Daily News-April 07- 2001- Saturday

  • UN envoy's hope for Burma
  • UN Envoy Speaks Of `Cautious Optimism' On Burma
  • UN Envoy’s Visit Clouded by Prisoner’s Plight
  • Bid for ethnic groups to join Burma talks
  • Japan May Provide Aid To Burma
  • Burma Destroys 8,603 Hectares of Poppy Fields in 2000-01
  • India Releases 59 Fishermen From Burma
  • Morocco and Burma agreed to foster coordination
  • Thailand to test Junta's promise

  • UN envoy's hope for Burma

    source : BBC

    The United Nations human rights envoy to Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, has expressed hope about the country's future.In an interview with the BBC, Mr Pinheiro said there was "cautious optimism" about events unfolding there.

    After a three-day visit to the country, where he met senior military government officials and the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mr Pinheiro said there appeared to be movement on the issue of Burmese democracy.

    "My impression of the atmosphere in the country is that there is a cautious optimism, a very pragmatic approach of what is happening," the envoy told the BBC.

    Mr Pinheiro is in Geneva where he is making a report to the Human Rights Commission.He said it was important that the international community gave support to the UN's efforts in the area.

    Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy, has been kept under virtual house arrest by the military regime since September last year.

    Glimmer of hope

    Mr Pinheiro's visit to Burma was the first by a UN human rights envoy for more than five years.He said that he had been impressed by his meetings with Burmese officials, including the minister for foreign affairs, the minister of labour and "the very interesting human rights committee that was established inside the government viewing a possible establishing of national institutions".

    He said he was particularly impressed by the intelligence chief Khin Nyunt's attitude.

    "For some time he was praising the importance of the opposition, the value that the opposition could give to the process of democratisation... It is a very limited impression but I think that that is the message - something is happening. Perhaps it is important not to let this moment escape," Mr Pinheiro suggested.

    The military in Burma took over in 1988 after suppressing a pro-democracy uprising. They refused to honour the result of elections in 1990, which were won by the National League for Democracy.
    UN Envoy Speaks Of `Cautious Optimism' On Burma

    GENEVA (AP)--A U.N. human rights investigator gave an upbeat assessment Friday that Myanmar's military government may be about to loosen its iron grip over the country.

    "What the government conveyed to me is the possibility of democratization, of civilian government, of the guarantee of basic freedoms, the strengthening of civil society and the freedom of political prisoners," said Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

    Pinheiro, a Brazilian politics professor, was the first U.N. human rights investigator to be allowed to visit Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in five years. He met with senior members of the military junta and with opposition figures including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for more than six months.

    "There is cautious optimism by all parties that something is happening," Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told journalists upon his return from a three-day visit to Myanmar. "Every person I met conveyed this impression." He stressed that this included opposition figures.

    Pinheiro insisted that he had no information about secretive reconciliation talks which recently began between top generals and Suu Kyi - their first apparent face-to-face meetings in six years. He said he had made no inquiries because it wasn't in his mandate.

    However, the fact that the junta gave Pinheiro free access was taken as a sign of a softer position toward the opposition movement.

    "The government was perfect, very courteous and professional," Pinheiro said. "The government was very respectful in references to the opposition...I think that is important progress."
    UN Envoy’s Visit Clouded by Prisoner’s Plight

    source : Irrawaddy News Magazine
    By Min Zin

    April 6, 2001--As the United Nations' newly appointed special rapporteur on human rights in Burma concludes a three-day visit to Rangoon, opposition sources inside the country are once again drawing attention to the plight of an ailing political prisoner.

    Dr Than Nyein, a well-known political prisoner who has spent the past four years behind bars in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, is suffering from a host of serious health problems and is in need of immediate hospitalization, according to a National League for Democracy (NLD) source in the Burmese capital.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the first UN human rights envoy to visit Burma in five years, wrapped up three days of meetings with top government and opposition leaders on Thursday. He and three other UN officials had a ninety-minute discussion with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, and met with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, Secretary One of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), earlier in the week. Details of Pinheiro’s findings have not been released.

    While observers have greeted Pinheiro’s visit as a further sign of improvement in Burma’s political climate, many opposition members have expressed concern about the fate of political prisoners who remain behind bars.

    According to an NLD source close to Dr Than Nyein’s family, he is now suffering from heart disease, cirrhosis, hypertension, a swollen prostate and other serious medical conditions. "Now he badly needs hospitalization for all diseases he is currently suffering," said the inside NLD source.

    In fact, Than Nyein has frequently been hospitalized in the Insein Prison hospital since his imprisonment. "In the middle of last year he was transferred to the guarded ward of Rangoon General Hospital to receive intensive treatment. His spleen was taken out when he was hospitalized," added the source.

    Than Nyein is an NLD Member of Parliament representing Rangoon Division’s Kyauntan Township. He was arrested in 1997 for accompanying Aung San Suu Kyi on a trip to a township NLD office in Rangoon that was blocked by the military. He was one of eight NLD organizers, including three MPs, arrested at the time. Seven of them, including Than Nyein, were given seven-year prison sentences for their involvement in the incident.

    Than Nyein is also the brother-in-law of Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the third highest placed member of the ruling junta. The general’s relatives reportedly strongly opposed Than Nyein’s arrest, since he is not only the elder brother of Khin Nyunt’s wife, Dr Khin Win Shwe, but also directly related to Khin Nyunt himself. According to a source close to the family, Khin Nyunt’s mother-in-law is a very powerful member of the family who frequently urged Khin Nyunt not to arrest her son.

    However, since Than Nyein was actively engaged in NLD activities and Khin Nyunt’s power within the junta was at a low ebb at that time, Than Nyein was thrown in jail.

    "A few days before Dr. Than Nyein was arrested, Khin Nyunt showed up at a big official meeting saying that for the sake of the country he would do anything. That was a final signal, after some earlier harassment at his medical clinic by the MIS (Military Intelligence Services), that Khin Nyunt would not block his arrest," remarked a close friend of Than Nyein.

    "Khin Win Shwe, the sister of Dr Than Nyein, usually omits her brother’s name whenever she happens to fill in forms that require the names of family members," added the close friend.
    Bid for ethnic groups to join Burma talks

    source : The Nation

    UN special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail will visit Thailand early next week to promote the idea of a "tripartite dialogue" incorporating representatives of ethnic minorities into the ongoing talks between the military junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a source.

    The move comes after a series of meetings - the first in six years - between the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, which many hope will bring about a genuine national reconciliation.

    The eventual inclusion of ethnic minorities is regarded as pivotal, as it is widely believed that without such input, any reconciliation effort would flounder in a diverse country like Burma.

    However, the question remains as to which representatives would be acceptable to all minorities.Rangoon has reached cease-fire agreements with almost all armed rebel groups except the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army.

    Razali, a Malaysian career diplomat, is set to meet with Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and other Thai officials on Tuesday, the source said. The meeting between Razali and Surakiart will be a follow-up to their meeting in Kuala Lumpur last month. During next week's meeting, both sides will exchange views on developments in Burma's political scene and the outcome of the recent Regional Border Committee (RBC) meeting.

    The discussion will be held after the first visit in almost five years to Burma by a UN human-rights rapporteur, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. During his visit, Pinheiro met with both sides of the political divide.

    Thailand and Burma also broke their diplomatic ice last week when Surakiart met Burmese deputy foreign minister Khin Muang Win on the sidelines of an inaugural gathering of ministers from East Asia and Latin America in Chile.The Thai minister is scheduled to fly to Rangoon at the end of the month to attend the Asean foreign-ministerial retreat. He will then stay for another two days at the invitation of his Burmese counterpart, Win Aung.

    The RBC meeting in Keng Tung concluded with Burma pledging to cooperate with Thailand on drug suppression, provided Bangkok provides details and locations of illegal drug factories. The two sides also agreed to diffuse the military stand-off and stop exchanging tirades through the media. Meetings at township and regional levels will be held regularly as a preventive measure and to build confidence.

    Meanwhile, Burma's new ambassador to Bangkok, Myo Myint, will take up his post next week. The 51-year old former aide to intelligence chief Khin Nyunt and former ambassador to Singapore has been posted here before, at the consular department, and is said to be well-informed about Thai affairs.
    Japan May Provide Aid To Burma

    WorldNews.com, Fri 6 Apr 2001

    Japan may provide Myanmar (Burma) with about $23.89 million for humanitarian aid and pave the way for full resumption of official development assistance (ODA), which it halted in 1988, Reuters notes Jiji news agency reported yesterday.

    The aid will be aimed at repairing a power plant and also to promote dialogue between the country's military regime and pro-democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Jiji said.

    Japan has provided Myanmar with technological aid and grants for humanitarian purposes since 1995, but has held off from resuming full-fledged assistance since Myanmar's military crushed a pro-democracy uprising.

    But last month, notes the story, Kyodo news agency cited officials as saying that Tokyo was considering resuming full ODA because it saw a softening in the military government's stance. Myanmar has been requesting Japanese support for such projects as dam and road construction, domestic media said.
    Burma Destroys 8,603 Hectares of Poppy Fields in 2000-01

    source : People daily

    The Myanmar authorities destroyed 8, 603 hectares of poppy fields out of 32,644 hectares illegally cultivated in the fiscal year 2000-01 which ended in March, state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Friday.

    In the previous fiscal year of 1999-2000, the authorities destroyed 4,450 hectares of poppy fields out of 36,634 hectares cultivated.

    Meanwhile, the authorities are also taking action against money laundering out of drug trade, the report said, adding that a new money laundering law, which is in conformity with those of the international community including the neighboring countries, has been drafted and is being finalized for promulgation soon.

    The paper stressed the need to make thorough studies and give education on drugs to local people in border areas in the country's bid to wipe out narcotic drugs.

    To promote the local people's anti-drug awareness and to root out poppy cultivation and narcotic drug production, trafficking and abuse, Myanmar has built and opened a narcotic drug eradication museum in Laukkai of Kokang region in northeastern Shan state in December 2000.
    India Releases 59 Fishermen From Burma

    CALCUTTA (AP)--India on Friday released 59 Myanmar fishermen after they had spent four years in jail for straying into Indian waters, officials said.The government is arranging a special flight to send them home later Friday.

    The coast guards had caught 59 fishermen from Myanmar and four from Thailand for illegally fishing in the Bay of Bengal in 1997. All of them were officially released two years later; but while the four Thais returned home in 1999, the fishermen from Myanmar continued to be kept in jail as their identities couldn't be established.

    Police first took Myanmar fishermen to be Thais. However, the Thai government refused to accept them. Police later found that they were from Myanmar.
    Morocco and Burma agreed to foster coordination at international organizations

    Arabic News

    Morocco's minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Mohamed Benaissa, received in Rabat on Wednesday U Pe Thein Tim, ambassador at Myanmar's foreign ministry.

    The two men agreed to foster coordination between the two countries at international organizations and develop relations between the two countries.

    The Myanmar diplomat is visiting Morocco, part of a tour that led him to Pakistan and Egypt.
    Thailand to test Junta's promise

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Precise locations of three drug production plants along the northern border will be passed on to the Burmese military junta, so they can be destroyed, the Third Army commander said yesterday.

    The three methamphetamine plants were believed to belong to the United Wa State Army, Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong said. There were at least 60 similar plants just across the border inside Burma.

    Most were run by the UWSA, internationally recognised as the biggest drug traffickers in the Golden Triangle.

    Thai army intelligence about their locations would be given to the Burmese government through the Township Border Committee for further action.

    "We will gradually hand them the information about drug production plants along the border area," he said.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai said he was told that Burmese security forces would soon destroy two methamphetamine plants near the Wa township of Mong Yawn, following a tip-off from the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

    At last week's Regional Border Committee meeting in Kengtung, Burmese officials promised to help destroy drug factories located inside Burma, provided Thailand gave them precise information on their locations.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai said his brief meeting in Rangoon with Burmese army commander Gen Maung Aye helped create a new atmosphere that could lead to more border co-operation, especially on the drugs problem.

    The Burmese military chief had rejected widespread suspicions the junta was directly involved in the drug trade and had collaborated with the Wa in producing a massive amount of methamphetamine.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai said he was satisfied with the border meeting. He had the chance to frankly discuss a number of security issues with Maj-Gen Thein Sein, the Burmese triangle region commander who headed the Burmese delegation.

    A source said Burma had asked for and been denied permission to cross into Thailand in pursuit of Shan State Army rebels.

    Rangoon had rejected a Thai proposal seeking compensation for damage to life and property after Burmese forces in Tachilek opened fire on Mae Sai border town in early February, the source said.