Daily News-August 27 - 2001- Monday

  • Burma softens line as envoy arrives
  • Burma lifts restrictions on two opposition leaders only Suu Kyi now under house arrest
  • UN Envoy Makes Another Attempt at Burma Reconcilation
  • Shan academic: Misconceptions of federalism led to decades of war and sufferings
  • Myanmar launches English-language TV channel
  • Thai govt believes Rangoon will convince Wa to co-operate
  • Burma easing of restrictions on opposition leaders a "good gesture"
  • Suu Kyi party hopeful over Burma talks

  • Burma softens line as envoy arrives

    By Larry Jagan in Bangkok
    source :BBC

    The Burmese military government has announced the lifting of restrictions on two senior leaders of the country's pro-democracy movement. They are Aung Shwe, who's chairman of the National League for Democracy, and Tin Oo, the party's vice-chairman. Both men have been under virtual house arrest for almost a year.

    The move comes just a day before the United Nations special envoy for Burma, Razali Ismail, arrives in Rangoon on his fifth visit to the country.

    Few concrete results

    Mr Razali is likely to meet both the generals and the head of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still under restriction.

    The UN envoy is believed to have helped initiate the talks between the two sides, which started nearly a year ago. So far there have been few concrete results from the talks.

    But the release of two of the National League for Democracy's (NLD) most senior leaders on the eve of the envoy's visit has raised expectations that the dialogue process is about to enter a new phase.

    Razali Ismail - who has only been acting as a go-between for about 18 months - seems to have convinced Burma's generals to make some significant concessions to Aung San Suu Kyi in an effort to keep the peace talks on track. Nearly 200 political prisoners have been released since the beginning of the year and NLD local offices are being allowed to reopen.

    'Real hope'

    This latest gesture is being seen by diplomats in Rangoon as a clear sign that the military authorities are serious about the dialogue process.

    Fears remain, however, that the military is only doing the minimum necessary to prevent the talks from collapsing.But the international community is beginning to see real hope of democratic change in Burma in the near future.

    Senior diplomats from Britain, the US and Japan, who have all made visits to Burma in the last few weeks and met both Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals, are convinced that the talks are about to enter a new phase.

    Mr Razali's trip is well timed and should be a good indicator of what progress is actually being made. The military, of course, are hoping to hear that the international community may be prepared to end the country's economic isolation, but that will only happen when the military makes more significant concessions than they have done so far.
    Burma lifts restrictions on two opposition leaders only Suu Kyi now under house arrest

    RANGOON, Burma, (Reuters) Aug. 26 - Two senior opposition leaders were freed from virtual house arrest Sunday, a day before the U.N. envoy who kick-started reconciliation talks was to visit the country.

    Only Nobel peace laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest nearly a year after party members were detained for defying a travel ban.

    Restrictions on National League for Democracy party chairman Aung Shwe and vice chairman Tin Oo were lifted at 4 p.m. Sunday, a government spokesman said. Soon after, authorities took both leaders to an unidentified location, presumably for talks with senior government officials. Both were in good health, said relatives and security personnel outside their homes.

    The release comes as Burma's military junta prepares to welcome U.N.special envoy Razali Ismail of Malaysia for his fifth visit to the Southeast Asian nation. The agenda for his visit has not been made public but is likely aimed at monitoring the progress of reconciliation talks that he helped start etween Suu Kyi and the junta in October.The contents of the talks have been kept secret and neither side has been willing to give any information for fear of derailing them.

    Suu Kyi, Aung Shwe, Tin Oo and six other central committee members of the NLD were put under de facto house arrest after Suu Kyi defied a travel ban by trying to go to Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, last Sept. 22. The six other committee members were released Dec. 1. Suu Kyi remains confined to her lakeside home.

    The junta does not call the detentions house arrest, but the opposition leaders had not been allowed free movement. Tin Oo first was confined to a junta guest house and then moved to his house in January, not long after Razali revealed that Suu Kyi and the junta had begun talks. There had been speculation that more political prisoners would be released before and during Razali's visit.

    Since January, the junta has released nearly 160 political prisoners from various prisons in the country and 32 elected representatives detained at junta guest houses.

    The current crop of generals came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement. They called general elections in 1990 but ignored the results, which had given a resounding victory to Suu Kyi's party. The subsequent suppression of the NLD and its political activities have attracted widespread criticism of the military junta in the West.
    UN Envoy Makes Another Attempt at Burma Reconcilation

    Ron Corben

    The U.N. envoy for Burma is to make a fresh attempt this week to further bridge the gap between Burma's military government and democratic opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The visit will be the envoy's fifth since his appointment in April.

    U.N. special envoy for Burma Razali Ismail will try to accelerate reconciliation talks between Burma's military Government and the pro-democracy opposition.

    The former Malaysian diplomat, who begins a four-day mission Monday, is to meet with the military government, including Senior General Than Shwe and intelligence chief Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt. He will also meet National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for almost a year.

    Although the talks between the military government and Aung San Suu Kyi are reported to have made little progress, Rangoon-based diplomats say Mr. Ismail has been able to create a degree of confidence between the two sides. Diplomats say Mr. Ismail's visits have been vital in the efforts to bridge the gaps between the two sides.

    The military administration has been in power since 1988. It failed to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, despite the party winning a landslide victory in 1990 elections.

    There have been few signs of concrete progress in the talks towards political reconciliation. The most obvious signs have been the release of around 170 political prisoners - including key National League for Democracy members. But diplomats are reported saying Aung San Suu Kyi is frustrated with the number of political prisoners released of which only 60 are from a 200-member priority list set down by the National League for Democracy.

    Diplomats and human rights groups have expressed fears the talks may stall, and Mr. Ismail's visits have been seen as crucial in maintaining momentum.

    The Association of South East Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member, and western countries have pressured the military government to continue the reconciliation talks.
    Shan academic: Misconceptions of federalism led to decades of war and sufferings

    Shan Herald Agency for News
    26 August 2001
    No: 08 - 22:

    A noted Shan scholar said on Friday (24 August) that the five decade long conflict in Burma was the result of misinterpretations of federalism.

    Dr. Chao Tzang Yawnghwe, advisor to Canada based National Reconciliation Program, said, "While some Burman leaders misconceive it as secession, some non-Burmans have mistaken it as submission to Burman enslavement."

    Federalism, he maintained, is a political arrangement where central, state and local governments work hand in hand. "There's nobody upstairs," he said.He was speaking at a 6-day long State Constitutions Seminar, 20-25 August, organized jointly by the two non-Burman umbrella organizations, United Nationalities League for Democracy and the National Democratic Front near the Thai-Burma border.

    Janelle Saffin, Member of Legislative Council from the State of New South Wales, Australia, who was there in the capacity as a resource person, concurred. "All the three levels of government are both independent and inter-dependent," she told the seminar.

    The seminar was participated by 56 members from various state draft constitution committees and politicians, some of whom were Pu Lian Uk, Chinland; Htoo Htoo Lay, Karen; Abel Tweed, Karenni; Sunthorn Sriphanngern, Mon; Khaing Ray Khaing, Arakan; Sao Sengsuk, Shan;U Thein Oo, U Aung Htoo, Daniel Aung, Khun Markoban and Dr. Thaung Htun.

    "In a federation, not one level of government surpasses over the other two. If this idea is not accepted by us, all that remains is to fight on until no one remains alive," warned Chao Tzang.

    The military took power in 1962 accusing the non-Burman nationalities federal proposal as a secessionist plot and has steadfastly refused to hand over power despite its thorough defeat in the 1990 General Elections.
    'Myanmar launches English-language TV channel'

    source : The Times of India

    YANGON: Myanmar has launched an English-language satellite television channel which it hopes will show the military-run nation in a kinder light, the Myanmar Times newspaper reported.

    Viewers in more than 120 countries will be able to tune into the daily four-hour program beamed from the capital Yangon, the weekly said in its edition which is published on Monday.

    The ruling junta hopes the service will promote "better understanding" of Myanmar, which is regularly pilloried by Western governments and critics of its human rights record.

    "If we had not caught up, the images of our country and people would be what the outside media wanted to show, regardless of the actual situation in Myanmar," said deputy information minister Brigadier-General Aung Thein.

    The channel's director, Win Kyi, told the Myanmar Times that most of the equipment for the government-funded service had been imported from Japan at a cost of more than $1.0 million.It will be operated by Myanmar-trained technicians, some of whom trained at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute under a technical cooperation scheme with China. ( AFP )
    Govt believes Rangoon will convince Wa to co-operate

    Yuwadee Tunyasiri
    source : Bangkokpost

    The government is confident Burma can convince the Wa minority group to co-operate in its efforts to halt drug production in the Golden Triangle.

    At a recent meeting in Phuket, Thai officials urged their Burmese counterparts to help negotiate the co-operation of the Wa. The government hopes to see some progress early next month before the visit to Thailand of Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the secretary-general of the State Peace and Development Council.

    A cabinet source said some members of the Wa had already began producing alternative cash crops like longan and wine-making grapes. They also wanted to open avenues of trade with Thailand and were keen to learn Thai to improve trade opportunities.

    Joint efforts between the two countries to help this group would also encourage other Wa groups to halt their drug production activities and turn to other cash crops, the source said.

    Gen Thammarak Issrangkul na Ayutthaya, PM's Office minister, hailed the success of the Phuket meeting and said much ground was covered in the war against drugs. The minister, who will accompany Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today on his three-day trip to China, said he would discuss the matter with Chinese officials and exchange information on the production of drug-producing chemicals in China.The prime minister would seek Beijing's co-operation, he said.
    Burma easing of restrictions on opposition leaders a "good gesture"

    Rangoon, Aug 27 (AFP)

    Burma has made an important goodwill gesture in easing restrictions on two senior opposition leaders as the UN's envoy Razali Ismail arrives to monitor reconiciliation talks, analysts said Monday.

    The military regime lifted restrictions late Sunday on the president and vice president of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung Shwe and Tin Oo, who were under virtual house arrest in Rangoon.

    "It's a good gesture from the State Peace and Development Councilside," said a Bangkok-based analyst at Chulalongkorn University. "It's clearly to please Razali and also the National League for Democracy."

    "These two are quite influential, they are former army generals," he added.

    While Aung Shwe and Tin Oo had been held under military guard at their residences until Sunday afternoon, democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi remains under de facto house arrest.

    The move came a day ahead of a visit to the Burms capital by Razali, who helped launch the talks last October and is hoping to speed up reconciliation talks between the military junta and the opposition.

    The four-day mission is the fifth by the Malaysian diplomat since UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed him in April 2000 with a brief to help end a decade of political deadlock in the military-run nation.

    On each occasion he has met with top members of the junta and been allowed to visit Aung San Suu Kyi at her lakeside residence, where she has been held under loose house arrest since September.

    "Razali has the trust of both sides. All his visits have been fruitful," a spokesman for the junta told AFP on a recent visit to Rangoon.

    The new atmosphere has seen the release of around 170 political prisoners in small groups over the past few months.

    But eventually the aim is to establish a full-blown "national reconciliation" process and the drafting of a new constitution which would herald the return of civilian government after 40 years of military rule.

    Observers have been heartened by the prisoner releases, but note that only about 60 are from a "priority list" of 200 presented to the junta by Razali when he last visited in June.

    This week Razali is scheduled to meet again with Burma's leader Senior General Than Shwe as well as its influential chief of military intelligence Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt.

    He is expected to see Aung San Suu Kyi twice, as he has on past visits where he has also held talks with leaders of the religious, ethnic and business communities who also have a stake in moves for reform.

    The junta said the stream of releases this year, including dozens of opposition MPs, is a sign that the talks it started last October are making headway.

    The contacts, the first since 1994, are aimed at paving the way for an official national reconciliation dialogue that some observers say could lead to democratic reforms after four decades of absolute military rule.

    International rights group Amnesty International estimates that some 1,800 political prisoners remain behind bars in Burma.
    Suu Kyi party hopeful over Burma talks

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    Rangoon, Aug. 27 ---Burma's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) expressed optimism on Monday over talks with the ruling military as U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail began a four-day visit to mediate the dialogue.

    The U.N. envoy's arrival came on the heels of the release from de facto house arrest of two top NLD leaders -- Chairman Aung Shwe, 83, and Vice-Chairman Tin Oo, 75 -- who late on Sunday met party leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time since a renewed crackdown by the military in September last year.

    ''I am more optimistic about the talks (with the military). I feel we are gaining more understanding,'' Tin Oo told Reuters.

    ''The release of political prisoners is rather slow. Aung San Suu Kyi also feels like this and we are all looking forward to seeing Mr Razali.''

    Other party members also said they were optimistic about a fresh round of shuttle negotiations with the ruling military.

    ''We are very happy about the release (of Tin Oo and Aung Shwe). It sure will improve our optimism about the success of the talks,'' said an NLD official recently freed from detention by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

    ''There are some more political prisoners, including our leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who should be released,'' he said.

    Razali, who last visited in June, arrived on a flight from Singapore. He met Foreign Minister Win Aung soon after, but made no public comment.

    A U.N. official said Razali would stay four days.

    ''Mr Razali will visit Yangon from today until August 30 to help facilitate the talks between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi for democratisation and reconciliation in Myanmar,'' he said.

    'During his visit Mr Razali is expected to meet with Senior General Than Shwe, prime minister and chairman of the SPDC, and other government figures,'' he said.

    ''He is also expected to meet with senior members of the NLD.''


    NLD Secretary U Lwin, a member of the party's Central Executive Committee, told Reuters the U.N. diplomat was expected to meet Suu Kyi, as well as Aung Shwe, Tin Oo and himself.

    ''We are looking forward to meeting him (Razali), but we have no details of the meeting yet,'' he said.

    U Lwin said he had accompanied Tin Oo and Aung Shwe to the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi at her lakeside residence in central Rangoon late on Sunday.

    ''They talked about the running of the party,'' he said.

    The NLD's executive committee issued a statement later on Monday confirming the four-hour party meeting and reaffirming its unity and commitment to the struggle for democracy.

    ''U Aung Shwe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will continue to make efforts unitedly for the emergence of democracy,'' it said.

    Suu Kyi and Aung Shwe have been confined to their Rangoon homes since September, when the government cracked down on the NLD following attempts by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to travel outside the capital.

    Tin Oo was detained by the government after the crackdown and put under de facto house arrest.

    Western diplomats in Rangoon said the lifting of restrictions on Tin Oo and Aung Shwe appeared intended as a goodwill gesture from the government ahead of Razali's visit.

    The military has been holding secretive talks since October with Suu Kyi. The start of dialogue was welcomed by foreign countries, many of which regard Burma as a pariah state.

    But no clear signs of progress have emerged from the talks, and there has been speculation that they have hit an impasse.

    Despite some concessions by the military, a government official told Reuters on Sunday that restrictions on Suu Kyi's freedom of movement would remain.

    ''The situation of Aung San Suu Kyi will remain the same for the time being,'' the official said.

    The SPDC has so far released more than 150 NLD members and allowed the party to re-open some of its offices. But human rights group Amnesty International says there are still more than 1,500 political prisoners in Burma.

    The NLD won the country's last general election in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern. Razali has played a key role in brokering talks between the government and Suu Kyi.

    His visit beginning on Monday will be his fifth since he took on the role of mediator last year.

    At the conclusion of his last visit he expressed ''cautious optimism'' over the talks between the military, which has run the country since grabbing power in a 1962 coup, and the pro-democracy opposition.