Daily News-April 06- 2001- Friday

  • Thai-Burma ties on the mend: Thaksin
  • Burmese TV accuses Thai paper of inaccurate reporting on joint border talks
  • Burmese refugees not ready to return
  • E-mail Users in Burma
  • 54 Burmese fishermen to be deported on 6th April
  • Aung San Suu Kyi faces new eviction threat from Rangoon home
  • Daewoo Int'l To Supply Burma Crude,Worth $150M
  • Activists Seek Release OF 83-year old Burmese Detainee
  • Burma says visit of UN rights envoy "constructive"
  • Malaysia says Peter Hee Man won't be deported to his home country

  • Thai-Burma ties on the mend: Thaksin

    source : The Nation

    PRIME Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday said ties with Burma were on the mend after highlevel talks aimed at defusing tension following the crossborder shelling along the northern border more than a month ago.

    The two sides had agreed to work together to eliminate drug trafficking along the border, said Thaksin, briefing reporters on the outcome of the recently concluded Regional Border Committee meeting.The meeting, cochaired by Third Army commander LtGeneral Wat¬tanachai Chaimuanwong, was the first in two years.

    One of the issues apparently agreed upon by Rangoon was that Burma will give Thai officials and media access to the muchdiscussed village of Mong Yawn, which the Thai government believes is a production centre for methamphetamines.

    “It is the beginning of a good sign. I believe we will improve our understanding after I visit Myanmar [Burma],” Thaksin said.

    The premier did not set any date for such a visit, but Foreign Minister Surakiart Satirathai will travel to Burma later this month for an informal retreat for Asean foreign ministers and their Chinese, South Korean and Japanese counterparts.

    Wattanachai said the tension along the border is expected to calm as the buildup of forces on both sides pulls back. The two sides also agreed to hold local level Township Border Committee talks at least once a month, to prevent any future problems from getting out of hand, he said.

    Bilateral relations have fallen to a low ebb since the shelling. The trouble began after fighting between Burmese government troops and rebel Shan State Army soldiers spilled over on to Thai soil. Burmese troops took over a hill on which a Thai Ranger unit was positioned, forcing the Thai Army to retaliate with mortar fire the following morning. The incident triggered a daylong round of crossborder shelling between the two sides, as well as a lengthy war of words between Wattanachai and the Burmese government. The Thai commander accused a number of Burmese officers of taking kick¬backs from Wa allies, reportedly the world’s largest armed drugtrafficking group.

    Speaking to reporters yesterday, Wattanachai said Burma will give Thai officials and media access to Mong Yawn in an effort to dismiss allegations that the town is the source of millions of methamphetamines flooding Thailand. Mong Yawn is just a few kilometres from the Thai border along Chiang Mai’s Mae Ai district.

    “This is what they said,” the outspoken Wattanachai told reporters. He appeared to be taking a wait and see attitude towards the idea.

    Wattanachai’s comments came one day after his return from Keng Tung, where he cochaired the Regional Border Committee meeting aimed at soothing the hard feelings between the two sides following the border clash more than a month ago.

    Mong Yawn was created by the United Wa State Army, one of Burma’s rebel outfits that signed a ceasefire agreement with Rangoon in 1989 in return for limited autonomy. However, it was not clear whether the UWSA would permit access to Thai authorities and media to the area. Normally, even Burmese troops are required to disarm themselves and obtain permission from the UWSA before entering areas under the ethnic group’s control.

    The town, which consists of a small hydroelectric dam, a school, a hospital and other infrastructure, is believed to have been built by the UWSA’s drug money.Until it was shut down by the Army a year ago, the San Ton Doo border crossing in Mae Ai district was the main link up between the area and Thailand.

    Thai authorities were forced to shut the border following the killing of nine Thai nationals from nearby Fang district, whose bodies were scattered along the border. The incident was believed to have been linked to a drug deal gone bad.All fingers were pointed at Mong Yawn and the UWSA.
    Burmese TV accuses Thai paper of inaccurate reporting on joint border talks

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Apr 5, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese TV on 4 April

    The 18th Meeting of the Myanmar [Burma]-Thailand Regional Border Committee was held in Keng Tung from 2 to 4 April. The defence services of the two countries discussed matters relating to the eradication of narcotics, border issues, the return of illegal immigrants and the promotion of tourism.

    The discussions were based on goodwill and mutual respect between the two defence services and avoided touching on complicated matters. Regarding these discussions, news reports carried in the 4 April 2001 issue of Bangkok Post in Thailand are not in conformity with the facts discussed at the meeting and the paper reported incorrect information. News about the border issue discussed at the meeting was erroneously reported by the newspaper.
    Burmese refugees not ready to return

    source : THE HINDU

    IMPHAL, APRIL 3. Members of the All-Burma Students' League and pro- democracy activists who fled to Manipur in 1988 are not in undue haste to go back to Myanmar.

    Leaders of these activists told TheHindu recently that most of those who chose to return were ``killed'' while others were incarcerated on trumped up charges. Apart from students, there were nine doctors, two veterinarians, three engineers, seven MPs and 20 teachers among the refugees.

    The Indian Government had opened a refugee camp at Moreh, a border town, to lodge them. A majority of them had, however, gone to Mizoram. The students have enrolled in schools and colleges in and around Imphal. Some of the professionals are working for a pittance.

    Dr. Aung Kyaw Oo, was a private practioner in Myanmar. He could not get a Government job simply because his parents were Communists. He is in charge of health and education of the activists of the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, western Burma. He is running an improvised ``clinic'' in Moreh where poor Myanmarese nationals come for treatment. It is a ramshackle two- room house. With a tin roof. It has a clinical table and three small wooden beds with faded linens.

    Dr. Oo told this correspondent that the poor patients give him pumpkins, sweet potatoes and rice. The costliest item he has so far received is a rooster. Most of the time he has to pay up to enable the patients to buy medicines.

    Mr. Ko Myo, in charge of the Moreh branch of the All Burma Students' League regrets that India and other countries are not helping them in the struggle for restoration of democracy in Myanmar.Initially, the refugees were lodged in a newly- constructed house at Moreh. But Burmese intelligence and Army personnel sneaked into Moreh with the common traders and threatened the refugees. The Government then shifted the refugees to a new camp 50 km inside Manipur.

    The students and pro-democracy activists frequently take out processions at Moreh to demand restoration of democracy in their country. `Friends of Burma,' also organises meetings and demonstrations in and around Imphal raising the same demand.
    E-mail Users in Burma

    Rangoon, April 4, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com )

    While the Internet and electronic mail (Email) have become an easily available mean of communication for people in many countries around the world, it is still a tightly-controlled business privileged to a few ones in this military-run country. At present, the Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT), which is one of the departments of Ministry of Communications,Posts & Telegraphs, control all the Email accounts in the country.

    Besides military generals and their associates, some private companies such as members of Myanmar computer entrepreneurs association, hotels and travel tours can apply to get Email accounts.

    But in applying Email account, they have to submit the documents such as company registration certificate, type of modem, the reason for the use, etc. But the most important thing to do is to “hook” someone in the Junta and bribe him, which in turn, will make it easier and faster.

    At present, a common citizen cannot get an Email account at all. There are also some business groups, which are using others’ Email accounts, as their companies do not have own Email.

    Moreover, there are four or five shops in Rangoon downtown, particularly on Pansoedan Street in Kyuaktadar Township, which give you email service to send or receive messages. Kyat 300 (US $ 0.6) for one-time use either for sending or receiving! But you will have to make sure yourself that there is nothing on politics in your email messages because all these shops are strictly surveillanced or controlled by the country’s notorious military intelligence.
    54 Burmese fishermen to be deported on 6th April

    Calcutta, April 3, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com )

    The 54 Burmese fishermen who have been illegally detained at Calcutta jails for about two years will be released and deported to their country on 6th April, said jail authorities in Calcutta, West Bengal of India.

    According to the Presidency jail officials, the Government had ordered purchase of new shoes and clothes for all the 54 Burmese fishermen and air tickets have also been booked for flying them to Burma on 6th April.

    Mr. P. B. Chowdhury who is working for the Burmese embassy affairs in Calcutta confirmed the report that the Burmese fishermen will be deported on 6th April. He said that Burmese authorities will provide expenses for shoes and clothes for the fishermen while the air tickets expenses are being provided by the Indian government.

    Meanwhile, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by an Indian legal activist seeking action taken report from the Indian Foreign and Home Ministry on the Burmese fishermen is coming up for hearing on the 9th April 2001 before the Supreme Court of India.

    Deepak Prahladka, a Calcutta-based Legal Activist, stated in his petition that on the 26th July 1997, total 63 (9 Thai and 54 Burmese) fishermen were arrested for illegally entering Indian territorial water and detained in Calcutta jails. On the 20th September 1999, a Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate at Tamluk, West Bengal, India convicted all the 63 fishermen under section 14 of the Indian Foreigner’s Act and sentenced them to suffer Rigorous Imprisonment for 2 (two) years and also directed that the period of detention of the 63 fishermen be computed and set off by the jail authority accordingly.

    The Magistrate also directed that since all the 63 fishermen have already suffered sentence of imprisonment ordered (which expired on 25th July 1999) all of them be pushed back and/or deported to their respective homeland immediately. The Magistrate also sent copy of the aforesaid order to Indian Foreign and Home Ministry and all other concerned for deportation of the 63 fishermen in compliance of the said order and directed the local police to file the compliance report by the 4th October 1999. In view of the said order dated 20-9-1999, nine Thai fishermen were released from the jail and deported to their country but the remaining 54 Burmese fishermen are still illegally incarcerated in Calcutta Presidency and Alipore Jail.

    Prahladka stated that 54 Burmese fishermen were legally entitled to be released from jail and deported to their country but the Indian Foreign and Home Ministry have not taken any steps for their release from jail and deportation to their country.

    He also stated that illegal incarceration of 54 Burmese fishermen not only violates their human rights and Article 21 of the Constitution of India but also constitutes criminal contempt of subordinate court and also causes pecuniary loss to Indian public exchequer as the jail authority had to feed all of them at the cost of the Indian public. However, all of them are also entitled to compensation for illegal incarceration.

    Prahladka stated further that 54 Burmese fishermen have been rotting in jail for about two years and in May 1998 they were brutally beaten up during a fight between them and guards in jail and now some of them have also become HIV positive and AIDS patients and are likely to spread serious diseases in jails.

    “Even if they are released prior to 9th April, I shall proceed with the petition for compensation for all the 54 fishermen for their illegal incarceration, says Prahladka.
    Aung San Suu Kyi faces new eviction threat from Rangoon home

    Rangoon, April 6 (AFP)

    Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces a new threat of eviction from her lakeside home after her brother re-launched legal action over the property, legal sources said Friday.

    US-based businessman Aung San Oo's first bid to claim half-ownership of the house, where Aung San Suu Kyi has been confined for the last six months, was dismissed on a technicality by a Burma's court in January.

    His legal team, led by lawyer U Han Toe, has now filed an application for the "right of administration" over the property which it had omitted in the original legal action.

    The Rangoon Divisional Court has set April 23 for the first hearing into the claim.

    Representatives of Aung San Suu Kyi's legal team, led by lawyer U Kyi Win, are expected to visit her Friday to brief her on the developments, sources in Rangoon said.

    As a US citizen, Aung San Oo is not entitled to own property in Burma and if he wins the case is expected to turn his half-share over to the government.

    A decision in his favour could see the Nobel peace laureate evicted from the home which was once owned by their late mother Khin Kyi, who died 12 years ago.

    Ironically, the legal action has been lodged a time when relations between Burma's junta and the opposition leader are believed to be at their highest point in years.

    The two sides have engaged in a series of high-level contacts that appear to be preparing ground for the launch of a landmark official dialogue -- their first since 1994.

    Aung San Oo has never played a political role in Burma but makes regular low-key personal and business trips here. While not overtly political, he is far less critical of the junta than his sister and the two are not close.

    The legal action is believed to be driven by Aung San Oo's wife, motivated more by a family rift than political concerns.

    Nevertheless, there are fears that if the suit is successful it could derail the tentative dialogue which remains at an extremely delicate stage.

    During the first legal action the democracy leader lamented the decision to take the matter to the courts, saying through intermediaries that it could have been settled privately.

    In another sign of the political thaw in Burma, the military regime gave the green light for the UN's new human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to pay a three-day visit here this week.

    Pinheiro departed Thursday after meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi as well as senior members of the junta.

    The Brazilian academic is the first UN human rights envoy to be allowed into Burma in five years. He replaced Rajsoomer Lallah who quit last year after never being given permission to travel to Rangoon.
    Daewoo Int'l To Supply Burma Crude,Worth $150M

    Source : Dow Jones

    SEOUL--South Korea's Daewoo International, the former trading unit of Daewoo Corp. (Q.DWO), has concluded an agreement to supply crude and petroleum products worth $150 million to state-run Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprise, Daewoo International said Friday.

    The South Korean trading company will begin providing a total of 3 million barrels of crude, 700,000 bbl of gasoline and 600,000 bbl of diesel starting this month, with the deal ending in March 2002, the company said in a statement.

    For this agreement, Daewoo will buy crude from Malaysia's state-run Petroliam Nasional Bhd (P.PET) and gasoline and diesel from companies in Singapore, the company said.

    Daewoo International, under its former name Daewoo Corp., posted $330 million in sales from trading crude and petroleum products last year and hopes to raise the amount to $360 million this year, the company said.

    Daewoo Corp. was split into two separate companies - Daewoo International and a construction company, Daewoo E&C - as part of corporate reform. Daewoo International was spun off from Daewoo Corp. in December last year.

    Daewoo Corp. was one of 12 Daewoo Group (Q.DWG) units that were placed under a debt workout program by its creditors in 1999.
    Activists Seek Release OF 83-year old Burmese Detainee

    BANGKOK (AP)--Activists appealed Friday for Burma's ruling military to release an imprisoned 83-year old supporter of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a statement said.

    Saw Mra Aung, who was elected to parliament in the 1990 general elections and whose results were ignored by the military, has been detained since 1998, said Altsean, a Thailand-based non-governmental group that campaigns for democracy in Burma.

    Altsean accused the Burmese regime of holding the world's "oldest political prisoner."

    The group said Saw Mra Aung would be 93 this April. Election records incorrectly show his date of birth as 1908. His family in Burma said he is actually 83.

    The appeal for his release was delivered by Altsean to a session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Thursday, the statement said.

    It follows the first visit by a U.N. human rights rapporteur to Burma in five years, amid signs the government wants to improve its international reputation.

    In recent months, it has freed more than 100 members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, after secret talks began between Suu Kyi and the regime, offering hope of reconciliation after a decade of political deadlock.

    The NLD swept the 1990 elections. In September 1998 it founded an alternative parliamentary committee because the military ignored its demands to convene Parliament. Saw Mra Aung was elected president of the committee after his arrest in April that year.

    The establishment of the committee was a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the regime, which has since detained dozens of opposition election-winners, mostly from the NLD.

    The government contends that Saw Mra Aung and the other detainees aren't prisoners as they are held at state "guest houses" where officials reportedly try to persuade them to resign from the party. The family says Saw Mra Aung can visit them at home every two weeks.

    Saw Mra Aung had won a parliamentary seat in Mrauk Mrauk-Oo constituency in western Arakan State in the 1990 elections but his party, the Arakan League for Democracy, was banned by the government in 1992.
    Burma says visit of UN rights envoy "constructive"

    Rangoon, April 6 (AFP)

    Burma's ruling junta said Friday an historic three-day visit by the United Nations' new human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was "constructive."

    "We consider the visit of Mr. Pinheiro as constructive. We have cooperated with him to our utmost," Burma's foreign ministry said in a statement to AFP.

    "We regard him as an honest person and hope that his reports to the human rights commission will reflect the reality and truth prevailing in the country," it said.

    The visit, hailed as a sign of a diplomatic thaw in the military-run country, culminated in a meeting Thursday with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her Rangoon home, where she has been confined since September.

    The envoy left Rangoon later Thursday for Bangkok, en route to Geneva, after a wrap-up meeting with Foreign Minister Win Aung.

    On Wednesday Pinheiro was allowed to call at the headquarters of the opposition National League for Democracy where he held hour-long talks with senior members, including party elder U Lwin.

    The Brazilian academic is the first UN human rights envoy to be allowed into Burma in five years. He replaced Rajsoomer Lallah who quit last year having never being given permission to travel to Rangoon.

    Sources close to the talks said that, in contrast to the outspoken Lallah, Pinheiro had adopted a non-confrontational approach which won plaudits among the notoriously touchy generals in Rangoon.

    During his three-day trip the envoy met top members of the ruling junta, including its number-three, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt.

    The general has met Aung San Suu Kyi several times over the past six months, apparently as part of a confidence-building process that could clear the way for their first official dialogue since 1994.

    The secret talks have raised cautious hopes that the two sides may be able to negotiate a power-sharing agreement and a transition to democracy that would end a decade of political deadlock.

    Pinheiro's visit has been welcomed as a sign of the ruling State Peace and Development Council's new willingness to begin cooperating with the outside world.

    Diplomats note the trip came ahead of this month's UN general assembly on human rights, and after last year's damning resolution by the International Labor Organisation which caused deep concern here.

    During his visit, Pinheiro met Home Affairs Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing, Labour Minister Major-General Tin Ngwe and representatives of Rangoon's business community.

    His tight agenda included discussions with representatives of the ethnic nationalities, whose sanction would be crucial in any transition to democracy.

    On Wednesday the envoy travelled outside the capital to a controversial gas pipeline which the junta's critics say has been built at the cost of gross human rights violations against local people.

    The Burmese regime has been singled out as one of the world's worst human rights offenders, responsible for political repression, torture and forced labour within its borders.

    The UN Human Rights Commission last year passed a resolution expressing grave concern at the "systematic and increasingly severe" rights violations in the country.
    Malaysia says Peter Hee Man won't be deported to his home country

    Source : The Straits Times

    KUALA LUMPUR---A Burmese pro-democracy activist who staged a protest in Kuala Lumpur will be deported, but he will not be sent back to his home country, a security official said yesterday.

    'Just like any other Myanmar detainee, he will be deported to the Malaysian-Thai border in a month,' said Mr Nasri Mokhtar, head of the centre where the detainee, Peter Hee Man, is being held.

    The activist was arrested with three Malaysians on March 27 after some 20 protesters gate-crashed a Burmese Embassy party and removed their shirts to reveal T-shirts carrying an image of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The Malaysians were detained overnight and released, while the Burmese activist was held in police custody.

    He was moved to a detention centre for illegal immigrants in Malacca on Tuesday.

    Human-rights groups have urged the government not to deport him to Burma, saying they feared for his safety at the hands of the military junta.