Daily News-April 20- 2001- Friday

  • U.N. Rights forum gives mixed report on Burma
  • Student Pressures Grow for divestment in Burma
  • Thailand Foreign minister reports on trip to Chile, dialogue with Burma
  • The Emergence of ICT Park
  • Wa confiscating hundreds of homes

  • U.N. Rights forum gives mixed report on Burma

    GENEVA, April 18 (Reuters) - The United Nations Commission on Human Rights praised Myanmar's ruling junta on Wednesday for its nascent dialogue with the opposition and urged authorities to establish democracy in line with elections held a decade ago.

    It adopted, by consensus, a resolution presented by the European Union which also alleged continuing major violations including executions, mass arrests and forced labour.

    The 53-member state forum is holding its annual six-week session in Geneva to examine abuses worldwide.It welcomed the landmark visit to Myanmar earlier this month by the Commission'sspecial rapporteur (investigator) for the country, Brazilian law professor PauloSergio Pinheiro. It renewed his mandate and hoped he would return there soon.

    The resolution welcomed "the initiation of contacts" with Aung San Suu Kyi, secretary-general of the National League for Democracy, which won Myanmar's lastgeneral election in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern.

    It hoped that "such talks will be extended at an appropriate time to include, among others, representatives of ethnic minorities and thereby will facilitate broad-based and inclusive national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy".

    But the text expressed grave concern at what it called "the systematic policy ofthe Government of Myanmar of persecuting the democratic opposition, National League for Democracy members and their families, as well as ethnic opposition parties".

    It called on the ruling junta to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of all political leaders including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, held under de facto arrest since September with access to her strictly controlled.

    The resolution alleged that the government used intimidatory methods such as arbitrary arrest and detention, and harsh long-term prison sentences which "has forced many to refrain from exercising their legitimate political rights".

    It deplored "the deterioration of the human rights situation and the continuing pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights in Myanmar, includingextrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, inhuman treatment, mass arrests, forced labour, forced relocation and denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement".

    David Arnott, of the Geneva-based Burma Peace Foundation, said that the resolution was more strongly worded than in previous years, despite the text welcoming the nascent dialogue.

    Pinheiro, the first U.N. rights investigator to visit the military-ruled countryin five years, addressed the Commission a day after his return from the April 3-5 trip.Pinheiro, who held talks with Suu Kyi as well as the powerful Secretary One of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, said that he had sensed "cautious optimism" by all parties regarding the dialogue.
    Student Pressures Grow for divestment in Burma

    By Tin Maung Htoo
    Burma Media Association (Canada Branch) 18/4/2001

    Universities opposing investment in Burma has steadily increased in number and resolutions passing through their relevant student councils become a hindrance for companies doing business in Burma.

    In the past two months, five universities, three from United States and two from United Kingdom, passed resolutions on Burma, adding a total number into near three dozens. Some well-known universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown and American University are included on the list.

    London School of Economic at the London University passed a resolution on Feb 8 and University of St. Andrews in Scotland followed suit on Mar 1. Likewise, the Peace College and University of Virginia in the United States also passed their resolution on Feb 20 and Mar 27, respectively.

    Recently, the Michigan University constituted the latest university to pass the resolution on April 16. It was a few hours before a day long fast for imprisoned Burmese student leader Min Ko Naing on April 17, 2001 at 95 universities around the world, In the resolution, the Michigan State University recommended the university administration to terminate relationship with corporations doing business in Burma because, students claimed, that their university has over $20 million of investments in companies that are conducting business in Burma.

    Michigan students were more disturbed when they found of their Business Administration Prof. Marina Whitman is sitting on the board of directors of Unocal, which invested a billion dollar in Burma's natural gas pipeline project and that is repeatedly accused of perpetuating human rights abuses in Burma. Students held several demonstrations against Unocal's involvement in Burma.

    Three weeks prior to that, University of Virginia also adopted similar measure on March 27 and called on the administration to withdraw its investments in Unocal. Students claimed that the University has $2.5 million invested in companies that do business in Burma, of which $2.1 million invested in Unocal.

    California-based Stanford University students have the same dissent view on the matter and expressed that Unocal's involvement in Burma not only eliminates the chance for a return to democratic rule in Burma, but also results in more suffering for Burmese citizens.

    Stanford Students obtained the University approval on investment policy on Burma and they have now a very effective way to pressure Unocal company to withdraw from Burma since chief executive officer of Unocal, Charles Williamson, is a member of the Stanford University Earth Sciences Advisory Board.

    Students held several actions for that purpose in the past months. This is indeed a challenge for businesses. Especially for Unocal, it becomes the primary target of student movements in terms of its business connections with the university campuses. If students still hold on the pressure, Unocal could encounter the same fate that Pepsis Cola faced in the past, so do other businesses.
    Thailand Foreign minister reports on trip to Chile, dialogue with Burma

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Apr 19, 2001

    Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai has given an interview in which he outlines his country's foreign policy and gives details of his recent achievements.

    The minister said that while attending an international conference in Chile recently, agreement had been reached "in principle" with Burma and China to cooperate in combatting narcotics. A minister-level meeting would scheduled to discuss the issue. At talks with the Burmese deputy foreign minister he emphasized his country's desire for good relations with its neighbours. The two ministers agreed that border problems should be settled through "existing mechanisms". Surakiart accepted an invitation to visit Burma.

    On the role of the Foreign Ministry, Surakiart said it would not limit itself to diplomatic relations, but would assist the Commerce Ministry by playing a greater role in international economic relations.

    The following is the text of the "recent" interview, published by Thai newspaper Than Setthakit on 19 April; subheadings as published

    On ties with Burma, Dr Surakiart said that while in Chile he met in person with the Burmese deputy foreign minister and there was a meeting between their full delegations as well. The Burmese deputy foreign minister said Burma wanted to have good relations with Thailand and felt that the current relations were still strong.

    Surakiat informed the Burmese minister that Thailand placed great importance on relations with neighbouring countries and sought good ties in every area of relations. The border problem and other specific issues should be solved by the existing mechanisms and should not affect the state-to-state level of relations. The Burmese deputy foreign minister enthusiastically agreed with this position.

    The Thai foreign minister said he also talked about the importance of the dialogue between Asian foreign ministers, such as between the foreign ministers of South Asian, ASEAN, and East Asian countries. They also discussed and concurred on economic, cultural, and tourism matters. The Burmese deputy foreign minister said these issues should be jointly discussed at the informal meeting of ASEAN ministers in Rangoon on 30 April.

    Most important was the Burmese deputy foreign minister's support of the idea about a tripartite cooperation in narcotics prevention and suppression. The Thai foreign minister had proposed to China about cooperation between Thailand, China, and Burma, because a single country or two countries may not have enough information and data to effectively solve the narcotics problem. There has to be cooperation between the three countries. The Burmese deputy foreign minister agreed with the idea, which means the idea about a tripartite dialogue against narcotics was a success. In principle, the Chinese foreign minister and the Burmese deputy foreign minister have agreed with the idea. A future date will be set for the three ministers and other ministers concerned to meet again. The Chinese foreign minister was also at the Chile conference.

    Surakiart said he informed the Chinese foreign minister that he had met the Burmese deputy foreign minister and gained his agreement. The Chinese foreign minister was glad, saying that his trip to Chile was a success because the dialogues proceeded well.

    Surakiart said he wished to inform the Thai public that the Foreign Ministry has achieved progress in its part of the war against narcotics. He informed the Burmese deputy foreign minister that he hoped the dialogue with Burma on cooperation against narcotics would continue. The Burmese minister said he was ready to provide full cooperation.

    The Burmese deputy foreign minister also conveyed the invitation by the Burmese foreign minister for the Thai foreign minister to make an official visit to Rangoon at the end of this month during the foreign ministers retreat [previous word rendered in English], or informal meeting. The Thai foreign minister has accepted the invitation; the topics of discussions are probably those that were discussed earlier.
    The Emergence of ICT Park

    Information Sheet No.B-1784 (I) 19th April, 2001 (1)

    The Chairman of Myanmar Computer Science Development Council, Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt inspected the Business Information Group (BIG) and Bagan Cybertech and construction of Myanma Information and Communication Technology Development building in Yangon on 18 April.

    BIG was founded with young men including MBA graduates with the aim of studying and gathering information for entrepreneurs such as businessmen, bankers and tourism entrepreneurs and distributing Myanmar's economic news internationally.

    It is also publishing Business Tank magazine in Myanmar and English versions, which includes investment opportunities and tourist information in Myanmar. Myanmar Computer Science Development Council has been founded in promoting the computer science stage by stage to the best of its capacity.

    The Government is also giving encouragement for the development of the services of Bagan Cybertech to enable all the sectors of Myanmar such as the economic, banking, farming, education, health and social areas to get abreast of the international nations in the field of IT which is becoming popular and advancing with high momentum in the international sphere.

    As regards the Bagan Cybertech, the national portal or resource centre will be set up to gather information and data from multiple sectors for progress of information and communication technology and distribution of the news. Qualified young men are emerging in Myanmar also as more and more youths are studying the computer science.

    Arrangements are being made for soonest emergence of an ICT park in Myanmar with the aim of paving the way for the youths to enter the fields of computer science and widening the future IT field and accelerating its functions. Plans are under way to set up a telecommunication data centre in IT Park with the application of V set network. The ICT Park, which had been set up from now on, will render much assistance to the nation to partake in the globally developing software programmes with the available human resources.
    Wa confiscating hundreds of homes

    Shan Herald Agency for News 19 April 2001

    Hundreds of homes across the border from Chiangmai have already been taken possession by the Wa army that has entered the area since the end of the Monsoons six months ago, according to sources fleeing into Thailand.

    At least 200 homes in Mongton Townhsip (Monghsat District, Eastern Shan State, opposite Chiangdao District, Chiangmai Province) have been seized by the United Wa State Army that has brought with them thousands of dislocated households from the Chinese border. Homes in the outskirts of small towns and villages in Mongton, especially those of the poor, were reported to have been forcibly taken.

    "Sometimes they pay K. 1,000 (B. 100) to the owners," said one source. In the neighboring township of Monghsat, opposite Fang and Mae-ai district, at least 500 native households were said to have been dispossessed during the 1999-2000 dry season.

    "Nobody, not even the local headmen and Burmese officers, can mediate on the victims' behalf," said a source who fled into Fang through BP (Border Pass)-2 recently.

    "They would just laugh and say, 'if you want it back, talk to (Gen) Khin Nyunt, not me'." A list of the victims was shown to S.H.A.N. by Shan Human Rights Foundation. Its report is due to come out by the end of the month.