Daily News-August 09 - 2001- Thursday

  • NLD backs off protest
  • Protesters urge junta to reopen universities
  • 1500 people from 70 countries supports the students in Burma
  • Democracy party MP doubts sincerity of Burmese government on reconciliation
  • Mandalay monk arrested over critical sermon
  • EU approves a series of humanitarian aid measures worth euro 16.2 million
  • Companies join Burma ban From AAP
  • Myanmar's Fertilizer Production Decreases in 1st Quarter
  • Thailand to repatriate 16 hundred Burmese refugees
  • Chiang Rai ya ba seizures 'doubling'
  • Myanmar Seizes Large Amount of Stimulant Drugs
  • Thai National Human Rights Commission urged Thai Govt to take bold stance on Burma Talks
  • Uprising anniversary passes quietly in Rangoon
  • Burma Talks Focus On Prisoner Release now

  • NLD backs off protest

    Agence France-Presse >

    RANGOON: Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party yesterday cancelled plans to mark for the first time in several years the anniversary of the bloody 1988 student uprising in Burma.

    National League for Democracy sources said arrangements for a low-key commemoration of the protests, in which hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators were gunned down, had been abandoned.

    The party has been careful in recent months not to provoke the military regime while it is holding reconciliation talks with Ms Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.

    Since the dialogue began in October, dozens of elected legislators have been released from detention, the party has been allowed to reopen some branch offices and its members have been given more freedom of movement.

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

    The 1988 Rangoon student uprising paved the way for a junta to take over from longtime military strongman Ne Win the following month. Free elections were held in 1990 that the party won convincingly, but the junta refused to recognise the result.
    Protesters urge junta to reopen universities

    source: The Nation
    Subhatra Bhumiprabhas

    Hundreds of Burmese students in exile and their sympathisers held a protest outside the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok yesterday - the 13th anniversary of a bloody uprising in Rangoon in which hundreds of democracy demonstrators were killed.

    Local activists joined the Burmese students, thousands of whom fled to Thailand after the 1988 crackdown, in calling for the international community to pressure the Burmese junta into reopening the country's universities.

    "Only military-run universities are allowed to open," said Myat Thu, the director of foreign affairs at the All Burma Students Democratic Front. "This is having an adverse effect on the younger generation, which represents the future of our country." He said options were extremely limited for students wishing to pursue a university-level education.

    "They can go to a university run by the military, or they can study abroad," Myat Thu said, adding the junta had left the country completely isolated. "Whatever happens in Burma, the education system should be maintained," he said.

    Aung Naing Htwe, chairman of the Burmese Students Political Refugee Committee, and Metha Maskhao, secretary-general of Student Federation of Thailand (SFT), jointly urged the international community to apply pressure on the Burmese government by ceasing all contact.

    "Please don't ignore the plight of the people and students. The closure of universities in Burma is a rights violation," Metha said. "I call on students worlwide to join our campaign for the right to education in Burma, and urge everybody to help stop the repression immediately."

    Other groups that supported the protest included the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area), the Democratic Party for a New Society and the All Burma Federation Student Union. They released a joint statement demanding the publication of details of ongoing political dialogue between the National League for Democracy and the Burmese government.

    "Ethnic minorities should be allowed a significant role in the dialogue process to ensure peace, national reconciliation and a genuine federal union," the statement said."We would like to emphasise that our fight for democracy has not come to an end," it added.

    In Rangoon, the NLD cancelled plans to mark the anniversary for the first time in several years.Party sources said that arrangements for a low-key commemoration of the protests had been abandoned. An explanation for the decision was not given, but the NLD has been careful in recent months not to provoke the military regime while it holds reconciliation talks with the party's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently being held under house arrest.
    1500 people from 70 countries supports the students in Burma

    The International Student Festival in Tromheim.ISFiT
    PRESS RELEASE 08.08.01

    1500 people from 70 different countries have signed the petition to reopen the universities in Burma and to set the student leader Min Ko Naing free. Today is the last day for people to sign before the petition will be sent to the leaders of Burma.

    The petition was initiated as the organization All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) and its leader Min Ko Naing was awarded the Student Peace Prize 2001.

    ABFSU was in the forefront of the uprisings in Burma in 1988. Thousands of students were killed or imprisoned for their commitment to a free and democratic Burma.

    Student Peace Prize Laureate Min Ko Naing is still imprisoned, in solitary confinement, more than 12 years after he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

    Thorvald Stoltenberg, former UNHCR and member of the Student Peace Prize Committee says: I am impressed with the large number of persons in so many different countries who support the students in Burma. The country is in a poor condition and is due to the closing of the universities facing an educational crisis. If the universities are not reopened to all that wants to study, Burma will soon be without competent teachers, engineers and health workers. I share the worry of Nobel Peace Prize laurate Aun San Suu Kyi for the future of Burma.

    Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Norwegian Prime Minister and also a member of the Student Peace Prize Committee, says "It is very positive that ISFiT has acchieved to gather such great support to Burma from all over the world. Through releasing some political prisoners it may look like the military regime is loosening the grip. But even so it is extremely important to sustain the international pressure. The support from the international community is the strongest weapon of the Burmese democracy movement.

    8 August is an important day for the democracy movement and students of Burma. 08.08.88 a general strike and mass demonstrations were held to make the ruling military junta accept the legally elected national assembly. The junta answered with violence and thousands of people were killed or imprisoned. The junta tightened its grip, also by closing down the universities to prevent the students from gathering. Since 1988 the universities have been open less than 3 years alltogether.

    The Student Peace Prize is awarded every second year by the International Student Festival in Trondheim (ISFiT), in cooperation with the Norwegian student unions: SAIH, NSU and StL. The Prize aims to give attention and recognition to students fighting for democracy, peace and human rights.
    Democracy party MP doubts sincerity of Burmese government on reconciliation

    Text of report by DVB on 7 August

    According to an AFP news report today, the SPDC military government has criticized U Khin Kyaw Han, one of National League for Democracy [NLD] elected representatives, who fled to the Thai-Burma border. The SPDC spokesman said in a statement that it was indeed regretful U Khin Kyaw Han left the country at a time the reconciliation process is taking place between the military government and the opposition NLD party. Furthermore, the spokesman said it is time to meaningfully participate in the reconciliation process that is taking place and stop the policy of confrontation.

    DVB has contacted U Khin Kyaw Han and asked him to clarify the SPDC's allegations.

    [Khin Kyaw Han] I gave it a very hard thought when I was back in Burma, whether to remain in the country or leave for the liberated area. Although they are saying that reconciliation talks are under way, in reality there is no political freedom internally. After my release, when I planned to go to Rangoon the regional military intelligence asked me where I will be staying. Then when I reach Rangoon too they want my contact phone number and so on. That means they will always be shadowing me and following me. There is no real political freedom. In the long run they can find some cause and try to do something to me. I believe that I can do more political activity liberally outside than inside the country. That is why I left.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] According to the newspaper, the SPDC issued a statement and accused you, saying your absconding could affect the reconciliation process that is taking place between the government and the NLD, when most believe the situation is improving and more political prisoners have been released. How do you want to refute this allegation?

    [Khin Kyaw Han] I did not do that to derail the reconciliation process. They did release some political prisoners. Apart from the talks, if the SPDC really has the goodwill to let democracy flourish in the future state, they should release all the political prisoners at once rather than release them in dribs and drabs. For example, even the elected representatives [MPs] held at the detention camp [preceding two words rendered in English] were released piecemeal. The three MPs held at Chauk were released in three lots while the five MPs held at Magwe camp were released in two lots. By looking at that, I am doubtful whether they are really sincere or not. Well, those remaining inside can do what they can but I personally feel I can do much better outside. That is why I left the country.

    U Khin Kyaw Han, who is 48 years old, was elected as an MP under the NLD banner in Yenangyaung Township Constituency-2 of Magwe Division, fled to the Thai-Burma border on 4 August to seek refuge and held a news conference yesterday. He was incarcerated for more than three years and released from Magwe detention centre on 28 June.

    Furthermore, he was arrested by SPDC military intelligence in 1992 and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. He fled the country as he was frequently arrested and was not allowed to freely participate in political activities.
    Mandalay monk arrested over critical sermon

    Text of report by DVB on 7 August

    Democratic Voice of Burma has learned that regional military intelligence personnel have arrested a monk for delivering a sermon criticizing the prevailing economic and political situations at an umbrella raising religious ceremony held at the Mahamyatmunni Payagyi Pagoda in Mandalay on 1 August.

    The monk, Ashin Pandita, climbed on the pagoda's scaffolding and delivered a sermon to the monks and guests attending the ceremony. Immediately, the nearby military intelligence personnel took the monk away towards the gate, defrocked him, and detained him at No 10 Police Station. The authorities are planning to take action against the monk for inciting unrest.

    Although Ashin Pandita is believed to be a resident of a monastery near the Mandalay Technological University his details are not known. His actions caused a commotion among the monks who attended the ceremony and he was later detained by the military intelligence.
    EU approves a series of humanitarian aid measures worth euro 16.2 million

    Brussels, 8 August 2001

    The European Commission has recently taken a number of separate humanitarian aid decisions totalling euro 16.2 million. The countries included in these decisions are; the Palestinian Territories (euro 5 million), Cambodia (euro 4.2 million), Indonesia (euro 2.2 million), Myanmar (euro 2 million), Burkina Faso and Chad (1.6 million) and China-Inner Mongolia (1.2 million). The assistance is channelled through the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) which comes under the authority of Commissioner Poul Nielson.

    Myanmar (Burma) - 2 million

    More than 40% of Myanmar's population has no access to health care, while only 32% has access to safe drinking water, resulting in the rapid spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and malaria.

    Projects financed by ECHO under this decision are aimed at increasing sustainable access to safe water, reducing the risk of water borne diseases and improving wastewater management.

    Funds are also being allocated to educate the civilian population about child nutrition, AIDS and family planning, and to inform health workers about malaria control and advanced health care practices.
    Companies join Burma ban From AAP

    The Advertiser

    EIGHTEEN Australian companies have broken their economic ties with Burma as part of an international campaign against human rights abuses in the country.

    The ACTU wrote to 60 Australian companies that did business with Burma after an International Council of Free Trade Unions conference earlier this year agreed to isolate the country because of its forced labour policies. The policies were adopted after the military junta cancelled democratic elections 13 years ago.

    Fosters Brewing Group, Ikea Australia, Intrepid Travel, Mitsubishi Motors Australia, Telstra Corp and Multiplex Constructions are among the companies that have boycotted Burma, the ACTU said.

    While 18 companies agreed to sever ties, others including several tour groups and the Lonely Planet travel books refused. Lonely Planet spokeswoman Anna Bolger said the Burma guide book contained a section on the politics and history of the country.

    "We leave it up to the traveller to make an informed decision whether to go," Ms Bolger said. "There is a question of whether an informed tourist helps or hinders moves towards democracy."

    ACTU president Sharan Burrow said the principled stand by the 18 companies contrasted to the federal government's "appeasement" of the military dictatorship."The federal government must take a much stronger stand to pressure Burma into establishing democratic norms and ending the persecution of its people," she said.
    Myanmar's Fertilizer Production Decreases in 1st Quarter

    YANGON, August 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar produced 34,527 tons of chemical fertilizer in the first quarter of this year, a reduction of 18 percent as compared with the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures of the country's Central Statistical Organization.Meanwhile, during the three-month period, the country imported 3.38 million U.S. dollars worth of fertilizer. In 2000, Myanmar produced 167,599 tons of chemical fertilizer, up 14.8 percent from 1999. Up to now, the country has only three fertilizer plants which can only produce urea and it needs over 800,000 tons of chemical fertilizer annually and its domestic production is very limited and far from meeting the demand. The country is said to have to import nearly 700,000 tons of fertilizer which accounts for 85 percent of total required quantity.To promote agricultural development, the Myanmar government has exempted the import duties of agricultural implements including fertilizer, pesticide, improved variety and machinery.
    Thailand to repatriate 16 hundred Burmese refugees

    Australian Broadcast Corporation News

    Thailand says 16-hundred refugees from Burma will be repatriated to their homeland later this month.

    Thai district officials in the border province of Tak say the refugees have been staying at the Mae La refugee camp, home to about 30-thousand long-term refugees, 500 kilometres northwest of Bangkok .

    More than 100-thousand refugees from Burma, mostly from the Karen ethnic minority, shelter in Thai border camps after fleeing fighting and mass relocations. Referring to those who are to be repatriated, officials say the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has determined that "they are not real refugees" and did not flee from a battle area.
    Chiang Rai ya ba seizures 'doubling'

    source : The Nation
    Don Pathan

    The amount of methamphetamines confiscated by authorities in Chiang Rai province over the past seven months is close to the total amount ceased by provincial officials last year, a senior police officer said yesterday.

    According to Pol Col Thanakit Teurnkaew, a deputy commander at the provincial counter-narcotic unit, Chiang Rai authorities seized a total of 4,661,324 tablets of methamphetamines between January 1 and July 31 this year, compared to a total of 5,583,477 for all of last year.

    "At the rate we are going, we will double the entire amount we had confiscated for the year 2000," Thanakit said.

    Chiang Rai has for decades been a major drug route for illicit opium and heroin - and in the recent years, methamphetamines - coming out of the infamous Golden Triangle, an area where Thailand, Laos and Burma share a common border.

    "It's not that we are easing our counter-narcotic efforts. We have explored every possible channel, including public relations, educating the masses and setting up more checkpoints," Thanakit said."The problem is that producers still see the illicit business as something that is worth the risk," he said.

    Thanakit said traffickers had become more sophisticated, pointing to the regular clashes with Thai soldiers along the border near Tak province as well as a major drug bust earlier this year in the Andaman Sea."It's like a balloon affect. When the authorities squeeze one area, the illicit activities pop up in another," he said.

    According to Office of the Narcotic Control Board estimates, about 90 per cent of illicit drugs produced in the area ends up in the streets of various cities in the country.The Thai army has blamed a pro-Rangoon ethnic army, the United Wa State Army, for much of the methamphetmines flooding into the country, saying the group has over the years expanded its troops and illicit operations along the common border to areas near Tak province, as well as areas just north of the Golden Triangle bordering Laos.

    It said a number of the clandestine drug labs have "popped up" in areas along the Mekong River on the Lao side near Burma since the Thai army stepped up security along the Thai-Burma border following a cross-border clash earlier this year.

    The Burmese government has said it is being unfairly singled out and that Thailand and other neighbouring countries need to do more to curb the flow of precursor chemicals needed to make the drugs.Following the border clashes, top army brass from both sides engaged in lengthy war of words, accusing their counterparts of taking kickbacks from the drug traffickers.
    Myanmar Seizes Large Amount of Stimulant Drugs

    YANGON, August 8 (Xinhuanet) -- The Myanmar authorities seized 3.6 million tablets of stimulant drugs in Naunghkio, northern Shan state of the country, last month, according to Myanmar's Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control Wednesday.

    The seizure was made by a combined team comprising local intelligence unit and the police force when they searched a car passing by at the Naunghkio checkpoint on July 13.

    Three people were arrested in connection with the case, the sources said, adding that they were punished under the country's Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law.

    According to official statistics, in 2000, the Myanmar authorities confiscated 26.6 million tablets of stimulant drug along with 1.52 tons of opium, 158 kilograms (kg) of heroin and 590 kg of marijuana.

    Besides, during the first five months of this year, the authorities exposed a total of 1,251 drug-related cases, seizing 491 kg of opium and 25.5 kg of heroin, and punishing 1,781 drug offenders, the statistics show.
    Thai National Human Rights Commission urged Thai Govt to take bold stance on Burma Talks

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The government must be bolder with Burma now there are signs of a thaw in relations, a member of the National Human Rights Commission said yesterday.

    The government should actively support talks towards national reconciliation in Burma, and demand an end to the detention of opposition politicians, said Jaran Dithaaphichai.

    The ruling State Peace and Development Council and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi have held talks since last October.

    But the junta continues to detain an estimated 1,800 political prisoners, with Mrs Suu Kyi under virtual house arrest since last September.

    Mr Jaran said the Thai government should adopt a more pro-active approach now that the situation had eased, rather than fall back on personal relations between political and military leaders as it had done so far.

    This approach was not sustainable and had yielded meagre results, he said, citing border skirmishes that continued after Mr Thaksin's visit to Burma in June.

    Mr Jaran spoke at a panel discussion marking the 13th anniversary of the Aug 8, 1988 pro-democracy uprising in Burma. He was not the only speaker urging more of the government's stance towards Burma.

    Suriyasri Katasiri, joint secretary of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, said the government's Burma policy was devoid of principle. It had failed to raise lapses in human rights and democracy.

    Exiled Burmese pro-democracy groups and the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma issued statements calling for information on the talks between Mrs Suu Kyi and the junta.

    "It is hard to accept that the talks are genuinely making progress," said a joint statement by the National League for Democracy, Democratic Party for a New Society, All Burma Students Democratic Front, All Burma Federation Students Union, and the Thai action group.

    The groups also called for the release of all opposition politicians, and freedom of communication and movement for Mrs Suu Kyi and other NLD members.

    In a separate statement, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma said the absence of information about the talks between Mrs Suu Kyi and the junta would only raise doubts.

    The NCGUB and the Mon National Democratic Front also called for a broadening of the talks to include ethnic minorities."Independent and genuine dialogue is the best way to restore national reconciliation and democracy," the NCGUB said.

    The Mon front added: "We will not accept the military government's neo-colonialist policy of rule by one superior party."The NCGUB said it was "impossible" to say Burmese political life had improved even though in the past 10 months authorities had released 180 political prisoners, and 18 NLD offices had been opened.

    The junta continued to hold all those political prisoners, limit the freedom of political parties, abuse human rights and fight with ethnic minorities, it said.

    Meanwhile, Thailand will send the first batch of 5,000 illegal Burmese immigrants now hiding in three refugee camps in Tak back to Burma on Sunday.

    Tha Song Yang district chief Vilat Pusilp said the undocumented aliens, mostly Karen and Mon, had escaped arrest to stay with friends and relatives in Mae La, Umpium and Nu Pho camps in Tha Song Yang, Phop Phra and Umphang districts. Around 1,600 people from Mae La camp would be sent back this weekend, each with 600 baht in travelling expenses, he said.

    Camp director Prasong La-on said the Burmese were difficult to control.

    They had sneaked out of the camp at night to work for Thai farm owners. Some had stolen crops or were hired to cut trees and hunt wild animals.

    He said the repatriation was arranged by the Foreign Ministry and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    Maung Htay, 25, a Karen who will be deported, said he would petition the UNHCR to stay in Mae La camp because he had nothing left at home.
    Uprising anniversary passes quietly in Rangoon

    Source : Australian Broadcasting Corp.

    A key political anniversary has passed without incident in the Burmese capital Rangoon, with no public commemorations of the 1988 popular uprising against military rule.

    The Associated Press newsagency says markets, schools and universities were open as normal with many people apparently unaware of the significance of the day.

    On August 8th, 1988, a student-inspired national strike began which nearly toppled the country's military rulers, but the uprising ended in bloodshed with the military consolidating its power.

    This was despite losing a 1990 general election to pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy saying it had no plans to commemorate the anniversary.
    Burma Talks Focus On Prisoner Release now

    Source : Far Eastern Economic Review

    It can now be confirmed that the talks between Burma's military government and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi have centred on one issue: Suu Kyi wants the release of all 2,000 political prisoners in the country, while the government is releasing some prisoners in the hope that foreign countries and international institutions will resume aid, which has been cut off since the military gunned down thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988.

    Contrary to regional press reports, there is nothing to indicate that the two sides have been discussing power-sharing agreements or even how the country should be governed, sources close to the talks in Rangoon report.

    The sources assert Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy wants no "rewards" to be given to the government until all political detainees have been set free and the NLD leadership is satisfied that the outcome of the talks are satisfactory and irreversible. At the current pace of prisoner release--"in dribs and drabs of two to three a week," the NLD complains, according to an opposition radio station--it could take up to 10 years before all those now held are out of jail.

    To speed up the talks, Suu Kyi wants United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail to visit Burma more often. The sources also say that, contrary to what the government has claimed, Suu Kyi did not assent to delaying Razali's visit earlier this year until June. In other words, there has been no real breakthrough, and the talks are not going as smoothly as the government has claimed in an effort to get aid flowing again.