Daily News-August 28 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Burmese opposition backs talks
  • Burma optimistic about talks
  • Japan welcomes release of democracy party members
  • Aung San Suu Kyi property suit delayed again
  • Workshop on Encoding Myanmar Character Set Held
  • Junta leader Khint Nyunt granted audience with Thai King
  • On Trial: Fighting Drugs vs. Fighting Dictators
  • Brighter future for Burma's workforce
  • United Nations envoy meets with Aung San Suu Kyi
  • U.N. envoy meets top general in key Burma visit
  • China slams Burma over drug trade and 'Too compromising' toward Wa, Shan

  • Burmese opposition backs talks

    source : BBC

    Burma's pro-democracy opposition has welcomed the lifting of restrictions on two of its top leaders, as a United Nations special envoy arrived to mediate peace talks. The UN envoy, Razali Ismail, is in Rangoon on his fifth visit to the country, and will hold talks with members of the military government and the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

    On Monday, the National League for Democracy released a statement saying Aung San Suu Kyi would continue to "strive for the realisation of democracy".

    The NLD overwhelmingly won elections in 1990 but the military junta refused to give up power. Aung San Suu Kyi has had various restrictions placed on her activities ever since, but for nearly a year she has been holding secret talks with the military, with Mr Razali as a go-between. One of her key demands is thought to be the release of political prisoners.

    Nearly 200 political prisoners have been released since the beginning of the year and NLD local offices are being allowed to reopen.


    On Sunday the military government announced it was lifting the restrictions on NLD chairman Aung Shwe and the party's vice-chairman, Tin Oo. Both men have been under virtual house arrest since last September when they defied an informal travel ban.

    After their release Aung Shwe and Tin Oo visited Aung San Suu Kyi at her home, where she remains confined for defying the same travel ban by trying to visit the northern city of Mandalay.

    Tin Oo said she was "working hard for the success of the talks" and in Monday's statement the NLD executive committee said it was "totally supportive" of its leader. "Aung San Suu Kyi expressed great satisfaction in seeing that Aung Shwe and Tin Oo and the rest of the members will now be able to be active in their party affairs," the statement said.

    Mr Razali, a Malaysian diplomat, is expected to meet Aung San Suu Kyi twice during his four-day visit. He will also meet military leader Than Shwe and the chief of military intelligence Khin Nyunt.

    The talks have been deadlocked for some time, but our Burma correspondent says the release of the two leaders has raised expectations that the dialogue process is about to enter a new phase.
    Burma optimistic about talks

    By Kimina Lyall South-East Asia
    correspondent and agencies- 28aug01

    A KEY member of Burma's opposition National League for Democracy says he is "optimistic" about the organisation's talks with the ruling junta, after his house arrest provisions were relaxed at the weekend.

    U Tin Oo, vice-chairman of the NLD, who had been restricted to his house since last September, said after his release that he was "more optimistic about the talks (with the military) – I feel we are gaining more understanding".

    Mr U Tin Oo, 75, and NLD chairman U Aung Shwe, 83, met democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday after the military relaxed their virtual house arrest. It was the first time the three had spoken since last September, when they were each confined.

    However, hopes that Ms Suu Kyi would also be allowed to leave her home were dashed by a government official, who told Reuters that "the situation of Aung San Suu Kyi will remain the same for the time being".

    Exiled members of the NLD called yesterday for stronger UN intervention in the plight of more than 1000 political prisoners in Burma. Maung Maung Aye, the information minister of Burma's government-in-exile, said UN special envoy Razali Ismail, who arrived in Rangoon yesterday, should do more than just "mediate" talks between the ruling State Peace and Development Council and Ms Suu Kyi, the NLD's leader.

    Mr Razali, on his fifth visit to Rangoon to oversee the democracy talks that started last October, is expected to meet Ms Suu Kyi, who remains under effective house arrest.The envoy will also meet the military regime's top figure, General Than Shwe, and his number two, Khin Nyunt.

    But Mr Aye called on Mr Razali to facilitate an announcement from the ruling junta as to the progress of the talks. The junta has said the stream of releases this year, including those of dozens of opposition MPs, is a sign that the talks are making headway, but has so far furnished no other details.

    "We are not satisfied with this situation . . . the UN should be more than a mediator. They must announce what is going on," Mr Aye said.

    Some Burma activists are cynical that the releases are merely a ploy to "show the international community that everything is OK", Mr Aye said. He said many of the 150 prisoners released so far this year remained closely watched by the junta and therefore were not free to carry out their activities.

    The talks between Nobel peace prize winner Ms Suu Kyi and the military dictatorship, 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. The NLD overwhelmingly won national elections in 1990, but the military refused to recognise the result and imprisoned hundreds of the elected MPs, including Ms Suu Kyi.
    Japan welcomes release of democracy party members

    Tokyo, 27 August:(KYODO) Japan welcomes the release over the weekend from virtual house arrest of two of the top leaders of Myanmar's National League for Democracy (NLD), Vice Foreign Minister Yoshiji Nogami said.

    "Japan welcomes the lifting 26 August by the Myanmar government of movement restrictions on NLD's Chairman Aung Shwe and Vice Chairman Tin Oo as a sign of further advancement in the relationship of trust between the Myanmar government and (NLD leader) Ms Aung San Suu Kyi," Nogami said.

    Aung Shwe and Tin Oo had been under virtual house arrest for nearly a year. The NLD won Myanmar's last general election more than a decade ago but has never been allowed by the country's military leaders to take its parliamentary seats.

    Nogami, the ministry's top bureaucrat, said the latest move was a result of efforts by the international community, including the Japanese government and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Myanmar Razali Ismail, to promote dialogue between Myanmar's junta government and Suu Kyi.

    "Japan hopes for additional release of political prisoners, further progress in dialogue between the Myanmar government and Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, and democratization of the country," Nogami told a press conference.
    Aung San Suu Kyi property suit delayed again

    YANGON, Aug 27 (AFP) - A Yangon court Monday again postponed a property suit brought against democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi by her brother Aung San Oo, who is fighting for partial control of her lakeside residence.

    Proceedings in the case brought by US businessman Aung San Oo, who is seeking to administer half of the house that belonged to their late mother, have been pushed back to September 3.

    Judge Soe Thein read out amendments early Monday in the drawn-out case, which has already been delayed several times, but did not set a date for a formal hearing.

    Aung San Oo has made two bids to evict his sister from her lakeside villa, where she has been confined by the country's ruling generals since September. His first attempt for half ownership was dismissed on a technicality in January.

    Lawyers on both sides revised their original arguments, which will now be presented to the court on September 3.Defence lawyers earlier asked the court to reject amendments issued by the plaintiff's side, saying they would change the whole substance of the case. "Whereas the plaintiff side has put up a case for administration of property, it in fact continues to demand partition and half-ownership of the property," they said in June.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers originally argued that Aung San Oo had no right to apply for his sister to be evicted because, as a foreigner living in the United States, he had no right to own property in Myanmar.

    If he wins the case, Aung San Oo is expected to turn his share of the house over to the government, a result which would put his sister in an extremely precarious position.The legal action is believed to be driven by Aung San Oo's wife and to be motivated more by a family rift than political concerns.

    Meanwhile, attention was centered on the arrival of United Nations envoy Razali Ismail Monday to mediate landmark talks he helped launch between the junta and the democratic opposition late last year.In an apparent goodwill gesture, the military regime lifted restrictions late Sunday on senior members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung Shwe and Tin Oo, who had been under virtual house arrest since September.
    Workshop on Encoding Myanmar Character Set Held

    Information Sheet- N0. B-1934( I ) 27th August, 2001

    Workshop on Encoding Myanmar Character Set organized by Forever Group Co Ltd was held at the International Business Centre in Yangon on 26 August. U Cho Myo Kyi of Forever Group discussed facts about Myanmar alphabet to be taken into account in computer programming; U Zaw Htut, the use of Unicode and character in Myanmar spelling programme; U William Wai Lin Kyaw, the use of Myanmar alphabet in accord with Unicode under Linux Operating System.

    In the afternoon session, the workshop focused on emergence of National Standard Keyboard Layout and Standard Input Method and Romanization issues. The workshop came to an end in the evening.
    Junta leader Khint Nyunt granted audience with Thai King

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, secretary-one of Burma's State Peace and Development Council, will be granted an audience with His Majesty the King in Hua Hin during his Sept 3-5 visit.

    A Defence Ministry source said the meeting was scheduled for next Tuesday at Klaikangwon Palace.

    The Burmese army strongman will also meet Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and top Thai military leaders for talks on illicit drugs, fishing problems, minority groups and border demarcation.

    The source said Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt would also visit Shin Corp's telecom firms to gather information that would help Burma develop its telecommunications sector.

    For security reasons, Lt-Gen Khin would not decide which city hotel he would stay in until just before his visit.

    He would spend one night in Hua Hin as a guest of the Third Army Corps commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh.

    The 19th Regional Border Committee Meeting will take place in Pattaya on Sept 5-7. It will be chaired by Lt-Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong, the Third Army chief, and his counterpart, Maj-Gen Thein Sein, Burma's Triangle Regional commander.
    On Trial: Fighting Drugs vs. Fighting Dictators

    Newyork Times

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - When the competing foreign policy objectives of federal agencies collide overseas, internal struggles often roil the cramped confines of an American embassy. But rarely do those testy little fights take on the bitterness, suspicion and prolonged legal wrangling that have marked the case of Richard Horn, a former agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    Mr. Horn, the drug agency's attaché in Myanmar during the early 1990's, says his home was illegally wiretapped in 1993, probably by the Central Intelligence Agency. A 54- year-old career D.E.A. agent who retired in December, Mr.Horn has sued both the C.I.A. station chief for Myanmar and the State Department's chief of mission at the embassy when he was there, seeking monetary damages for violations of his civil rights.

    The government is defending both officials and has sought to dismiss his lawsuit, which the federal court, in the District of Columbia, has placed under seal. The suit has been stuck in court for seven years.The facts are hotly disputed, and Mr. Horn's opponents say the wiretapping never happened. "There is absolutely nothing to it," said Franklin Huddle, Jr., who was the embassy chief of mission at the time.

    Even so, the government has invoked a provision of the national security law known as the state-secrets privilege to prevent the disclosure of classified information in a civil lawsuit. A federal judge has approved the use of such privilege, and asked Mr. Horn's attorneys to explain how they can proceed without access to classified material. Because the case is under seal, officials at the agencies involved say they are limited in what they can say about it. A drug agency spokesman declined comment. A State Department spokesman said, "It has always been our steadfast position that there is no merit" to the case. A spokeswoman for Central Intelligence said, "It's not the mission or part of its operations for the C.I.A. to surveil other U.S. officials or U.S. citizens at home or abroad."

    The government's tactics have frustrated Mr. Horn and his lawyers.The extraordinary efforts they have taken to conceal the records and prevent discovery make their claims that no unlawful actions were taken against Mr. Horn very, very suspicious," said Janine Brookner, a former C.I.A. officer who represents Mr. Horn.

    By the time Mr. Horn arrived in Myanmar in 1992, the United States had already become harshly critical of the government's record on democracy and human rights. Under pressure from Congress, American officials kept their distance.

    But Myanmar, formerly Burma, was a leading producer of heroin, and the D.E.A. wanted to stem the flow of drugs. Mr. Horn says he felt that the only way he could do his job was to try to gain the cooperation of the government and tribal leaders involved in the drug trade. But State Department officials felt that Mr. Horn, in his eagerness to do his job, was flouting policy guidelines. "You had foreign policy obligations running up against law enforcement obligations," said a former Clinton administration official who was involved in antidrug policy then. "You had human rights running up against counternarcotics."

    In an August 1993 cable to the State Department, Mr. Huddle recommended a "nonpunitive" recall of Mr. Horn, though he sympathized with the difficulties Mr. Horn faced. "Rick is a hard-charging cop who just wants to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible," Mr. Huddle wrote. Mr. Horn's complaint centers on an incident in August 1993, just as he was forced to leave Myanmar.

    Late one night, Mr. Horn was talking to another drug agent, David B. Sikorra, about how Mr. Horn was being pushed out of the country. The next day, part of their conversation was quoted in a cable Mr. Huddle sent to Washington, which read: "Horn shows increasing signs of evident strain. Late last night, for example, he telephoned his junior agent to say that `I am bringing the whole D.E.A. operation down here. You will be leaving with me. . . . We'll all leave together.' " Mr. Horn says the quotation is evidence that his phone was bugged.

    Mr. Huddle denies that Mr. Horn was ever wiretapped. "The reality is that I heard about it from his own people, not by wiretapping him," Mr. Huddle said. The former Clinton antidrug official said that as the United States has expanded its law enforcement presence overseas, there have been a number of problem cases pitting American law enforcement officials against diplomats.

    Even as Mr. Horn's lawsuit sits idling in federal court here, the United States has finally concluded that it can deal in a limited way with Myanmar in fighting drugs.

    "In the last two or three years, there has been a shift in thinking," said Derek Mitchell, an Asia specialist at the Pentagon during the Clinton administration. "They have been willing to work with us to some degree, and there is a feeling that we can do some antinarcotics work with them."
    Brighter future for Burma's workforce

    The Nation

    Burma's per-capita income should more than double to about US$2,000 (Bt 90,000) by the end of the next decade, according to Phisit Pakkasem, a member of the East Asia Vision Group.

    Phisit, who is also former chief of the National Economic and Social Development Board says the Burmese economy is now poised for more stable growth under a more diversified agricultural sector, and greater integration with the regional economies.But he does not rule out the Burmese economy growing at a rate of around 6 per cent annually in the next decade. Burma now has a per-capita income of $765 compared to Thailand's $1,949.

    He recently visited Burma at the invitation of Brig-General D O Abel, minister at the State Peace and Development Council. The Burmese government has given its support for greater regional cooperation.

    The East Asia Vision Group recently submitted a recommendation to regional leaders that the East Asia Free Trade Area be formed so that the region did not fall behind the expanding European Union and the Americas' new free-trade pact.

    Phisit said Burma was making steady progress in diversifying its agro-industry. It has moved into the plantation business through joint ventures with foreign investors in rubber, palm oil, bananas, pineapples, cotton and jute. It is now exporting 1.2 million tonnes of rice.Joint ventures are also promoted in gem-mining and -cutting with annual exports of $50 million. In fisheries, Burma exported $300 million to $400 million worth of marine products last year.

    "It has so much that Abel once said without more fishing 'all our fish will die of old age'," Phisit said.Burma now has more than 150 textile factories producing $500 million worth of exports, most of which goes to the US.The government has also been careful not to encourage monopolies in any of the business sectors, Phisit noted.

    The state is enjoying income flows from the two gas fields, Yanada and Yetagun. Thailand last year imported 555 million cubic feet of gas per day worth $260 million.It attracted up to 300,000 foreign tourists annually, although the number has fallen somewhat, according to Phisit.

    He played down the impact of international economic sanctions on Burma, saying that they only served to push the country further towards close economic ties with China.Burma, he said, now has the highest per-capita income of the four new members of Asean, itself, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
    United Nations envoy meets with Aung San Suu Kyi

    Rangoon, Aug 28 (AFP)

    UN envoy to Burma Razali Ismail met with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence Tuesday as part of a mission to promote her historic dialogue with the junta, sources said.

    The Malaysian diplomat arrived at the lakeside villa about 5:15 pmafter hour-long talks with the military regime's powerful intelligence chief, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt.

    It was not known how long the meeting would last, but on each of Razali's four previous visits to Rangoon he has spent several hours with the Nobel peace laureate.

    Razali arrived in Burma on Monday, a day after the military regime released two senior members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) who had been under virtual house arrest since September.

    The release of Tin Oo and Aung Shwe, which was hailed as a significant goodwill gesture by observers in Rangoon, left Aung San Suu Kyi the sole NLD leader confined to her house by the military regime.

    Before the release of her two top lieutenants, the democracy leader was said to be frustrated at the slow pace of the releases, with some 170 freed in small groups since the secret talks began.

    But the NLD said Monday that she "expressed great satisfaction" at the decision to allow the pair to go free, a move that could help revive the party's activities.

    Observers hope that Razali's visit will accelerate the pace of the dialogue, which he helped initiate last October.

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

    Earlier Tuesday the UN envoy held talks with high-ranking officials, including Foreign Minister Win Aung, and attended a luncheon for diplomats and business leaders.

    On Wednesday he is to meet with representatives of six pro-democracy ethnic political parties who are anxious to be invited to join the 10-month-old talks between the opposition and the junta.

    Sources told AFP that Razali appeared to be in good spirits at the luncheon and hopeful his trip would be productive after months where the process appeared to have slowed down.

    "Razali had not yet met any of the main players so he was not able to say anything other than he is very hopeful that things will work out," said one of the guests.

    "But he seems to be in a happier frame of mind and I suppose we will know more in the next few days."

    Observers of the political process believe that at some stage, when there have been enough prisoner releases, Aung San Suu Kyi will make a long-awaited statement on the talks," he said.

    "In the meantime we will just have to keep our fingers crossed. All of us can only hope and encourage from the sidelines," he said.

    Diplomats say Razali plays a vital role in bridging the gap between the generals and the democratic opposition, which has never been allowed to take power despite winning a landslide election victory in 1990.

    "As long as Razali is engaged, his visits have always had an impact, she (Aung San Suu Kyi) will continue to put her trust in him," said one Western ambassador.
    U.N. envoy meets top general in key Burma visit

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    Rangoon, Aug. 28---U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a top general from Burma's military government in separate meetings on Tuesday in a bid to keep reconciliation talks on track.

    Razali, a veteran Malaysian diplomat, arrived late Tuesday evening at Suu Kyi's lakeside home in Rangoon, where she has been under de facto house arrest since September last year.

    Razali is credited with playing a central role in brokering the talks between Suu Kyi and the government. But there has been persistent speculation this year that the talks, which began in October, may have hit an impasse.

    The government made no official comment on Tuesday's talks between Razali and Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, Secretary One of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the military's second most powerful leader.

    Officials said Razali had held talks Khin Nyunt, rather than the previously scheduled Senior General Than Shwe. The meeting with Suu Kyi was expected to last several hours.

    The government has made some concessions since the talks with Suu Kyi began, releasing more than 150 detained NLD members and allowing the party to re-open some of its offices.

    But Suu Kyi's refusal to attend an important official ceremony last month was interpreted by some diplomats as a signal that the talks had run into problems.

    Some opposition members and representatives of Burma's many ethnic minority groups are growing increasingly impatient over the lack of signs of progress in the dialogue.

    Most ethnic minority groups have said they are willing to be left out of the negotiations in their early stages, but want to be involved when the talks begin to cover substantive issues.

    Some fear that a secret deal could be struck that does not address their concerns.

    Razali is due on Wednesday to hold talks with leaders of several ethnic groups, and will face the task of keeping them on board.

    Khun Tun Oo of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) said his group was prepared to wait before joining the talks with the ruling SPDC.

    ''We will tell (Razali) that we give first priority to the bipartite talks between the SPDC and the NLD,'' he told Reuters. ''They can include us in their talks and hold tripartite talks once they have reached agreement.''

    The NLD won a landslide victory in Burma's last general election in 1990, with the SNLD coming second. But the military ignored the result and never handed over power.

    The government insists it is committed to moving towards democracy, but that too fast a transition would risk anarchy and national disintegration.

    It says the talks with Suu Kyi are aimed at building mutual confidence and agreeing a framework for transition to civilian rule.

    Ahead of Razali's visit, the government released Suu Kyi's two most senior colleagues from house arrest.

    The two -- NLD Chairman Aung Shwe, 83, and Vice Chairman Tin Oo, 75 -- met Suu Kyi on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year.

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

    ''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.''
    China slams Burma over drug trade and 'Too compromising' toward Wa, Shan

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Rangoon's failure to stop armed minority groups from smuggling opium and heroin into South China is threatening social security in the region, Chinese drug fighters said.

    Officials of China's Narcotics Control Committee told a visiting delegation of UN Drug Control Programme officers and journalists that the drug situation could not improve because Rangoon was ``too compromising'' towards the Wa and Shan minority groups.

    ``The Burmese government can control only 200 kilometres of the common border with Yunnan province, while the rest of the [1,997km-long] frontier consists of sensitive and untouchable areas,'' said Lei Jianbo, deputy head of the Yunnan branch of the NCC.

    ``Though the central Burmese government has prohibited the narcotics trade publicly, some local governments still connive with drug traffickers. This is a fact as everyone knows,'' he said.

    Wang Guang, an officer based in Dehong autonomous region, named Mongku, in the so-called ``northern Golden Triangle'' in the Shan state, as Burma's major production and trading centre for opium and heroin.

    Chinese officials said although UNDCP and Yunnan provincial authorities had tried to persuade the Burmese minorities to substitute opium cultivation with sugar cane, buck wheat and other economic crops, drug trafficking into Yunnan had increased rapidly over the past 10 years.

    During the period, authorities had busted more than 63,000 drug trafficking cases resulting in the seizure of 34 tonnes of heroin, 12 tonnes of opium and the arrest of more than 86,000 offenders.

    ``The reason was Rangoon's lack of ability to control drug production in the Golden Triangle. Some government officials are even encouraging villagers to sell drugs. We were very disappointed with this,'' said a senior Chinese official who asked for anonymity.

    An article recently published in the Yunnan Ribao denounced an unnamed neighbour as a ``devil'' in the drug racket. The official provincial daily said traffickers had opened a so-called ``China route'' after Thai authorities blocked a south-bound route following the crushing of Khun Sa's drug syndicate five years ago.

    Officials said the Yunnan-Burma highway, from Mu Se in Burma to Rui Li in China, served as a transit point for goods destined for provinces like Sichuan, Guizhou, Hubei, Xinjiang, Guangdong, Fujian. From there, the drugs were shipped to international markets in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Europe.