The Mongolian Bloggers Association, the existence of which I just now find out, is donating Tg 1 million (approx. USD 850) to the artists that lost most of their instruments and costumes during the fires. Good to know that Mongolian bloggers are now getting organized.
The silent protesters at Sukhbaatar square intend to continue their peaceful demonstration today. Reportedly, the PM met with them this afternoon. The public are now demanding a full investigation into the shooting deaths of 5 persons during the riots. Again, I fail to see why this is so slow, seeing as they have the bullets and the empty bullet casings from the scene. One explanation is that the process is simply too slow and inefficient, but the one I'm inclined towards is that there is a certain level of reluctance from the Prosecutor General's office to investigate policemen.
Everything is being stalled by the current stalemate, and people are getting impatient. Songinokhairkhan duureg chairman has issued a demand to the MP's elected from the constituency to start their work. The constituency is waiting to start work on its annual budget for next year. The new Parliament is yet to be sworn in.Various bickering continues, but hardly worth a mention until something actually gets done.
Meanwhile, our president keeps himself busy worshipping ovoos (овоо тахих in Mongolian). These days, I am not too sure if we'd elected a President to office or a head priest. All he does nowadays is travel around the country visiting various Ovoos and temples. The problem is, Ovoo worship (if you're not sure what an Ovoo is, look here) is a shamanistic ritual, which is now also practiced by Buddhist lamas. To me, it doesn't make much sense for lamas to be involved in these rituals. But to each his (or her) own; debating religious appropriateness is hardly my territory.
And now it's the Olympics. Mongolians are aiming for 2 medals, the international press echo. We haven't gotten many medals from the Olympics, so far the numbers are 5 silver & 10 bronze medals in total, mostly in boxing & wrestling. Look here for a breakdown. Speaking of the Olympics, the papers report that the Chinese and Mongolian teams will be wearing (not intentionally) the same colour schemes for the opening ceremony: yellow jacket, white trousers and a white shirt. Too late to order new sets of clothes to avoid the obvious and unwanted comparison, the Mongolian team's solution is to..... wear a blue tie. I can without any great difficulty picture the Mongolian team dressed in white trousers and shirts, yellow jackets and blue ties. What they're missing are enormous sombreros to complete the picture. But really, why not simply wear our traditional deels? It's the opening ceremony after all, I doubt they would need to do anything Olympian except smile and wave.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Mongolian Bloggers Association, the existence of which I just now find out, is donating Tg 1 million (approx. USD 850) to the artists that lost most of their instruments and costumes during the fires. Good to know that Mongolian bloggers are now getting organized.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Families of the "Black Tuesday" (or Stone Revolution as some are calling it derisively) detainees along with National Green Movement and Civil Front Movement members have organized a silent demonstration at Sukhbaatar Square, demanding the release of the detainees. Approximately 20 protesters began the silent protest earlier today at Sukhbaatar square with a piece of paper taped over their mouths with the message "Release", and sympathizers joined them. Gogo.mn reports that the police are now attempting to disperse the crowd, on the grounds that Sukhbaatar District administration did not approve their request to hold the demonstration.
Further to the DP's unanimous decision to take the GEC chairman, B.Battulga, to court, the Special Investigative Unit, a public institution that reports to the Prosecutor General's office, subpoenaed Mr.Battulga, who earlier today gave his statement to the SIU. The Democrats claim that the GEC presented President Enkhbayar with 2 different sets of results on the 10 and 14th of July.
As for the 10 remaining seats in 3 disputed constituencies, Gogo.mn reports today that the final results are in from Khentii constituency. The local election committee at Khentii has decided that the election results do not require a recount. This is confusing. Did not the decision to recount votes come from the GEC? And aren't the local election committees supposed to comply with the GEC decision and recount the votes?
All in all, the political life in Mongolia is now suffering from inaction. The case of the detainees is unclear, with little or nothing apparent being done. The new Parliament is in limbo and the DP / MPRP teams have yet to reach an agreement. No changes to Khentii election results, and no updates on the other 2 constituencies, Dornod Aimag and Bayangol duureg of UB.
Perhaps it's the summer holidays that's slowing things down?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The President has sent an official letter to the heads of the two main parties, requesting them to come to a resolution at their soonest. During the inaugural session of the new Parliament, 16 DP MP's walked out in protest, before the new MP's could be sworn in, leaving the Parliament short of 7 members required for the swearing-in ceremony.
After a meeting of the DP MP's, both outgoing and incoming, the DP have reportedly come to a unanimous decision to take the chairman of the General Election Committe B.Battulga, to court. They have also voted to set up a Special subcommittee that will work with the prosecutor's office and provide the families of the riot victims with information. The DP have also demanded a public apology from the Russian Ambassador to Mongolia, for his biased commentary on the political situation in a recent interview to the Russian press. The Ambassador reportedly fingered the DP as perpetrators of the riots.
A Parliamentary session usually takes place today and the MP's are reportedly gathered outside the hall, with little or no indication of whether a session will actually take place. The MP's themselves are obviously not too sure. Well they can't exactly be absent, in the so-unlikely-that-it-will-probably-happen case the DP and MPRP suddenly call a Parliamentary session. S.Oyun, Foreign Minister and the only electee from Civil Will Party this year, has announced the her decision to not attend Parliamentary sessions until the Dornod election disputes are resolved. Her second, M.Zorigt, lost the election at Dornod and accused the MPRP of election fraud. The decision was announced earlier to recount votes in Dornod and 2 other constituencies. Since then, the GEC has yet to release any updates on the final results.
Further to the previous post The Blind Organize a Demonstration on Knees, President Enkhbayar put a veto on the proposed changes to laws concerning the pension funds and other state subsidies for the disabled. A few weeks ago, the representatives of various Mongolian disabled people's rights associations demonstrated against the proposed changes, showing their protest by walking on all fours across the central Sukhbaatar square.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I recently had the displeasure of reading an article titled "Mongolia amerikanizzata" by a certain Marco Silvestri, translated from Italian and published in sonin.mn. Knowing that certain subtleties get lost in translation, I decided to find the original article published in effedieffe.com, an Italian online journal, on the 23 April 2008. Best I could do was have Google translate the article for me and I have to say that the Mongolian version was, unfortunately, very accurate.
While it does contain certain observations of Ulaanbaatar that ring true, the author's underlying prejudices against Mongolia and his admiration of China are evident.
The author, a pro-Chinese Italian who lives in China, has little or no knowledge of history and goes so far as to suggest that Mongolia should "rejoin" China. He notes that while there are many western music, korean and mongolian music playing on the radio, there is NO chinese music. He wonders that Mongolians do NOT speak Chinese and are insulted when you greet them in chinese, and complains that all the Windows OS in internet cafes are in English and none in Chinese. He notes, erroneously, that chopsticks are banned in Mongolian restaurants. Huh? He notes that Mongolian girls dress like hookers (!!) with heavy make-up.
He lays down heavy criticism on the americanization of Mongolia, then he goes on to complain how he wasn't able to use his Mastercard at a mall. That while we have "low-class" western designer goods, one should forget about Prada and other "high-class" fashion items. The editors have removed some of his more extreme comments from the online article after many complaints from Mongolians and foreigners alike. Some of them included his opinion that Mongolia should "rejoin" China, tourists should not come to Mongolia and so on. Throughout the article, he constantly compares Mongolia to China.
All in all, a confused and a mess of an article with the writer's only goal to criticize Ulaanbaatar even if his points contradict each other at every turn. Most of his observations of Mongolia are done at a surface level and dismissed in one way or another as a product of Sovietization / Americanization.
What I am worried about is that this article is published in a journal that obviously has a fair flow of readership. Silvestri is entitled to his opinion, but a hateful, anti-Mongolian propaganda-like articles of this sort must be vetted carefully before they decide to insult the people of a sovereign nation. Seeing as it's been done, I am linking to various version, as well as their official website, if anyone wants to write to their editor's team.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Found this interesting article titled "Inner Mongolia was never part of China" (sic). As the article is a bit long, I am posting snippets here, and making the entire article available via Google Docs. I am posting the article as it is without any edits or corrections. The article, written by Oyunbilig, executive director of Inner Mongolian People's Party, was first published at the IMPP's website here. IMPP is a party dedicated to bringing democracy and freedom to Inner Mongolia.
The reason I am posting it separately is that the connection to their website seems somewhat unpredictable. Excerpts:
In 1644, Manchu people took over entire China and Emperor Shuen-chih (or Shun-Zhi) proclaimed the Great Ching Empire (Tai Ching). We have enough reason to say that Mongolia was not part of China during this historical period of time, because Mongolia (Including Inner, Outer, Dzungar Mongols) and China were both ruled by a foreign nation during the time . Chinese people didn't have their own state or government, and China, just like Mongolia, was part of the Empire established by the Manchu people.Read the entire article here at Google Docs
...In 1911, following the collapse of the Manchu Empire, there was a great chance for all the Mongols to reestablish a independent state once again. However, the Chinese warlords, took the advantage of the Mongol nation's weakness at that time, tried to take the Mongols under their rule. After 10 years of strive, Outer Mongolia (or Khalkha Mongol) proclaimed their independence in 1921 as People's Republic of Mongolia. But Inner Mongolia, a major part of the Mongol land, was under the Chinese warlords' tight control and hundreds of years of dream as an independent nation was unable to come true for millions of Mongols living in Inner Mongolia. It is injustice and outrageous that the Chinese, as soon as they gained their freedom, turned to rule over other nation.
....On May 1, 1947, the Chinese Communist Party declared their first puppet Autonomous Region--- the current Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region after the PLA took control over most part of the Inner Mongolia.
Since then, the Inner Mongolians suffered the most brutal rule they had ever experienced:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
So DP stuck to their promise/threat. 16 DP members had, previously, publicly stated their intention to boycott the new Parliament and submitted a written notice to the President. Their yesterday's move leaves the parliament short of 7 seats required to commence its first session (Parliament requires 57 of 76 elected MP's to be present). Coverage in the international news here, here and here.
During yesterday's inaugural session of the new Parliament, before the DP MP electees walked out, Ts.Elbegdorj criticized the GEC chairman B.Battulga for unfair elections and for presenting the President with the 66 names of elected candidates before the final official results were out. In addition, the DP is demanding the release and full pardon of Batzandan, Magnai and the 200+ detainees. Other demands include full investigation into the shooting deaths of 5 people and releasing the final election results.
I have to agree with them there. Just how long does it take to count votes? They managed to count most of them in one night during the 29-30 June. It's been 2 weeks since they announced the decision to recount votes in Dornod, Khentii aimags and Bayanzurkh duureg. And it's been quiet ever since, as if the GEC is hoping the public might just forget the whole thing and go on with their lives.
MPRP, meanwhile, held an internal meeting headed by S.Bayar with the former MP's and new MP's present. The members were reportedly divided on how to handle the current situation with the Democrats, though the majority seem to agree that entering into a discussion with the DP would be a better next step.
Once again, the public is wondering where all this is going. The foreign investors' community, I am sure, watch on nervously.
As for detainees:
Batzandan, head of the Civil Movement Party, went on a hunger strike in prison, which was forcibly stopped after 72 hours by the prison authorities. O.Magnai, deputy chairman of the CMP, is said to suffer from chronic asthma and is reportedly in a poor medical condition. His mother's plea to release him into her custody for medical treatment was refused. Not much information is available in the press regarding the other 200+ detainees.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
According to news.mn, the International Throat-Singing Competition will be held in Tuva during 25-28 July, 2008. I couldn't find any other information online regarding this competition, which deserves its own website. The Tuvans, and in particular, the Khun-Khuur-Tu ensemble, the great throat-singer Kongar-Ool Ondar, have done much to promote this Central-Asian art of throat / khuumii singing. Tuva and Mongolian traditions are nearly identical, except for the language. Tuvans speak Turkic, which is probably a result of the Golden Horde and their extensive use of Turkish soldiers.
There is a great documentary called "Genghis Blues" about the journey of the late Paul Pena, a blind American blues musician of Cape Verdean ancestry, to Tuva. He learnt throat-singing by listening to recordings and practicing for 2 years. When Kongar-Ool Ondar was in the US for a performance, Paul Pena attended his performance and afterwards, met Kongar-Ool backstage to demonstrate the kargyraa-style (kharkhiraa, or growling in Mongolian) khoomii he had learnt on his own. Kongar-Ool was so impressed by Paul Pena that he invited him to participate in the Khoomii / Throat-singing competition in Tuva. Paul Pena accepted, went and won in the kargyraa-style. The soundtrack of the documentary is highly recommended. The mixture of Paul Pena's Delta blues guitar, Cape Verdean morna sung in Portuguese Creole and Tuvan throat-singing is nothing short of amazing. Here are a couple of videos:
Monday, July 21, 2008
Came across this article in the Age. Excerpts:
Beijing police have been visiting bar owners in the popular Sanlitun area and asking them to sign pledges agreeing to not serve black people or Mongolians and ban activities including dancing.
Bar owners said that police have been clamping down on black people and Mongolians, who are sometimes implicated in drug dealing and prostitution, as part of an Olympic clean-up campaign that they and locals fear will make for a secure but sterile Games.
Maggies, Beijing's most notorious expatriate bar, referred to as the "Mongolian embassy" because of its popularity with Mongolian prostitutes and Western men, was shut suddenly about two months ago after a reported murder.
There isn't much I want to say about this new policy or the "Mongolian embassy" for that matter. The question I have is: how will they know a Mongolian? Can't the person just lie and say he or she is a Korean or a Japanese? Or would one need to produce a photo ID to buy drinks in China during the Olympics? And what do they mean by "black people"? Just any random black person is suspect? Perhaps a better solution for the Chinese government is to put up signs outside their bars in bold letters: "No Mongolians and Blacks Allowed". That should show the traditional Chinese hospitality to all the tourists during the Olympics.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Received this short video via email. The first part is of an interview with PM Bayar on DP's promise for Tg1million, where he states "They say they will give out Tg1million to each citizen. Where will they get the money for this, I do not understand. If they do that, our economy will collapse". 6 days later, according to the video captions, he is shown announcing MPRP's Tg1.5million plan, stating "I think Tg1.5million is a completely feasible figure". What brought the change of heart? I do not believe PM Bayar to be indecisive or fickle-minded. Perhaps some pressure from his party to outbid the DP in the past election. Now that MPRP is set to rule for another 4 years, the people will soon be demanding their Tg1.5million.
Friday, July 18, 2008
A little sooner than expected, Ts.Elbegdorj has announced his intention to step down from his post as DP's chairman at a press conference today at 3pm. He has not given any official reasons, dates or names of possible replacements. Will he or won't he? Or perhaps it's more a question of when.
The elected MP's from DP have officially notified the President of their intention to boycott the new Parliament, refusing to attend the first session of the new Parliament set for the 23rd of this month.
From their website:
Observation of the Mongolian Party Elections
The Asia Foundation deployed 17 two-person teams to observe the parliamentary election. Other international observation efforts included a total of 26 teams deployed by locally based embassies and international non-governmental organizations, and 9 teams from overseas deployed under the aegis of the Asia-Pacific Democracy Partnership.
This report is now making its rounds in the press. The report consists of two parts, the first on the voting process and the second part on the voter sentiment. After I read the report and saw its pie-charts of voter survey, what I thought was "oh? really?". I am tempted to dismiss the second half of their report as complete nonsense, without blaming the Asia Foundation mind you, and not even close to being suggestive of reality.
Example: Only 12% of the surveyed thought the elections were not free / fair, while 67% said the elections were free / fair. Really?
The main reason I am skeptical is its overly optimistic results.
I could try and explain the reasons for the optimistic results to a certain extent.
First of all, I don't know much about sampling and surveys, but how indicative is a survey taken from 200 voters? Second, who were the interviewers? Foreigners? While Mongolians may speak to the local press frankly and may express their dissatisfaction with the electoral process, they may not do so with foreign observers. It will not do to air our dirty laundry in the international press is the thinking. Most people, non-politicians, are reluctant to be quoted by name criticizing the system. Third, the report states the date as 29 June, the election day. I interpret this to mean that the interviews with voters were conducted at voting stations on the election day itself. Which explains why 67% thought "the elections will be fair and free". I certainly hoped it would be fair and free. Hmm... but still, surely we are not that deluded?
But perhaps I am missing the point here. These were simply the sentiments of 200 voters on the election day. What is more important in this report are the Asia Foundation observers' report on the voting process, which indicates to a large extent that the voting process looked fair and free. This does not, of course, rule out the possibility of vote-rigging during the counting process.
In 29% of the visits, the voters were not given enough privacy to mark their ballots without being observed by others.
Now what are we to do with their findings? But more importantly what will the government do with this report? Better voting process including voter privacy and less loitering of officials would be a good start.
View the PDF report from their website here.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The Parliamentary standing committee convened yesterday and discussed the DP's motion to impeach Bayar's administration. Of the 16 members at the meeting, 6 voted for and 9 voted against impeachment. President Enkhbayar called for the first session of the new Parliament on the 23 July. During the standing committee's session, according to news.mn, there were discussions and digressions to the 2004 incident, where the old Parliament and the newly-elected Parliament nearly held concurrent sessions due to disputes. Once the newly-elected MP's have taken their oaths, the old Parliament is considered dissolved.
News.mn has snippets from the transcript of the standing committee's session, which reads more like petty verbal attacks on each other by members rather than a parliamentary committee debate. Or is it because of my inexperience with parliamentary debates? Does this happen everywhere else? I have of course seen the youtube videos of Indian regional parliament fights (with MP's throwing their sandals at each other nonetheless), Taiwanese parliament fistfights and Russian politicians' hilarious water fights. But still, those should hardly be benchmarks against which we measure democratic government debates.
Many people, including the families of the gunshot victims and even MP Gun-dalai during the above-mentioned session, have been pointing out the lop-sided media attention on the damages and losses to arts & culture, while little coverage is given to the human casualties of the riots. Speaking of which, what of the ballistic examination of the bullets that killed those people? If the bullets were indeed fired from registered police arms, should it not be fairly easy to identify the weapon? Or rule out registered police arms?
According to an interview, published on news.mn, with the families of the victims, the families were handed out Tg 100,000 (approx. USD 85) by the Office of the President to cover the funeral costs of their loved ones. In the interview, they also claim that the government has handed out a separate Tg 1 million each (approx. USD 850) to the families of the victims. A brother of one of the victims calls the Tg 100,000 hand-out an insult and a government attempt to buy silence from its poor citizens.
On another, slightly alarming note, civil movement organizations (according to dailynews.mn) have announced their intention to hold a peaceful demonstration on the 21st July demanding the resignation of Justice & Internal Affairs Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil and Chief of Police Ch.Amarbold (they also demand that criminal charges be pressed against the two for the wrongful deaths during the riots), release of J.Batzandan and O.Magnai who are still in detention awaiting trial or some kinda decision / movement, and the resignation of General Election Committee chair B. Battulga and heads of other committees and organizations responsible for the election fraud. I am not very clear on who these civil movement organizations are (note: different from the Civil Movement Party, led by J.Batzandan and O.Magnai), but I certainly expect a demonstration protesting the violence and loss of lives on 1 July to be organized and non-violent. What does it mean to be an NGO or a civil movement group? Mongolian NGO's and civil movement groups are currently limited to releasing press statements demanding or urging for various measures on various issues, but the question is: how effective are they? And how much support or pressure do they get from the government?
So the conclusion is that we look set for a new MPRP government (then again, I think I wrote about this a couple of times), despite the DP's motion to impeach and threats to boycott the new Parliament by pulling out its MP electees. Like the Phoenix, the new parliament rises from the ashes of MPRP headquarters readying itself for another 4 years of surprises and disappointments for its frustrated citizens. I can't say I am looking forward to it entirely. Curious though in a voyeristic, can't-look-away-from-a-car-accident kinda way. Who wouldn't be.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Well, so we're now down to 10 disputed seats. It's 39 to MPRP and 25 to DP, plus 1 for Civil Will and 1 for an independent. The Civil Will may have a shot at one more seat from Dornod for their candidate Zorigt once the votes are recounted. Either way, we are set for another MPRP government for the next 4 years. What this means, according ot Reuters India, is:
The MPRP's majority government raises hopes it will have a mandate to push through mining deals that could provide a huge economic windfall to the country of less than 3 million...I cut out the last part which includes the obligatory "many Mongolians are nomadic herders" thing. MPRP majority may also mean that it is finally a chance for S.Bayar, chairman of MPRP, to show his quality. Unless he is overpowered by the majority of his own party, forced to play games akin to this year's $1,000 vs $1,500 vote-bidding.
Read the full article here
I guess everyone's ignored DP's demand for the resignation of Bayar's administration. Even the DP themselves seem quiet, or maybe it's coz of Naadam.
Civil Movement party leaders, Magnai and Batzandan have been in detention for the past two weeks, and went through a second round of questioning this week.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Mongolia Culture Blog: Mongolian Wrestling
So I found this blog which has various information on Mongolian culture. Seeing as this is Naadam, I thought I would blog about the legend surrounding the design & origins of the Mongolian wrestling costume. Legend has it that the top half of the wrestler's costume, called Zodog in Mongolian, used to be closed in the front, sort of like a mini-sweater. Before one particular Naadam, one of the champion wrestlers fell ill and his identical twin sister, a burly strong woman, decided to take his place. She wrapped herself in breast binding and wore the wrestler's costume, and entered Naadam wrestling. So as the legend says, she won that Naadam. And one official, who had been watching her do the wrestler's pre-match "eagle dance" in a somewhat feminine way, grew suspicious. Some versions say the officials confronted her, upon which she revealed herself to be a woman. Other versions say that her Zodog was ripped during the final match, revealing her to be a woman. After this, they decided to make the Zodog open at the front, ensuring that no man will ever feel the shame of losing to a woman at one of the "three manly games".
Friday, July 11, 2008
There are some excellent photos of a Mongolian Naadam horse-racing along with an article on the "rise" of child jockeys in Mongolia. The truth is the jockeys at Naadam have always been children in most cases.
Just a short update on the new commenting system from Disqus. Blogger commenting system unfortunately does not allow people to reply to a specific comment. I am testing the new commenting system to see if it will better facilitate discussion. All older posts will retain the Blogger commenting system, as I cannot upgrade the commenting on older posts without losing all comments. Would be good to hear feedback on this new add-on. You do not need to register with Disqus to comment and I will not be blocking / moderating unverified comments, as I have not seen much spam messages on my blog so far. Cheers.
Today, July 11, is Naadam. Naadam itself in its various forms have been around for a very long time, for after all it simply means "festival", and we have had many festivals over the centuries to celebrate conquests, coronations and other special occasions.
Mongolian wrestlers are highly revered, the way Sumo wrestlers are in Japan. There are many stories, mythology and legends passed down via oral history about great wrestlers. I will post one or two up as soon as I remember them.
For more on Naadam, check out
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I hear Dornod Aimag's election committee chair has ordered a vote recount.
Meanwhile, it is now the MPRP candidates accusing the Democrats of election fraud.
N.Udval, an MPRP candidate, claims election fraud by the DP candidates at Arkhangai Aimag. What happened to "according to international observers, the elections were fair and clean"? Now that even the winning party's candidates are blowing the whistle on election fraud due to their individual losses, perhaps it's time to have a good look at the system that allows for illegal / unethical pre-election campaign methods. While the main dispute at the moment is focused on the election results and not the campaign methods, surely the campaign methods influence election results, as Mr.Udval claims.
News.mn has published the membership % of all election committees here, which shows approximately 50/50 split between the DP and MPRP across all committees. Each committee is made up of 11 members, and in most cases majority of the seats on these committees were allocated 50/50 to DP-MPRP people. So what do these figures and disputed election results mean? That election fraud was impossible given the balanced representation across all committees? Or does it mean DP reps on these committees sold their party out?
The Human Rights subcommittee held an open and confrontational meeting with the police chiefs to discuss the role of the police force during the riots. Head of the Central Police Bureau, General Ch.Amarbold has stated that out of 2,200 policemen stationed in the city, 1,300 were deployed to the riot scenes. The subcommittee members pressed Mr.Amarbold on indiscriminate arrests of citizens and other issues related to police misconduct during and after the riots. The General stormed out of the meeting when the subcommittee members, including MP E.Bat-Uul, questioned his competency as a leader of the police force.
266 remain in the detention centres, of which 236 are men and 6 are women. The remaining 24 are reported to be underaged. No information on whether criminal charges are being pressed.
Around 200 international journalists have cancelled their scheduled visits to Mongolia to cover the Naadam festival. Bummer. Quiet Naadam indeed.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
There are some interesting stats up on Gallup Polls site on Mongolia. The poll was taken last year. But the results of the poll are hardly surprising, and are still indicative of public sentiment today: 61% of people said they do not think the elections are honest, 78% agreed that corruption is widespread in the government, while only 38% had confidence in the government versus 49% of the 1,000 surveyed who said they had no confidence in the government. Post riots, the latter figure is probably higher.
International press now wonder: Is Mongolia's Democracy Dead?
I agree with Thomas Terry that it's far from dead. It's messy and chaotic and corruption is rampant, but absolutely nobody wants a return to a totalitarian state, with perhaps the exception of a few. The 4-days' state of emergency and media black-out have left many paranoid that the Government may force a return to a one-party system, but given the factious nature of Mongolia's politics and how far we have come since the early 90's, I do not foresee that ever happening. And the recent riots may have made it pretty clear that any perceived attempt at a take-over by a single party may be met with a lot of resistance. Again, one thinks, were the riots political in nature or was it simply a dangerous mix of economic frustrations and cheap vodka as Foreign Policy writer Patrick Fitzgerald suggests? No money, have vodka, will attack? So a part of the solution rests in placing higher taxes on alcohol, and vodka in particular? Surely a more sensible solution can be found, Mongolians might protest. In any case, I digress.
(Christian of Beyond the Golden Way has a similar post on the above)
So what caused the riots? Economic frustration is definitely a part of it. Disillusionment with the general state of politics in Mongolia. With a bit of nudge, would the rioters have burnt down the DP HQ too? People are more anti-MPRP than pro-DP, and most are pro-DP for lack of a better choice. But that is just my impression. Democratic Party's reputation has definitely fallen after the riots. Sometimes demonstrations deteriorate to riot levels simply due to mob mentality. A few disorderly group of people start throwing stones at the police, the police start beating up, or in our recent case, throwing stones back at the crowd, everyone else gets riled up. I do not know if the riots were pre-meditated and organized as many suggest and I do not think we'll ever know. Magnai and Batzandan of Civil Movement Party may end up as scapegoats. Enough of speculations.
Further to yesterday's post, the DP National Executive Committee have called, predictably, for the resignation of S.Bayar's administration. If their demands are not met, they are threatening to pull out all elected DP candidates out of the new parliament.
On a side note, from the preliminary results, there are only 3 female candidates elected to parliament this year. They are S.Oyun (Civil Will Party) from Songinokhairkhan District, UB City, D.Oyunkhorol (MPRP) from Zavkhan Aimag, D.Arvin (MPRP) from Khentii Aimag.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
This evening may see some press statements being thrown about from both sides of the political spectrum (if you could call it a spectrum or even politics for that matter). The national executive committees of DP and MPRP are holding separate closed internal meetings, presumably to discuss the current state of affairs.
Mongolia prepares for a rather low-profile Naadam festival on the 11 July, with the tourism industry hit by tour cancellations due to the riots. President Enkhbayar seems to have chosen to focus his attention on the Naadam celebrations, releasing his schedule for the remainder of the week, during which he will visit various statues to lay flowers, attend an art exhibition opening & a concert and give an opening speech at the Naadam festivals. On a second thought, this is what he should be doing right now, to restore some sense of normalcy to society or at least attempt to. Not too sure how effective this strategy will be, given the level of public attention the riots and their aftermath are receiving. And what of the detainees? The Human Rights under State of Emergency Monitoring and Protection Coalition (via Will Swanson's blog) have called for a press conference today, reiterating the statement they released on the 6 July.
Information collected through interviews, supported by audio and visual documentation, demonstrates that the following violations of human rights and international conventions, to which Mongolia is a signatory, were committed in the process of the organization and implementation of the President’s Decree on Announcing the State of Emergency:Read the full statement at their website here.
- Complete and timely measures were not taken to inform citizens who were unable to receive information through radio and television about the announcement of the state of emergency
- The police and army corps were not provided with guidelines on how to perform the arrests in compliance with relevant laws and regulations
- In violation of the law, the police and army corps performed a mass arrest, using excessive force, severely beating and injuring people
- The detainees were kept in conditions that do not satisfy minimum standards. In particular:
- 30-50 people were kept in a small room of about 20 square meters, without sufficient air, people were also kept en masse in a detention center garage
- Children and women were kept with adult men
- The detention rooms did not satisfy minimum health and hygiene standards
- The detainees were not allowed access to toilet facilities, which resulted in damage to their health
- The detainees were not provided with necessary nutrition. For example, in some detention sites, people were not given food or water for a whole day while in other sites they were given a small piece of cookie with tap water on the first day and chloramine-tainted tea on the second day.
- People who required medical attention were not provided with necessary assistance.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Since the end of the state of emergency, the political situation in Mongolia has been uncomfortable to say the least. I can honestly say that this is the first time we have been in a situation like this, where the road ahead was as murky and foggy as the streets of Ulaanbaatar during winter evenings. There are many questions that remain unanswered, the obvious being "Will there be a re-election?" And other questions, the answers to which we may never know:
- Why did the government let the situation deteriorate for more than 4-5 hours? Sure, we were not prepared for the situation, a statement echoed by all officials. But this unprepared? The more one ponders over this, the less satisfactory the explanation becomes.
- If the riots were planned and pre-meditated, then who was behind them? Why did they, whoever they may be, steal the hard disks from the MPRP HQ?
As far as elections being unfair and campaigns marred by rumours of cash handouts and ID frauds, I would not be surprised. But is this exclusive to the MPRP? I hardly think the MPRP was the only party throwing around cash during the pre-election campaigns. It is a fairly common practice.
So.. today, the Subcommittee on Human Rights (under the Standing Committee on Law) held a press conference, the 5 members of which include the DP MP E.Bat-Uul. MP Bat-Uul stated that the President's decision to declare the state of emergency violated the Consitution of Mongolia and the rights of its citizens. He went on to criticize the media black-out and the lack of response from the subcommittee (on human rights) on the human rights violations. Another worrying news is that there are 72 civilians missing since the riots. While Ms. Solongo of the National Human Rights Commission had visited the detention centres a number of times and found no violations of human rights, the human rights groups at the meeting voiced concern over the large number of reports coming from those released from detention centres regarding the use of physical violence, threats and intimidation by the police.
E.Bat-Uul proposed to have this issue brought up during the open Parliamentary session, which was supported by the other members on the subcommittee.
The Democratic Party is now proposing a motion to demand the resignation of S.Bayar's government and the chairman of the General Election Committee.
The DP candidates from Songinokhairkhan district have also accused S.Oyun, Foreign Minister and chairwoman of the Civil Will Party, of conspiring with the MPRP candidates to fix the election results. Ms.Oyun has released a press statement denying all allegations, pointing out that the electoral committee in this district was run by majority MPRP and DP reps, while the Civil Will Party had only one rep on the committee.
Bayangol district voters have organized a citizens' committee to demand a re-election, and have started collecting signatures for their petition. So far they have collected 1,000 signatures. No figures were mentioned in the report on the total number of registered voters in the district.
And lastly, news.mn have published a transcript of what they claim to be a chat between their reporters and O.Magnai while he was in hiding before his detention. In the transcript (in Mongolian), O.Magnai claims that he was shot at by two people in plain clothes on Saturday, and that he had decided to turn himself in for questioning out of fear for his life. (What I found bizarre was that the transcript had published the chat ID's of both parties. I have tried adding O.Magnai's YM ID on my Yahoo! messenger, and it worked. I then swiftly deleted it from the invite list. Seemed like the logical thing to do. For one thing, what am I supposed to chat with him about? For another, I do not want to get detained soon as I return to Mongolia and explain why my name is on O.Magnai's contact list. )
O.Magnai is the 26-year old (?) deputy chair of the Civil Movement Party. He turned himself in on Monday, and after 6 hours of questioning, has been transferred to a Tuv aimag detention centre. The head of Civil Movement Party, Batzandan is currently at "Gants Hudag" detention centre, and is reported to be on a hunger strike. The government has denied any knowledge or formal declaration of his strike from Mr.Batzandan.
The chaos and confusion continue..
The police take shelter inside the MPRP building as the riots build up outside.
This and other photos from Suuder.com photo blog.
So they have been cleaning up the riot scenes and report to have removed 5 tonnes (!) of rock and stones. News.mn cites this as another evidence of a pre-meditated attack, as the nearby construction site could not have held 5 tonnes of rock. Reminds of people who bring tomatoes and rotten eggs to concerts and games.
And now the hunt for the guilty has begun. J. Batzandan, chair of Civil Movement, and O.Magnai, deputy chair of Civil Movement party, are being questioned for their part in the riots. The police took Batzandan's statement, and has detained him at "Gants Hudag" detention centre, where he is reported to be on a hunger strike. O.Magnai is to be questioned today. It looks as though criminal charges may be pressed against them.
Meantime, Ts. Elbegdorj, defiant as ever, denies rumours that he is being replaced as DP party chairman. E.Bat-Uul's profile on the other hand has improved significantly due to his foresight in urging for a closed Parliamentary session. E. Bat-Uul is next in line for the party chairman seat.
The National Chamber of Commerce & Industry is organizing a charity concert on 8 July at UB Palace club to raise funds for the arts / cultural institutions that suffered losses during the riots. The concert is very inappropriately named "The Flame of Arts Will Never Be Extinguished" (literally translated, it reads "The Fire of Arts").
In a Saturday interview with the press, PM S.Bayar has said that despite their differences, the political parties are trying their best to cooperate and find a lawful and peaceful solution to the election disputes. He speculated that the attack on the MPRP building may have been pre-meditated, as the rioters stole hard disks containing many important information and documents. He has also expressed his concern for the country's youth, citing the number of underaged involved in the riots. Bayar stated that the MPRP is prepared to cooperate with other political forces and carry out vote recounts in constituencies with disputed results, or even hold a re-election if need be. Lastly he mentioned that he does not blame or target any political party for causing / inciting the riots, but added that the situation may have been caused by the petty attitudes of certain politicians. (Source: Unuudur).
The foreign press have started looking for the underlying causes to Tuesday's riots. Some links:
- AFP - "Poverty and unemployment: a trigger for Mongolia poll protests"
- Daily Nation - "FROM THE FAR EAST - Mongolia joins the train of electoral mayhem"
Ok, this article isn't really about the underlying causes of the riots. I just found it amusing at parts, interesting at parts and pointless and even rude at others.
A quote: "Good thing they are not attempting world domination dressed in jeans and T-shirts, and armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails. Genghis Khan would definitely not approve."
Sunday, July 6, 2008
So the state of emergency has been lifted. There seems to be some attempts at reconciliation and resolution to political differences.
According to new.mn, the GEC (General Election Committee) has decided to recount the votes at Khentii Aimag (province) constituency. The opposition parties are demanding vote recounts in 5 other provincial / aimag constituencies. After a meeting of party secretaries, they may demand to have re-election / vote recount in 19 of the total 26 constituencies.
Other suspicious pre-election activities have come to light, including the issuing of 120 thousand (!?!) identity cards during the days leading up to the election. The voters must present their ID cards at the polling stations to vote. Out of 1.5 million regsitered voters, 116 thousand were registered at two or more addresses. According to the report from new.mn, the 116 thousand were made up of 37 thousand people registered at 2-6 different addresses.
The Civil Registration Bureau has stated that they have issued 120 thousand replacement ID's for lost and stolen ID's during 28-29 July. However, the Bureau's reported daily capacity is 500 ID's, leading many to claim that the ID's were prepared much earlier.
It does look like the parties are working to resolve the disputes by peaceful means. PM S.Bayar has stated that the government will take every measure to prevent further violence.
In another news, Unuudur reported that there was an attempt, during the state of emergency, by a Chinese national driving a Toyota to infiltrate UB city's drinking water source. He was reported to be inebriated. I am not sure what to make of it. Is it an attempt by the media to use a drunk driver's blunder to create fear of foreign elements taking advantage of our political turmoil? Of course, if the report is true, it is something to worry about.
All in all, I am not completely convinced of peaceful times ahead. After the "Black Tuesday", as the Mongolians are now calling the day of the riots, Mongolia's political dynamics have changed drastically. Rumours of further riots abound, but then the Mongolian political life is full of unfounded rumours.
Journalists, on the other hand, are questioning the legitimacy of the media black-out during the state of emergency. Many have since pointed out the absence of any clause regarding media during a state of emergency. PM S.Bayar has stated that the law needs further developing. The lawmakers at the time, I am sure, did not expect a state of emergency would ever be declared.
Some links to foreign press articles:
- AFP - "Mongolia lifts state of emergency"
- Reuters - "No quick end in sight to Mongolia political turmoil"
Bayar said it was too early to discuss the formation of a new cabinet until Mongolia's election commission announces a final result in the vote, a move that could come by Monday.
He also said it was still unclear that whether new elections in some areas were necessary, but that his party was not opposed to the idea.
Friday, July 4, 2008
So the official results are out:
MPRP(MAXH) - 45 seats
DP (AH) - 28 seats
Civil Movement (Иргэний эвсэл) - 1 seat
(not positive on the English translation of the name, literally it sounds more like Civil Coalition)
Civil Will Party - 1 seat
Independent - 1 seat
The entire list is available on songuuli.mn, though it's very poorly formatted.
Update: Jaspal of Design Research for Health:Mongolia has posted an extremely helpful map of the official election results for both the aimags and UB-city constituencies. Visit his blog here.
DP's National Executive Committee is scheduled to convene on the 8 July to discuss and appoint special committees dedicated to investigating the election fraud allegations, evidence of violence against and murder of citizens during the riots and the issue of media black-out after the riots.
They also denied the rumours of Elbegdorj's removal as chairman and called it an external attempt to disrupt and create divisions within the DP.
Someone sent me a link to this video of TV25's Voice of Mongolia programme, showing the hand-out of money in Uvs Aimag by the MPRP candidate during the campaign period. He had reportedly handed out Ts10,000 per adult. The programme also includes an interview with J.Zanaa, Director of the National CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) Watch. The video is in Mongolian with no English captions.
According to Thomas Terry of Eage TV, Ts.Elbegdorj has written a letter in English to US supporters today, which is posted in its entirety without corrections on his blog. Excerpts:
I and Democratic Party have no connection to the chaos and violence and it was not even begun by Democratic Party. At the talks of July 1st I told it to S.Bayar and a Democratic Party MP B.Batbaatar suggested at the talks that the fire of MPRP building was done by MPRP itself as its members burnt its flags and covered it up to create public anger against Democratic Party in January 2006 while taking me down from the Prime Minister's post.The letter is peppered with various allegations of fraud and other more serious and wild allegations such as the MPRP burned its own building down to turn public opinion against the DP and minor parties. Whether some of these allegations turn out to be true or not, I personally do not think Elbegdorj is pursuing the matters in the most appropriate manner.
Democratic Party of Mongolia is for fostering democracy and standing on people's side for their better future.
I don't think I have to urge the readers to make balanced opinions after reading the letter. For the full text, visit Thomas Terry's blog.
Update: Further to the post regarding rumours of DP power shuffles, MP E.Bat-Uul, in an interview to news.mn denied the rumours, but stated that he will put his name forward for the party chairman position should the DP decide to remove Elbegdorj from his position.
Al Jazeera English has an interesting article titled "The battle for Mongolia's resources". Excerpts:
Despite being one of the world's poorest countries, Mongolia's large reserves of natural resources have drawn increasing international interest alongside rising commodity prices and the rapid economic growth of China and India.My impression from this election and the general state of politics in Mongolia, is that we don't really have political parties, but a few powerful businessmen vying for power. Ivanhoe shares soared on Monday, the day after the elections, as soon as preliminary results showed a landslide victory for the MPRP. The shares fell after the riots began.
In more than 680 places in Mongolia, deposits of copper, gold, silver, iron ore, phosphor and zinc are hidden below the grassland. Up to 150 billion tonnes of high quality coal are said to be waiting to be mined.
Mongolia has the biggest known coal reserves in the world, the second largest reserves of uranium after Russia and one of the largest occurrences of silver. Its gold reserves are estimated to amount to 3,000 tonnes, copper reserves to over 30 million tonnes.
Raymond Goldie, Senior Mining Analyst with Salman Partners, Vancouver, was quoted as saying "(The project) is now less certain than it was on Monday, but more certain than it was on Saturday, because it seems likely that the governing party will keep its majority." (Source: Salman Partners). What he means, my interpretation, is that another hung parliament would have meant further delays in the agreement finalization, and a change in government would possibly have brought some uncertainties.
So as we all scramble to make sense of the events that unfolded on the night of July 1, various wild theories and speculations are being thrown about as to who really was behind the riots. Some are suggesting that the riots were incited by certain businessmen serving foreign interests in the natural deposits and mining. More to come on these theories tomorrow.
Internal Affairs and Law Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil spoke to the press today, amidst criticism of the decision to shut down all commercial / independent media and the biased coverage of the events on the state TV. He has emphasized that the media black-out will continue during the 4-day state of emergency, and once it is lifted, the press will once again have their journalistic freedom to continue their coverage. He has also stated that there are a significant number of under-age among the detainees, and they will be released to their parents' custody if proven innocent of participation in the violent riots within the next two days. The parents will also have to give reassurances to keep their children away from public areas and gatherings. I am not so sure what he meant by "public areas" and how long they must keep away from these areas.
MP's Kh. Battulga, L.Gundalai and B.Batbayar visited the detention centre at Denjiin 1000 to meet with the law enforcement officials and the police. Reps from the National Human Rights Commission also visited and worked at the detention centre today to monitor and assess the situation. They have yet to issue any press statements regarding the conditions inside the detention centre.
Update:P.Oyunchimeg of the Human Rights Commission gave an interview to the Daily News after her visit. According to her, there are around 26 underaged amongst the detainees and a number of women. Reps from the Commission were at the centre for 30 minutes to observe the situation. She emphasizes that the detainees are being interrogated without any access to legal aid. She goes on to state that she has not observed any evidence of police brutality during her visit. Daily News reports to have received numerous complaints from citizens released from the detention centre of police using scare tactics, physical violence on detainees.
On their website, The National Human Rights Commission states that they have appealed to the Mongolian Assocation of Advocates to provide the detainees with legal representation. [Source:NHRC website]
The police and emergency officials are working to determine the cost of all the damages caused during the riots. A difficult task, I am sure, given the level of destruction and looting at the buildings hit by the rioters. The rioters reportedly looted whatever they could carry and burned whatever they couldn't carry. There have also been reports of rioters carrying out money safes from offices.
The MPRP building was inspected for building integrity and damages today and according to the state inspector, the building is near to collapse. The roof of the building had collapsed and the support pillars had become unstable. The building had 100 rooms, and rioters had looted and burned archive files that contained the MPRP history of the past 80 years. In addition, hard disks were stolen during the riots which contained important party documents.
Aeromongolia travel agency, which was renting an office space at the MPRP building, had reportedly suffered damages of Tg 350-400 million (approx. US$ 300,000 ~ 340,000).
There was another extraordinary / emergency session held today at the Parliament. The only report to emerge from the session: The government will give a grant of Tg 212 million (approx. US$ 180,000) to the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Morin Huur Ensemble and other group of artists who suffered significant losses during the attack on the Central Palace of Culture.
Some rebuilding and reconciliation steps are being taken, though little is being reported on the DP vs MPRP dispute. Ts.Elbegdorj has been in the news during the days following the riots and in my opinion, seems far from reconciliation. Below is a Youtube video of his interview with MNB. He criticizes the government for not preventing the demonstrations from turning violent, and proceeds to accuse the police of using brutality and firing live rounds at civilians at a later stage in the riots. The video is in Mongolian with no English captions.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Rumours abound that the DP held an emergency party meeting today and removed Ts.Elbegdorj from his position as the party chair and instated E.Bat-Uul in his place. Is this possible? These may just be false rumours, considering the removal of Ts.Elbegdorj may reflect poorly on the DP at this point in time. Or is he being led to the sacrificial chamber as DP attempts at some sort of reconciliation? More to come as soon as the rumours are denied or confirmed.
News.mn is back online. Some news briefs:
D.Solongo, head of National human rights commission, sent an official to the Central Police Bureau, reminding them of the basic human rights protected by law and requesting the police to prevent human rights abuses.
President Enkhbayar tasked the UB city head justice to appoint a dedicated judiciary to monitor the current situation.
One of the two gunshot casualities was identified as R.Munkh-Erdene, originally from Dornod Aimag. It is reported he did not take part in the riots and was chased and shot down by the police while he was returning home from his mother's place.
In other news, many valid voting slips were found in a box for invalid / blank voting slips in Dornod's polling stations. The case is being investigated by Dornod police and Internal security.
News.mn's journalist G.Otgonjargal has published a statement urging the media across the country to help in the reconciliation process.
Eagle-TV Mongolia is currently the only source of online video news from Mongolia. Various footages and interviews are posted on their website: www.eagle-tv.mn. Unfortunately for the English readers, the videos are in Mongolian only with no English captions.
The below video is a series of interviews conducted by the Eagle TV reporters at the Denjiin 1000 detention centre. Crowds wait outside the detention centre for news of their family members. Most of them are not even sure if they are inside, as the police have not provided the list of detainee names. Many simply turned up at the detention centre after their family members did not come home after the riots. There are some Eagle-TV footages taken from a nearby hilltop of the groups of squatting detainees surrounded by police officers. The crowd outside claim to have seen the police ordering the detainees into stress positions, beating them with sticks and pipes and threatening violence on the crowd gathered outside the detention centre.
Some 700 are reported to be in detention following the riots.
The emergency Parliamentary session ended at 2am today. While there isn't a whole lot of information flow, one result is the decision to uphold the 4-day state of emergency. News.mn reports that the general atmosphere of the session was peaceful and cooperative. Personally, I am not quite satisfied with that. Here's why. The party leaders were in a rush to shift blames on to each other, and did little in terms of working towards a peaceful resolution of the election disputes.
Ts.Elbegdorj, once again, was in the news blaming the government for attacking and firing at its citizens. He is on the National Security Council along with PM S.Bayar and President Enkhbayar. While I was in favour of his proposals of industrialization and economic reforms (some of it, in any case), the pre and post-riot reports seem to show Ts.Elbegdorj's lack of experience in handling delicate situations. PM S.Bayar, while critical of Elbegdorj and the opposition during the pre-riot election disputes, kept something of a low profile amidst all the finger-pointing. As a Prime Minister, he has far more important things to worry about such as national security.
Unfortunate turn of events that will not do any of the parties any favours. What little public confidence there was in the minor parties and independents have plummetted, as the Republican Party and the Civic Movement are held, in public opinion, directly responsible for the riots. While the leaders of these movements remain unscathed, the police continue to round up civilians for the 72-hour detention allowed by the State of Emergency. Reports of police violence continue to come out of the detention centre at "Denjiin 1000". Photos show detainees squatting in groups in stress positions. Dailynews.mn reports that 4 people died from gunshot wounds during the riots, while the total number of casualties is 7. No firearms were found on those detained. Internal Affairs Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil said there were no orders to the police to use live rounds on civilians. As order is restored little by little, stories of police brutality and use of live rounds are starting to emerge. Currently, there are no official statements on the number of casualties.
There are worrying reports emerging of groups planning on a further demonstrations at the end of the 4-day state of emergency.
International interest in the Mongolian situation is increasing.
A statement was issued by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
"The Secretary-General expresses deep concern at the violence resulting from the recent demonstrations in Mongolia and regrets the consequent loss of life. The Secretary-General deplores the resort to violence to protest the conduct of the parliamentary elections last weekend. He urges all parties to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue, and appeals to all demonstrators to refrain from any further acts of violence. " (source: UN)
In Singapore, the daily free newspaper read by many, the coverage made the front headline.
The Russian government urged the Mongolian political parties to exercise restraint and solve the disputes lawfully.
Photos are also up on the BBC News site here.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Further to a comment on an earlier post, news report of small demonstrations in rural areas after the elections. Most were small demonstrations of 30-40 people outside the polling stations. According to news.mn, minor demonstrations were held at Uvs aimag (all 3 seats to MAXH), Bulgan aimag (both seats to MAXH), Dornod (2 of 3 to MAXH) and Darkhan-Uul (2 of 3 to MAXH). News.mn does not report of any violence at these demonstrations.
News.mn has more detailed preliminary election results on their site along with the percentage of votes that went to each candidate, though it's still not a complete list.
Ts. Elbegdorj, chair of DP, was interviewed during a visit to the injured at the hospitals. He has blamed the government for not doing enough to stop the riots from escalating. He has also expressed his disappointment over the President's move to declare a state of emergency, and the government's decision to shut down all commercial / independent media.
PM Bayar's office has yet to issue any statements. The MPRP media, Unen newspaper blames Ts. Elbegdorj. B.Jargalsaikhan, O.Manlai and others for instigating the riots, and not respecting the results of a democratic election simply because they lost.
Head of Civic Movement, Enkhbat has issued a press statement, denying any involvement in organizing the riots and blaming the government and authorities for causing the riots with the unfair elections.
In other news, the police continue to arrest and detain more people over alleged involvement in the riots. It is reported that the police are identifying suspects from video footages obtained from observers.
The emergency parliamentary session was held as a closed session upon urgings from MP Bat-Uul who feared further violence in the event of an open session going wrong. 68 of 76 MP's were present, and 48 voted in favour of a closed session.
I'm just gonna post snippets of what's happening in general, so it'll be a bit disorganized.
Independent media services, TV and FM radio stations, have all been shut down. Olloo.mn and gogo.mn services have been suspended, I believe, as I cannot access them. The government has deployed police patrols and state troops to secure all strategic assets as a part of the President's decree, including power, water, heating distribution centres, pumps, waste disposal centres, drinking water sources, gas stations, oil storages and main food factories.
The emergency Parliamentary session scheduled at 10am was postponed till later this afternoon, as the National Security Council convened in the morning.
Further to the news about civilians getting shot outside Hospital 1, Amarbold, head of the Central Police Bureau, in a brief interview printed on news.mn, clarifies that the police did not fire live rounds at civilians, and further goes on to state that there are civilians who own firearms and it is not possible to ascertain the source of the fire exchange at this point.
The leaders of Civic Movement and Mongolian Republican Party, O.Manlai, J.Batzandan & B.Jargalsaikhan are hurriedly distancing themselves from any involvement with the riots.
B.Jargalsaikhan of the MRP stated that he had closed off the demonstrations officially and left the grounds at 4pm in the afternoon on Tuesday, an hour or so before the demonstrations turned violent.
A number of cultural centres have been ransacked during the chaos, including the Morin Khuur Ensemble building, Philharmonic Orchestra, Modern Art Gallery and Central Cultural Palace. While the buildings sustained minimal damage, the offices were looted and most of the instruments of the Morin Khuur Ensemble and Philharmonic Orchestra were stolen or destroyed. The National Chamber of Commerce and Industry has set up a donation fund for the public to contribute in the rebuilding process of these cultural centres. Further details are available on news.mn.
The number of dead is now confirmed at 4 though there could be more. There are many injured, some in intensive care in the hospitals.
Lastly, this is probably not the best time to wander about the city if you've had a few drinks. Sale and distribution of alcohol are prohibited during the state of emergency, and the police are quick to arrest inebriated civilians wandering about city centre.
Update: The National Security Council meeting has been postponed till tomorrow, as a Cabinet meeting as well as a Parliamentary session were scheduled for today. Parliamentary session postponed till 5pm today, as many members had not yet returned to the capital from the rural regions after their campaigns.
718 civilians have been detained by the police for questioning. News.mn reports of police using violence on detainees during the interrogation process at a Denjiin Myangat temp detention centre.
Foreign embassies in central Ulaanbaatar have been provided with added security, among them the embassies of Turkey, China, Japan, Russia, Bulgaria and S.Korea.
As of 6am this morning, the riots are subsiding and all the fires in the city have been put out. The MPRP building, in ruins, is still smoking. The rioters threw stones at the fire engines, and set one on fire. One person is reported to have died from smoke asphyxiation in the MPRP building. 2 others during the riots. So far, the damage is 3 dead and 100+ injured.
As expected during any chaos, looting and vandalism have begun. According to some reports, an art gallery was attacked.
In English news, PM Bayar blamed DP's chair Elbegdorj for inciting the violence. "Elbegdorj made the very irresponsible statement of denouncing election results while official results were not yet announced," he said. (Source:CNN) I can't agree with the PM more. I have no doubt that Elbegdorj wanted protests from the public, but this level of violence is quite unprecedented.
Update: Montsame reports that Modern Art Gallery was set on fire, which resulted in the destruction of some rare paintings. The staff at the Gallery were able to save majority of the art, though the total damage is yet to be determined. The Central Palace of Culture was also set on fire, with the offices inside looted.
In other news, rumours abound that the Democratic Party may call an emergency meeting to remove Ts. Elbegdorj from his position as chairman. I wonder where the leaders of Civic Movement and Republic Party are.
Update: 10am, emergency Parliamentary session convened. Only state media allowed in.
Around 480 civilians have been detained and are being questioned by the police. Nearly 400 police officers were injured during the clashes with the rioters.
During the 4 days' state of emergency, sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. There's a curfew set around the central city area between 10pm to 8am. Anyone entering the city centre without proper ID during the curfew hours may be detained by the police and held up to 72 hours.
The university entrance registrations have been officially postponed in Ulaanbaatar until the situation stabilizes.
Update: News.mn reports that around 1.40am today shots were fired into the crowd outside State Hospital 1. According to the nurses and doctors, riot police dressed in protective gear were firing live rounds at a group of protesters outside the hospital and injured 20 people, of whom 2 died. I do not know how accurate this report is, but I hope it is not true.
12am, President Enkhbayar is set to declare a state of emergency for 4 days, and has ordered the military on a stand-by. No further details are available at the moment.
The rioters attacked the MPRP headquarters in a bulldozer and have now taken to Sukhbaatar square. The riots escalated further and the Sukhbaatar police headquarters were attacked just earlier.
Update: State of emergency has been declared in Ulaanbaatar for 4 days. As of midnight, there are still around 500 protesters at Sukhbaatar square (with their bulldozer taken from the Shangri-la construction site). The government has ordered a shutdown of all television channels except for the national TV.
Update: The first 4 floors of the MPRP HQ are ablaze. The building has been evacuated according to news reports. Eagle TV reporters are stuck on the roof (see Thomas Terry's blog, link below).
Design Research for Health: Mongolia has a firsthand account of the riots.
Eagle TV has been covering the riots live, and have received threats from the authorities to stop their coverage. Thomas Terry's blog (of Eagle TV's) has an update on the events surrounding Eagle TV.
Update: The rioters have set fire to Sukhbaatar district HQ & the Registrar's office. The rioters have reached the University of Arts & Culture (SUIS), just behind the city square.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
So here we are, I get home after work and check the news and this here happens. Violence and riots. Around 20,000 protesters have gathered outside the MPRP headquarters and have started setting fire and throwing stones. Around 6.20pm today, violence erupted between the rioters and armoured police who have started shooting at some of the protesters with rubber bullets. Before the riots started, S.Bayar was holding a press conference at the headquarters and according to the last report on news.mn, the reporters are stuck inside. The Democratic Party is alleging election fraud and demand a recount.
International observers and media say that the election was fair from their observation, but unfamiliarity with the new voting system (multi-member constituencies) may have led to confusion and mistakes in the vote counts.
The official results of the election are not yet out, though preliminary results show a clear victory for the ruling MPRP.
Ts. Elbegdorj, chairman of the Democratic Party, is meeting with the members of National Security Council, who include President Enkhbayar and PM S.Bayar. Earlier today, around 6pm, the Democratic Party had requested for police protection of their headquarters, expecting counter-attacks from MPRP supporters who may blame the DP for inciting the riots. The riots are believed to be organized by Citizens' Movement group and Mongolian Republican Party.
As of 9pm, the situation outside the MPRP headquarters is not stabilizing as rioters continue to throw Molotov cocktails at the burning building. The police are said to be receiving further enforcements to deal with the situation and have started arresting protesters. A number of journalists and police have been injured during the clashes, though no numbers have emerged from the chaos.
10pm, President Enkhbayar has issued a press statement urging for peaceful and lawful resolution to the disputes. He has also hinted that as the President, he may be forced to declare a state of emergency should the riots continue.
10pm, the rioters have broken into the MPRP headquarters and have started burning the building from the inside. Around 70 people have been injured and taken to the hospitals.
10.40pm, Unuudur reports that those interviewed at the hospital claim to have been paid in cash and alcohol by the DP to join / incite the riots. Many of the injured rioters at the hospital are reported to be inebriated. The rioters earlier broke into the duty free store near the MPRP headquarters.
International news coverage:
- BBC - Clashes in Mongolia poll protest
- AFP - Violent protests erupt in Mongolia amid poll dispute: witnesses
- Associated Press - Violence follows Mongolia election
- Reuters UK - Opposition alleges fraud in Mongolia vote
Preliminary results and a list of names are available from News.mn here (in Mongolian). The minority parties are conspicuously absent from the list of elected. Not a single seat. There is one independent on this list. Our Foreign Minister S.Oyun (Civil Will Party) is running for the last of 4 seats against a DP nominee in UB's Songinokhairkhan district. This move from the "first-past the post" system to a multi-member constituency system has confused many people. The change in the electoral system combined with the large number of minority parties may have cost DP the election, with many votes going to independents and minority parties.
The Democratic Party is expected to hold a press conference at 12pm today to issue public statements disputing the election results.