Daily News-April 18- 2001- Wednesday

  • Amnesty International steps up Burma rights campaigan
  • Sign up to end Canadian complicity in forced labour
  • Arakan League for Democracy (Exile) held third congress
  • World Students Fast for Jailed Student Leader
  • Amnesty publishes list of 458 political prisoners in Burma
  • U.S. financial service Citigroup draws criticism on Burma, predatory lending
  • Three Burmese charged with killing Thai skipper

  • Amnesty International steps up Burma rights campaigan

    Australian Broadcast Corporation News

    Amnesty International says it's stepping up its campaign against human rights violations in Burma amid signs military rulers there were responding to international pressure.

    The human rights group said recent contacts between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy were among a number of positive signs international pressure was working.

    In a statement, Amnesty said although the situation in Burma remains grave, recent signs that international pressure may be having some effect was an opporunity to heighten the campaign for human rights.

    Amnesty said it had published its first ever list of political prisoners in the country, detailing 458 cases, to boost its campaign.

    Amnesty said the junta allowing the International Committee for the Red Cross to visit prisons was also a good sign, as was the recent visit to the country by the UN's new human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

    The group said 30 imprisoned activists were released prior to that visit earlier this month.
    Sign up to end Canadian complicity in forced labour

    Apr 14 (CNS) - Burma activist Aaron James has set up a public petition addressed to Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley, urging the government to take stronger action to end forced labour in Burma.

    The petition calls for Canada to introduce full economic sanctions against Burma and to take a lead role in supporting the International Labour Organization's efforts to end forced labour in Burma.

    In a letter appealing for support, Aaron James says that Canadian companies such as Reitman's, Saans, Wal-Mart and Ivanhoe Mines have been profiting from military rule in Burma.

    Ninety-eight persons have signed up in the two weeks since the petition was first posted. To find it and sign on, follow the link:

    Arakan League for Democracy (Exile) held third congress

    New Delhi, April 13, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com )

    The Arakan League for Democracy (Exile) ended its five-day Congress today in New Delhi, committing itself once again to strive for the establishment of a genuine Federal Union of Burma based on equality and self-determination of all the nationalities.

    Delegates of its members living in Bangladesh, Thailand, India, United Kingdom, USA and Japan attended the third congress, which was held from April 9 to 13.

    “Denial of political equality and the right to self-determination of nationalities by the successive fascist Burman chauvinistic military rulers is the root cause of the nearly 50 year-long civil war and internal strife of Burma”, said a statement issued at the end of the congress.

    The Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) was formed in 1989 in Burma and it won eleven parliamentary seats in the 1990 general elections. It was, however, deregistered by the ruling military government. Its party leaders were arrested and some escaped to exile.

    The third congress elected a new 11-member Central Committee led by Khaing Aung Wunn.
    World Students Fast for Jailed Student Leader

    By Tin Maung Htoo
    Burma Media Association (Canada Branch) 17/4/01

    A global action demanding for the immediate release of imprisoned Burmese student leader steps up today with a daylong fast in ninety universities around the world, a move seemed to draw attention on the occasion of Burmese New Year that comes today in Burma.

    Hundreds of college and university students from the U.S, U.K, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Austria take part in the fast and demand for immediate and unconditional release of student leader, Min Ko Naing, who has been detained for twelve years so far.

    In the United States, some American students are to carry out their fast in front of the Burmese Embassy in Washington D.C. "We refuse to stand by silently while Burma's brutal regime continues to imprison Min Ko Naing. We call on our fellow students throughout the world to forgo food for twenty-four hours in solidarity with Min Ko Naing", stated in the press release. It also denounced corporations doing business in Burma saying the greedy multinational corporations profit from the persecution of the Burmese people and continue to prop up Burma's brutal military dictatorship.

    "We ask students to boycott all goods made in Burma and to pressure your universities to cease investing in and purchasing from corporations that operate there."

    In a similar move, some NGOs gathered in Manila sent out a letter dated on April 5 to the Burmese military leader, Senior General Than Shwe, urging the deliverance of Min Ko Naing and other political prisoners during this auspicious occasion.

    "We understand that the Burmese New Year falls on April 17. We also know that it is the local tradition to release birds and fish on this day in order to gain merit."

    While various actions are taking place around the world, web petition campaign is becoming one way to draw outside attention on his condition. A Norway-based International Student Festival in Trondheim (ISFIT) lunched a web petition campaign shortly after it awarded 'Student Peace Prize' to him. So far, over a thousand of students and student leaders including human rights advocates and social justice activists from about seventy countries have thrown their support for his release by signing on the web petition. Rights and Democracy, Montreal-based organization that also offered 'John Humphery Freedom Award' to him in Canada, conveyed the same effort on its web site. Remarkably, ten thousands of postcards collected by various student and lobby groups in Canada were delivered to Burmese Embassy in Ottawa but the embassy officials are still quiet to confirm on the matter.

    With growing international attention, the People in Need Foundation (PINF) in Czech Republic also announced that they would honor 'Homo Homini Award' to Min Ko Naing in later this mouth "for his exceptional courage in defense of the values of peace, democracy and human rights," said in its related press.

    Moreover, the American Senate also passed a motion creating 'Min Ko Naing Scholarship Fund' and that was reportedly pending for the president's approval.

    Min Ko Naing, the most prominent student leader in Burma, is supposed to be freed in 1999 after serving the sentence inflicted to his leading role in 1988 democracy movement but still being detained without clarification for further detention. A year ago he was transferred to Rangoon's Insein prison to Arakan State's Sittwe prison, an act of isolation from outside world and systematic tactic to cut off the incoming international attention to him.

    In the related development, Lord Alton of Liverpool raised this issue to his government whether they know the whereabouts and health of Min Ko Naing at U.K Parliament on April 18, 2000. The government representative, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, answered the question.

    "Our Embassy in Rangoon has obtained confirmation that Min Ko Naing is in Sittwe prison. He is said to be in reasonable health, is allowed outside exercise and regular family visits." However, the latter news reported on early this year edition of Mizzima News, an India-based Burma exiled media group indicated that his health condition was deteriorating due to the long time solitary confinement. "He has to totally depend on iron bars of the prison to walk even a few feet and he suffers from severe pains of his lower body. If it goes on like that, he will soon be a handicapped person", it cited on the account of a former political prisoner who was released in a few months ago from the same prison.

    Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of democracy movement, also expressed concern for his state of well-being when she delivered a videotaped message to awarding ceremony for him in Canada. She also pointed out the difficulties of his family to go and see him in prison since he was moved to hundreds miles away from Rangoon where his family live.

    # The list of universities participating in the fast can be viewed at
    # Web petitions can be seen athttp://www.isfit.org/peaceprize
    Amnesty publishes list of 458 political prisoners in Burma

    Source : MSMBC / South China Morning Post

    BANGKOK, Thailand---Amnesty International has published its first extensive list of political prisoners in Burma as part of a new campaign to pressure the military regime to improve a ''grave'' human rights situation.

    The list of 458 prisoners, among 1,850 held in Burma, includes people penalized for peacefully demonstrating, telling jokes, distributing or possessing uncensored leaflets or videos and talking to foreign journalists.

    In a statement received in Bangkok on Wednesday, the London-based rights group said it has stepped up its campaign for human rights in the country, amid signs that ''international pressure may be having some effect.''

    Political tensions in Burma, have eased since the start of secret meetings in October between democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime.

    The talks are regarded as the most significant dialogue between the two sides in a decade, since Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy swept general elections in 1990 but was barred from taking power. Hundreds of her supporters have since been jailed.

    The regime had recently released some prisoners, including more than 30 in April before the first visit in five years by a United Nations human rights investigator to Burma. Another 85 were released before a European Union delegation visited in January.

    ''Although these releases are a step in the right direction, 1,850 political prisoners are still behind bars in various detention centres around the country,'' the statement said.

    Amnesty said it would lobby foreign governments and investors and would appeal directly to the Burmese government to release sick or elderly prisoners of conscience, improve prison conditions, stop torture and halt forced labor.

    The list of 458 prisoners includes students, politicians, doctors, farmers, teachers, journalists, writers, lawyers and housewives. It is not comprehensive as access to information on individual cases is difficult to obtain, Amnesty said.

    Among the prisoners are comedians Pa Pa Lay and Lu Zaw who were given seven year prison sentences in 1996 after a performance at Ms Suu Kyi's residence when they satirised the military authorities. Their trial was conducted inside prison in the northern city of Mandalay and they were denied any legal representation, Amnesty said.

    Suu Kyi herself has been under house detention for the past six months after she tried to travel outside Yangon in defiance of travel restrictions.
    U.S. financial service Citigroup draws criticism on Burma, predatory lending

    NEW YORK, (Reuters)--- A parade of critics turned out at Citigroup Inc's annual meeting Tuesday to assail the company on issues ranging from the financing of projects in Southeast Asia to its lending practices in poor U.S. neighborhoods.

    A small protest outside was marred by one arrest, but the meeting itself was conducted peacefully, despite the convergence of a wide range of groups.

    Speaking from the stage of the venerable Carnegie Hall concert hall, Sanford Weill, the company's chairman and chief executive, responded that the financial services giant shared the concerns of the critics.

    In all, five resolutions submitted by activists were soundly defeated.

    Citigroup, the biggest U.S. financial services company, after racking up record profits in 2000, saw profits decline in the first quarter as the stock market's slump took a toll on its key investment banking business.

    Weill told shareholders the current business environment was ``more difficult'' with a buildup of business inventories and consumers cutting back.

    He said it was hard to tell where the bottom will occur but said he hoped the Federal Reserve would continue its policy of cutting rates.

    He also pointed out the 10-year record of Citigroup and its predecessor, Travelers Group, saying investors have been rewarded with a stock that has appreciated nearly 39 percent per year over the decade.

    Citigroup shares rose 97 cents, or more than two percent, to close at $47.92 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The shares have ranged from a high of $59.13 to a low of $39 over the past 52 weeks.

    Asked about a resolution to increase the authorized shares to 15 billion from 10 billion, Weill said it could facilitate a stock split. Shareholders approved that resolution by a wide margin.

    The 67-year-old executive was not asked, however, about his 2000 compensation, which at approximately $28.6 million was nearly double the amount received in 1999.

    But a proposal sponsored by the AFL-CIO Staff RetirementPlan, took the company to task for its financing of the Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Company of Thailand.

    The plant, when completed, will benefit a pipeline partly owned by the government of neighboring Burma, critics contended.

    Speaking in support of the resolution, Kenny Bruno, identifying himself as campaign coordinator for EarthRights International, argued the project helps prop up a brutal military regime in Burma.

    In its proxy materials for the meeting, Citigroup said it complies with and supports all U.S. laws and regulations imposing sanctions on investments in Burma. The proposal garnered 4.7 percent of votes cast.

    Another critic questioned whether Citigroup was moving fast enough to end abusive lending practices at Associates First Capital Corp., a consumer finance company that Citigroup acquired last year.

    ``Once lost, a company's reputation never can be restored -- never,'' said Martin Eakes, chief executive and co-founder of Self-Help, a community development financial institution based in Durham, N.C.

    Eakes, in particular, criticized Associates' use of single premium credit life insurance, in which a borrower has to pay upfront for the insurance, also borrowing to pay the premium, and driving up the cost of the loan.

    eill said Citigroup is seeking regulatory approval to allow borrowers to pay insurance premiums on a monthly basis.

    Citigroup also came under fire for its financing of mining activities in the Amazon basin. Ilyse Hogue of the Group Rainforest Action Network contended those activities contribute to the destruction the fragile ecosystems known as rainforests.

    Although the atmosphere was calm on the inside of the concert hall, there were a few tense moments on the sidewalk outside prior to the meeting.

    As protesters peacefully handed out fortune cookies to passers-by and twirled red umbrellas with the company's corporate logo, police ordered the group of about 20 protesters to move across the street.

    One woman, identified as Pam Martens, an original plaintiff in the notorious ``Boom Boom Room'' sex harassment suit against brokerage firm Smith Barney, was placed under arrest and driven off in a police vehicle. Lt. Kevin Mullen of the New York City police said she was arrested for disorderly conduct and ``refusing to disperse.''

    Smith Barney is now part of Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney.
    Three Burmese charged with killing Thai skipper

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Three fishing trawler crewmen-two Burmese and a Mon-were yesterday charged with the murder of their Thai skipper in Pak Phanang district of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

    The three suspects were among four crewmen who had allegedly killed the skipper, identified only as Mr Khai, of the Siriwaree trawler, marine police said yesterday.

    The other suspect, a Burmese, remained at large. The three arrested men were found adrift in the sea after the trawler sank. Police said the killing took place some seven nautical miles off the coast in Pak Phanang.

    The crewmen claimed they killed the skipper because they had been overworked.

    They stabbed him to death and then dumped his body into the sea. They then tried unsuccessfully to bring the trawler loaded with catch to land. The trawler later sank and they were cast adrift until they were arrested.