mostly treated young men who also had fled to the jungle after the crackdown.

Then, for many years, the clinic treated the victims of the government's efforts to quash rebellions by ethnic groups along the border. The fighting displaced more than 500,000 people within Burma, while two million Burmese fled to Thailand. But ceasefires in recent years between the rebels and Rangoon mean that fewer war wounded come to the clinic. Dr. Cynthia says the caseload has changed markedly over the years and most patients now are poor workers.

"After 2000, we see more adolescent age groups come to Thailand, to work in the factories or the farms. We see teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions. We see more accidents, occupational accidents, road accidents, injuries caused by violence," says Dr. Cynthia Muang. [...]

The clinic also is the base for so-called "backpack teams" -- medical workers who travel into Burma's Karen state, often for weeks at a time. Teams of two-to-four workers visit villages that lack medical services. Saw Roman, a Karen, one of the senior members of the 70 teams that cross the border says, "We will visit village by village, treating the patients, especially for common diseases like malaria, acute respiratory tract infections, and diarrhea, dysentery, some measles and cholera. Communicable disease is very common, and malnutrition, landmine injuries, emergency obstetric care are very common, and mental health problems." Saw Roman says the work has risks. Burma's military, he says, tries to hunt down the medics. Seven have died after being shot by the military. [...]

In 2002, [Dr Cynthia] received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, which honors Asians who work to protect human rights, for the help she has given to tens of thousands.

Displaced Burma Christian Villagers Face Food Shortages

Displaced Burma Christian Villagers Face Food Shortages | Burma (Myanmar) | Asia/Pacific

Iran seeks to "scientifically" disprove the holocaust

So, Iran continues to want to dispove the holocaust. To what end? What's the point? It really does escape me.

How can they even think they can succeed in disproving something that was so well documented?

And, what does it all have to do with their plans for nuclear development? Another kind of holocaust may soon be upon us if we are not careful... We need to pray!

Australian Prayer Network: Iran to convene conference to disprove World War 2 Holocaust

Iran to convene conference to disprove World War 2 holocaust

Source: Intercessors For America

"The things I saw beggar description...The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were...overpowering...I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda.' - Quote from Gen. Dwight
D. Eisenhower, while inspecting the Ohrdruf camp, the first Nazi prison camp to be discovered while it still had "inmates" living inside of it.

In a provocative move, Iran has announced plans to convene a "scientific" conference to examine the evidence supporting the Holocaust. The news comes weeks after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked a global outcry by describing the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis in the Second World War as a "myth".

The Association of Islamic Journalists will organize the conference. On the list of invitees will be Holocaust revisionist scholars from around the globe. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the world should be very concerned about Iran's radical ideology. He said: "The Holocaust denial by the regime in Iran is not only offensive and racist, but it also demonstrates the mindset of the extremist regime in Tehran." Regev added: "The combination of an extremist ideology, a distorted view of reality, together with nuclear weapons is a combination that should concern every thinking individual."
[emphasis added]

Burma accuses US of 'spreading poison'

Hmmm... an article in the Irish Examiner reveals that the US is "poisoning" the minds of young Burmese journalists through English for journalism courses. Tut, tut! Well, what would you expect from a course being offered at the American Center, after all it is American. Perhaps these young local reporters are being taught to think for themselves and to search out the truth. That might not be so comfortable for the powers-that-be!

Irish Examiner: Burma accuses US of 'spreading poison'
A US government centre in Burma is spreading “poison” among local reporters through its English for Journalism courses, a state-owned newspaper said today.

The Kyemon newspaper said apart from teaching journalistic ethics and writing, foreign instructors at the American Centre in Burma, known as Myanmar by its military rulers, have gathered information about the country’s education, health and social conditions from the students.

“The ‘English for Journalism’ course attended by young journalists from various Myanmar media groups is like poison, because the course is nothing but sugar-coated bitter medicine,” the newspaper wrote.

The article went on to indicate that the centre, through courses like the one on journalism, was spreading American propaganda and harming “young Myanmar brains”.

Thomas Pierce, who heads the centre, declined immediate comment since he had not read the article.

“We are working to improve journalism in Burma, working with journalists to both improve their English and reporting skill,” he said.

The centre, operated by the US Embassy in Yangon, offers educational courses, a library, films and other facilities that are open to all Burmese citizens.


Nasty news from Burma

The news from Burma is not good! Burmese army 'behead civilians, torch villages'. The Burmese military are up to their old tricks trying desperately to bring the ethnic minorities of Burma into subjugation. No wonder they rebel! The word of the many atrocities that trickles out onto the world scene and making it into the news are probably vastly understated.

There is so much suffering in this country... it is time it stopped! When will it ever stop? Who will stop it?

Sydney Morning Herald: Burmese army 'behead civilians, torch villages'

Burmese troops, trying to stamp out a decades-long rebellion by the Karen minority, have beheaded civilians and torched villages in an offensive which has forced 1000 refugees to flee into Thailand and thousands of others to hide in the jungles, a report from inside Burma said on Sunday.

The attacks, which began in mid-November in Western Karen State, follow a long-time strategy of the army in Burma to separate the guerrillas from a possibly sympathetic population.

But human rights groups say numerous atrocities have been committed against innocent civilians.

"The Burma army is burning homes, rice barns and laying land mines to stop villagers from returning to their homes and fields," said a report from the Free Burma Rangers, a group of Westerners and ethnic minority volunteers who provide aid to displaced people.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Caught in the middle on a volatile border

The tragedy continues to unfold in Sudan and Chad. I cannot begin to comprehend the suffering that these refugees go through day after, month after month, and year after year. While the hostilities rage on (are the majority of these "fighters" men?), the women and children suffer. When will it ever end? How can it ever end?

A verse in Psalm 9 (18) says:
"For the needy will not be forgotten forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed."
May that day come soon! Thye end of the article has some suggestions for how you can help alleviate some of the suffering, even though it feels like it would only be a drop in the bucket. With enough drops the bucket can begin to fill...

Caught in the middle on a volatile border - World -

KHALIA DAOUD squats in the shade of her straw hut with hundreds of other Chadian refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly. Her one-square-metre makeshift shelter stands at the edge of Sudan's porous 1300-kilometre border with Chad.

Donkeys mill about, and under a dried-up thorn tree some women display a meagre assortment of root vegetables, small piles of millet, peanuts and spices, in the encampment's only market.

Khalia, a mother of six, fled to Darfur more than a month ago but has received little help from aid agencies, which are reluctant to travel in an increasingly dangerous situation. Still, she is glad to be free of the harassment and attacks that occurred frequently in her village in Chad. "It seems as if we are welcome here. No one has harassed us yet," she says.

But the trouble from which she fled may have followed her. Operating from bases along the border inside Sudan, Chadian rebels have started staging attacks on their home country. Since their first big attack, on the eastern city of Adre in December, their numbers have grown to about 9000 well-armed men.

A similar number of refugees from Chad have arrived in western Sudan's Darfur region in the past couple of months. They have fled attacks from rival tribesmen backed by the ailing, beleaguered President of Chad, Idriss Deby, and the non-Arab tribe from which he hails, the Zaghawa.

The arrival of Chadian refugees is an alarming new development in Darfur, where more than 200,000 Sudanese have died, largely at the hands of government-backed Arab militias, and 2 million have endured famine as well as displacement. Until now the crisis in Darfur worked the other way around: Sudanese refugees being displaced within Darfur and flowing into Chad.

The proliferation of rebel groups, the rising tensions between Chad and Sudan, and the enmity between the rival tribes that live on both sides of the border are making things even worse for those caught in the middle.

The recent developments lay bare the underlying tribal complexities of the conflict in Darfur, which is looking more and more like Somalia, with tribal-based militias fighting each other more than the government, and a steady flow of arms on both sides of the border.

"In Chad the Zaghawa and Massalit tribes take anything from us they want and you can do nothing," says Ibrahim Osman, a 30-year-old sheik at one of the encampments along the border inside Darfur. "I hear that the problem here in Darfur is the same, only reversed."

The Zaghawa, Massalit and nearly every other tribe caught up in the conflict live on both sides of the border. Sheik Osman concedes that many of his camp's inhabitants are the wives and children of the Chadian rebels. Aid workers long suspected this and have feared their aid supplies might fall into rebels' hands if delivered to the Chadian refugees. But that is not the only reason aid workers rarely come around.

There have been more than 70 attacks on aid workers in West Darfur in the past four months. One international aid agency in West Darfur recently negotiated passage through Chadian rebel-controlled territory, something aid agencies are regularly forced to do with different rebel groups.

"We are working with a sovereign country … they should ensure our safety," says Andy Pendleton of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in West Darfur, referring to the Sudanese Government. "We shouldn't have to deal with fighting forces that have commandeered a piece of the pie."

Darfur has long been used as a staging ground for attacks by Chadian opposition forces, and although a loosely organised armed opposition to President Deby has existed since 1994, its strength has only recently increased dramatically, with a number of prominent defections from the Chadian Army. Mr Deby has fallen out of favour with the outside world and his own people, each dissatisfied with rampant corruption and nepotism.

"All governments which govern Chad were either directly or indirectly installed by causes from Darfur, or were toppled or weakened by incidents happening in Darfur," says Dr Eltayeb Hag Ateya, an expert on Darfur at the University of Khartoum.

In a rare case of contact with the press, the Chadian rebels allow a viewing of a military parade. A punishing four-hour drive outside Geneina, their base is situated along the border, past two burnt-out villages and beside a confluence of dry riverbeds.

In the morning hundreds of Chadian rebels congregate for the parade. Wearing mismatched uniforms, they converge from nearby camps with Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders and many sporting Rambo-style chain-link belts of large-calibre bullets. Forty new Toyota LandCruisers packed with young fighters, some just past adolescence, line the edge of the open, dust-choked field. Tied to the sides of the four-wheel-drives are sacks filled with rocket-propelled grenades.

Under the shade of a mango tree the leader of the Chadian rebels, Mohammad Nour, decries the corruption rampant in Chad and lays out a vision for a post-coup transition to democracy.

"I am not a politician and have no intention for being a politician," says the 35-year-old Mr Nour, who fought in Mr Deby's Darfur-based coup in 1990 before becoming fed up with him. "What we want to do for Chad is kick out President Deby - if he refuses to sit down with us and others."

After the ousting, Mr Nour envisions an Afghan-style loya jirga forum with traditional leaders from across Chad to determine the nature of a transitional government, which will in turn set out a timetable for democratic elections.

Past the idealism of sweeping reforms, the tribal overtones behind the Chadian rebels' politics are clear: inside the camp are members of various Arab militias, which have long been welcomed and supported by President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and marginalised by President Deby in Chad.

Mr Nour's assessment of the Darfur crisis - which Western governments have labelled genocide and laid squarely at the door of Mr Bashir's government - is similar to explanations routinely offered by officials in Khartoum.

"There is no Sudanese rebellion. It is all a tribal problem," Mr Nour says dismissively. He insists the only support he is getting from Sudan is "free access".

His commanders finish their speeches with roars of self-satisfaction and conviction, and the soldiers start driving off. As their tyres throw up dust from the parched earth it is difficult to tell which direction along the unmarked border they are speeding off to.

Back at the refugee camp along the border, Khalia Daoud knows this all too well. "It's hard to tell the sides apart. All of the villages are mixed," she says. But her tribe is on the side of the rebels, so she and her children prepare to spend another night in a foreign country.


UNICEF Australia has an emergency appeal for the children of Darfur. 1300 884 233 or

CARE Australia 1800 020 046 or Donors can specify where they want their donation to go.

Red Cross 1800 811 700 or Donors can specify where they want their donation to go.

Medecins Sans Frontieres For donations for Sudan, 1300 136 061 or 1800 788 100 or

World Vision Australia 13 32 40 or

An issue of Conversion: The Case of Abdul-Rahman the Afghan

The Milli Gazette, an Indian Muslim newspaper has an excellent article by Dr. Abidullah A. Ghazi on the issues raised by the Abdul-Rahman case.

An issue of Conversion: The Case of Abdul-Rahman the Afghan
The issues emanating from the turbulence instigated by the insensitive Danish cartoons have yet to be settled, and we now find ourselves staring into the face of another, even more complicated ordeal: the apostasy case of an Afghan named Abdul-Rahman. While this case may seem to have global ramifications, the personal side to the matter of Mr. Abdul-Rahman deals with the safety as well as insistence of this individual to stand up for the faith of his choosing. While such matters are significant on a small scale, there is a far-reaching and more formidable issue hovering over the conversion of an individual from one faith to another, mainly its legality and propriety in today's world. An equally important matter is the position of the Shari'ah on the topic of radd, a term which denotes a Muslim's abandoning Islam and converting to another faith. To have a clearer analysis of Mr. Abdul-Rahman's plight we must look to all the three of these dimensions.


The question nowadays for the Muslim community in the West is how we want this very same culture of freedom and choice that we enjoy as minorities reflected in Muslim-majority societies. In the globalized reality of today, Western Muslims have a special duty to promote similar attitudes of respect for human rights, tolerance and mutuality in Muslim-majority societies. I firmly believe that this can be done within the strictures of our Islamic obligations and within the bounds of the Shari'ah.

The final, and most problematical, issue is the one that needs to be addressed and redressed above all else: the traditional understanding of radd. While much has been made of the official radd penalty in the Western media these days, the fact is that historically this penalty has been rarely enforced, and usually when it was, it was due to some unmitigated political upheaval caused by the said apostasy. While some may assert that Mr. Abdur-Rahman brought all of this public uproar upon himself, in doing so he has forced an important issue. It is time that we Muslims (both as minorities and majorities) reflect on the following points:

1. What is the basis of the radd law? Was it laid down for a specific situation and specific time or is it an immutable law based upon the Qur'an and the Sunnah, the tradition of the Prophet?

2. Should such a law now be appraised from the perspective of the Qur'an and Sunnah in order to bring it into harmony with new realities of global interaction?

3. What would be the power of such a law in societies where Muslims live as minorities?

4. Has the Muslim world (or any single Muslim country or a group of zealots for that mater) the religiously sanctioned authority to carry out a judgment or issue a fatwa for the execution of an apostate?

5. Should this issue be resolved on the basis of reciprocity? If Muslims have the freedom to convert others to their faith, shouldn't Muslims also have similar freedoms to be converted to other faiths?

6. If Muslims living in non-Muslim societies enjoy religious freedoms as well as the independence to establish their own Islamic intuitions, should non-Muslims also be given similar rights in Muslim countries?

These points are important for all Muslims to ponder, but they have special significance for those of us living in free and secular societies where we enjoy the protection of state laws. Having presented these questions I respectfully urge the Fiqh Council in North America as well as other Islamic scholars and theologians nationwide to respond to the subject of radd and the issue of religious freedom and to urgently provide a well thought-out statement of for an Islamic position on both matters. At the same time I urge various authorized Dar ul-Ifta (houses of religious decrees) worldwide to address this issue on a priority basis and review the Shari'ah in the light of the ever-shrinking world we live in.

As a believing and practicing Muslim who is deeply involved in interreligious dialogue and understanding, I call on all Muslim judicial systems and legislatures worldwide (where the radd law exists) to contemplate the decorum for this modern age in which we live and bring our age-old and well-tested values in line with universal values. It is high time that Muslims learn to respond to all such challenges intellectually and academically, not through passionate or repellent reaction. The world has reached a level of maturity where the majority of its people are prepared to hear whatever opinions we may voice and many would even argue our case, provided we also show a willingness to hear and respect theirs.

The author is Executive Director, IQRA International Educational Foundation, and may be contacted at