Daily News-April 01- 2001- Sunday

  • Human Rights Draws Royalty
  • Shots fired at Thai army copter
  • Seven ancient cannons presented to Defence Services Museum
  • Myanmar Mountaineering Team to scale Phungam Ice Mountain
  • UN human rights envoy to make first trip to Burma in this week
  • Shooting not directed at Thai planes, says Thai army

  • Human Rights Draws Royalty

    The Hartford Courant
    March 31, 2001

    The queen of Jordan strode into the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art Friday wearing a simple but elegant two-piece suit, which was fitting because she came to deliver a simple but elegant message.

    "It's a real pleasure for me to be here to help in the effort to steer the world toward justice, humanity and democracy," Queen Rania Al-Abdullah said before a packed hall of Trinity College officials and other guests.

    The queen, wife of Jordanian King Abdullah Bin Al-Hussein and an energetic advocate for the world's disenfranchised,came to Hartford to celebrate the first presentation of the college's new Human Rights Award, part of its groundbreaking human rights program.

    The award was presented by Trinity President Evan S. Dobelle to two teachers and an activist's wife from Myanmar, the Southeast Asia country formerly known as Burma.

    The three recipients - Daw Thida Htway, U Ye Tint and Daw Khin Khin Leh - could not accept the award in person because they are in prison for their efforts to organize a freedom movement in their homeland.

    Instead, the award was accepted on their behalf by Zar Ni, a Myanmar dissident-in-exile who is active in trying to get the world to pressure the Myanmar government to accept democracy.

    "It is obvious that the generals [who run Myanmar] feel most threatened by educated, liberal-minded people who have the power to influence minds," Ni said. "The fight must continue."

    The queen, a 30-year-old former banker who married the king in 1993, said she admired Trinity's human rights program and its director, Maryam Elahi, who met the queen during a visit to Jordan a few years ago. Elahi's program is believed to be the first in the nation to offer an undergraduate minor in human rights issues.

    "I'm here to draw inspiration from your achievements and your vision," said the queen, who later planned to travel to Washington, D.C.

    While Jordan's new queen highlighted the plight of the Myanmar prisoners, news of the arrest in China of an American business professor was breaking around the world.

    Li Shaomin, who teaches at City University of Hong Kong, is the second teacher with American ties arrestedin the past six weeks. The other, Gao Zhan, a Chinese citizen accused in February of spying and detained in China, is a political science teacher at American University in Washington.

    The Wadsworth program was the inauguration of what will be an annual college campaign to spotlight persecuted teachers around the world and lobby for their release from prison or detention.

    "Let's shine a light," said Elahi, a one-time lawyer for Amnesty International. "It's so important for us sitting in such a secure place where we have total freedom of expression in our jobs and lives. Elsewhere, people at the forefront of human rights have no protection."

    Journalists and students are typically thought of first as people at risk for abuse by oppressive governments. But global watchers say the freedoms afforded academics is their primary barometer of human rights.

    "By profession, their work is to question and analyze important social topics," said Saman Zia-Zarifi, director of the Academic Freedom Program for Human Rights Watch. "Professors are under pressure to toe the government line."

    But when those teachers step out of line, said Zia-Zarifi, a former Associated Press reporter in Iran, governments target them for treatment that sets an example for their colleagues. "They are frequently arrested, tortured and fired from their jobs for what they've written or what they've said."

    On many levels, human rights workers at Human Rights Watch and at Amnesty International say, governments consider scholars to be their greatest threat because they are well-informed and able to see through government propaganda. And, very importantly, professors have prestige, the ear of the media and access to large groups of students who can be mobilized for human rights campaigns.

    "They have an ability to create a following," said Curt Goering, deputy executive director for Amnesty International. "Historically, in movements for social change, students around the world have been at the core - even in the United States."

    It's that student activism that Elahi began tapping when she created the Trinity program just over two years ago.

    The event at the Wadsworth was broadcast live in Myanmar via Voice of America. In addition to Trinity officials, the event also was attended by former U.S. Rep. Sam Gejdenson and Hartford Police Chief Bruce P. Marquis, whose department helped provide security for the queen.
    Shots fired at Thai army copter

    source : The Bangkokpost

    Chiang Rai- Unidentified troops yesterday fired on an army helicopter over Ban Pang Noon in Mae Fah Luang district, border officials said yesterday. There was no report of death or injury.

    The troops, suspected to belong to the Rangoon-allied United Wa State Army, fired machine guns at the cargo helicopter while flying over the Thai-Burmese border.

    The shooting was reported at about 2pm, prompting security to be stepped up in the area where a Thai ranger outpost at Ban Pang Noon was seized by Burmese troops on Feb 9.

    Meanwhile, some 300 hilltribe villagers from Burma yesterday fled across the border. Concerned authorities have provided them with temporary shelter, according to the border officials.
    Seven ancient cannons presented to Defence Services Museum

    source : NLM

    YANGON, 30 March-Seven ancient cannons found at Andaman sea bed in the area between Pathein lighthouse and Thamihla island were transferred to Directorate of Defence Services Museum and Historical Research Institute this morning.

    Two of the cannons were first found and salvaged by divers catching lobsters in the area in Ngapudaw Township, Ayeyawady Division, on 21 December 2000. The divers, fishermen from Kyaukchaung and Khamaukmaw villages in the township, salvaged one more cannon on 23 December.

    According to the information on the finds, personnel of the regional Tatmadaw naval force combed the sea floor in the area and found one ancient cannon on 7 January this year and two more, one each, on 19 January and 2 February respectively.In addition to the three more finds by the Navy, Army personnel of the regional battalion also salvaged one ancient cannon in the area on 2 January 2001.

    The seven ancient cannons will be displayed at Defence Services Museum. Cmdr Win Shein of Tatmadaw (Navy) and Maj Toe Maung Aye of Southwest Command explained the salvage of the cannons. Staff Officer of research Division of DDSMHRI U Zaw Zaw also explained historical records of the cannons.

    Director of DDSMHRI Col Ye Htut accepted the cannons from the representatives of the respective bodies. The ceremony held at the Directorate was also attended by Cmdr Than Htaik of Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Navy), military officers and guest.
    Myanmar Mountaineering Team to scale Phungam Ice Mountain

    source : NLM

    YANGON, 30 March -Chairman of Myanmar Olympic Committee Minister for Sports Brig-Gen Thura Aye Myint handed over State Flag to leader of Mountaineering Team of Myanmar Mountaineering and Hiking Federation at Padamya Hall of National Indoor Stadium-l in Thuwunna this morning.

    Mountaineering Team of Myanmar Mountaineering and Hiking Federation will scale the 11,500 ft high Phungan Ice Mountain in Putao Distinct, Kachin State.

    Present were officials of the Ministry of Sports, President of Myanmar Mountaineering and Hiking Federation leader of Mountaineering Team Rector Dr Paing Soe and members.Minister Brig-Gen Thura Aye Myint made a speech on the occasion. Then, Minister Brig-Gen Thura Aye Myint handed over the State Flag to Dr Paing Soe. Dr Paing Soe spoke words of thanks.

    The Mountaineering Team of MMHF comprising 20 mountaineers climbed the 13,350 R high Mount Eimawbon in Hsawlaw Township, Myitkyina District, from 5 November to 1 December 2000. The Mountaineering Team of MMHF made up of 103 mountaineers climbed the 10,500-ft high Mount Victoria mountain in Kanpeelet Township, Mindat District,Chin State, on 20 December 2000. The Mountaineering Team of MMHF comprising 41 mountaineers win climb the 11,500 high Phungan Ice Mountain in Putao District,Kachin State.
    UN human rights envoy to make first trip to Burma in this week

    BANGKOK, April 1 (AFP)

    The United Nations' new human rights envoy is to visit Burma for the first this time week, in a new sign of the junta's willingness to begin cooperating with the outside world.

    Brazilian academic Paulo Sergio Pinheiro received the green light to fly into Rangoon just weeks after his appointment, while his predecessor Rajsoomer Lallah quit last year after never visiting the military-run country.

    Diplomats have hailed Pinheiro's visit as another indication that a remarkable political shift is underway in Burma, where the generals have begun meeting behind closed doors with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "This is a very positive sign," said one observer. "They need to normalise their relations with the international community."

    They noted the junta's move came ahead of the UN general assembly on human rights in Geneva next month, and after last year's damning resolution by the International Labor Organisation which caused deep concern in Rangoon.

    The talks with Aung San Suu Kyi have created a sense of "cautious optimism" that the two sides may be able to negotiate a power-sharing agreement and a longed-for transition to democracy after a decade of political deadlock.

    In a significant show of good faith, the junta has ordered the official media to halt its vicious personal attacks on the Nobel peace laureate and has toned down its rhetoric against her National League for Democracy (NLD).

    A batch of 14 opposition NLD politicians - elected in the 1990 ballot the junta has refused to recognise - was released over the weekend in an apparent gesture to mark Pinheiro's expected arrival Tuesday, and more are expected.

    The UN special rapporteur, whose so-far discreet approach to the job has been welcomed by the junta after the outspoken Lallah, is also considered likely to be given permission to visit Aung San Suu Kyi.

    However, dissident groups warn the public relations blitz must soon yield real results, or risk dashing newly-raised hopes and alienating the ethnic minority groups who have so far been left out of the nascent dialogue.

    Their frustrations have been amplified by the fact the talks have been held under strict secrecy, with the junta characteristically tight-lipped and Aung San Suu Kyi withholding details even from close NLD aides.

    The opposition leader has been confined to her Rangoon home since September but by all accounts has freely chosen to comply with the restrictions which are designed to build much-needed confidence between the two sides.

    "Honeymoons don't last for ever, eventually they will have to deliver," said Debbie Stothard from the activist alliance Altsean-Burma.

    "There's growing concern that the military has not delivered any visible progress on the talks," she said, noting that six months into the process there was still evidence of continued arrests, and atrocities in ethnic areas.

    Stothard warned that dissidents in the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia would soon take action unless the junta proved it was not merely using the talks as a tool to shield itself from criticism.

    "I would speculate that there will be an increasing wave of activism until concrete result are made. They cannot dash these hopes by just talking and not doing anything to help these people."

    Both dissidents and diplomats generally agree that reported "leaks" coming from the talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, including suggestions that she has agreed not to play a personal role in any civilian government, are unreliable.

    "I don't think anybody, either in the Burmese political world or in the international community in Rangoon has anything like that sort of information about what's going on," said one senior diplomat.

    "It seems to me that it's not very credible to suggest that either side would be giving up major concessions at this very early point in their negotiations on these sort of issues, like an amnesty for the military.

    "Of course they are the very issues that need to be resolved but they are also issues that are going to be extremely difficult and take a long time to work out."Other observers in Rangoon note that although the ethnic minority groups must eventually be the third partner in any political settlement, their resentment in the meantime could derail the extremely delicate process.

    "The government is feeling rather apprehensive at this stage. These guys always react negatively if they feel they are being pushed, so people should be handling this situation with velvet gloves," one said.
    Shooting not directed at Thai planes, says Thai army

    Source : Bangkok Post

    There were no Thai military planes flying along the Burmese border on Friday when anti-aircraft fire was heard from the Burmese side, a senior Third Army officer said yesterday.

    Col Akkadej Songworawit, commander of a special task force, said he received a report from a unit at Ban Pang Noon post, near Mae Fah Luang district, that soldiers heard 30 bursts of anti-aircraft fire from the Burmese side.

    "We don't know what they fired on. It could be an aircraft, but it for sure wasn't ours," he said.

    The ranger outpost at Ban Pang Noon was seized by Burmese troops on Feb 9, resulting in fierce clashes when it was retaken.

    A source said the United Wa State Army and Burmese military are continuing to reinforce their outposts along the border from Ban Pang Noon to Doi Ko Wan, close to the Shan State Army base.

    The nearest Wa base is only about 300m from the Ban Pang Noon base.