Daily News-August 02 - 2001- Thusday

  • Interview with U Lwin on releases of four political prisoners
  • Education Ministry issues order on strict security measures at schools
  • FM radio station to be launched in November
  • Junta Launches New PR Offensive
  • Non-Burmans concludes 8-day seminar on "Open Space"
  • THAI DETAINEES: Burma delays release
  • Wa denies kidnapping of Thais
  • Thailand urged to return army commander critical of regime
  • Burma opens four new border trade posts, lifts some import-export restrictions
  • Fate of missing seven Thais unclear
  • Burma, Vietnam Eye Teak-for-Oil Deal

  • Interview with U Lwin on releases of four political prisoners

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Aug 1, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 31 July

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] military government has released another four political prisoners at about 1000 [local time] today [31 July]. All four released today are elected representatives from the National League for Democracy [NLD].

    Their names and particulars are: U Chit Htwe, age 36 years, elected representative from Myothit Township Constituency-2 [Magwe Division], and released from Thayet Jail; U Khin Maung Win, age 57 years, elected representative from Oktwin Township Constituency-2 [Pegu Division], and released from Toungoo Jail; and U Aung Myint, age 57 years, elected representative from Letpadan Township Constituency-1 [Pegu Division], and U Nyunt Aye, age 65 years, elected representative from Letpadan Township Constituency-2, both released from Tharawaddy Jail.

    According to latest reports received by DVB, U Ohn Maung, age 73 years, elected representative from Nyaunglebin Township Constituency-1 [Pegu Division], who is not well, was also released from Tharawaddy Jail together with the other four political prisoners but was rearrested. U Ohn Maung is old and is not in good health.

    In order to know the latest situation of the political prisoners and the views of the NLD, DVB contacted NLD Central Executive Committee Member U Lwin and first asked him why U Ohn Maung was released and then rearrested.

    [Begin recording] [U Lwin] I do not know whether the list was wrong. When they first informed us U Ohn Maung was in the list. Then they corrected the list and he was not included in the new one.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Can you give us any confirmation after this release on the number of prisoners still in jail?

    [U Lwin] Do you mean elected representatives? Well, 28 elected representatives still remain in jails.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Are these 28 elected representatives from NLD or do they include other parties as well?

    [U Lwin] They are all from NLD and do not include other parties.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] What can you comment about the frequency and situation of the release of prisoners?

    [U Lwin] Well about that, I do not know with what idea they are releasing. If you consider those released recently about three in the last batch have some sentences remaining to be served. For instance, U Par Par Lay has two years outstanding sentence. Apart from that the sentences of all those released including today were almost completed.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] You mean to say they have released only those who have completed their sentences?

    [U Lwin] Well the trend seems like that. More than one perhaps three or four, might be released before their sentences are completed. We will need to confirm that.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Like we heard in the news, can we say that the releases are in accord with the agreement reached at the talks?

    [U Lwin] No, we cannot say that.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Generally speaking since political prisoners were released and NLD is allowed to reopen its township branches, can we say that relations between NLD and the government is improving?

    [U Lwin] Well, the past events have shown that conditions have improved and better understanding reached.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Were you allowed to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during this time and how is her health?

    [U Lwin] Yes, I see her. I have been seeing her. I see her regularly. [End of recording]

    That was DVB interview with NLD Central Executive Committee Member U Lwin.

    According to exiled elected representatives [MPs] three non-NLD MPs are still held in SPDC jails bringing to about 31, the number of MPs remaining incarcerated. Human rights organizations say there are more than 1,800 political prisoners in Burma. DVB has learned that more political prisoners majority being MPs will be released before UN Special Envoy Mr Razali arrive in Rangoon on 27 August.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 31 Jul 01
    Education Ministry issues order on strict security measures at schools

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 31, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 30 July

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] Education Ministry has issued a directive to State and Division Education Departments. Furthermore, the Tenasserim Division Higher Education Department has issued a similar directive to various District and Township Education Departments and the District Peace and Development Council Offices on 25 July. The students, parents, and teachers were disheartened as a result of the directive. DVB correspondent Myint Maung Maung filed the report giving details of the directive.

    [Myint Maung Maung] The directive states:

    1. Teachers, parents, and school council members shall take turns to perform security duty at the school day and night.

    2. No one apart from students must be allowed inside the school during daytime.

    3. Teachers, staff, and students are not allowed to bring in any book, note, picture, or poster apart from the prescribed texts and must strictly adhere to the dress code.

    4. No unauthorized slogans, pictures, or posters other than those permitted shall be pasted or hung in the classrooms, on the walls, or inside and outside the fences.

    5. Apart from normal teaching responsibilities, the teachers must take extra security duty of the school and the students.

    6. Persons running authorized food stalls inside the schools must not bring in any paper, picture, or badge not related with their work.

    The directive is effective immediately and the above articles must be adhered to until further notice.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 30 Jul 01
    FM radio station to be launched in November

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Aug 1, 2001

    Text of report in English by Win Kyaw Oo by Burmese newspaper The Myanmar Times on 1 August

    Yangon [Rangoon] City Development Council [YCDC] says plans are well under way to launching the city's first radio station using the frequency modulation (FM) broadcasting system. The station will feature a lively mix of news, information and entertainment, broadcast in stereo quality sound.

    "The primary objectives of the development are to provide city dwellers with weather information and traffic reports and to entertain them with music", said U Hla Myint Swe, head of the YCDC's public relations and information department .

    U Hla Myint Swe said the increasing number of vehicles in Yangon meant that city dwellers need timely information about weather a traffic conditions. "The programme will fulfil this need", he said.

    The planned FM station will also feature quiz competitions, magazine-type programmes and instant news and information about city events and developments. Listeners will be invited to telephone the station to respond to the quiz programmes, which will be broadcast live.

    "Our station, which is expected to start operation by November, will feature a new style but will not have a negative effect on our culture", U Hla Myint Swe said.

    News will be presented in an attractive way and entertainment will be a mix of Myanmar [Burmese] and foreign music. The studio, to be built at City Hall on Sule Pagoda Road, will broadcast at FM 99 MHz. It will have a reach of about 25 miles, enabling it to cover the 33 townships within theYangon municipality. "This first step is what we can afford and the station-will be gradually upgraded with better facilities", the department head said.

    News and information will be provided by reporters equipped with walkie-talkies who will be randomly assigned throughout Yangon. The station's equipment is being imported by a local supplier from Singapore at a cost of more than 100,000 US dollars. The station will be operated by Myanmar technicians.

    The station's information policy will be decided in coordination with the Myanmar Television and Radio Department. The station will also broadcast advertisements.

    Source: The Myanmar Times, Rangoon, in English 1 Aug 01 p 1
    Junta Launches New PR Offensive

    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    August 1, 2001 -Rangoon’s military government unveiled its new TV station this morning with a one-hour test run. The new station, Myanmar Radio and Television English Program, or MRTV-3, is broadcast in English and targets audiences in Western countries, where criticism of the junta’s human rights violations has been harshest.

    "The TV program and news are not so different from the other two TV channels (owned by the military junta)," said one Burmese viewer who watched the one-hour test run in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot. "The news anchors still read the news with the same expressionless faces." Today’s broadcast included news, features, music and horoscopes, according to viewers.

    The military government, which imposes heavy restrictions on media outlets inside Burma, said that the new channel would carry the truth about the country to the outside world. Heavy-handed censorship and crude attacks on government opponents has largely discredited the state-owned media over the past decade. Despite pledges to create an open economy after it seized power in a bloody coup in 1988, the regime has refused to allow private TV and radio stations to exist. Nevertheless, some Burmese can watch BBC and CNN broadcasts via satellite.

    However, the government has launched a series of PR offensives over the past two years in an effort to polish its poor reputation around the world. The Myanmar Times, a glossy weekly newspaper, is now printed in both English and Burmese and is edited by an Australian who has been allowed to publish it in Rangoon. Recently, the paper has even been allowed to cover some politically sensitive stories.

    MRTV-3 is Burma’s third TV broadcasting service. The state-run MRTV was launched on June 3, 1980, while the army-run Myawaddy TV first began broadcasting in 1995. Burma analysts believe that MRTV-3 is a move by the junta to counter critical reports of the regime that usually appear in regional and international media.

    MRTV-3 will be transmitted by Thaicom-3, a satellite owned by the Shin Corp, the telecommunications conglomerate founded by Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, according to Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA). Richard Jones, a Shin communications officer, told DPA that the new station will be available to viewers in 120 countries worldwide.
    Non-Burmans concludes 8-day seminar on "Open Space"

    Shan Herald Agency for News(1 August 2001)-No: 08 - 01

    As questions of whether Rangoon would agree to open talks with non-Burmans loomed, leaders of several ethnic groups emerged from their 8-day long seminar yesterday with expressed satisfaction over their achievements.

    "All have agreed upon two points: Tripartite Dialogue and Right of Self Determination," said Sao Seng Suk, Spokesperson for Shan Democratic Union and Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission-Shan State.

    The seminar, jointly organized by the National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization of armed non-Burman resistance movements and International Conflict Resolution Program of Columbia University from New York, was participated by 35 representatives, among whom were Sao Seng Suk, Sao Awng Mart and Sao Htun Aye from Shan; Hkun Okker and Hkun Tetlu from Pa-O; Khaing Soe Naing Aung, Khaing Myo Min and Ms. Saw Mra Raza Lin from Arakan; Padoe Ba Thin, Gen. Shwe Hser and Gen Mutu from Karen; Khu Ooreh and Byareh Paulu from Karenni; Bernard L. Chhangma from Chin and Andrea Bartoli, Erin DeOrnellas and Louisa Benson Craig from the United States.

    "We had not discussed about the issue of Independence," said an unnamed representative to S.H.A.N., "because if there were a genuine federal union, we knew none of us would have rejected."

    The Karenni National Progress Party, the Restoration Council of Shan State and the Arakanese 4-party Coalition are known to be fighting for Independence. Among the seven existing states, only the Karenni and Shan State, according to 1947 Union Constitution, enjoy the right of secession.

    Many representatives also spoke highly of the Open Space technology "imported" by the Columbia team. "It has served well by creating an atmosphere that allows us to speak freely and openly what we normally wouldn't have allowed ourselves to speak at formal meetings," said Pa-o representative Hkun Tetlu, "thereby achieving a spirit of intimacy that would have been unthinkable in other circumstances."

    Open Space Technology, also known as agendaless method, founded by Harrison Owen, is, according to the Handbook of Conflict Resolution, Jossey-Bass Publishers, is highly effective "for issues that affect the whole organization or system, in situations of high conflict and when you can't think of anything else to do." People attending a meeting create their own agenda by sitting in a large circle with open space, hence the coining of the name for the method, in the middle.No formal agreements, however, was issued by the seminar.
    THAI DETAINEES: Burma delays release

    The Nation

    The expected release of seven Thai anti-narcotics officials was delayed yesterday because Burmese authorities wanted to question the seven about their intention for entering Burma, General Pat Akkanibutr, an adviser to the defence minister, said yesterday.

    Pat said Burma wanted to know why the group travelled into what it called a "prohibited zone" with a vehicle equipped with sophisticated communications equipment. He said Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, Burma's intelligence chief, had given permission for the release of the seven, pending further questioning.

    "The vehicle they took across the border was equipped with sophisticated communications equipment, such as a telephone and radio. This made the Burmese authorities suspicious that their intention was to spy on its territory," said Pat, quoting General Wichit Yathip, who was in a team sent to Rangoon to negotiate the group's release. Wichit is the defence minister's chief of staff.

    The seven were abducted last Friday by the United Wa State Army, a 20,000-strong militia allied to Rangoon, after they crossed the border from Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district to Burma's Tachilek township. They reportedly wanted to pay respect to a revered monk at a temple about 30 kilometres outside of Tachilek.Four of the team were officials from the Narcotics Control Board, while three were from the army.

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, said the group's release could be delayed until today."I was informed that the seven officials are now in the hands of the Burmese authorities and would be handed over to the Thai side today," said Chavalit in parliament.

    "The Burmese side questioned why the Thai officials used an official vehicle for a personal trip." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said: "Even though are they being interrogated by Burma, I don't foresee any problems as bilateral relations have never been better." Thaksin said he did not know when they would be released.
    Wa denies kidnapping of Thais

    Shan Herald Agency for News(1 August 2001)-No: 08 - 02:

    A Wa officer in Tachilek, interviewed by S.H.A.N. through telephone, rejected outright the group had anything to do with the Thais missing in Burma since Friday.

    The officer, who is a battalion commander in the United Wa State Army, told S.H.A.N. that actually it was the Burmese military that had held up the land-cruiser and taken into custody all of its 7 occupants. "They wanted Yawserk as a exchange for them," he said.

    Gen. Wattanachai Chaimuenwong, Commander of Third Regional Army, Royal Thai Army, however, dismissed the claim with a light laugh saying, "That's a bit of a tall story."

    Meanwhile conflicting reports about whether or not the abductors were Wa or Burmese kept coming.Thai authorities were also reported to have approached Thai entrepreneurs doing business with Burma to help solicit for early release of the 7 officials.Thailand, according to Xinhua, is the largest foreign investor during the first quarter of the year.
    Thailand urged to return army commander critical of regime

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 31, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 30 July

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the Burmese military government has been exerting pressure on Thailand to transfer 3rd Army Commander Gen Watanachai.

    He is the person who openly criticized the Burmese military government, especially the Burmese government's support of the drug trafficking UWSA [United Wa State Army] Wa group.The Burmese has been pressuring and seeking the transfer of Gen Watanachai since February when Burma and Thailand had a brief border encounter.

    A senior Thai military official, who does not want to be identified, said the pressure to transfer Gen Watanachai was exerted through Thai Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who is personally close to the Burmese military leaders. But the Queen and most Thai people supported Gen Watanachai and have praised him as a person who has strongly protected Thai sovereignty.

    The drug-producing UWSA and the Burmese military government do not like Gen Watanachai. The UWSA is facing problems trafficking drugs to Thailand because of Gen Watanachai's handling of the Burma-Thai border problem. Furthermore, the Burmese military government also does not like Gen Watanachai because of his frank criticism of the Burmese military leaders. The same senior Thai military official said the Burmese military leaders have been wooing top Thai leaders by saying Thai-Burma border problems will be solved if Gen Watanachai is transferred.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 30 Jul 01
    Burma opens four new border trade posts, lifts some import-export restrictions

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Aug 1, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 31 July

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] military government has amended the border trading regulations and opened four new special border trade zones. In accord with the new import and export procedures, some formerly restricted items can now be exported. DVB correspondent Myint Maung Maung filed this report.

    [Begin Myint Maung Maung recording] The SPDC has designated and opened four new border trade posts - Akyab, (?Hlaingtha), Lweje and Mergui on 25 July in addition to the current six special border trade zones.

    The new import and export regulations have allowed the export of eight items restricted since the introduction of border trade in 1989. Furthermore,10 out of 15 Thai foodstuff items restricted since May have been allowed to import but MSG [monosodium glutamate] packets, juice, dried foodstuff, canned products and condensed milk tins are still prohibited.

    Exporters and importers must apply and obtain approval at the regional Trade Departments and Customs Offices three days in advance providing the particulars,quantity and weight details of the Burmese items to be exported and the particulars, quantity, weight and recommended retail price details of the foreign items to be imported. Moreover, border regulations supervisory units have been sent to the four newly established border trade posts and they have been ordered to commence their duties from 28 July.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 31 Jul 01
    Fate of missing seven Thais unclear

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The fate of seven Thai drug suppression officials believed abducted by Red Wa guerrillas in Burma remains unclear.

    Although the defence minister said he was assured by the Burmese prime minister they would be freed today, Burmese border officials said they had no idea where they were.

    The seven Thais disappeared after they entered Tachilek town from Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district on July 27.

    There have been confusing reports as to their whereabouts. It was reported on Tuesday night they had been placed safely in the hands of Tachilek authorities and were to be released soon. But Thai authorities appeared in the dark about their fate yesterday.

    In Mae Sai, O Proon, a Burmese co-ordinator of the Triangle Region, met Thai officials on the Township Border Committee and strongly criticised Thai authorities for having said the seven were in the hands of Burmese soldiers in Tachilek.

    "That is not true. The fact is soldiers, police and officials in Tachilek have not a clue as to their whereabouts."

    "We were stunned by the report that they were in Burmese custody," O Proon said.

    "There are three military camps in Tachilek-Camps 331, 359 and 526. I can assure you that the Thais have never been at these camps. What I can say is that we don't know where they are and we are looking for them."He said Tachilek authorities had a sleepless night scouring the town, but Thai authorities were irresponsible to have said the missing Thais were safe in the hands of Burmese soldiers.

    Pornthep Iamprapai, deputy director of the Northern Drugs Suppression Centre, said he was informed that a military officer was coming from Rangoon to Tachilek to look into the problem.

    The officer was reportedly sent to the area by Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council, in the belief he could order the abductors to release the Thais.

    A senior army intelligence source in Bangkok, who had been in touch with Rangoon since Tuesday afternoon, said: "There has been no confirmation from Rangoon until now where the missing seven are. We were told only that they (Burmese officials) were still looking for the group."A large number of people flocked to the Mae Sai-Tachilek checkpoint yesterday, expecting to witness the release of the seven Thais. Among them were relatives of Capt Sanit Banthao, one of the missing.

    In Bangkok, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said he was assured by Burmese Prime Minister Than Shwe at 5pm that the seven would be released today at Tachilek.

    He said Burmese soldiers could not reach where the seven were being detained yesterday due to heavy rain.

    "Than Shwe told me no matter how heavy the rain Burmese soldiers would try to get to the place where the Thais are being detained tonight (last night) and negotiate with the captors for their release," Gen Chavalit said.

    Gen Chavalit did not say where the seven were being detained nor did he identify the captors or the group they belonged to.

    He said only that the place where the seven were being held was 3-4 hours' drive from Tachilek.

    Their release would be unconditional, Gen Chavalit said.

    Gen Chavalit confirmed that the four military officers and three civilians went to Tachilek on a personal trip, not on an intelligence-gathering mission.

    The four officers are Col Duangkamol Sukhonthasap, director of Division 12 of the Supreme Command's Armed Forces Security Centre; Lt-Col Domsak Khampirasaeng, chief of the Mae Sai-based Thai-Burmese border co-ordinating centre; and Capt Sanit Banthao and Chief Warrant Officer Sathit Sithiprasert of the Third Cavalry Regiment Task Force.

    The civilians are Seni Waiwattana, Surasak Chanthawong and Thanu Rangsee, all of them officials of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board.

    Soldiers on a secret mission would not travel with their identities fully exposed like this group of seven, the defence minister said.

    He admitted an investigation was under way into reports that two kamnan in Mae Sai district had sent a false signal to their contacts in Tachilek that the seven were on an intelligence-gathering mission, leading to their abduction.

    However, Prasong Sikhiew, the kamnan of tambon Wiang Phang, one of the two accused, strongly denied any involvement when questioned by Mae Sai district chief Decha Satthaphon.
    Burma, Vietnam Eye Teak-for-Oil Deal

    Source : Far Eastern Economic Review

    Vietnam's furniture makers, no longer able to rely on Cambodia for raw materials, may have found a new source of hardwood--Burma.

    During initial discussions in July between Vietnamese and Burmese officials on a possible barter trade agreement, it was suggested that Rangoon pay for its oil imports from Hanoi with valuable teak, say Western environmentalists, citing Vietnamese press reports.

    It is uncertain when the barter deal with Vietnam will go into effect or if it will have a significant impact on Burma's desperate oil shortage. Burma produces some oil, but not enough to meet domestic needs. The country's military government decided a month ago to ration daily purchases of petrol on the official market to eight litres a day per registered vehicle owner.

    This, in turn, has caused the blackmarket price of petrol and diesel to rise by 300% while prices of basic commodities, which have to be transported from the countryside, have risen in urban areas. The price of rice has almost doubled since late June, Rangoon residents say. The Cambodian government has responded to international pressure by taking measures to curtail logging, and timber exports to Vietnam have fallen as a result.