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Don’t waste time and money, Just order the new Constitution and continue ruling Myanmar forever

  Don’t waste time and money

Just order the new Constitution

and continue ruling Myanmar forever

Myanmar Military announced the dates for the referendum and election after the conclusion of the drafting guidelines for a new constitution.

The regime’s new constitution is to be voted in a referendum, elections would follows.

  • The SPDC is avoiding the dialogue with Daw Suu led NLD by using lame excuses, one sided demands and preconditions.
  • The SPDC is not interested for a National reconciliation process.
  • SPDC is actually not initiating any meaningful democratization process.
  • They just started a sham, fake democracy to use as a smokescreen to continue its dominance.

Dear SPDC Sr General Than Shwe, why do you all want waste a lot of time and money on this useless or worthless papers?

  • Do you think that Myanmar/Burmese people would accept them?
  • Do you think that USA and EU led Western democratic governments would accept them?
  • Do you think that the people around the world would accept them?
  • Do you think that Daw Suu led NLD would accept them?
  • Do you think that all the monks would accept them?
  • Do you think that all the students would accept them?
  • Do you think that the Burmese opposition would accept them?
  • Do you think that all the Ethnic Minorities would accept them?
  • Do you think that all the Religious Minorities would accept them?
  • Do you think that all the ceased fire groups would accept them?
  • Do you think that all the rebel-groups would accept them?

We don’t think so.

All the right thinking persons could give the same RIGHT answer, which is NO!

If the Sr General thinks RIGHT, we are sure there is something WRONG with your mind.

RIGHT! I mean that it is WRONG for you to even dream that your referendum result and the new election results would be accepted by anyone on earth except your cronies and sycophant.

(Sycophant = servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people. One who flatters another excessively: adulator, courtier, flatterer, toady. Informal apple-polisher.)

  • Why do you want to waste the country’s budget money?
  • Why do you want to waste your ‘precious time’?
  • Just do it!
  • Just announce it!
  • Just declare your order!
  • Just declare, announce, decree or order the new constitution yourself and hope to rule Burma forever.
  • Like the end of every fairytale, your Myanmar Tatmadaw just continues to rule Myanmar forever!

But be careful, in every fairytale_


In every fairytale the jailed beautiful, good, kind just princess (read Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) would be freed and always regain the rightful throne.

In every fairytale the wicked, powerful, cruel, greedy villain (read SPDC Junta Sr General) would be dethroned and punished.

This theme repeats itself numerous times_

  • not only in the fairytales
  • but in the Buddhist Jattakas,
  • 550 reincarnated lives of Buddha,
  • Tora,
  • Bible,
  • Scriptures of various religions,
  • Koran,
  • Hindu Vedas
  • and even in Socialist/communists modern stories.

The virtue always prevails.

The evil would ultimately vanish.

Don’t try to fool yourself and the world. Even if your referendum got 100% approval vote, all the citizens, the whole world including the UN would just give the verdict that it was because of the intimidation, duress, vote rigging e.t.c.


For the Burmese Muslims, Christian and Buddhist friendships are superior to the Islamic-brotherhood

For the Burmese Muslims 

Christian and Buddhist friendships

are superior to the


Michael Jackson – They Dont Care About Us lyrics  

  • Sikinhead, deadhead
  • Everybody gone bad
  • Situation aggravation
  • Everybody allegation
  • in the suite, on the news
  • everybody dogfood
  • Bang bang shock dead
  • Everybodys gone bad
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • Beat me, hate me
  • You can never break me
  • Will me, thrill me
  • You can never kill me
  • Chew me, sue me
  • Everybody do me
  • Kick me hike me
  • Dont you black or
    white me!
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care
    about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care
    about us
  • Tell me what has
  • become of my life
  • I have a wife and two
  • childre who love me
  • I am the victim of police
  • brutality, now
  • Im tired of bein the
  • of hate, youre rapin
  • me of my pride
  • Oh for Gods sake
  • i look to heaven to ful-
  • fill its prophecy…
  • Set me free
  • Skinhead, deadhead
  • Everybody gone bad
  • Trepidation, speculation
  • Ecerybody allagation
  • In the suite on the news
  • Everyboda dogfood
  • Black man black male
  • Throw the brother
  • in jail
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • Tell me what has become
  • of my rights
  • Am I ivisible cause you
  • ignore me?
  • Your proclamation
  • promised me free liberty
  • Im tired of bein the victim
  • of shame
  • Theyre throwinme in a
  • clas with a bad name
  • I cant believe this is the
  • land from which I came
  • The government dont
  • wanna see, but if
  • Roosevelt was livin he
  • wouldt let this be, no,no
  • Skinhead, deadhead
  • Everybody gone bad
  • Situation, specultaion
  • Everybody litigarion
  • Beat me, bash me
  • You can never trash me
  • Hit me, kick me
  • You can never get me
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • Some things in life they
  • just dont wanna see
  • But if Martin Luther was
  • livin, he wouldnt let
  • this be no, no
  • Skinhead, deadhead
  • Everybodys gone bad
  • Situation Segregarion
  • Everybody allegation
  • In the suite an the news
  • Everybody dogfood
  • kick me Hike me
  • Dont you wrong or
  • right me
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us
  • All I wann say is that
  • They dont really care about us

 Michael Jackson – They Dont Care About Us lyrics

Dear loving son,

Don’t cry for me dear son.

This is my fault that I wrongly refused to accept the sponsor of my relatives in US, UK and Australia and had decided to migrate to this Muslim country, about one quarter of the century ago. I am willing to pay for my wrong judgment.

Actually nowadays in this so called Muslim country,  discriminations on all the Burmese citizens, from the refugees up to the Muslim professionals is obviously practiced without caring for the numerous appeals and requests from NGOs, UNHCR and etc..

You should understand that we, Myanmars/Burmese are the 14th ++ Grade foreigners in this country and may be at the similar status in all the other Islamic Nations around the world. [Face of George Washington (USD) is practically more precious for these OIC Muslims than portrait-less Prophet. (pbuh)]

The rank of foreigners here_

  1. US,
  2. UK,
  3. EU,
  4. Australia
  5. Japan,
  6. Korea,
  7. Taiwan,
  8. Singapore,
  9. Saudi Arabia
  10. Indonesians (In some fields of getting citizenships, they stand far in front of all others.)
  11. Other ASEAN countries,
  12. Common Wealth countries
  13. Other rich countries
  14. Other Muslim countries
  15. +++++ may be Myanmar/Burmese

I wrote directly about this unfair, discriminations to the relevant authorities but there is no improvement in the treatment even on Myanmar Muslim professionals.

Dear son, I hope you had read my article about Islam Hadari. If not, read this_

Humble request to the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Dear son, there are a lot of BIG little Nepoleans, successfully introducing one RED TAPE after another on all the different type of Burmese Migrants.

Dear son, I hope you could remember a great towerring Muslim, Allahyarham Prof Dato’ Dr Syed Hussein Alatas (May Allah allow his soul to rest in peace). Because of my letter to him to tap the brain drain from Burma after 88 revolution, he circulated my letter to every head of department of UM and even invited me to work in UM. He decided to send a team to recruit the Burmese Specialists. It is now history! There are a lot of Myanmar doctors, MOs and Specialists working in University Malayia and UHKL.

Dear son, 

  1. Because of the newly implemented another RED TAPE requiring the police security clearance, some of the  police officers are unnecessarily delaying  the reply and some of the PR applicants need to wait for numerous months.
  2. As the saying goes, “Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
  3. I wrongly believed that grass in our neighbour Muslim country would be more halal and Islamic grass would be greener than the grass from the non-Islamic countries.
  4. When looked from the far, the blurred vision of the democracy was flawless and perfect.
  5. I wrongly believed in the so called Muslim brotherhood.
  6. Ha, Ha, brothers-in-Islam?
  7. How naived I was!
  8. I erroneously believed all these bullshits.
  9. For those rich Muslims, we are non-existent entity.
  10. For them, rich Arabs are their brothers-in-Islam.
  11. Blue blooded Bosnia orang puteh Muslims are their brothers.
  12. Only Malay blooded refugees like:
  • Indonesians
  • Pashus from Burma,
  • Thailand,
  • Vietnam,
  •  are their Brother-in-Islam to take care of and earmarked for first track citizenship.

All the OIC leaders will shout emptily for Palestinians and Iraqis as their mantras.

  • They all just used to condemn the US and Israel as a popular slogan to gain votes from their Muslim citizens.
  • And later paid the US middlemen lobbyists million of USD to arrange for the audience with US Presidents to apologize their public shoutings by giving lame excuses as if to trick their local radical Islamic voters.
  • Rohingyas are also in and out of detention camps.

When I read about_

  • The Thai King granting citizenships to Myanmar Ethnic Minority villages at the border
  • The issuing of Pink Cards to the Burmese Refugee Children which gives them the to get all the rights of the Thai Children.
  • Thai Chiang Mai’s  mayor and police chief’s attendance to the Mosque opening ceremony Burmese Muslim refugee from Taungoo. (But cruel Myanmar Tatmadaw government refused to allow local Muslims to repair the damaged Taungoo Mosques)
  • The Islamic school at the border is funded by Christian missionaries.
  • American Jew, Soros is also helping the Burmese Muslims.

When even the government servant Myanmar professionals’ children were refused admission to the government schools nowadays, all the Myanmar Illegals’ Children’s education is out of question.

But the government newspapers’ front page report with the photograph about 3000 schools built by the government for Indonesian Illegals shows the extent of unfairness and the lack of level playing field.

Although we were government servants, my children were blatently denied places even in our respective universities and mercilessly advised to send our children to private universities.

Even if we use all of our monthly pay for our children’s private university fees, it may not be enough. (Doctors’ salary here is lower than nurses’ salary in the west and almost equivalent to the ambulance drivers’ salaries. No wonder no Orang Puteh doctors accept to work here and they have to rely on third world doctors, South Asia and Myanmar doctors.)

So once we got the PR, I sadly left government service and my carrier for the sake of children’s education.

But I need to take the house refinancing for three times for your private education. Even that is not yet enough for your youngest sister.

Be patient my son, don’t angry, you are going to be a doctor soon. I hope you and your younger brother could chip in for this youngest one.

Sorry son, I tried my best, working more than twelve hours every day without any rest. I worked on public holidays and rest on two Eids only. (Sometimes give lame excuses as not getting Locum replacement doctor and tried to sneak back to the clinic on those Eid days!)

I know that you are angry and sad because even that is not enough for the repayment of your education loans.

And instead of helping the migrants, some people take our hard earned money by overcharging us. ( But they were generous with the Bosnia Muslims. Each family was given apartments free of charge. Water, electricity and health were free. They were given ID cards stating that they were not subject to Immigration laws, they were allowed to stay and work anywher without limits.) Their lame excuse was, those Bosnias suffered really from war and WRONGLY accused all of us that we are the economic migrants.

Dear son, why do you want to be one month older than me, as the Burmese saying goes. I know the Esoup fable you whisper to me. The wolf would accuse that if that if it was not that sheep it may be its father, who dirtied the water, last year. Whether the sheep explain that it was down stream or it was not born yet last year would be not accepted as the truth.

Yes son, I was wavering and almost miss the point!

Blue IC holders around the world got the privileges as the citizens except for the voting rights (In Ireland PR are even granted that chance) and right to be elected as people’s representative.

All of the  PR Students up to the Universities got the same rights as citizens, including loans and scholarships. Here only they even denied this humanitarian assistances and have the heart to further take our hard earned money at the PRIVATE HIGH PAYING UNIVERSITIES.

Burmese Muslims were still given places in International Islamic Universities but nowadays they are denied to be accepted in_

  1. Medical,
  2. Engineering and
  3. it is even quite difficult to get the Law

One Rohingya named, Altaff is a handicapped person. He suffered from ?Motor Neurone disease while staying here. For his daughter’s school admission, one Samaritan with the good connection sent him up to the MOE, director. Director told him that only if he has a Passport his daughter could get the special permission to go to government school.

That was the last straw that breaks the camel’s neck. Altaff retorted that even that cruel Myanmar Military Generals had allowed him to go to the government school and that the Director’s country Muslims are worse than the Kafir Generals!

Anti-Muslim, notorious Military Dictator Ne Win had allowed your father, me, to study in the Medical College

And the another Rohingya Medical doctor who had earned a MSc Computer  Science from the National Government University and worked here in two universities for 14 years was denied PR here. What a shame when this government could easily grant citizenship to Indonesian taxi-drivers, sweepers, toilet cleaners etc.

He was holding Bangladeshi Passport, and the another SO CALLED MUSLIM brother country, Bangladesh refused to renew his PP. So he has no choice but to join the tour group to Australia. He was granted refugee with PR status in less than three months. Next week, he got the letters from his children’s school his wife’s college and his University,  congratulating him for the PR and advising to collect back the refunds he had paid.

Here, although they CAN give numerous scholarships with different naming to the SPDC chosen students (read their children and military top generals’ relatives) they are denying us all the government help.

After-all almost all of the GLC or government linked companies had refused to grant our clinic as panel. Those companies who joined the Health Care Management companies that we are serving selected out our clinic. Even when the Income tax department, which collects tax on every person irrespective of race and origin, discriminated us and appointed their own race clinics.

My son, with God’s will, you are going to earn a Medical Degree at a reputed university soon. Be patient and you should be proud of. However, it was more sadness than pride that ruled the day when you are crying for me. Don’t worry dear son, I hope Allah would be on our side.

Dear son, I was like you, very sad and angry in 60’s.

Arabs shamefully lost the six day war and Mohamed Ali also lost his heavy weight title. This adds salt to my lost at the national level student completion. From that day onwards, when I perform my regular prayers (could only fullfil/perform about three times out of five) but I refrained to lift my hands and refused to pray/ask anything from God for about a year. (May Allah forgive me for that sin) But I think, all knowing, merciful Allah had forgiven a child’s misbehaviour and rewarded me with unimaginable rewards.

I hereby thanked Tun Dr M and family for their kind change of heart on our family members and the interview granted to us.

I hereby salute DSAI and friends for the helps extended to us when they were in office and for the brilliant lecture give in Hong Kong last week. We also thank Datin Seri for the kind interview and continuous support for our cause.

But dear children, I understand that although we are here for about a quarter of a century but still denied the right to even apply for the citizenship here.

The Rohingya doctor who had migrated to Australia one and a half year ago, telephoned me that his family is going to get the citizenship within six months.

So if you get a chance,

  • go son,
  • migrate to the non Muslim country
  • as Muslim Governments around the world are hopeless.
  • I had made a mistake not to accept my relatives’ invitation from UK, US and Australia.
  • For me it is too late as I am at the end of my carrier.

My youngest daughter was born here and never been to Burma, could not even read a Burmese word. But she is same as all of us, discriminated because of the creed.

In today’s increasingly common parlance, I wish to remind all of my children that even your children would be treated as a third generation ‘pendatang’. Although we all are Muslims, your children’s father’s name (that is you) has no bin and he could be denied his rights. You and I, i.e. all of the Myanmar migrants are not like the certain Chief Minister, whose father was an Indonesian migrant lorry driver.

As the DPM declared that illegal immigrant children would be rewarded with instant citizenship rewards. I wrote to the present PM to grant direct citizenships to our family because one of his deputies’ wife told me to stop complaining and ask what I want, when I wrote to Tun Dr M. She could not understand and even refused to accept the truth that I complaint only when our requests are denied. I wrote to the YAB PM whether we should tear off our Myanmar PPs to become illegals in order to qualify for that offer. We were replied to follow the procedure, that is waiting for another few years to be eligible to APPLY for that. It is a gross unfair practice as some of the people are giving short cut.

And Dr Kamal, Rohingya Myanmar Muslim they denied PR after 14 years was granted the same status within three months in a Christian Australia.

 He is sure going to get the Australian citizenship in six months but we need to wait more than that to be eligible to apply for the citizenship here. I would definitely die before getting it.

We could not sponsor our relatives; parents, brothers and sisters etc. My parents went for Umrah (small Haj) and on the way back home came and visit us here. We never meet for ten years, so they puasa (fasting) almost the whole month of Ramdam. Their visa finished few days before Eid or Hari Raya. The Malay Muslim Immigration officer refused to extend their visa regardless of our appeal.

Dear son, I know you were sad because your grandparents could not spend the Eid with us. You were puzzled because my grand uncle (my father’s elder brother, a Burmese Muslim, who was holding UK passport was allowed to stay here. You were very young son. For him there is a special Immigration counter, no need to queue and although we requested for one week extension, the Immigration officer smiled and stamed three months’ extension. That was free of charge and she advised my uncle to just take a round trip to Singapore, just pass the Singapore Immigration, turn round into the check-in countre to come back here. He could stay forever like this by doing this every six months! ASEAN membership and ASEAN Charter is just bull shit! Useless for Myanmar citizens!

My brother came here to invest and do a business in view of migrating later. Although he needs to show RM 300,000, he showed RM 500,000 and bought a company. Our Malay friend advised and pointed out that we need a local partner, PRINCE OF THE LAND with 30% investment. So we paid that 30% share, free of charge, to one of our trusted friend, who believed to be able to pull the cables, appointed him a Chairman. Of course we need to pay him the necessary service fees and salary. As that man was over confident and avoid to pay the necessary officials, our business application was rejected and the Malaysian Immigration refused to extend his visa. THE LAME EXCUSE WAS, BECAUSE OUR BUSINESS APPLICATION INVOLVED A LOCAL, Visa for the foreign partner could be approved or the extension of the social visa, the business must be started. Catch 22? I wrote to the PM about these unfair restrictions but sadly DSAI is the only person who dares to give a speech about this in Hong Kong, last week.

Dear son, if I had decided to migrate to the more HUMAINE Christian west, I would definitely allowed by their just laws to legally  sponsor my parents, brothers, sisters and relatives not only to stay there, but to migrate and get citizenships! Sorry dear Papa and Ar Mar and brothers. I migrated to the wrong place; I cannot help you all to be free from the KILLER THAN SHWE’S MILITARY.

After seeing the latest Rambo, many of my patients, especial teenagers asked me about my parents and relatives back home. They advised me to bring them here but I have to bluff with a smiling face, although my heart is crying, that they have business and properties and refused to migrate. But I could not pretend for long if the inquisitive kids probe more. My tears flow automatically and my voice trembled. Then only they understand that I am trying to cover the truth.

So what are we griping about in the land of blue skies and ‘ais kachang’?

Our land of blue skies could and should have been a land of milk, honey and plenty. Instead, we have increasingly Burmanization every where here.

Now I sadly know my dear son_

  1. “The grass may not be greener on the other side,
  2. but the skies are more blue.
  3. And even if the grass is not greener,
  4. it is grass you can stand on with your head held high.
  5. Don’t follow the footsteps of a fool like me
  6. To believe in the illusion of Islamic-brotherhood,
  7. Chasing the mirage Islamic Paradise
  8. Try to migrate to the Christian West
  9. There may be a glass ceiling above you
  10. But your status would not be 15++ foreigner like here
  11. And at least at the same status as Indonesians,
  12. not far below them like here.”

Khoda Hafiz

Your loving father

Dr San Oo Aung


Post Script

Islam is about values.

One of the most important values of Islam is to_

  1. ‘propagating good and
  2. forbidding evil’.

Propagating good and forbidding evil’ _

  1. is not optional.
  2. It is compulsory.
  3. Islam makes it mandatory that we oppose evil.

We are asked to oppose evil with our hands.

Our Prophet (pbuh) has been asked by God:

  1. “I have been ordered to dispense justice between you.”
  2. “Whenever you judge between people, you should judge with (a sense of) justice” (4:58).

The Prophet has said:

  1. “If any one of you comes across an evil,
  2. he should try to stop it with his hand (using force),
  3. if he is not in a position to stop it with his hand
  4. then he should try to stop it by means of his tongue
  5. (meaning he should speak against it).
  6. If he is not even able to use his tongue
  7. then he should at least condemn it in his heart.
  8. This is the weakest degree of faith”


  1. “Co-operate with one another for virtue and heedfulness

  2. and do not co-operate with one another

  3. for the purpose of vice and aggression” (5:2).

This means that_

  1. who perpetrates deeds of vice and aggression,

  2. even if he is our closest relation or neighbour,

  3. does not have the right to win our support

  4. and help in the name of race, country, language or nationality.

This is what Islam says. 

Folowing Rituals are not values.

  1. accepting Allah as the one and only God and
  2. Muhammad as the final Prophet of God,
  3. performing the five times a day ritual prayers,
  4. fasting for 30 days or so during the month of Ramadhan,  
  5. paying the zakat and fitrah tithes, and
  6. performing the Haj pilgrimage in the Holy Land of Mekah at least once in your life.

Above Rituals are merely a demonstration that you have values.

  1. It is pointless performing rituals if you lack values.
  2. Rituals are not important if you lack faith or values.
  3. Rituals are the end result of the values you hold.
  4. Your prayers are between you and God. Whether you perform them or not is between you and God. It does not concern anyone else. The same goes for all those other rituals as well.  

But if you do not stand up for justice and fight against evil, oppression, persecution, etc., then it is no longer between you and God.

  1. God can forgive you for not praying.
  2. God can forgive you for the beer you drink every night.
  3. But God will never forgive you for your sins against society.

By not opposing evil you have not sinned against God.

  1. You have sinned against  millions of fellow-Muslims and other humans.
  2. And you will have to seek forgiveness from all of them.
  3. God can’t forgive you.
  4. Muslims and other humans will have to do that.
  1. In Islam if we have no power to fight back the tyrant unjust ruler,
  2. it is compulsory for us to migrate (or Hijrat).
  3. If we stay put, suffer and die under the oppressive ruler,
  4. Allah will not give us any rewards, but will condemn us.
  5. After all, Allah had given the whole world to the victims to escape and start a new life.

Our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had ordered his followers to migrate from Mecca to Medina for the same reason. Prophet Musa or Moses had also led the Jews to migrate from the tyrant, cruel Pharos of Egypt.

  1. Islam lays down rights for man as a human being.
  2. In the Holy Quran, God has said:
  3. “And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (5:32).
  4. There can be several forms of saving man from death.
  5.  A man may be ill or wounded, irrespective of his nationality, race or colour.
  6. If you know that he is in need of your help, then it is your duty that you should arrange for his treatment for disease or wound.
  7. If he is dying of starvation, then it is your duty to feed him so that he can ward off death.
  8. If he is drowning or his life is at stake, then it is your duty to save him.

Regarding the economic rights, the Holy Quran says:

  1. And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and destitute. (51:19)
  2. Anyone who needs help, irrespective of the race, religion or citizenship has a right in the property and wealth of the Muslims.
  3. If you are in a position to help and a needy person asks you for help or if you come to know that he is in need, then it is your duty to help him.
  4. “Indeed, the noblest among you before God are the most heedful of you” (49:13).


See also_

  1. Exploiting Human Beings…A Global Disease? Marina Tun Mahathir Mohamad, daughter of former Malaysia PM
  2. Common virtues of Buddhism and Islam 


    Listen/read first, Pak Lah

    Peter Ooi‘s letter in Malaysiakini (extracts)

    Rather than trying to find ways and means to penalize them,

    Instead should find the causes of their deeds.

    On the surface, I gather that such actions would not have taken place if Pak Lah really has big ears for the rakyat.

    They have cried loud and clear, you chose not to listen.

    Should in the first place lend his big ears to those – – – .

    Discuss frankly what really needs to be done.

    Life is a mirror of your actions. If you want people to be patient and respectful to you, show them first patience and respect. 

In Sabah: What Election?

I Just Want My MyKad 

    Posted by Raja Petra, Wednesday, 27 February 2008

    (By KARIM RASLAN/ The Straits Times/ ANN)

    Active Image

    The skies are overcast and there’s a light drizzle. The Barisan Nasional ranks are well-composed and orderly – a sea of blue waiting patiently for their rivals, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat, to arrive.

    However, if you wander away from the nomination venue through the streets of this palm oil boom town, it’s easy to forget you’re in Malaysia. Step closer to the seafront and the language changes subtly – the vowels become shorter and more pronounced. One hears unrecognisable words and dialects – Bugis, Toraja and Banjarese – and smells the ever-present sweet scent of kretek (clove cigarettes).

    In a town of well over 350,000, no one has any idea what percentage of the population is actually Malaysian. The streams of people coming in have blurred the boundary between Malaysia and Indonesia.

    For Fizah, 26, a divorced mother of one who has lived in Tawau for the past five years, the top concern is getting her documents in order. As a Bugis from South Sulawesi, she doesn’t care who wins the elections. In fact she barely comprehends it. She just wants a MyKad, the Malaysian identity card.

    Long-term residents aren’t so sanguine. Robert Wong, a Sino- Kadazan, feels resentful at the way the Indonesian Bugis, in particular, have gone from being foreigners to bumiputeras, leapfrogging people such as himself.

    For the big corporate players, the surge in palm oil prices, coupled with cheap labour, has been a huge boon. There’s a BMW Z4 for sale in one of the town’s car showrooms.

    Given the money involved, access to land has become a major source of controversy here. DAP candidate Jimmy Wong explains: ‘Agriculture is the foundation of our economy. Give people land and they’ll be able to lift themselves out of poverty. Former chief minister Datuk Harris Salleh understood that and he gave out land grants to everyone – regardless of race.’

    But Wong’s middle-class concerns – good jobs, opportunities, investment, infrastructure development and a transparent government – have been drowned by the sea of workers who have poured through the cramped and dirty arrival jetty next to Tawau’s fish market.

    No work is too demeaning or poorly paid for the immigrants. They toil either in the oil palm estates or the vast timber processing plants in Kampung Tanjung Batu.

    Alban Lompor, a Bugis, arrived in 1970 at the age of 37. Taking a drag on his kretek, he recalls life then: “I worked at everything – clearing land for oil palm, logging, even rubber-tapping. I earned enough money to support my family – all seven kids. I went home to South Sulawesi only once. My sons can hardly speak Bugis – they’re Malaysians now. And my 37 grandchildren? None of them understands a word of Bugis!”

    Over the decades, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and Indonesians have become Malaysians. In the past naturalisation was relatively easy but that has changed as the process has been subjected to greater scrutiny and supervision.

    Still the reality of their presence remains, realigning Sabah’s previous racial and religious balance and making life tougher for those who are beginning to feel overwhelmed.

    Here on the edge of Malaysia, with new Malaysians being ‘minted’, the elections barely register among the vast majority for whom a treasured MyKad is all that matters.

    As I watched the proceedings on Nomination Day, one of Wong’s DAP activist friends approached me and asked: “Well, do you think the democratic process works?”

    Sensing my hesitation, he quickly added: “But we have to hold onto it, we have to hold on.”

    (By KARIM RASLAN/ The Straits Times/ ANN)

    The writer is a Malaysian columnist.



Some Islamic values that rich Muslim leaders try to ignore

After the end of the War, Niemoller became an important figure in the World Council of Churches, and traveled all over the world, including the United States to share his sorrows and joys, as well as wisdom. In one occasion, Niemoller recalled:

“In Germany they (the Nazis) came first for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

“Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up for me”.

Continue reading

Aaron Cohen: Sex Slaves and Drug Trade

Aaron Cohen:

Sex Slaves and Drug Trade


I got an e-mail as a response to “To Change Hearts and Minds of SPDC”on July 31, 2007 at 3:53 am1 c

Dear Dr. San Oo Aung,

I enjoy reading your articles on this website. I’m an American journalist who recently wrote a cover story for the LA Weekly on the topic of human trafficking and how it is related to the drug and uranium trade in Burma.

I thought you might be interested in reading and/or posting it.

All best,

Here’s the link: 

Aaron Cohen:

Sex Slaves,

Drug Trade

and Rock n’ Roll

In his quest to free slaves around the world, Aaron Cohen thought he’d seen it all. Then he went to Myanmar.

By Christine Buckley

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 – 12:00 pm

(Photo by Kevin Scanlon) At 6:45 a.m., I’m awakened in my bed at the Little Saigon Inn by a worrisome text message from a man who’s already told me enough disturbing tales to keep me in nightmares for weeks.

“I’m on my way to the gym. The Mercedes is still parked outside. I should make him some coffee perhaps. The poor guy has been out there all night.”

“What?” I write back, eyeing the chair I had propped against the door the night before. This is Garden Grove, not Ho Chi Minh City. Isn’t he being a little theatrical?

Possibly, but the story Aaron Cohen needs to tell has brought me from Southeast Asia to Southwest Florida and back to Los Angeles, where I’ve already been waiting two weeks for him to materialize.

I guess when you’re in a tunnel hiding out from the Burmese army, you can’t worry too much about returning a journalist’s phone calls.

Cohen is a “slave hunter,” a specialist in identifying and, in some cases, retrieving the unfortunate human beings who are trafficked for labor and/or sexual purposes — a remarkably prevalent and lucrative global trade.

So far the job has brought him to dozens of countries like Colombia, Sudan and Cambodia, where the business of human flesh is of special concern to the U.S. State Department and other agencies or governments who subcontract his services.

He is what is known in covert operations as a NOC, a special agent working under “non-official cover,” but unlike an agency man, Cohen’s primary allegiance is to people, not political agendas.

What makes Cohen’s story even more unusual is that he used to be known as Perry Farrell’s best friend and spiritual collaborator. Their mutual passion for music and human rights led Cohen and the Jane’s Addiction front man to help Bono and Bob Geldof deliver, in 1999, the 17 million signatures that persuaded G8 bankers to drop the debt of developing countries. But since embarking on his unorthodox new career, Cohen has gone places your typical e-mail petitioner and Sunday-afternoon activist have never even heard of. He has survived a shooting in Haiti and an alleged poisoning in a Westminster restaurant, along with a string of other near-death experiences, most recently in the backwaters of Myanmar, where he believes he saw evidence of a far more dangerous trade — the production and selling of enriched uranium.

So last night when he offered to let me sleep in one of his four empty bedrooms, I thought better of it. As I pulled away, Cohen pointed to a beige Mercedes parked out front. I couldn’t see a driver. “They’ll probably follow you,” he said, and walked inside before I had a chance to ask who “they” might be. Nevertheless, I found myself checking my rearview all the way to the Little Saigon Inn, where dreams of its advertised Wi-Fi and heated pool promised to dull the images of the enslaved preteens Cohen had been conjuring up for me all day. Both enticements were, in the words of motel management, “broken.”

I went to bed trying to grasp how Cohen went from talking mysticism and Lollapalooza with Perry Farrell to assessing global human-trafficking trends, breaking Vietnamese girls out of Cambodian brothels and being hunted down by the Burmese army. And now, this morning, another text message about the Mercedes:

“He’s the night guy they have on me. I’m sure you’ll have Feds flagging you today. Watch your 6. I’m starting to be concerned about all this and feel uneasy.”

I’m feeling a little edgy too, but maybe it’s only the lack of sleep and a slight caffeine addiction. I splash water on my face and drive to a nearby strip mall anchored by a Taco Bell, which nearly obscures a lively Vietnamese café. The patio is packed with graying, well-dressed Vietnamese men in small groups — the old guard, I think, ex-military who shipped out before the Communist takeover, 32 years ago. Professorial in tweedy pants, turtlenecks and neat sweaters, they smile and nod as I pass — not unnoticed. Few non-natives venture in here, it seems, and the only women are the ones behind the counter — just like in Vietnam.

After ordering a bowl of pho and iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk, I finish reading Cohen’s journal entries. His uneasiness seems justified in the context of his most recent mission to Myanmar (formerly and, to the U.S., still Burma), which has been run by a series of repressive military juntas since 1962.

In March, the Royal Thai Police and Council for National Security (the military government that overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin in September 2006) sent Cohen there to investigate the Burmese government’s alleged use of slave labor to build infrastructure in Naypyidaw, the country’s sprawling new jungle capital. (In 2005, the ruling generals relocated the capital overnight from Yangon — formerly Rangoon — a move Al Jazeera said had been motivated by “superstition, megalomania and paranoia.”)

Despite more than a decade of Western sanctions against the Burmese government — the so-called “State Peace and Development Council,” which changed its name in 1997 after consulting a Washington, D.C., public-relations firm — the pariah nation stays afloat with funds primarily from India, Russia and China, countries that trade arms and cash for Myanmar’s rich supply of oil and other natural resources. The latter two vetoed the U.N. Security Council’s January resolution urging Myanmar to stop the persecution of political prisoners and brutal military tactics many have called “genocide.” Largely thanks to China, the SPDC’s army is, after Vietnam’s, the second largest in Southeast Asia — and notorious for conscription of child soldiers and using rape as a weapon against civilians.

In the few weeks since Cohen returned from Myanmar, the country has restored ties with North Korea, signed a cash deal for a Russian nuclear reactor and vowed to “crush” state opponents. One of those is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader whose party overwhelmingly won a general election in 1990 but has since been terrorized and rendered largely impotent by the state. Suu Kyi has spent more than 11 of the last 17 years under various forms of detention, and on May 29, the government extended her house arrest once again — so much for its self-styled “road map to democracy.” Cohen had no trouble finding slaves in Myanmar and neighboring Laos, where he says kidnapped Vietnamese, Laotian and ethnic-minority boys with guns guard heroin and methamphetamine labs for the mafias that control trafficking routes.

But he started hearing far more sinister rumors, as noted in his journal:  I am advised that Burmese tradition holds an ancient legend still believed to be practiced even today in the art of human sacrifice — that every time the ruler moves the capital, four people are to be sacrificed at each of the four corners of the foundation to the facility. Human sacrifice is also carried out under, above and on each side of each bridge crossing the moats corresponding to the 12 astrological signs, and the seven passages leading into the capital.

“There are 72 human sacrifices in all, preferably all foreign agents,” the vice minister says with a twinkle in his eye. “Yes, preferably foreign agents trying to infiltrate national security or threaten the business of the ruling party.” But this ruling party is using slave labor to build elaborate pagodas for the Buddhist cultural centers and people are dying.

Why is the vice minister telling me this? I am not sure if he’s a double because he seems to be threatening me about my mission to free the pagoda slave labor crew. I say no to the pork and am careful not to drink or eat anything offered to me by my perceived allies. We finish the meeting and I go to eat some bok choy and eggs from a vendor down the road. 

By the late 1990s, Cohen started making volunteer trips to Sudan, where he was
among the first Westerners to document slavery and genocide by Muslim militias.
(Photos courtesy Aaron Cohen)
I’m brought out of this surreal picture by the young waiter bemusedly watching me eat my noodle soup. “You use chopsticks very well, older sister,” he notes in Vietnamese, at the speed usually reserved for white people who inexplicably speak this tonal language. I’m about to tell him I’ve used them since I was a child, but hold back when I realize the men at the surrounding tables are hanging on our words. I wonder if any of these kindly uncles are the Vietnamese government spies I’ve been told mix into the crowd at these cafés, scribbling down tidbits they overhear while hiding behind their copies of Nguoi Viet, the exiles’ daily of choice.

But the grizzled folk next to me are talking about their teenage children’s cell-phone bills, which are astronomical because of this thing they call “Nhan tin.” “Texting!” one of them repeats in English, before switching back to Southern-inflected Vietnamese. “It’s out of hand. Five thousand text messages a month!” The others nod, sip their coffee through straws and turn their gaze to the large-screen TV blasting CNN. The couple behind me are talking too softly for me to make out much, but I distinctly hear “ma-fia” a couple of times. I turn back to Cohen’s diary:

“The beautiful French agent I meet at the casino tables downstairs loses to me in blackjack and walks away when I decline another round or a drink with her upstairs in the champagne room. I can see her coming a mile away. She is so tall and thin I know to stay away, though she does radiate something mysterious I am desirous of, but never mind that.”

“Never mind that” is what saves Cohen from descending into 007 territory. In the next scene, Ian Fleming would have had Bond in the hot tub with that beautiful French agent, just before she attempted to drown him. But Cohen is no Bond and his mission is not the stuff of Fleming — although it does sometimes sound like it:

“I labeled the blank tapes Myanmar 1, 2, 3, and 4. The real deal look like unshot virgin tapes and she steals the beautifully labeled blanks.”

Sure, it’s got all the elements of an overblown spy novel. That’s why Cohen has a book proposal about to make the rounds with top agent David Kuhn, and why he’s had dinner with Oliver Stone, and met with Band of Brothers writer Bruce C. McKenna. But the publishing, film and TV people haven’t heard Cohen’s best story yet.

I pay my bill, nodding to the Vietnamese men with the newspapers, and drive a few miles to an unremarkable ranch-style house on a quiet suburban street where Cohen grew up in the 1970s. His parents are dead, and the house has been home base since Cohen, 42, left Venice to care for his ailing father in 2001. Although we’ve met several times, I’m still surprised by the height (6 feet 5 inches) of the figure who opens the door and leans down for a hug. Dressed in jeans and an old French army shirt, dark wavy hair flowing to his shoulders, he resembles a rumpled Oscar Wilde. The rest of his clothes are strewn across an open suitcase on the floor of an otherwise empty room. Cohen’s been back from Asia less than 48 hours, and still looks jet-lagged. “I’m broken,” he says apologetically, giving me an ad hoc, distracted tour.

He is visibly distressed about two men who were lost on the mission. “Good men,” he says, “with families and their whole lives ahead of them.” He shows me a picture of a young Shan soldier with wild eyes sitting on a bed. “He just got his leg blown off by a land mine. Kao was assigned to protect me.” The Shan are the largest ethnic-minority group in Myanmar, and are essentially at war with the SPDC. Kao was part of a Shan Army unit clearing a path for Cohen’s motorcycle caravan when he stepped on the mine. In the photo, Kao’s eyes are, impossibly, looking in different directions. “He’s going crazy from despair and the drugs,” Cohen says soberly. “I could smell the gangrene.”

Continued from page 2

There are more images, of flourishing poppy fields in Shan State, a part of northeast Myanmar where the SPDC claims to be eradicating opium poppy as part of its “war on drugs.”

Although the poppy fields have historically been tended by Shans, Cohen says the SPDC controls the drug trade there from start to finish —

providing the seeds, collecting the harvest, and overseeing drug production and distribution.

Civilians are allowed to earn just enough to survive, as long as they keep producing opium, which is synthesized (along with methamphetamine) in nearby labs also run by the Burmese army.

In the days he spent there, Cohen says, he saw virtually no people, besides soldiers. “All the fields are land-mined, to instill the people with fear and keep them in their homes when they’re not working.”

According to a Human Rights Watch report, in 2006 the SPDC was the only government in the world to use antipersonnel mines on a regular basis:

“In order to separate ethnic armed groups from their civilian population, the Burmese army lays land mines and other explosive devices in order to maim and kill civilians.” The army’s other objective is to prevent ethnic-minority people from harvesting their crops — effectively starving them.

Except for one bed, a table and two guitars, Cohen’s house has no furniture. Bob Marley is playing on a box radio in the steamy bathroom. And the back garden, although neglected, is in bloom. I spot a few familiar varieties of bamboo, a banana tree and other tropical plants. “This,” he says, smiling to reveal a silver tooth, “is where I spend most of my time — when I’m here.” Last year, that was a sum total of about 10 weeks.

Cohen strokes the side of his stubbly face, which is red with what I first take to be a rash. “Sulfur burns,” he says, showing me a swollen thumb and raised marks on the back of his hand. “That’s from holding a gun while being caught in the crossfire of the Burmese and Shan State armies,” he says, still offering no further explanation.

We wander through to the front of the house and stand in the driveway. I contemplate the contrast between this tranquil suburban scene and the places Cohen has just been. His neighbors are rinsing down their RVs, watering lawns, maybe gossiping. Kids are kicking a rubber ball back and forth in the street. An older guy waves and comes over to chat with Cohen, and from their conversation, I realize he’s known the man for years. Does he have any idea what Cohen does for a living?

Yeah, Cohen says once we’ve gone back inside, to some degree. But he doesn’t usually bother his neighbors with the messy details. They also call him by a different name, one he’d prefer you didn’t know. Though the family name was once a Spanish derivative of Cohen, his father — a former WWII fighter pilot — Anglicized it before flying missions from North Africa to Europe (where a Jewish surname on a list could cause problems).

Shortly before giving birth, his mother dreamed the boy should be called “Aaron Cohen,” after the first high priest of Israel, Moses’ older brother, the consummate peacemaker. “With Moses, he retrieved an entire nation of people — the Israelites — from slavery in Egypt,” this Cohen explains.

Which is why he believes his antislavery activism was predestined. “From the very beginning of my life, my mother was trying to impose the identity of my ancestor upon me… I was Aaron Cohen. I had to act accordingly.” Because of his severe asthma, he was virtually homeschooled by his mother, who credited an evangelical faith healer with restoring her will to live after losing both breasts to cancer. So while other kids his age were playing outside, Cohen was “unlocking the secrets of the Book of Revelation” with his mom.

He grew up torn between her religious expectations and his father’s military ones. At the U.S. Air Force Academy, Cohen excelled in water polo and got ready to follow in his father’s footsteps. But when he grew to 6 feet 4 inches by age 20, he was advised to switch to military intelligence — no fighter pilot that tall could eject from a plane. Cohen took the news as a sign his military career was over. Despite his father’s vow to disown him, he says, he transferred to Pepperdine to play water polo. It was 1985. On the weekends, he’d drive downtown to an underground club called Scream, where bands like Cathouse and the Cult played.Kindred souls: Farrell and Cohen circa 2000

“People were out of their minds on drugs, eating mushrooms and shooting heroin right in front of me,” Cohen says. “I’d never seen anything like that before. One night, this band called Jane’s Addiction came onstage. That’s when I first saw Perry Farrell sing. He walked onstage wearing a corset and pantyhose and hypnotized the audience with his dancing. Then he stripped out of his costume, and at the break in the song, he emerged naked, with his arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross. All the girls began to go crazy. Perry began to sing. He took a few steps and he walked right off the stage and onto the crowd like he was walking on the water… People were screaming and crying as if they were witnessing something forbidden. It was straight out of Sodom and Gomorrah, and I had the sense that burning sulfur would rain down and destroy us all.”

Continued from page 3

Two years later, Cohen was playing professional water polo in Argentina, surrounded by drugs and stunning women. “Temptation was everywhere,” but Cohen says he chose the “straight and narrow,” working out and remaining faithful to his college girlfriend — whom he planned to marry. Whenever he was home, Cohen would check out the scene at Scream, where he was on a nodding basis with Perry Farrell and his entourage.

One night, he got a call from Farrell’s manager, Ted Gardner, who had seen a story in the Pepperdine student paper about a fiction award Cohen had won. Gardner introduced Cohen to Farrell, who was looking for a writer for an upcoming film project, and the two hit it off — seeing in each other, says Cohen, a kindred soul. At that point, Jane’s Addiction’s first album, Nothing’s Shocking, had already brought the band international fame, and all of a sudden, Cohen found himself hired to brainstorm and contribute to the film, which would eventually become Gift, Farrell’s semiautobiographical love-and-drug story.

Cohen spent half his time in Latin America, playing water polo, and the other months in L.A., working for Farrell. For the band’s second album, Ritual de lo Habitual, Cohen traveled to the Amazon to learn about Santería and Candomblé magical rituals: “I’d go into villages and document what I saw. Sometimes animals were sacrificed. I saw people drink blood. There was a lure to the dark side — it unsettled me. I would hear the voice of my mother: ‘You are Aaron Cohen, you don’t belong here.’ ”

But after his girlfriend left him for another man, Cohen decided that Farrell’s tribe was the only place he did belong. He moved into an apartment down the block from the Jane’s Addiction compound in Venice and was promoted to executive director of an enterprise that already included Lollapalooza, Porno for Pyros and the ENIT Festival. Cohen’s job involved everything from answering phones to dreaming up lyrics. “Some mornings, Perry and I would swim and surf and talk about mysticism and magic,” he says. “At night, we’d get high and work on ideas, music and art.”

Soon Farrell was introducing Cohen as his best friend. “There I was,” Cohen says, “this tall, lanky kid from Orange County living the rock-star life.” He was partying with Kurt Cobain, Slash, Flea, Thom Yorke, Jello Biafra — but the drugs quickly started to take their toll. Farrell was strung out too, and dreamed up Lollapalooza as a farewell tour for his band.

Around that time, Cohen got a call from his estranged father, asking him to put their differences aside and come home. His mother’s cancer had come back, and she was dying. Aaron returned to her side, enrolled in a master’s program at nearby Vanguard University, a Christian-based school, and began studying Hebrew and the Bible — again. Trying to go “from a rock-star life to a monastic one” was not easy, particularly because he was by that time addicted to heroin.

Nonetheless, that year he managed to finish a thesis on the Jubilee, what he now calls the “life raft” that offered a larger purpose for his life. Jubilee was a biblical festival during which the wealthy freed their slaves and forgave debt, and it gave Cohen the idea that he might be able to launch a contemporary musical version. While reading the Torah, he also stumbled upon the story of Aaron and the golden calf, which he had read before without catching what he now saw as a personal allegory: “By running away with the Jane’s Addiction circus, I’d gone away to worship the golden calf. Now, it was time to find my way back.”

Cohen stops suddenly. “Are you hungry?” he asks.

There I was, Cohen says, this tall, lanky kid from Orange County living the rock star life. American school kids are taught that slavery was wiped out with the Confederacy in 1865.

But today it is a mounting international menace — the dark side, many believe, of globalization and the Internet explosion. Not to be confused with smuggling (which is always transnational and includes those who consent to the process), human trafficking implies the use of force, fraud or coercion and often involves ongoing exploitation. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, it is tied with the illegal-arms industry as the second largest illegal business in the world, after drug dealing.

It’s also the fastest-growing. Recent estimates put the number of slaves at 30 million worldwide. There may be as many as 800,000 new victims trafficked across international borders each year, though no one really knows how many there are, since so many of them are unseen. The State Department figures at least 16,000 people a year are brought into the U.S. for forced labor or commercial sex. Human commerce can boast as much as an 800 percent profit margin. Unlike drugs or arms, human beings can be sold or swapped innumerable times — and easily hidden.

One of the most prominent local instances of that unfortunate fact came to light last summer in Irvine, after an anonymous tip led authorities to a young Egyptian girl who was occasionally seen taking out the garbage but who never rode the school bus. It was later revealed that the girl’s upper-middle-class captors had been “renting” the 11-year-old from her indigent parents in Egypt for $30 a month. For almost two years, the child lived in the garage on a urine-stained mattress — cooking, cleaning, and taking abuse from the couple and their five children — before she was rescued from what was to be a 10-year term. The case became Orange County’s first federal prosecution of a human-trafficking case, but wouldn’t be its last.

At a vegetarian place near his house, over a salad with veggie bacon, Cohen picks up his second iced latte and resumes his narrative. After his mother died, he got off drugs and reconnected with Farrell, presenting the Jubilee to him as a sort of Lollapalooza of the ancient world. Farrell was receptive, and the two began once more to collaborate, this time on the idea of using music to save the planet.Continued from page 4 “To get the campaign rolling, Perry opened his Rolodex and called his musician friends — David Bowie, Bob Geldof and Bono among them,” he says. Cohen moved back to Venice, this time next door to Farrell. They surfed, read Jubilee passages from the Bible and deciphered their meaning in the Zohar (part of the Kabbalah).

In his new role at Farrell’s Jubilee Foundation, Cohen developed a network of musicians and fans dedicated to humanitarianism. He ran strategy for several charity campaigns before working on Bono’s Drop the Debt, which led to hundreds of billions in relinquished debt for developing countries. “Perry and Bob Geldof were the unsung heroes of that campaign,” says Cohen.

At the same time, the civil war in Sudan had turned uglier. Cohen saw a PBS program documenting the slavery there and knew his access to rock stars put him in a unique position to do something. He contacted human-rights activist John Eibner, who, under the auspices of Christian Solidarity International, had already bought the freedom of thousands of slaves. Cohen told Eibner that if he could come along on a retrieval, he would form a Jubilee-inspired music festival to raise money for slave liberations.

“Then it dawned on me that I had to have the money to pay for a mission in the middle of a civil war,” he says before explaining how he and his father repaired their relationship as his mother was dying. On her deathbed, she made her husband vow to help Aaron pursue his Jubilee dream. Cohen Sr. became his first patron, handing his son a ticket and money to buy human freedom.

And so, in the late 1990s, Cohen started making volunteer trips to Sudan, where he was among the first Westerners to document slavery and genocide by Muslim militias in the North against Southern animists and Christians. The video evidence he turned over to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee through Senators Paul Wellstone and Sam Brownback in 1999 exposed the financial connections between the Sudanese slave trade and what was then a fledgling organization led by an obscure Saudi named Osama bin Laden.

From then on, Cohen has been on al Qaeda’s radar. After he first criticized Sudan’s Islamic regime, he got hundreds of eerie death threats — phoned in to his private numbers and sent to a personal e-mail address. One e-mail highlighted his name on a death list put out by an extremist publication linked to al Qaeda.

In October 2001, an inflammatory story on theNew York Post’s Page Six labeling Cohen “Perry Farrell’s spiritual guru marked for death” led to the abrupt end of his 12-year career as a music-industry insider.

When the article appeared, Cohen had just helped to launch the Jubilee Music Festival, headlined by a reunited Hole, Foo Fighters and Jane’s Addiction. He flew to New York to attend an opening-night benefit with Bono, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and David Bowie. But post-9/11 New York couldn’t handle a story like Cohen’s. When he showed up backstage, he was suddenly informed he was out of a job.

“Everyone looked at me like I was a ghost,” he says. “The road manager pulled me aside and said, ‘Look, you can’t be here. Everybody’s afraid that if you’re here, a bomb’s gonna go off.’ ”

Cohen is sanguine about the chaotic effect the piece had on his life at the time. He now views it as the catalyst that turned him into a full-blown human-rights activist. It’s taken behind-the-scenes players like him and emerging evidence of slave trading inside our own borders to snap politicians into action. In 2000, Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act — the most comprehensive antislavery legislation since the Emancipation Proclamation — which makes human trafficking a federal crime. Since then, 150 other countries have followed suit with their own laws. And American lawmakers and enforcers have gone on the offensive, forming multidisciplinary task forces in 42 U.S. cities. They allocated $28.5 million for domestic anti-trafficking programs in 2006.

The word got out about Cohen’s efforts in Sudan, and in 2003 he was subcontracted by the State Department on his first official assignment, training Nicaraguan police and helping them develop trafficking-prevention programs for schools. That was his day job. The evenings were devoted to fieldwork — assessing the way sex trafficking worked in Managua.

Cohen watched clean-cut government vice agents try to infiltrate brothels with mixed results. Recognizing that his American party-boy image could give them unique access, the Nicaraguan agents asked Cohen to take part in a retrieval — and found that his approach helped recover more than the usual number of underage victims. That success led to subsequent assessments for the U.S. government’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which documents efforts by foreign governments to combat human trafficking and, via a tiered rating system, calls to task countries not doing enough. In the last four years, the TIP assignment has taken Cohen to five continents.

When Cohen first started raiding brothels, or “night-frighting,” in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, there was no protocol. “Since we had essentially just determined that this thing [human trafficking] existed,” he says, “…I had no mentors.” So he developed his own system:

He would go into a brothel and find a girl with whom he shared a genuine connection — someone he liked and who liked him back. “Then I’d play it like the lonely guy,” he continues. “I would say, ‘I don’t want to have sex, I just want someone to spend time with and talk to me and maybe we can go shopping tomorrow.’ ” Cohen would build the girl’s trust, tipping the mamasan, the bartender, the bodyguards — all night long. “I became their favorite party guy,” he says. “I’d continue building a relationship with the one girl I was closest to for a day or two…”

Continued from page 5

And then he’d confess how much her situation broke his heart. She’d begin to think this tall American was the one who might save her. And she would inevitably reveal the whereabouts of other prostitutes, often underage trafficking victims.

Cohen thinks one key to his success is his long hair and sometimes-scruffy beard — hardly the typical federal-agent look. “The State Department officials were so straight you could see them coming a mile away,” he says. “I look like somebody who could be a druggie or a rock-star kind of person… and from Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell I learned party skills that would translate into me finding more underage victims than the ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents, State Department and police combined.”

“Now,” says Cohen, “once I find out there are underage victims there, it’s a new game. Because in a friendly country, jurisdiction’s easy — you call the police, you say, ‘We know where the girls are,’ you show them… then we surround the building and bring everybody out…” But the countries with the worst human trafficking, he says, are those where he’s forced to operate without jurisdiction. “Like Vietnam, where low- and midlevel police corruption have resulted in systems of enslavement.”

Cohen says he is no longer welcome in Vietnam, which has been coming down hard on dissidents ever since it earned a long-coveted WTO membership in January. Last week, Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet arrived in America — the first visit to the U.S. by a Vietnamese president since the end of the Vietnam War — to wide protests by Vietnamese-Americans and a welcome at the White House, where President Bush pressed Triet to improve human rights. The Vietnamese leader, whose visit also included Orange County, said he and Bush “agreed to disagree.” That’s not good news for those trying to stop human trafficking in Vietnam, where, says Cohen, “if you retrieve a girl, you risk her life and yours.”

Things did not go exactly as planned in Myanmar.

“Here is where the world’s best poppy is grown,” says Cohen, unfolding a map and touching northeastern Myanmar’s Shan State. Roughly the size of Cambodia, it borders Thailand and China and, like the territories that are home to other ethnic minorities in Myanmar, such as Karen, Chin and Kachin, has been under the rigid thumb of the ruling SPDC for decades.

During 120 years of British colonialism, hill-state people (who had been ruled separately by their own kings for centuries) were allowed to remain largely autonomous, a freedom they enjoyed even after Burmese independence came in 1947. But since 1962, they have been given the option to assimilate — under arbitrary, often bloody military rule — or fight. The Shans and other groups that have refused to sign cease-fire agreements with the SPDC maintain their own armies and are considered rebels, and are therefore subjected to a sort of scorched-earth policy.

Lush, mountainous Shan State also happens to contain the bulk of the country’s best natural resources — gold, silver, copper, rubies, lead and uranium. Its fertile soil also makes it ideal for growing poppy, as well as rice and tea. Cohen says that since the war in Afghanistan shifted much of the world’s heroin production back to the Golden Triangle, as much as one-third of the global supply is coming from Shan State. More and more regional mafias have been taking advantage of that.

“Drugs are harvested in Shan State, produced in mobile labs [along with meth], and brought down either by sea or along the eastern side of the Salween Delta to Pattani, Thailand — where terrorism is beginning to threaten the tourism industry,” Cohen says. “These triangles you see on the map are the places where Thai police have been cracking down on traffickers.”

He describes the historic path of poppy seeds and traders along the silk route — from Afghanistan across the Himalayas to Myanmar. As in Afghanistan, the drug behemoth fuels a not-so-hidden trade in arms and humans, all of which Cohen says are exploited by mafias with links to terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.

“The Thai interrogation of Hambali [the ‘Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia’] proved that there is a clear link between Afghan freedom fighters and Southeast Asian terror groups via the heroin trade out of Myanmar,” Cohen continues excitedly.

So that’s how I ended up in the Golden Triangle. General Pichai Chinasotti [consulting general to the ruling Thai government] asked if I’d be interested in checking out some rumors they’d heard.” He was.

Donning black military fatigues and helmet, Cohen went on “the wildest ride of my life” — a winding, midnight motorcycle trek across a porous section of the 1,500-mile mountainous border Thailand shares with Myanmar. Traveling with military escorts, the Shan intelligence minister and two other men — a two-star Thai police general and a special-ops commando known as “The Scorpion” — Cohen felt “there were literally eyes everywhere.” Somewhere along the way, his Shan driver became separated from the Thais. Three hours later, he says, they found themselves in a war zone.

“On one side of the ridge the Burmese army was firing, and on the other the Shan State army was firing back,” he says. Cohen rapidly understood that he had been brought in to document something more complicated than slave labor. He was being used, in fact, but there was little he could do about it.

“That is something I had not considered,” reads his journal. “ ‘I never signed up for this,’ I tell the overweight intelligence minister when we arrive at base camp… but since I am in their hands anyhow, I don’t see what choice I have.”

Continued from page 6

Later that day, Cohen was taken to see the area’s uranium mines — where the Shans told him soil samples had been extracted by the Russians as well as A.Q. Khan, the well-known Pakistani nuclear-weapons-scientist-turned-dealer: “These mounds are everywhere, where samples were being unearthed by other partners as well, including the Iranians and the North Koreans… I am the only Westerner [to see this],” Cohen wrote.

The intelligence minister then handed Cohen documentation of Khan’s entries into Myanmar and told him that the SPDC was selling Shan uranium to the Iranians, who were processing it into material for nuclear weapons. The route from Myanmar, the minister showed him, led straight through China to Natanz, Iran. “I’m no expert on weapons-grade uranium,” Cohen admits. “But they wanted me to leave with samples of what I saw.” Restating his human-rights mission, Cohen refused to discuss transport of the nuclear material. (“It’s a death wish to have that kind of stuff on you,” he says.) But he agreed to put a stack of evidence, including photographs of the Burmese and Iranian facilities, in the right hands when he returned to Thailand and the U.S.

A.Q. Khan, the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program, confessed in 2004 to having been the mastermind behind a clandestine network of nuclear-arms proliferation that stretched from Pakistan through Europe, the Middle East and Asia. His network sold blueprints for centrifuges to enrich uranium as well as illicit uranium centrifuges and uranium hexafluoride — the gas that can be transformed into enriched uranium for nuclear bombs.

Khan is already known to have provided complete centrifuge systems to Libya, Iran and North Korea. He was pardoned by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and sentenced to house arrest after declaring on television that Musharraf’s government had not played a role in his schemes. Western governments have been denied access to Khan, but the British think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies recently published a report indicating that Khan’s network is very much alive, even without its decapitated head.

Eerily, the Pakistan-Myanmar link is backed up by a 2002 Wall Street Journal article detailing Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions:

“The program drew scrutiny recently after two Pakistani nuclear scientists, with long experience at two of their country’s most secret nuclear installations, showed up in Myanmar after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Asian and European intelligence officials say Suleiman Asad and Muhammed Ali Mukhtar left Pakistan for Myanmar when the U.S grew interested in interrogating them about their alleged links to suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who Washington believes wants to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Burmese exile magazines, blogs and Web sites are rife with alleged wicked SPDC plots. But one question pops up over and over: Is there a link between Myanmar, which mines and refines uranium ore, and Iran, which requires uranium for its own nuclear projects? And, specifically, is Burmese yellowcake finding its way to uranium centrifuges in Natanz, Iran?

Cohen’s testimony suggests that the answer may be yes. From the mining sites, he was taken to meet several Shan men who said they worked as drivers for the SPDC at clandestine nuclear processing facilities near Taungdwingyi, Chauk and Lanwya. These men swore to Cohen that the SPDC was overseeing the production of yellowcake there and in several other locations, then transporting it on North Korean and Iranian ships as well as over land through China and Afghanistan, via a courier network, to the (then secret) underground Iranian plant in Natanz. They handed Cohen the coordinates for the facilities, saying that as ethnic Shans they could no longer do this work for a regime that was systematically attempting to wipe out their people. They had thrown their support behind the Shan State Army, they said, and wished him luck.

A few weeks later, Cohen hand-delivered that information to a source at the Pentagon. The following day (April 19), the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was running more than 1,300 centrifuges at its underground plant in Natanz (latest estimates put it closer to 3,000). Iran’s plan to install 50,000 centrifuges there to enrich uranium made headlines, with the BBC running satellite photographs of the facility. But no major media outlet noted the Myanmar connection, and the story was soon buried in the subsequent frenzy over the Virginia Tech massacre.

The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog has recently expressed concern over its own “deteriorating” understanding of Iran’s supposedly peaceful nuclear enrichment activities.

Add to that last month’s (May 15) news that Russia, which has given technical nuclear training to hundreds of Myanmar nationals since at least 2001, is setting up a nuclear research reactor in Myanmar. With Russo-American relations at a virtual freezing point, a State Department official could only say he had “no idea” why Russia would make such a move.

A passage from George Tenet’s new autobiography mentions a pattern the CIA has been tracking that may apply:

“In the new world of proliferation, nation states have been replaced by shadowy networks like Khan’s, capable of selling turnkey nuclear weapons programs to the highest bidders… with Khan’s assistance, small, backward countries could shave years off the time it takes to make nuclear weapons.”

Which could mean that secretive, backward Myanmar is closer than we think to developing one. Junta watchers know better than to trust the claims of the oxymoronically named State Peace and Development Council, particularly when it comes to the “peaceful” nuclear weapons it seeks.

“After the drama of visiting the uranium mines, the poppy fields and slavery evidence seem rather ordinary,” reads Cohen’s journal.

“But I’ve traveled perilously close to the edge of the Burmese army. I can see the Special Forces just on the other ridge looking at me through the binoculars on the thermo viewer and know my time has come. The shots are ringing out. I’m leaving on the dirt bike traveling up and down the jungle passes again for a few hours of holding onto the back handles for dear life…”

Continued from page 7

Cohen’s entourage finally came upon a clearing and a large cave opening, which they descended before crawling into a system of Shan army tunnels, where Cohen began to realize “[the fact] that the Burmese were mining the uranium had terrible confirmation. There are those who will come shooting or seducing now that I have seen for myself and uploaded the evidence.”

As they entered the tunnels, he watched the Shan intelligence minister bow to the presiding cave monk, who immediately asked Cohen if he could bring them arms. Still thinking he was there to document slave labor and possibly offer aid in the form of food and medicine, according to his diary, Cohen responded:

“ ‘No! Your eminence, I am looking to fund human rights only. Umm, excuse me… I have come all this way to receive the evidence about human rights abuses, sir, and now you are asking me again for arms I will not deliver. May I remind you that you are a Buddhist monk, your eminence…

“ ‘It’s a simple twist of fate,’ [the monk] says to me. ‘The best way to help the people is to protect them from those human rights abuses with guns, my friend.’ ”

After 36 hours in the tunnel, Cohen’s handlers took him back out to the surface, where they continued to bombard him with evidence against the SPDC, filling his pack with maps, photographs, tapes and stories confirming for Cohen that “anything I could do would never be good enough to help them.”

Cohen’s mental burden had become too much to bear, as described in this last passage from his journal:

“After another morning of interviewing soldiers, officials, and former slaves, I realized that I must tell their story to someone or break down completely. I had been invited into this to bring the truth forward, but I felt like burning all these bridges I crossed. I had already decided that I did not know where to go now. For in my rash ignorance it seemed that uncertainty now about the fate of the likes of Kao was worse than the optimistic and enlightening promises that I could actually do something to be useful, to feel up to knowing what to do.”

A Shan woman feeding her baby while working in the poppy fields of Myanmar “I don’t want to get all conspiracy theory on you,” says Tommy Calvert Jr., “but the Department of Defense came out years ago saying that Osama bin Laden was moving weapons and people around. I had buddies in the Navy SEALs who were stopping ships in the Persian Gulf, and they’ve seen it,” he says. “Slavery provides the fastest revenue for organized crime. And when the rumors and facts start to jibe, someone has to tell the truth and start making progress in global security.”

Calvert is a 26-year-old wunderkind who first went to Sudan in 2002 with the American Anti-Slavery Group. But his involvement there, like Cohen’s, began in the late ’90s — “long before George Clooney and other folks were out there.” After an unsuccessful run for Congress in his native Texas, Calvert became an outreach specialist for Orange County’s Human Trafficking Task Force in January. For a while, he says, he was the “highest-ranking black person” on this issue.

In the thousands of nail salons, acupuncture offices and massage parlors that clog the commercial strips of Southern California, Calvert sees the faces of both forced labor and sexual slavery on a daily basis. “I feel the presence of the traffickers and their evil,” he says. At first, “It surprised the hell out of me that we were fighting that battle here.”

Calvert’s colleague, task-force law-enforcement liaison Dottie Laster, is grateful that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act has finally given police the tools they need to start going after the perpetrators. But her unit received federal funding only last year. It partners with a nonprofit called Community Service Programs to assist victims and run interference between the law and social-service agencies.

Even with a grant and the TVPA on their side, getting a human-trafficking conviction isn’t simple. That’s why Laster calls Cohen’s international perspective on the issue “invaluable” to her office. “He’s dealing with the source [of trafficking], and here I am at the destination,” she says by phone from her Santa Ana office. “We make a good team.”

“Human trafficking” has been on the lips of politicians as well as celebrities for the last couple of years, but none of them can agree on what to call the thing. In late-March testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Grace Chung Becker outlined “legal options to stop human trafficking,” which she defined as “a form of modern-day slavery that touches virtually every community in America.”The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, who has long detailed its horrors from Cambodia to India, recently scolded world leaders for doing little to prevent what he calls the “big emerging human-rights issue for the 21st century.”

No matter what we choose to name it, Michele Clark thinks we ought to spend more time thinking of creative ways to deal with what she sees as “human trade.” Clark comes at the issue from the policy side, as the second-in-command of the human-trafficking office at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE, the world’s largest regional security organization). She first met Cohen on the 2003 training mission to Managua, and grew to admire him during subsequent trips they made together, like the one to Ecuador, which needed to address its sex-trafficking problem in order to avoid U.S. sanctions. While Clark and other diplomats were asleep in the hotel, Cohen would be out night-frighting — collecting evidence he’d return with at dawn and pass on over morning coffee. If his methods freaked her out at first, Cohen’s results were effective. “He’s unique,” says Clark by phone from Vienna. “His [field] work greatly contributed to the strength of the report we wrote because it was able to show situations from the victim’s point of view. He sees the big picture.”Continued from page 8 Clark, who currently advises the OSCE’s 56 member states — such as the former Soviet Republic of Georgia — on implementing actions to prevent slavery, plans to return to advocacy work in the U.S. “Much of the focus [in terms of this issue] is on prevention, protection, assistance and prosecution,” she says. Which sounds fine unless you consider what it leaves out: where the demand is coming from. “Most resources are spent combating trafficking in source countries,” she says. “But what about the countries that drive the business? The West is where you find those rich enough to pay for those kinds of services.”

Orange County is one of those places. On May 16, Cohen rode along with the Westminster Police Department and the O.C. Human Trafficking Task Force on a successful raid of two acupuncture/chiropractic clinics the cops suspected were brothels. “After a month of surveillance,” says Cohen, “Westminster P.D. could tell these women were not just prostitutes doing their jobs. They were never left alone. Every morning, an SUV transported them from the home where they were being held to one of the other locations, where they were forced to have sex with customers.” At the end of the day, the nine Asian women were picked up and ushered into the SUV with that day’s laundry — sheets and towels they were expected to wash in time for work the following morning.

While assessing the larger human-trafficking situation in O.C. for a Garden Grove–based NGO called U.S. International Mission, Cohen made undercover visits to both locations for a shoulder massage in the weeks leading up to the raid. He noted the telltale signs of a sex room — lube, baby oil and lots of Kleenex — “not something you usually find in a medical office,” says Dottie Laster. After an undercover officer received a sexual solicitation, police were able to obtain a search warrant. Believing they were observing something bigger than a straightforward pimping-and-pandering case, Westminster P.D. notified ICE, the largest investigative branch of the Department of Homeland Security, which sent its agents out to gather evidence.

The raid began with teams of seven staking out all three locations in a residential neighborhood. As soon as the ICE agents came in with the warrant, the boss sneaked out and fled in his white Nissan. The cops were ready, and Cohen rode along in a classic chase scene he calls “right out of a movie.” They managed to force the Vietnamese suspect into a dead-end street, where he tried to pass himself off as a customer before being arrested.

Cohen says the police confiscated Singaporean passports, Ecstasy pills and guns, including a stolen Glock 9. All but one of the women, who speaks Chinese, are Vietnamese — and most appear to be licensed acupuncturists and massage therapists who were recruited in Singapore and brought to the U.S. under the pretense they would be given legitimate work. Although to the casual observer it might appear to be just typical cop-show fodder, for Cohen the foreign passports, involvement of federal ICE agents, and presence of drugs and guns point to something much darker than a run-of-the-mill prostitution ring.

“With 10 beautiful girls, you can make a million dollars cash in a year,” he says. “And guess what? You can intimidate their families enough so that they will never testify.” Cohen also points to the fact that the women seemed to have been denied contact with the outside world as an indicator of their helplessness. “They were not allowed to leave the house, even for shampoo.”

In a discussion I had with him a few weeks before the raid, Westminster P.D. Lieutenant Derek Marsh said that although he and his colleagues have long suspected that Orange County is a point of destination for international traffickers with connections to criminal networks, “We don’t have the resources at the local level to pursue them.” Marsh was not authorized to comment on the latest case, which he said would be prosecuted under the “more robust” federal trafficking law.

Cohen suggests that intelligence agencies are “failing to acknowledge the centuries-old link” between gangs, arms, drugs and human trafficking. For him, the presence of all four of those at the Westminster bust “means that mafias with access to weapons of mass destruction have access to L.A.”

He believes, in other words, that the same Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai triads who enslave women work with the thugs moving heroin from its source in Myanmar’s Golden Triangle down the Salween and Mekong rivers to southern Thailand and eventually Los Angeles. That scenario has been floated in intelligence circles before. (Note I edited out here some of the biased, pure anti Islam propaganda) “The terror machine is on,” Cohen says gloomily. “When you look at the expansion of terrorist operations in Southeast Asia, it’s really easy to see that the connection is heroin.”

Firsthand experience notwithstanding, Cohen says he owes the mafia-branding theory partly to the work of Steven Emerson (who directs the think tank Investigative Project on Terrorism and has been criticized by some for his “anti-Muslim stance” Note: I agree he has this obvious weakness. See Pakistan Khan/ Iran comments that I left intact). Emerson has sounded more than one false alarm, but he can take credit for telling the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 1998 that the “followers of Osama bin Laden” posed a significant threat to U.S. security.Continued from page 9 In his latest book, Jihad Incorporated, Emerson argues that despite the warning of 9/11, “The American public and the West at large seem to have settled into a dangerous complacency, still unaware of the nature of the diffuse threat that faces our society and our way of life.” He goes on to demonstrate the extent to which he believes Islamic radicalism has pervaded our cities, charities and governments.

So even though Vietnamese gangsters bringing girls, guns and drugs into Little Saigon may not overtly share the jihadist ideology of terrorist militias, Cohen thinks they are all too willing to do their benefactors’ bidding, for the right price. That worries him. It should also, he says, scare the hell out of the rest of us.

A few days after our meeting in Orange County, I’m expecting Cohen for lunch on the Hollywood hilltop I’ve been calling home for a couple of weeks, but as the appointed hour approaches, he calls, sounding agitated. “There’s a lot of pressure on me today,” he says cryptically, and then, almost as an afterthought, adds,

“I have Prince Surkhanpha here with me, and he’s willing to give you a phone interview. This is your five-minute warning.” Then Cohen hangs up.

Sao Surkhanpha is the son of Myanmar’s first president, whose family was exiled in the early ’60s after the violent military coup. He’s also the royal heir to the throne of Shan State. After being sheltered by the Thai royal family, to whom the Shans are ethnically and linguistically related, Surkhanpha graduated from a U.K. university and has since made his living in Alberta, Canada, as a geological consultant for oil companies.

Frustrated by the international community’s failure to act against the SPDC and motivated by what he calls the desire to rescue Shan State’s 8 million people from “death and destruction” at the hands of the Burmese army, the prince and other exiled Shans formed an interim government just over two years ago. In declaring Shan State’s independence, they cited the 1947 Constitution of Burma, which granted the ethnic-minority states the right to secede.

The politics at work here are more worthy of a book than a paragraph. But Surkhanpha claims to have a mandate, a war cabinet and an army of 20,000 to 30,000 men loyal to him.

Just before he is scheduled to call, I reach for the Shan State Gazette, the interim government’s official publication (funded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute), which informs me that the prince “enjoys the outdoors, painting, photography, classical music and the occasional game of chess.” I know all this about the elder statesman. What I don’t understand is what he is suddenly doing in Los Angeles with Aaron Cohen.

When the phone rings, the wind is blowing so hard it’s actually shaking the windows, and I struggle to hear His 69-year-old Royal Highness. Three decades in Canada haven’t rounded the vowels of his flawless Queen’s English.

Cohen tells me the prince is touring Commonwealth countries to drum up support for the interim Shan government. Royals stick together, I think, and Cohen says that Surkhanpha will soon hold a private audience with Prince Charles. I ask the Shan prince why he’s come here.

“Well, you know about the opium that flourishes in the Shan State to the benefit and patronage of the Burmese generals,” he says eloquently.

I can almost hear his handlers breathing down his neck. “And we are pledged to eradicate it, not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of people here in Los Angeles, people in New York, London, Paris and wherever these drugs go. And so, yes, we are looking for help from the outside world, but we are not only asking for help. We are also giving something which is very much worthwhile.”

I ask if he is seeking international assistance in stopping the drug flow from the Golden Triangle. “More than that,” he responds, “we don’t like our Shan uranium being used for purposes of war.”

The prince goes on to back up what Cohen has seen: “Yes, it’s being done by the Burmese regime to curry favor with the Iranians and the Pakistanis and the North Koreans,” he says. “Of course, unfortunately these powers are also being egged on, dare I say, by the People’s Republic of China.”

He’s not the first to accuse China of power politics, but now there’s a commotion on the other end. The prince is getting advice from his consultant, an ex-military man from the West who asks to remain anonymous. Surkhanpha changes the subject, to human-rights violations, indisputable territory when it comes to the SPDC.

“We have evidence of mass graves,” he says sadly. “We have had farmers whose bodies were floating down the Salween with their hands tied behind their back, shot in the back of the head. And then there’s the link between the opium trade, international terrorism and the slave trade.”

If and when Shan State achieves independence from Myanmar, the prince tells me before hanging up, he doesn’t intend to retain the title “His Royal Highness” or reclaim any throne. Regardless, he and his followers appear to have a long slog ahead.

Other Shan political parties, such as the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy — which won the most Shan seats in the country’s most recent elections (1990) and whose leaders are now in jail — have yet to grant Surkhanpha their support.

But under the SPDC’s atmosphere of fear and repression, this could be just their way of staying alive. What the prince seems to have recognized is that human-rights abuses alone are not enough to nail the SPDC in the eyes of the international community. But cry “terror,” and you may have an audience.

Continued from page 10

Tommy Calvert, who helped write Congress’ Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which further sanctioned the SPDC for human-rights and other abuses over four years ago, sees the logic in cash-poor

Burmese dictators befriending cash-rich terror networks: “They have a mutual enemy in the U.S.,” he says. And after witnessing the SPDC’s atrocities firsthand, he has no doubt they are capable of more far-reaching violence. “The [Burmese] military would go into villages and raid for what I termed at the time ‘human minesweeper slaves’ to lead them through the minefields.

These slaves would be mounted with equipment so heavy that they could hardly stand — many were beaten and told to continue moving.

If they were maimed and could not continue, the military would leave them to die. I don’t know how to remind people of how dangerous it is to leave people like that in power other than to remind them of history. We used to not think Hitler or the Taliban would become anything powerful or dangerous. But when the alliances of those who seek to oppress and suppress freedom are made against those who seek to preserve and promote it, we often find a problem that seemed harmless erupting into a global war.”

Strange bedfellows: Cohen with exiled Shan State Prince Sao Surkhanpha, who says, We don’t like our Shan uranium being used for purposes of war. After a month in Aaron Cohen’s mind-boggling world, I’m relieved to be leaving it, even if it means returning to Florida, where my father is dying. My plane is boarding just as the phone rings, so I’m only half-listening as the familiar placid voice comes on the line. “So last night I met with Laura Bickford…” The name means nothing to me. “Yeah?” I say, waiting for more names to drop. “She’s the producer making the film about Che Guevara, and so Benicio del Toro, who’s gonna play Che, and Pablo Guevara, Che’s nephew, were there.” He wants me to congratulate him, I guess, but somehow I don’t feel up to it. What, I ask, is his connection to Guevara?

He tells me the producers want firsthand advice on the life of jungle revolutionaries. Cohen has met more than a few of those on his travels. And I try to indulge him in this conversation for a moment, but my thoughts are elsewhere. I have to hang up, I say. My plane is going back to the real world.

Aaron Cohen, peacemaker and would-be high priest, has surfed with Perry Farrell, had lunch with the Dalai Lama, and probably helped save thousands of lives between his night-frighting and testimony on behalf of enslaved people everywhere. Does he really need Hollywood’s approval? Then I remember something the O.C. Task Force’s Dottie Laster said that puts things in perspective: “There’s a certain shock value to this issue. Some people want to be there for the fun part — the celebrity events or whatever. And don’t get me wrong, those are important. But Aaron does this out of genuine concern for the victims. He grieves for the ones left behind… Here’s someone who could be leading a much more profitable existence, but he’s there 24/7.”

True, Cohen’s altruism radiates from every pore. But as L.A. disappears from view, I begin thinking that none of our motivations are untainted by self-interest. There’s something about slavery — its sheer awfulness and our desire to eradicate it, single-handedly even — that gives anyone who comes close to it some delusion of grandeur.

I think back to a conversation I had on that Hollywood hilltop with Lisa Miller, who made a documentary on the subject for a Cambodian audience and is working on another. “Trying to understand human trafficking is like being sucked into a black hole,” she told me. During her six years in Phnom Penh, Miller got close to all kinds of people involved in sex trafficking — from “nice girls” sold into slavery by their parents right up to the corrupt government officials and well-meaning NGO officers trying to “do something” about it in the face of competing political agendas. All of them, she says, were paralyzed by the issue’s complexities, but “Aaron understands the problem, so he’s not freaked out by it.” Miller is still processing the issues her film project has brought up for her. “There’s something so powerful about trying to bring light into the dark places,” she said. “But we’re all trying to heal ourselves at the same time. So when you take it on, it can take you down.”

Settling into my grimy airplane seat, I flip once more to Cohen’s diary and reread a passage he wrote just before the Myanmar mission. It makes more sense now:

Searchers after horror like myself try to be in prayer on Channel 1. Channel 2 is stay alive. Three is filled with the beauty seducing me off path, or untying me from scruples… to take them away as a “pretty woman” from all of this, and payloads of grief, living out their short lives as sex slaves, but I am no Hollywood actor. The haunted go-go bars, massage parlors, and red light nightmares are where I am on Channel 4. But the true epicenter in the terrible reality of my own self-realization is my own loss of feelings. There is no Channel 5; I go numb… I don’t wait in vain for some fantasy idea that sees me receiving the simple and beautiful blessings of life and family. Expect nothing, after all — how can I have a family? … This is my job; I am a slave hunter. In many ways now, I too am enslaved to the poor. I get a lot of hero this and hero that talk, but more and more I am drifting away somewhere else…

After a few days, I call Cohen. I’m hoping to hear him say he’s been sleeping in or going to the beach, but he starts talking about an international academy to school police and special operatives in human trafficking networks — a longtime dream he’s hoping to set up in Bangkok. Then there’s the “Pandora’s box” he may have opened by taking part in the Westminster raid. His normal schedule involves traveling on the missions, then coming home for a few days to recuperate before the next one. Now, he’s involved on a local level. “If I continue on this path,” he says, “I will not be able to base myself here anymore.”Continued from page 11 The women rescued from the Westminster brothel are in a safe house while federal agents conduct follow-up interviews, he tells me. So far the suspect has been charged only with harboring an illegal alien, but the shell-shocked women are likely candidates for T-visas, which grant human-trafficking victims who assist in investigations the right to stay here for three years before applying for a green card.

In the meantime, Cohen has arranged manicures and massages for the women. “I told them I’d take them to the beach today, but they wanted to go to a swimming pool instead,” he laughs, sounding genuinely happy. But when I ask how he’s doing, he stops, as though he hadn’t considered that. “I carry a load of grief in my heart,” he starts. “There are so many faces in my mind…”

One of those faces belongs to Kao, the Shan soldier who lost his leg. “Ah, yeah, we’re trying to get him a prosthetic limb from the Global Angels charity through Paul McCartney,” he says. “I haven’t stopped thinking about him.”

I tell Cohen that maybe he should take a break, get away somewhere low-key, like Thailand, or, okay, not Thailand, how about Canada? There aren’t that many people enslaved in Canada, are there? He laughs. I’m sure he’s probably fun to hang out with once you get off this topic. If you can get off this topic.

He tells me that he’s just a suitcase-packing away from being ready to leave. But he’s not likely to go to a beach somewhere and just lie there, oblivious. Those faces, those voices of Aaron Cohen’s — you don’t just switch them off.

“I’ll be on the move again soon,” he promises.

Toll-free number to report human trafficking: 1-888-373-7888.

Also, read Breaking into Brothels: Michele Clark on Aaron Cohen and his“night-frighting” techniques.

This is the first in a occasional series of articles on human trafficking.           




Last night I dreamt that Pope Benedict XVI had visited Myanmar, went to see Karen State, Shan State, Chin State, Kachin State and at last Depayin village.

The following are his remarks in my dream that are quite similar to his speech after visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp. The following is the excerpts of my dream:

As “a son of God” he asked God why he remained silent during the “unprecedented widespread numerous crimes on humanity” of the SPDC régime. In a place like Burma/Myanmar, words fail; in the end, there can be only a dread silence, a silence which itself is a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this? To speak in this country of horror, in this place where unprecedented multiple crimes were committed against God and man is almost impossible — and it is particularly difficult and troubling.

“To implore the grace of reconciliation — first of all from God, who alone can open and purify our hearts, from the men and women who suffered here, and finally the grace of reconciliation for all those who, at his hour of our history, are suffering in new ways from the power of hatred and the violence which hatred spawns.”

Burma/Myanmar, he said, is a place where the human heart still cries out to God, asking where he was, why he was silent, why he did not save his people.
“We must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God,” the pope said, asking him to save humanity and to help all people actively resist hatred, violence and attacks on the dignity of others.

“All these inscriptions speak of human grief; they give us a glimpse of the cynicism of that SPDC régime which treated men and women as material objects and failed to see them as persons embodying the image of God,” he said.

“SPDC régime wanted to crush the entire Burmese people, to cancel them from the register of the peoples of the earth.”

Pope Benedict said, the SPDC régime wanted to destroy Christianity, Islam and true Buddhism as well, replacing it with “a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of Myanmar Tatmadaw, the rule of the powerful.”

The obligation to remember what happened in Burma/Myanmar and to recognize the depths of hatred of which people are capable should not focus simply on numbers, the pope said.
“The individual persons who ended up here in this abyss of terror” were real people, he said. I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!” he concluded, speaking in Polish on the last day of his trip.

Note: My humble and sincere apology to Pope Benedict XVI for using his name and words. But I hope I am not insulting the Holy Pope but praising and looking up to him, appealing just not to look back into the history but to realize that the ugly Holocaust History is repeating itself in present Myanmar/Burma in another form. And it is not committed on one race and one religion only but all the races and religions of Burmese people, as long as they are not on the SPDC side. Dear Pope please visit our country and speak on our behalf and kindly pray to God for all of us to be liberated from this Fascist Nazi SPDC Régime.




David Law said _

Dear Ko Tin Nwe, to quote your article: “the SPDC régime wanted to destroy Christianity, Islam and true Buddhism as well, replacing it with “a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of Myanmar Tatmadaw, the rule of the powerful.”
This has prompted me to write an article about “Myanmarmy-ism” as the new religion of Burma, and Thanshwe is the top God, Ee Hmway Kyaing is the Goddess, and all the other generals are the lesser gods and nat-spirits.
As sort of like Jupiter and Hera and all the rest.
 Hmyawbar, in a future issue of BD

Ko Tin Maung said _

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate, professor and holocaust survivor said, “The question is not where was God during the Holocaust, but where was man?”