Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hokkaido art and nature : a day with sculptor Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi was the son of Yonejiro Noguchi, a
Japanese poet and scholar of English literature, and of
Leonie Girmour, an American poet and writer. He was born
in Los Angeles in 1904 and died in New York in 1988. He
spent his childhood in Japan until the age of thirteen
when his mother sent him to be educated in the United

During his first year at Columbia University where he
was a primed student, he dropped out and decided to
pursue his interest in sculpture. He was the recipient
of a Guggenheim fellowship, studied in Paris with
Brancusi, traveled through Europe and Asia and finally
settled in New York in the late Twenties.

In his New York studio he worked at the beginning on
portrait sculpture, stage sets for Martha Graham,
furniture design and later with architects on larger
environmental projects. He was able to accomplish this
at the same time that he was establishing himself as a
major New York sculptor.

His major works include two bridges in Hiroshima Peace
Park called "Tsukuru" and "Yuku" (1952), the garden at
UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (1956), Philip A. Hart
Plaza and the Horace E. Dodge & Son Memorial Fountain in
Detroit (1976), the lobby of Sogetsu Kaikan, Tokyo
(1977), "Homage to Louis Kahn" at the Kimbell Museum in
Fort Worth, Texas (1982), the marble slide for the U.S.
Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1986), "Time and Space"
at the Takamatsu Airport , Shikoku (1989) and Moere Numa
Park in Sapporo, Hokkaido which is still under

This year, the grand opening of Moerenuma Park, the last
work of the world-renowned sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, took
place in Sapporo. Taking this opportunity, Sapporo city
trying to create a new image of the city centering on
'ART' integrated with the magnificent natural beauty of

Moerenuma Park is located in the northeastern part of
Sapporo, where a unique project built a park on land
used as a waste disposal site. The project began in 1979
and the total of 2.7 million tons of waste was collected
and used as landfill until the site closed in 1990.

Isamu Noguchi first visited Sapporo in March 1988, and
showed a strong interest in the project. The city of
Sapporo commissioned Noguchi to design the park;
however, Noguchi died soon after completing only the
master plan of the park.

The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and the city of Sapporo
cherished the desire and will of Noguchi and continued
with the project. This whole 189-hectare parkland is
regarded as a sculptural work of Isamu Noguchi.


East China sea gas : Shoichi Nakagawa urges China to dialogue

Explosive perspective in the East China sea?

Japanese trade minister Shoichi Nakagawa urged China
Friday to resolve a row with Japan over gas projects in
the East China Sea through dialogue. Nakagawa's call
followed Beijing protesting Tokyo's decision to grant
test-drilling rights in a disputed area of the sea to a
Japanese oil company. "China recognized that it is in a
dispute (with Japan) over the sea area," Nakagawa said
during a news conference. "I want the country to
sincerely discuss the matter." The two countries should
try to turn the disputed waters into "a sea of
friendship," Nakagawa said.

On Thursday, Japan granted Teikoku Oil Co. concessions
to conduct experimental drilling in the disputed waters,
which immediately drew fire from China. Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said later Thursday that
the Japanese government decision will cause "severe
damage" to China's claim and "further complicate"
matters. A Chinese consortium is conducting gas projects
near the sites Teikoku Oil is to explore. Liu said it is
"an objective fact" that the two countries have a
dispute over the area. "We strongly urge the Japanese
side not to undertake activities not good for stability
in the East China Sea or overall Sino-Japanese
relations," he added.

The sites of the Teikoku Oil test-drilling are just east
of what Japan claims as a median line separating the
200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones of Japan and
China in the East China Sea, an area about 400
kilometers east of Shanghai. China says the line is
invalid and claims its economic waters stretch to the
end of the continental shelf.

Japan and China have held two rounds of talks aimed at
resolving the row, during which China proposed joint
development of natural resources. But they have yet to
reach a breakthrough. On Friday, Economy, Trade and
Industry Ministry officials said the ministry and
Teikoku Oil have given nicknames to three gas fields to
be explored by the oil company. The three areas were
given Japanese nicknames of Shirakaba (white birch),
Kusunoki (camphor tree) and Kikyo (Chinese
bellflower), they said. Of the three, underground
structures in the Shirakaba and Kusunoki fields are
connected to those of two Chinese-developed natural gas
fields, according to a Japanese geophysical survey. The
Chinese gas fields -- Chunxiao and Duanqiao -- are
located a few kilometers from the Japan-designated
median line. The Kikyo is located north of the other two

China has formally protested Japan's decision to grant
drilling rights in a part of the East China Sea also
claimed by Beijing.

Cui Tiankai, a Foreign Ministry official, summoned a
diplomat from the Japanese Embassy in Beijing to issue a
strong protest against the Japanese government's July 14
award of drilling rights in the disputed area to Teikoku
Oil Co. Ltd. Cui told the embassy's economic section
minister that Japan's decision was a severe provocation
and a violation of China's sovereignty and interests.
End of quotes

Friday, July 15, 2005

If under attack "we will have to respond with nuclear weapons", Chinese general!

How to defuse the lift of the European embargo on the
sales of weapons to Pop China? Ask a Chinese hawk to
comment about threats, rely on the FT to publicize, and
the DoD boys will sing " Oh Happy day".

Quote : "... China is prepared to use nuclear weapons
against the US if it is attacked by Washington during a
confrontation over Taiwan, a Chinese general said on
Thursday. " If the Americans draw their missiles and
position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on
China's territory, I think we will have to respond with
nuclear weapons, " said General Zhu Chenghu.

Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign
journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese
government. He added that China's definition of its
territory included warships and aircraft. " If the
Americans are determined to interfere [then] we will be
determined to respond, " said Gen Zhu, who is also a
professor at China's National Defence University.

" We will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all
of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans
will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be
destroyed by the Chinese". Gen Zhu is a
self-acknowledged hawk who has warned that China could
strike the US with long-range missiles.

But his threat to use nuclear weapons in a conflict over
Taiwan is the most specific by a senior Chinese official
in nearly a decade. However, some US-based China
experts cautioned that Gen Zhu probably did not
represent the mainstream People's Liberation Army
view.... " Click the title to access the report.

And as one good news is not enough for the US Japan
military alliance :

" Japan, U.S. interceptor missiles could be offered to
others: Ono

Interceptor missiles to be jointly developed by Japan
and the United States could be offered to third
countries, Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono
said Thursday.

"If there is a request from the United States, it could
be possible for those missiles to be provided to third
countries under certain circumstances," Ono told a Diet
panel session, referring to a Japan-U.S. research
project on sea-based interceptor missiles to counter the
alleged threat of ballistic missiles from North Korea.

Japan hopes to make sure in advance that the United
States would obtain Japan's agreement for any transfer
to third countries of weapons to be developed jointly
with Japan, Ono told the House of Councillors Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee.

If the United States consulted Japan about such a
transfer, Japan would study the offer in light of the
government's policy to basically ban weapons exports, he
said in response to questions from Democratic Party of
Japan lawmaker Shinkun Haku.

Japan and the United States agreed in February to enter
the joint development phase. They had been conducting
research on the missiles since 1999.

The two countries envision entering the joint
development phase in Japan's fiscal 2006, which begin
next April, according to Japanese government sources.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said in a
statement in December that the joint development and
production of missiles systems with the United States
are exceptions to Japan's weapons export ban principles
on condition that they are strictly managed.

Hosoda issued the statement when Japan adopted a new
defense policy guideline announcing a relaxation of the
arms exports ban to enable the sales of missile defense
components to the United States. (Kyodo) "

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Human Rights : The man who decided it was time for a change

Quote: "It is the story of a man in a bowler hat reading his newspaper on the London underground in late 1960. He reads a small item about two Portuguese students being sentenced to seven years? imprisonment for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom. He is outraged, decides to go to the Portuguese embassy in London to make a personal protest and then changes his mind. Instead he gets off at Trafalgar Square station and makes his way to the church of St Martin?s-in-the-Fields. He goes in, sits down for three-quarters of an hour, and thinks.

In his words, "I went in to see what could really be done effectively, to mobilize world opinion. It was necessary to think of a larger group which would harness the enthusiasm of people all over the world who were anxious to see a wider respect for human rights."

That man was Peter Benenson, then a barrister in London. When he came outside into the square, he had his idea. Within months, he launched his Appeal for Amnesty with a front page article in The Observer newspaper.

Nothing quite like it had ever been attempted on such a scale before. The response was overwhelming, as if people worldwide were waiting for exactly such a signal. Newspapers in over a dozen countries picked up the appeal. Over a thousand letters poured in within the first six months. And the post-bags of the world?s heads of state changed forever."

Amnesty International and Asian Human rights commission, two among others whose work is to protect and help the others. It is therefore very important to focus on those who immediate security is threatened, here are 6 urgents cases among many others.

JULY 2005

I ) BURMA: Forced labour; impunity; un-rule of law

According to new information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), villagers in Taunggut Township, Arakan state, Burma have lodged a new complaint with the International Labour Office (ILO) liaison in Rangoon about the detention of some local government officials in a case of alleged forced labour there.

As the AHRC reported earlier (UA-31-2005), three local government officials in Taunggut were allegedly arrested for ordering forced labour after local villagers complained to the ILO. However, the villagers of Lamu village circle sent another written complaint on March 12 that it was not these men but the local army officers who ordered the labour. According to a villager's statement broadcast on Democratic Voice of Burma radio on June 1, the main persons responsible were troops of Strategic Command No. 5 based in the area. Among those, the following personnel were named:

I. Infantry Battalion 544:
1. Saw Kyi Khin, Battalion Commander
2. Captain Thaw Lin
3. Captain Win Thein Oo
4. Captain Ne Hein

II. Light Infantry Battalion 346:
1. Major Chit Htun Naing
2. Sergeant Htun Shwe
3. Sergeant Kyaw Htay
4. Sergeant Nga Mei Khaung

It was reported that after the second complaint was lodged by the Lamu villagers, the concerned regional authorities sent an investigating party; however, the investigators did not reveal their identities or explain the purpose of their investigation. They are alleged to have then told the people not to report to the ILO and if they have a problem to report directly to the local authorities or army offices.

II) MALAYSIA/BURMA: Freedom of assembly; Arbitrary detention

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the situation of 68 Burmese protesters who were detained on 16 June 2005 after a peaceful demonstration opposite the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur (See further: UA-101-2005).

Four of those detained, who are asylum seekers in possession of ?temporary protection? letters by the United Nations High Commission for Refuges (UNHCR), were charged under the Immigration Act. 62 others were charged for illegal assembly, failure to obey orders by the police, and for offences under the Immigration Act. Two other refugees, both aged 17, were brought to the Kuala Lumpur juvenile court to hear similar charges. If convicted, these refugees face imprisonment between less then one year and five years, fines between RM2,000 and RM10,000, and caning with up to six strokes of the rattan.

The AHRC urges you to intervene into this violation of the right to assembly and the right to asylum by demanding the immediate release of all 68 refugees.

III) NEPAL: Abduction; Torture; Arbitrary arrest; Illegal detention; Rule of law

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the brutal torture, arbitrary arrest and illegal detention of a young journalist in Nepal.

Mr Chandralal Giri was initially detained by a group of plain clothed Royal Nepal Army personnel on 31 December 2004. He then spent two weeks in army barracks being brutally tortured, both psychologically and physically. It was not until 19 January 2005 that Mr Giri was finally arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance (TADA). A habeas corpus petition was filed on Mr Giri?s behalf with the Supreme Court who released Mr Giri on 21 June 2005 declaring that he had been illegally detained. However, since then Mr Giri and his family have lived in fear, frightened as to when the army might act next.

Your urgent action is therefore required in this case. Please send a letter to Ian Martin, Chief of Mission, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Nepal Office, urging him to pursue this matter and pressure for an immediate investigation and prosecution in this case.

IV) SRI LANKA: Continuous threats to torture victim; Urgent need for witness protection

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely concerned by further death threats on torture victim Jayasekara Vithanage Saman Priyankara and his family on 6 July 2005. According to Priyankara's wife, she received further phone calls threatening deaths from an unknown person saying, "People from Colombo will come and throw bombs at your house and will destroy your husband, yourself and the family." 

The AHRC strongly suggests that the threats were made from the office of the Police Headquarters Inspector (HQI) of Matale, which is in charge of providing protection to Priyankara and his family. Priyankara's wife said that when she called the HQI office, she recognized the receiver's voice as the same as that of the person who made the threatening call moments earlier. After learning of the incident, the AHRC called the HQI of Matale. After saying that we wanted to speak with the HQI, the other speaker hung up the phone before responding.

The AHRC also spoke to Mr. Hector Dharmasiri, Superintendent of the Police (SP) of Matale Police Division, about this matter. However, he showed rough manner about our complaint and he did not want to talk about the matter. Now the AHRC suspects that there may be a serious threat to Priyankara's life, appears that the senior members of the police in the area seem to be aware of it.    

The AHRC calls for your urgent intervention in this case. Please urge the Sri Lankan authorities to provide immediate protection to Priyankara and his family and conduct a proper investigation into the alleged incident and bring the responsible persons behind Priyankara's intimidation to court.

V) INDONESIA: Delay of Police Investigation; Death Threats to Human Rights Defenders; Rule of Law

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from sources in Indonesia regarding the investigation into the death of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.

According to this information, the Indonesian police have formed an investigation team which is supposedly tasked with following up on the TPF?s findings. While this step is welcomed, it is now imperative that the new team begins an impartial and effective investigation immediately.

Considering the poor performance of the police so far, as well as the questionable reputation of the Indonesian Attorney General and judiciary, it is important that in order to bring justice to Munir and those affected by his loss, an independent body is established to monitor the judicial process in the case from investigation through to the verdict. Although this demand has been raised to him by human rights groups, the president has thus far failed to respond to it.

The AHRC asks for your intervention by writing to the relevant Indonesian authorities to demand that all necessary steps are taken to ensure a speedy, complete and thorough investigation into the causes of Munir?s death, as well as an impartial and effective prosecution and trial.

6) INDIA: Hunger; government inaction and neglect; caste discrimination; landlessness; government threats and intimidation

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received new information from Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum) regarding the appalling starvation situation in the South 24 Parganas District, West Bengal. The entire community, mainly made up of villagers belonging to the Munda indigenous group, has been facing hunger for many months. Many are on the verge of death.

Moreover, it has been brought to our attention that on at least two occasions, the villagers have been threatened by government authorities to keep quite about their current situation. Local government officials from the Marxist party as well as uniformed policemen have visited the village warning the community not to speak to outsiders.

There have been many other hunger cases reported in the West Bengal region and the situation has not improved. The AHRC urges you to write to the Chief Minister of West Bengal and related authorities requesting for direct intervention in this matter and that steps be taken to eradicate hunger in the State.


Combat Human trafficking in Asia

Bangkok, June 28, 2005 ? Every year thousands of people,
primarily women and children, are trafficked within and
across borders and forced to work in the sex industry,
in sweat shops, and in other exploitative situations.
Trafficking in persons (TIP) is a crime that is
difficult to measure due to inconsistent recording,
inadequate definitions, and lack of shared cross-border
resources. To combat this urgent human rights crisis in
Asia, The Asia Foundation, today, launched ? the first Asia-wide, multi-lingual web
portal that will facilitate more effective regional and
cross-border collaboration to prevent trafficking,
protect victims and bring traffickers to justice. ( is the first
anti-trafficking online tool written in both English and
local languages, eradicating a once debilitating
communications barrier that impeded coordination between
governmental and non-governmental counter-trafficking
organizations in Asia. The web portal is now officially
in use in Thailand, Cambodia, and East Timor. Content
in local language from seven additional countries will
be added this year.

?New patterns of human trafficking are emerging right
now, and we must learn how to combat these new, horrific
practices,? said Mr. Sombat Boon-Ngamanong, director of
the Mirror Art Foundation, an advocacy NGO based in
Chiang Rai. ? is a phenomenon, a critical
united front to support a network of anti-human
trafficking organizations, for sharing information on
news, laws or regulations.?

?This local language website will facilitate
coordination among Thais and Cambodians who work
directly with human trafficking victims,? said Lisa
Rende Taylor, The Asia Foundation?s Regional
Anti-Trafficking Coordinator based in Bangkok. ?In
Thailand and Cambodia, most local counter-trafficking
service providers, police, and government officials read
Thai or Khmer, not English.?

Whether lured with promises of jobs or marriage, or
abducted by or sold to traffickers, trafficking victims
are held in exploitative, coercive, and often abusive
work situations, and are denied their basic human
rights. provides critical information
for both trafficking survivors and anti-trafficking
workers, such as contact information for victim service
providers, case studies, research and reports, and
current legal codes.

One case :

On April 17, 2002, Mr. Korn (assumed name) left
Ubonratchathani province with his younger brother to
look for employment in Bangkok. They first called at
their aunt's house in Samutprakan Province, where they
stayed for 2 days. On April 19, 2002, around 7.30 a.m.,
they read a job notice posted in front of a auto repair
garage. As it was very early, they decided to sit down
and wait for the garage to open. As they were waiting,
however, a man came over to talk to them. He spoke
nicely and persuaded them to consider work on a fishing
boat. The man, an agent, explained that the work was
not very difficult or dangerous; nevertheless, the pay
was good. Korn and his brother decided to go with the
agent to meet the owner of the boat. About 5 p.m. that
day Korn, his brother and six other men boarded a boat
headed for southern Songkhla Province.

After their arrival in Songkhla the next morning at 9
a.m., the boat owner allowed them to rest and have a
meal. At 1 p.m. he took the group to a harbor, where
Korn noticed the owner engaged in a quiet discussion
with a woman. After their conversation was completed,
Korn and several of the other men were urged to get into
one boat while his brother and the rest of the group
were placed aboard another boat. After they had boarded
the boat they learned that they had all been sold for
6,000 Baht (US$ 150) each. Korn headed for Songkhla
harbor while his brother was taken to Pattani harbor.

Korn found there were many illegal Burmese as well as
Thai workers on the boat. The Thais mostly came from
the north and north-eastern Thailand. All had been
duped into taking the fishing job. There also were many
old men working as cooks. Everyone was forced to do
different jobs and they were not allowed to help each
other. They did not dare let the leader know that they
were sick, otherwise they would be killed by a single
gun shoot or be thrown into the sea. They worked almost
24 hours a day. Although they received short breaks,
soon the leader would whistle at them to get back to
work. They were allowed to have only one meal a day and
they were prohibited from bathing, brushing their teeth
or changing their cloths, although some workers
occasionally smuggled some ice to wash their faces.
None of the workers was every paid.

The boat Korn worked on was an illegal vessel used for
fishing, as well as for transferring illegal workers,
some of whom were migrating willingly, while others had
been deceived. This illegal boat usually would float
out in the middle of the sea, where it would wait for
other boats to come by every 3 days to off-load the
fish, deliver ice and cast aboard another new group of
men deceived into the fishing trade.

Korn met two boys, both aged 12, on the boat. They came
from Srisakat Province and they had been deceived by an
agent at the Hua Lampong Railway Station in Bangkok.
The agent offered them many job opportunities such as
working on a boat, in a frozen food factory or at a
bakery. The boys agreed they wanted to work at the
bakery; nevertheless, in the end they found themselves
aboard the illegal fishing boat and the agent kept all
of their important papers.

Korn eventually escaped from the boat after working
without pay for 2 years.

Click the title to access TipInAsia