Daily News-August 07 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Myanmar junta unlikely to go without guarantee: Mahahir
  • Experts call for urgent removal
  • World Youth plan actions on Anniversary of Burma's Uprising
  • Shans told to tell foreigners there's no forced labor
  • Myanmar Reviews Cooperation Programmes With Singapore
  • Myanmar Exports Less Teak, Hardwood in First Quarter
  • NLD to mark uprising anniversary once again
  • Myanmar junta regrets flight of opposition MP
  • Thais Killed In Clash With Suspected Drug Traffickers
  • UN denies that agencies in Burma want sanctions lifted
  • Wa's Abduction of 7 linked to assassination
  • Press conference of Ex-MP fled Rangoon

  • Myanmar junta unlikely to go without guarantee: Mahahir

    KUALA LUMPUR, Aug. 6 Kyodo - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday told former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori that he believes the Myanmar military is unlikely to hand power to a civilian government unless there is guarantee there would not be reprisals in the future.
    Experts call for urgent removal

    Don Pathan
    Source : The Nation

    All nine heads of the United Nations relief agencies in Burma have made a collective plea to their respective organisations and the international community to urgently lift sanctions against the junta on humanitarian grounds.

    With more than 500,000 people HIV-positive and a high maternal mortality ratio ranging between 230-580 per 100,000 live births, Burma is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, they said in a letter sent to all chiefs of UN agencies operating in the country.The groups include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Unicef and the World Health Organisation.

    The letter said half of the maternal deaths in Burma were due to unsafe abortions, while about 25 per cent of new-born babies were underweight. One in three of all Burmese children would be malnourished by the time they reached the age of five.

    "This is compounded by the fact that about 3.6 million children and 1.1 million pregnant women live in areas considered to be at high or moderate risk for malaria transmission," according to the letter.

    The nine UN representatives said humanitarian assistance to Burma was a moral and ethnical necessity and to deny the country the aid would cause unnecessary suffering.They called for a dramatic overhaul of budget allocation to Burma, as well as a cohesive approach between the activities of the UN organisations operating in Burma and the political initiatives launched from within the UN system.

    Moreover, said the representatives, delayed assistance may also have an escalating effect on the illicit drug business, resulting in negative impact on the region as a whole in a wide range of other areas - including human-trafficking, illegal migration and population displacements.

    "The current peripheral or piecemeal assistance provided to Myanmar [Burma] is not adequate to reverse or even slow down certain negative trends," the letter said. Burma receives about US$1 (Bt45) per capita annually, compared with $35 for Cambodia and $68 for Laos.

    The representatives pointed out HIV/Aids, illicit drugs and food security as the top three areas that needed utmost attention.

    Although the representatives agreed that a common humanitarian approach towards Burma must be viewed in the context of the country's political environment, they said: "the nature and magnitude o the humanitarian situation does not permit delaying until the political situation evolves".

    The statement from the nine UN agency heads came amid ongoing secret talks between the ruling junta and the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner whose National League for Democracy won a landslide general election in 1990 but was denied the fruit of victory by the army.
    World Youth plan actions on Anniversary of Burma's Uprising

    New Delhi, August 6, 2001, Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    The International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) has called on its member organizations worldwide to organize actions on the coming 8th August in support of democracy in Burma.

    The IUSY, which is made up of more than 130 socialist, social democratic and labor youth organizations from 100 countries all over the world, have decided to extend a strong support to the democratic movement in Burma in its Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting held last month in Bangkok.

    Its member organizations particularly in the Asia-Pacific region are planning to hold public rallies and meetings on Wednesday to commemorate the 13th Anniversary of People's Uprising in Burma.

    In India, a public demonstration will be held in New Delhi against the continued military rule in Burma. Similar programs will be held in Thailand, Philippines and Sweden.

    Moreover, a press conference, under the banner of Friends of the Democratic Movement in Burma, will be addressed at Press Club in New Delhi by some Members of Parliament and political leaders from India to urge the Government of India to "effectively, strategically and transparently" engage with the Burmese regime on human rights issues, particularly the release of political prisoners, stopping torture and the repression of ethnic minorities.

    The ruling Burmese military regime came into power in September 1988 after killing over thousands of peaceful demonstrators who demanded political and economic changes in the country. The people from all walks of life joined in the nation-wide demonstrations on 8th August 1988, popularly known as 8.8.88 movement in Burma.
    Shans told to tell foreigners there's no forced labor

    Shan Herald Agency for News No: 08 - 06: 6 August 2001

    Shan villagers in several townships have been instructed by military authorities to inform foreign investigators expected to tour Shan State soon that forced labor had ended.

    On 28 July, Lt. Col Myint Maung, Commander LIB 515 (Laikha) told people in Mongkerng, 108 miles northeast of Taunggyi, that "foreign" fact-finding team was expected during the month of August and he "hoped" the people would give "proper" answers.

    "Please tell them all labor given are voluntary out of your love for the army," he reportedly told the gathering. Sources coming from the area reported that Col. Myint Maung had already briefed the people of Laikha, 29 miles south, a day earlier.

    Similar reports were received from Monghsat and Mongton, opposite Chiangmai and Chiangrai provinces. Sources from Mongkerng said since June, forced labor had in fact significantly lessened but, on the other hand, monetary requisitions had increased.

    "For instance, each village tract is expected to pay for rent of 10 mules to be used in the army's monthly patrol details," said one. "Rental for each mule is K. 5,000 per month. So we have to share about K. 300-500 per household." According to Rangoon, Burma had ceased the practice of forced labor since 27 October 2000.
    Myanmar Reviews Cooperation Programmes With Singapore

    YANGON, Aug 6 (Oana-Xinhua) -- Myanmar has held a coordination meeting here to review the economic and technical cooperation programs being implemented with Singapore initiated through the visit to that country in 1995 of Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and Development Council.

    The meeting, held on Sunday, covered discussions on cooperation programs pertaining to development of hotels and tourism, training courses on air and maritime technology development, agriculture and livestock breeding, economic, trade and communication technology development, and human resources development, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported today.

    The cooperation programmes include allowing Myanmar's private sector to attend the technical training courses offered by Singapore in addition to the state sector.
    Myanmar Exports Less Teak, Hardwood in First Quarter

    YANGON, August 6 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar exported 86,456.5 cubic- meters of teak in the first quarter of this year, 1.92 percent less than the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures released by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    Meanwhile, during the period, the country exported 54,619 cubic- meters of hardwood, a 64.7-percent reduction from the corresponding period of 2000. Export earning from teak and hardwood totaled 51 million U.S. dollars during the three-month period.

    In 2000, Myanmar exported a total of 302,810 cubic-meters of teak and 494,259.5 cubic-meters of hardwood with their total earning amounting to 201 million dollars.

    Timber has become Myanmar's second largest export goods after agriculture products and foreign exchange earned through the export of timber accounted for about 20 percent of Myanmar's total export earning.

    Myanmar's forest covers 50 percent of its total land area, a 7- percent reduction from 1962 reportedly due to indiscriminate felling of trees. Of the forest area, 18.6 percent are reserved and protected public forest, the percentage of which is being targeted to increase to 30. Besides, Myanmar has established 30,375 hectares of forest plantations including 8,100 hectares of teak plantations.
    NLD to mark uprising anniversary once again

    YANGON, Aug 7 (AFP) - Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party is planning to mark the anniversary of Myanmar's bloody 1988 student uprising for the first time in several years, sources said Tuesday.

    The National League for Democracy (NLD) will hold a discreet ceremony on Wednesday at its Shwegonedine Road headquarters in Yangon, to be attended by some 100-150 members of the party whose 1990 election victory was never recognised by the junta.

    Aung San Suu Kyi and her two most senior lieutenants, Aung Shwe and Tin Oo, who remain under house arrest restrictions in Yangon, will not be present, NLD sources told AFP.

    Annual events to mark the bloody protests on August 8, 1988 petered out during the late 1990s crackdown on the opposition party, which came close to collapse in the face of a brutal campaign of repression and arrests.

    However, since the military regime embarked on landmark talks with Aung San Suu Kyi in October its members have been given a degree more freedom of movement, and dozens of elected MPs have been released from detention.

    This year's low-key commemoration of the anniversary is seen as a gesture from the party that it is still alive and kicking, while being careful not to provoke the military government.

    U Lwin, the party's most senior leader at large, will preside over the ceremony and represent Aung San Suu Kyi, as he did at last month's commemoration of her father's assassination on Martyrs' Day.

    The party elder, one of the few people permitted to see "The Lady" at her lakeside residence on a regular basis, made an unscheduled visit early Tuesday, apparently to inform her about Wednesday's event.

    Hundreds of democracy demonstrators were gunned down in the August 1988 Yangon student uprising, paving the way for a junta to take power from longtime military strongman Ne Win the following month.The junta allowed free elections in 1990, which the NLD won convincingly, but the military regime has always refused to recognised the result.The resulting decade-long stand-off showed the first signs of cracking late last year when, at the urging of United Nations envoy Razali Ismail, the two sides began their first dialogue since 1994.

    Little is known of the contents of the talks, but the release of some 150 political prisoners this year has been hailed by the international community as a sign that the dialogue is making progress.

    Razali is to make his fifth visit to Yangon later this month. Aung San Suu Kyi has also received some other high-profile visitors recently, including US deputy assistant secretary of state Ralph Boyce on Thursday.

    Robert Cooper, the former Asia-Pacific director of the British Foreign Office and now appointed to the cabinet office, also paid a call on the lakeside compound late last month, sources said.
    Myanmar junta regrets flight of opposition MP

    YANGON, Aug 7 (AFP) - The Myanmar junta Tuesday criticised an opposition MP who fled to the Thai border after being released from detention, saying he had turned his back on national reconciliation talks which began last year.

    Khin Kyaw Han, who was elected as an MP in the disallowed 1990 elections, said he had been tortured while in detention and feared further reprisals after he was released from a government guest house on June 28.

    The 48-year-old is one of dozens of National League for Democracy (NLD) MPs released over the past few months in what the military regime has hailed as a sign of progress in its talks with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "The government as well as independent observers are surprised to learn that U Khin Kyaw Han ... fled to the Thai border to join the armed outlawed groups," a junta spokesman said in a statement.

    "It is indeed regretful that U Khin Kyaw Han not only has refused to meaningfully participate and cooperate in the reconciliation process taking place between the government and the NLD party but has been sidetracked by those groups which desire to continue with the policy of confrontation and to live in the past."

    Khin Kyaw Han, who asked that his location on the Thai-Myanmar border not be disclosed, said Monday he had been tortured during two periods of detention between 1992 and 2001, and suffered mental problems as a result.

    "After my arrest, I was tortured with beatings and electric shocks," he said in a faxed statement. "I was forced to disclose places where other people were hiding.""It seriously affected my mind. My family is broken and I have to ask for political asylum."

    Myanmar's military regime says it has freed more than 150 dissidents since the beginning of the year. Aung San Suu Kyi and her two most senior lieutenants, Aung Shwe and Tin Oo, remain under loose house arrest restrictions, helping ensure the contents of the dialogue remain secret.

    The talks are the first between the junta and the opposition since 1994, and may be paving the way for a fully-fledged national reconciliation process that could introduce some measure of democratic reform to Myanmar.

    While the international community and dissident groups have welcomed the prisoner releases, they note that many dissidents remain behind bars in Myanmar. International rights group Amnesty International recently put the number detained at 1,800.
    Thais Killed In Clash With Suspected Drug Traffickers

    (MORE) Dow Jones Newswires 07-08-01

    DOI KIA, Thailand (AP)--Three Thai troops were killed and one injured in a clash with suspected drug traffickers from Myanmar near the mountainous border between the two countries Tuesday, Thai officials said.

    Soldiers from Thai military battalion 443 confronted intruders from Myanmar at 3 a.m. local time, or 2000 GMT Monday, about two kilometers inside Thailand's Phop Phra district in northwestern Tak province.

    A police officer in Phop Phra said Thai soldiers confiscated 536,000 tablets of methamphetmines contained in a fertilizer bag after a shootout with the intruders.

    A district official said three Thais had died in the fighting but the bodies couldn't yet be recovered from the scene, pending the arrival of doctors to examine them.

    Officials said the intruders were thought to be from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a pro-Yangon ethnic army. It wasn't yet clear if the intruders had suffered any casualties. Doi Kia, the scene of the fighting, lies about 370 kilometers northwest of Bangkok.

    The police officer said that the clash occurred after nine Thai soldiers had been deployed to wait at three locations where they had heard there would be a handover of methamphetamines. The intruders had signaled by flash light and when the Thais couldn't reply in code the intruders opened fire.

    Military-run Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a major source of methamphetamine drugs, which Thailand says are smuggled in vast quantities across the border. The illicit trade has upset bilateral relations between the two countries. Their armies clashed briefly earlier this year.
    UN denies that agencies in Burma want sanctions lifted

    Rangoon, Aug 7 (AFP)

    The United Nations Tuesday denied a report that its relief agencies in Burma had made a collective request to their leaderships and foreign governments to lift sanctions against the military regime.

    The Nation newspaper in Bangkok reported that the nine heads of Rangoon-based UN agencies, including UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, issued the plea on humanitarian grounds in a joint letter.

    However, a senior UN official in Rangoon said the letter was an internal assessment of the humanitarian situation in Burma and did not mention the lifting of sanctions.

    "This is merely a technical internal letter on the conditions for distributing humanitarian aid in Myanmar," he told AFP.

    "It's absolutely not a political appeal for the lifting or not lifting of sanctions, but rather an assessment of the humanitarian situation," the official said, requesting anonymity.

    "It's meant to establish how we can best help the population of Myanmar, particularly in fields like HIV-AIDS prevention and infant mortality."

    The prospect of foreign governments lifting their sanctions has been floated in recent months after the junta embarked on talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last October.

    The release of some 150 political prisoners since the start of the year has also fuelled suggestions that the international community may be reviewing its hardline stance against the junta.

    But while welcoming the political developments, the United States and the European Union have both said they will keep sanctions in place until more concrete progress is made towards democratic reform.

    "My own judgement is until there is significant progress on the political front in Burma/Myanmar, the common position of the European Union will stay the same," EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said last month.

    Burma's economy has been crippled by a combination of the wide-ranging sanctions and gross economic mismanagement by the generals in Rangoon, who are also accused of rampant human rights abuses.

    The appalling state of the nation's finances is one factor credited with the regime's decision to begin a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi -- the first official contact between the two sides since 1994.

    The Nation report said the UN letter outlined a looming humanitarian crisis in Burma, with more than 500,000 HIV positive citizens and high infant mortality rates.

    About 25 percent of newborn babies were underweight and one in three Burmese children would be malnourished by the time they reached the age of five, it added.

    The letter reportedly called for a dramatic overhaul of budget allocation to Burma as well as better coordination between UN organisations.
    Wa's Abduction of 7 linked to assassination

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The recent assassination of a Wa man, with Thai nationality and close ties with key members of the United Wa State Army, was thought to be a crucial factor behind the July 27 abduction of seven Thai officials in Burma's Thachilek town, security sources said yesterday.

    Thawatchai sae Tieo, locally known as Wangli, was believed by local officials to be a key drug trafficker. The man was reportedly lured by a local Thai official to travel from the Wa's Mong Yawn town to Chiang Mai's Fang district, where he was shot to death in front of the district office on June 20.

    "The incident angered the UWSA leaders who saw it as a premeditated murder by local Thai officials who had reportedly lured him from Mong Yawn," said one security source.

    The source said the UWSA was convinced Fang district chief Kritsada Boonrat was directly involved in the plot to have Wangli killed.

    Mr Kritsada yesterday denied he had anything to do with the death of Wangli.

    "I did not lure him here. Nor was I directly involved in his killing," the Fang district chief said.

    Police found methamphetamines and a shot gun next to the bullet-riddled body of Wangli.

    He was shot seven times at point-blank range by two unidentified gunmen armed with 9mm pistols, police said.

    "The circumstances of the killing were quite unusual," said the source, a senior military officer who has closely monitored developments at the Thai-Burmese border.

    Seven Thai officials, led by Col Duangkamol Sukhonthasap, director of Division 12 of the Supreme Command's Armed Forces Security Centre, were captured by Wa guerrillas on July 27 after crossing the border into Thachilek, opposite Mae Sai border town in Chiang Rai.

    Ten UWSA soldiers took them at gunpoint from a local temple where they paid a visit to a revered Burmese monk.

    They were blindfolded and taken to Mong Hsat, another Wa town, where they were detained for several days before their release on Thursday last week after a direct intervention by the Burmese military junta.

    Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, Rangoon's intelligence deputy chief, told Thai military officers led by Gen Vichit Yathip, chief of the defence minister's staff officers, that it was possible the abduction of the Thai officials might be related to the killing of Wangli.

    Gen Vichit then had a meeting with Burma's intelligence chief, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, who sent a senior Burmese military officer to mediate with the UWSA for the release of the seven Thais.

    During their detention, the Wa made it known that they were not happy with Thailand's allegations that the Wa were deeply involved in the drug trade.

    The UWSA said the allegations were unfair since a lot of Wa people were engaged in lawful undertakings including longan cultivation.

    The seven Thai hostages were taken on a tour of the UWSA's longan plantations, which the Wa claimed to be their main source of income.
    Press conference of Ex-MP fled Rangoon

    Source : Bangkok Post

    A recently released Burmese member of parliament has fled Rangoon to join a pro-democracy group at a base opposite Tak province.

    Khin Kyaw Han on Sunday went south to Myawaddy where he joined fellow members of the National League for Democracy.

    At a press conference yesterday, he insisted he would not leave the country and vowed to fight with pro-democracy movements in Burma.

    The meeting was organised by Maung Maung Aye, minister for information of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, and Pado Mahn Sha Lapan, general secretary of the Karen National Union.

    The ex-MP said democracy activists in Burma were under tremendous pressure from the ruling regime, the State Peace and Development Council.

    While welcoming a dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling junta, he criticised the Burmese military for its lack of sincerity.

    The junta should tell the public how the talks were progressing and release all political prisoners, he said.

    The activist claimed 38 MPs elected in May 1990 have died, while another 30 were being held prisoner.

    Most of them were under house arrest, including Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD chairman Aung Swe and vice-chairman Tin Oo.

    Khin Kyaw Han was the first to be arrested.

    He was charged with destroying state property in September 1990, convicted and condemned to three years of hard labour at Tae Yae prison, in Magwe.

    Khin Kyaw Han was released in February 1995, but was arrested again in July 1998. He was released again this year on June 28.