Daily News-April 02- 2001- Monday

  • Khin Nyunt Shakes Up Burmese Media
  • Rangoon seeks Karens after deaths of soldiers, engineers
  • Bangladesh rifels, NASAKA exchange fire
  • India's solidarity with Burmese democratic movement
  • Bangladesh national arrested with fake currency notes in Western Burma
  • Thailand and Burma begin border dispute talks
  • China Appoints New Ambassador to Burma
  • Thai Agenda For Border Talks
  • British POW victim's daughter wins battle with Burma
  • Burma Says Lack Of Development Aid Is Causing Migration

  • Khin Nyunt Shakes Up Burmese Media

    source : The Irrawaddy news magazine
    By Maung Maung Oo

    March 30, 2001-- Recently, the Burmese military junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council [SPDC], has been talking about improving the quality of state media. At recent meetings and conferences, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary One of SPDC, has called for media people to participate more fully in the information age along with other Asean nations.

    Responding to Khin Nyunt's speeches, the Myanmar Consolidated Media Company launched a Burmese version of the Myanmar Times last week. Its target is middle class Burmese, intellectuals, and businessmen. The English version of the Myanmar Times was launched last year, and is edited by Australian Ross Dunkley, who had previously set up the Vietnam Times in Vietnam. The new Burmese version sells for 195 kyat (approximatee US$0.40 cents).

    "The Myanmar Times provides a window to information. It will allow the country's diversity, and its potential, to be analyzed and discussed in a forum which emphasizes quality and style," said editor Dunkley. "This is a new era for Myanmar, and the right time for a publication of this type." The Myanmar Times journal covers the current political situation and government policies.

    Initially, it is widely believed that intelligence officials from the Office of Strategic Studies [OSS] have been involved behind the scenes in establishing the paper, as they want to ensure that it promotes the country's image. The paper covers some sensitive political issues and is well-presented, though opinions of the government are favored.

    "I think the people will be interested in this journal because Burmese people are hungry for fresh news," said a businessman in Rangoon. "People don't believe the state-run papers." In Burma, privately owned journals and magazines are not allowed cover political issues.

    Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt gave guidance to improve the presentation quality of state-run newspapers at a meeting of the News and Periodicals Enterprise of the Ministry of Information on 26 March. In the meeting, Khin Nyunt stated that, "Though the present government is controlled by the Tatmadaw (army), press freedom is being granted to an appropriate degree; publication of over 100 private periodicals has been approved; and publication of new private journals is also being permitted."

    "The presentation of newspapers should be improved, both in form and content, to attract the public." the general said. He also told staff at different levels to pay close attention when they are dealing with news and photos. "An incorrect translation of a news report or a missing letter or word in a news report may result in an opposite meaning," he warned.

    Two years ago, it was rumored that two Burmese journalists were allegedly tortured to death after a picture of Lt. Gen Khin Nyunt was placed above a headline about "world-famous crooks" in the Burmese-language newspaper, The Mirror.

    Reporters Sans Frontiers [RSF] expressed its grave concern about these rumors, and called for an investigation, but so far, no one has been able to confirm what actually took place. The regime of course denied the allegations, but it is known that intelligence officers arrested several members of the Mirror's staff and interrogated them.

    State-run newspapers The Mirror [Kyemon] and The New Light of Myanmar have also set up a printing press in Mandalay, the second largest city in Burma, to promote their distribution in Upper Burma. Until recently, the people in Mandalay received the papers in the late afternoon or the next day. Currently, there are four state-owned newspapers in Burma.
    Rangoon seeks Karens after deaths of soldiers, engineers

    BANGKOK March 31 Kyodo - Myanmar's junta deployed three battalions of special forces equipped with mortars, armored cars and helicopters to the eastern border near Thailand's Three Pagoda Pass in Kanchanaburi Province following an offensive by Karen rebels that left 10 Myanmar soldiers and two engineers dead, Thai officials at the border said Saturday.

    The Karen National Union (KNU) rebels launched a guerrilla attack on Friday against a construction team building the Phayathonzu-Thanphyuzayut highway in eastern Myanmar, taking two engineers hostage.

    Myanmar's military then deployed a group led by Capt. Saw Tin to rescue the hostages, but after heavy fighting the government troops lost the two hostages and another 10 personnel, including Saw Tin, is said to be a nephew of Gen. Muang Aye, secretary one of Myanmar's ruling junta.

    The KNU is the largest rebel group in Myanmar and has been fighting for autonomy since 1949.
    Bangladesh rifels, NASAKA exchange fire

    The Daily Star

    BSS, Cox's Bazar-Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Myanmar Border Security Force, NASAKA, exchanged several rounds of fire for about an hour when BDR men chased a trawler loaded with smuggled goods coming from Myanmar on Thursday, BDR sources said.

    They said the shootout began when a BDR patrol team, led by Captain Ferdous, challenged the trawler that tried to enter the Bangladesh territory through the Naf River at about 12 noon.The sources said the trawler ignored the BDR signal and tried to flee towards Myanmar.

    The NASAKA men from Myanmar side first opened fire on the BDR team that was chasing the escaping trawler.

    The BDR team returned fire after necessary permission from the higher authority but the trawler managed to escape under the covering fire of NASAKA force, the sources said.

    During the hour-long encounter, NASAKA fired over 100 rounds of shots while BDR returned 69 shots, the sources said, adding that there was no casualty on the BDR side.
    India's solidarity with Burmese democratic movement

    New Delhi, March 31, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com )

    The participants of a two-day seminar on the democratic movement in Burma, which ended this evening in New Delhi, have expressed their support to the on-going talks between Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and military junta. They also decided to step up their campaign for the restoration of democracy in this neighboring country of India.

    A seminar on "Peace, nonviolence and democracy in Burma: Voices from India" was held at India International Centre in New Delhi from 30th to 31st March.

    Speaking at the seminar, a Raja Sabha (Upper House) Member of Parliament and senior journalist Mr. Kuldip Nayar criticized the current policy of Indian government toward the military junta there.

    "I feel very strongly when I find our foreign minister talking to the leader of military junta coming to here. In fact he had polluted our Rashtri Bhawan (President's Residence)", he said at the first day of seminar yesterday.

    During the two-day deliberations, other Indian participants echoed this view. Well-known Gandhian Ms. Nirmala Deshpandey, expressing her solidarity to the people of Burma, said:

    " For us, the struggle in Burma is the struggle of India as well. Because democracy is like that. If you want the population-free country, you cannot have one population country. You have to have population –free the whole world".

    Prof. Ashis Nandy, who is a senior fellow of the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in Delhi said that the history has shown that large democratic countries like democracy but they do not like democracy in their neighbors. They may support democracy if it were a distant country but not in neighbors because democratic regimes are notoriously difficult to manage.

    In his message to the seminar, prime minister of the exiled Burmese government, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma expressed that the Burmese democratic movement has not been able to achieve the support and sympathy as much they had hoped for from India.

    "I cannot help but notice India stepping up its trade and economic relations with Burma. This move, from the perspective of Indian interests, has been hailed as "correct" by many Indian journalists. In our view, economics should not be the only justification for pursuing self-interest, especially if the result is a prolongation of the suffering of the Burmese people", he said.

    Expressing his support to the talks in Rangoon, the well-known peace activist and Founder of International Network of Engaged Buddhists Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa from Thailand cautioned the Burmese democrats the negative and positive elements of the "democracy" we know today. Giving examples of so-called democratic countries both in the West and East, he asked the Burmese participants to be clear on what kind of democracy they want in Burma.

    The other speakers included Mr. Lian H. Sakhong who is the Secretary of United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD), Dr. Tint Swe, Member of Parliament from Burma, Dr. Zaw Win Aung from the Federation of Trade Unions, Burma and Ko Myat Thu, a Burmese exile in India.
    Bangladesh national arrested with fake currency notes in Western Burma

    Dhaka, March 29, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com )

    A Bangladesh national was arrested with several fake Burmese currency notes last Sunday in Rakhine State, western part of Burma. On the 25th of this month, a resident of Railapara Village near by Taknaf town in Bangladesh was arrested by Na Sa Ka (Burmese Border Control Unit) in Maungdaw town with fake 1000 Burmese currency notes worth of Kyat one lakh, according to sources in Maungdaw.

    Meanwhile, Burmese currency Kyat has plunged into sharp decline in exchanging with Bangladesh Taka and the businesspersons from Bangladesh are not willing to accept the Kyat due to the continued slump of the Burmese currency.

    Burmese Kyat tumbled down to a new all time low of Kyat 920/930 to 100 Taka last Monday at Taknaf, a Bangladesh border town with Burma.

    Burmese Kyat has been suffering continued slide in the exchange with Taka since 1988. Before 1988, the exchange rate was Kyat 100 to Taka 150. The slide in exchange rate accelerated in the past few years and it has now reached to a point that traders do not want to accept Burmese currency in the border trade.
    Thailand and Burma begin border dispute talks

    BANGKOK, April 2 (AFP)

    Thailand and Burma Monday began talks aimed at resolving a serious border dispute sparked by warring ethnic armies in the drug-producing region, which threatens to further alienate the two sides.

    The high-level Regional Border Committee convened Tuesday for the first time in two years, for a three-day meeting to be held in Kentung on the Burmese side of the border.

    A Thai army source said the 32-member delegation led by Third Army Commander General Lieutenant Wattanachai Chaimeunwong left on schedule early Monday for Kentung, where they will stay for the duration of the talks.

    A virtual media blackout has been imposed, and little news of the discussions is expected to be released until the delegation returns to Thai territory on Wednesday.

    Wattanachai is expected to raise a number of issues including the drugs crisis as well as the urgent matter of the influx of refugees and illegal workers into Thailand.

    Border demarcation disputes and perennial fighting between ethnic minority groups in the region will also be on the agenda, the army source said.

    "We expected to make some progress during the meeting. We have not talked for two years and that is why the problems have multiplied," he said.

    Wattanachai is also to travel to the Burmese capital Rangoon Wednesday, he said, adding the army commander was expected to meet with senior officials there but that the itinerary has yet to be finalised.

    Thailand-Burma relations are at a low ebb since border clashes which broke out on February 11 set off a war of words between them.

    Two sessions of the lower-level Township Border Commission have failed to ease strains sparked by the fighting that saw stray shells rain down on the important Mae Sai-Tachilek crossing, killing several civilians.

    The checkpoint has been closed since Burma's troops pursuing ethnic rebels strayed into Thailand, prompting retaliation by the Thai army and a tense month-long standoff between the two sides.

    Thailand tried to re-open its side of the Mae Sai-Tachilek crossing earlier this month but Burma's officials said they had had not been consulted over the move and refused to follow suit.

    The clashes also set off abarrage of angry allegations between the two countries over the production of methamphetamines on Burma soil by Rangoon-allied ethnic militias.

    Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Burma's Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win held private talks focussing on the recent border clashes on the sidelines of a meeting in Chile last week.
    China Appoints New Ambassador to Burma

    Source : Asia Pulse

    BEIJING, April 2--- President Jiang Zemin announced on March 30 the appointment of new ambassadors to Burma and nine other countries, in accordance with a decision made by the National Peoples Congress Standing Committee.

    Li Jinjun was appointed the new ambassador to Burma, replacing Liang Dong.
    Thai Agenda For Border Talks

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The Third Army Region commander wants to forge closer ties with Burmese military leaders at the Regional Border Committee meeting, which begins today after three years of postponements.

    The talks, in Burma's Kengtung town, will be the first dialogue between the two neighbours since the recent border standoff involving Thai and Burmese troops in Chiang Rai.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuengwong, Third Army commander, emphasised efforts to forge closer personal ties with his Burmese counterpart Lt-Gen Thein Sein.

    Informal talks will be held on the golf course during the two-day meeting.

    A source said Lt-Gen Wattanachai would seek the release of two Thai soldiers captured by Rangoon in return for the hand-over of 40 detained Burmese soldiers.

    The committee agreements are due to be signed on Wednesday.

    On the Thai agenda are four areas requiring urgent bilateral attention:

    - The introduction of demilitarised zones on the border in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, pending negotiation on border demarcation.

    - Joint suppression of drug production bases along the border.

    - A request for Rangoon to take back Burmese refugees who fled border fighting. Burma will also be asked to ensure illegal workers ejected from Thailand do not re-enter the country.

    - Fishery concessions, carried over from the committee meeting in Phuket in 1988, will also be tabled for further discussion.

    The commander is also planning to pay a courtesy call on Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, secretary one of the State Peace and Development Council, and Gen Maung Aye, the army chief. His schedule would change should he be denied an appointment.
    British POW victim's daughter wins battle with Burma

    Source : The Daily Telegraph (U.K)

    THE ashes of the widow of a soldier who died in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp are to be scattered at his grave after her daughter won an eight-year battle with the Burmese authorities.

    Ida Smith, who died in 1993 aged 77, was never able to visit the grave of her husband, Bill, a lance corporal who was captured during the fall of Singapore and died in December 1943, working as slave labour.

    After repeated attempts to obtain a visa to honour her mother's last wish to be reunited with him, Carol Cooper, 61, has finally been granted one. She and her husband, Ron, will make the journey to the cemetery at Thanbyuzayat, Burma, later this month.

    "My mother could never have afforded to go to the grave herself and, in any case, the government in Burma banned visitors for many years," said Mrs Cooper, from Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth. In 1996, Mrs Cooper reached Thailand before being refused entry into Burma. "I was absolutely devastated," she said.

    She will take with her a 104-page diary inscribed to her mother in which her father, who served with the Royal Norfolk Regiment, recorded the horrors of life as a PoW working on building the "Railway of Death" through Burma and Thailand.

    Entries tell of forced marches to remote jungle camps and of epidemics of cholera, dysentery, beri-beri and malaria. In June, 1943, Lance Cpl Smith wrote: "It has rained every day since I have been here. It's hellish, mud everywhere. Food shortages. Two meals of half a mug of gravy and half a mug of rice."

    Two weeks later, he observed: "There have been 167 deaths this month so far and the record was 28 in one night. It is simply a case of murder . . . The poor chaps are simply stripped and dumped eight to a grave."

    The last entry, written on Dec 8, 1943, nine days before he died, says simply: "At the present time having a bad spell with malaria."
    Burma Says Lack Of Development Aid Is Causing Migration

    Rangoon (AP)--Burma's immigration minister appealed Monday for more development assistance and international cooperation to protect the rights of refugees and displaced persons."One of the root causes of irregular migration is lack of development, therefore relevant international assistance and collaboration are essential," said Saw Tun, minister for immigration and population.

    He was speaking at a two-day meeting in Rangoon on the problem of displaced persons and cross-border migration. Officials from six nations of the Mekong sub-region - Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam - are attending.

    Most countries stopped giving aid to Burma, after a violent military crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988.

    "Myanmar wishes to stress the importance of international cooperation and responsibility sharing in protecting the rights of refugees and migrants," said Saw Tun.

    He said that problems related to "irregular migration" across the world "will not arise if all countries respect each other's sovereignty, existing laws and international practices."

    Hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic minority villagers have fled military-run Burma for Thailand, Bangladesh and other neighboring countries in the past two decades, often claiming mistreatment by Burma's forces.

    International human rights groups say civilians have escaped fighting between government forces and ethnic insurgents or forced relocation. Many more have migrated illegally to find work or have been displaced inside Burma.

    Burma says it is trying to develop border regions where minorities live but is starved of development assistance.