Daily News- December 11 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Myanmar opposition demands more progress in talks
  • In statement, Myanmar ignores calls by Nobel laureates for release of Suu Kyi
  • Myanmar opposition parties convene to celebrate National Day
  • 14 Myanmar dissidents stage hunger strike in Tokyo
  • Japan: Ceremony marks 10th anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Another Woman of Burma Honored
  • Burmese students in Maneeloi camp to enter Hunger Strike
  • AAPP Launches Site
  • Pilot project to help Burma

  • Myanmar opposition demands more progress in talks


    YANGON, Dec. 10 - Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said on Monday secretive talks with the military government on national reconciliation must start yielding more tangible results.

    The NLD warned Myanmar's ruling generals that delaying moves towards democracy could lead to ''undesirable negative effects,'' but it did not elaborate.

    ''It is now necessary to develop, step by step, the confidence building talks between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the NLD into meaningful dialogues,'' the NLD said in a statement to mark Myanmar's National Day.

    Talks between the ruling SPDC and the NLD were brokered by United Nations special envoy to Myanmar, Razali Ismail, over a year ago. Since then the government has released dozens of political prisoners and allowed the NLD to reopen 30 offices.

    But critics say over 1,500 political prisoners still languish in Myanmar's prisons, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest and Myanmar appears no closer to democratic government.


    The NLD's celebrations for Myanmar's National Day -- which commemorates a 1920 boycott by a group of Yangon University students in protest against British colonial rule -- were the first permitted by authorities since 1999.

    Around 350 people attended the event, including key opposition politicians and leaders of Myanmar's main ethnic groups. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose father led the independence movement until his assassination in 1947, was absent.

    At the gathering, a group of retired politicians demanded Suu Kyi's release from house arrest, echoing a similar call on Sunday by past Nobel Peace Prize winners. But the NLD made no public plea for her freedom.

    ''We appeal for the unconditional and immediate release of NLD Secretary General...Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners while the talks are being held, and for allowing political and democratic forces to freely carry out their organisational activities,'' the group said in a statement.

    Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, a year after her National League for Democracy Party's (NLD) landslide election victory. But Myanmar's generals have never allowed the NLD to rule, saying any weakening of the military's grip on power could send the country into chaos, torn apart by ethnic divisions.

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    In statement, Myanmar ignores calls by Nobel laureates for release of Suu Kyi

    ASSOCIATED PRESS BANGKOK, Thailand, Dec. 9 — Myanmar's military junta said it is committed to creating a ''functioning democracy,'' but ignored an international plea to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who marked the 10th anniversary of her Nobel Peace prize under house arrest.

    In a statement dated Sunday, the military regime said it ''warmly appreciates the opinions, concerns and interests of its partners in the international community'' about democracy in Myanmar.

    The statement was in response to an appeal by former Nobel Peace laureates who gathered last week in Norway. They urged the junta to free Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 prize for her nonviolent struggle to bring democracy to her country.

    President Bush also sent a message, and several dignitaries worldwide addressed the rally via satellite link on a large screen. ''As a tireless champion of human rights and democracy in Burma, Suu Kyi inspires countless people around the world who strive for peace, justice and freedom,'' Bush said in a statement read to the crowd.

    The Myanmar government statement, faxed to The Associated Press in Bangkok, Thailand, said it ''believes that all of us are on the winning side already since we all have the common objective of creating Myanmar (into) a functioning democracy.'' However, the Myanmar statement made no mention of Suu Kyi or her house arrest.

    Instead, it said that while there was no cooperation in the past between the government and Suu Kyi's National League Party due to ''misunderstanding,'' that is not the case today. ''Today, we are all in the process of joining hands, walking on the same path toward our common objective,'' the statement said, referring to closed-door national reconciliation talks between the National League Party and the junta since September 2000. No breakthrough has been reported, but authorities have released scores of NLD members from jail.

    Suu Kyi has not left Myanmar, also known as Burma, since she emerged as opposition leader during a peaceful 1988 uprising against military rule that was crushed. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people were killed.

    The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962. The current group of generals, which came to power after crushing the 1988 uprising, has refused to hand over power to the NLD after it overwhelmingly won a general election in 1990.

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    Myanmar opposition parties convene to celebrate National Day

    YANGON, Dec 10 (AFP) - Some 400 opposition National League for Democracy members gathered here Monday to mark National Day, the anniversary of a 1920 student strike that sparked the country's push for independence from Britain. Top NLD officials and ethnic minority leaders addressed the meeting at the NLD's Yangon headquarters with renewed calls for democracy and human rights, but refrained from attacks against Myanmar's ruling junta.

    NLD president Aung Shwe opened the event before a senior member read the party's declaration and urged representatives from five ethnic minority parties to remain steadfast in their struggle for a political voice.

    NLD vice president Tin Oo read from the United Nations' declaration on human rights, noting that Myanmar's National Day coincided this year with Human Rights Day and that the document praised NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He also echoed worldwide celebrations at the weekend honouring the 10th anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Peace Prize and paid tribute to the leader who has been under house arrest since September 2000.

    An ethnic political leader, chairman Saw Henry of the Karen National Congress for Democracy, assured the crowd that an alliance of ethnic parties would continue to "join hands with the NLD."

    Meanwhile, state newspapers carried statements from the junta's Senior General Than Shwe saying the regime's promotion of education in Myanmar had led to the opening of 110 new colleges and universities since 1988.He said the number of universities had grown from just 32 in 1988 -- when the junta carried out a bloody crackdown against student protestors and closed down campuses -- and now had a total of 142. Than Shwe added that the ruling State Peace and Development Council had launched a four-year education promotion plan, and that preserving Myanmar's independence was essential.

    This year's holiday commemorated the 81st anniversary of National Day, when university students in the former Burma boycotted an educational system introduced under British colonial rule. The strike touched off anti-colonial uprisings across the country, eventually leading to independence from Britain in 1948.

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    14 Myanmar dissidents stage hunger strike in Tokyo


    TOKYO - Fourteen Myanmar dissidents started a 36-hour hunger strike in Tokyo on Monday, calling for freedom for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in their homeland.

    Sponsored by the Burma Office, an umbrella Myanmar dissident organization in Japan, the dissidents began the strike at 8 a.m. in central Tokyo's Hibiya Park.

    The group says about 400 dissident students in Myanmar had been detained for demanding for Suu Kyi's release from house arrest when she was proclaimed winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. Of them, 11 remain in custody.

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    Japan: Ceremony marks 10th anniversary of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel prize

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 10, 2001
    Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

    Tokyo, 9 December: A ceremony was held Saturday [9 December] in Tokyo to mark the centennial anniversary of the establishment of the Nobel Peace Prize as well as to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Myanmar [Burmese] democracy [National League for Democracy] leader Aung San Suu Kyi's receipt of the Nobel Peace prize.

    The "Nobel Peace Laureate campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi and the people(s) of Burma" was held at the International Forum in Tokyo, and was sponsored by the Diet Members League Supporting Democracy in Myanmar.Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1990, but as she was then under house arrest in the capital Yangon [Rangoon], the award was conferred in absentee.

    A statement issued by the league said: "The most heartbreaking thing for us is that parliamentarians in Myanmar are (not allowed) to take up their responsibilities (though) they were chosen by a fair and democratic election."

    Min Nyo, who heads the Burma Office in Tokyo, said the over 10,000 Burmese (Myanmarese) now eking out a living in Japan would be willing to return to Myanmar if a fairly elected government was in power, and called on Japan to help his country achieve democracy.

    Hiroshi Nagai of the People's Forum on Burma said he hopes Suu Kyi will be freed soon, adding he hopes to someday see her attending a ceremony such as this. Suu Kyi has been under virtual house arrest since her move to flaunt the junta by attempting to travel outside the capital about a year ago.

    In a videotaped message, Suu Kyi said: "Burma's problems stem from bad governance and unless we change that, we cannot do anything about the social humanitarian problems destroying our country."

    "The people of Burma made it clear that democracy is what they want. As to how soon we can achieve democracy in Burma, the more the efforts of the international community are consolidated, the quicker we shall get democracy."

    On the parliament, which has so far been prevented by the military from convening, Suu Kyi said, "When the parliament is allowed to meet, we are confident it will represent the true will of the people. And the true will of the people will go a long way towards assisting democracy and peace in our region and in the world."

    Guests at the ceremony included Norwegian Ambassador to Japan Odd Fosseidbraten, who has met Suu Kyi several times, and Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan.

    Hatoyama urged everyone present to work towards ensuring Suu Kyi's freedom, and said Japan, which had in the past turned a cold shoulder to Myanmar dissidents, has warmed up in the last few years, even granting 40 of Suu Kyi's supporters refugee status in Japan.

    Yozo Yokota, a former United Nations special human rights rapporteur on Myanmar, said he did not get the chance to meet the democracy leader until she was released from house arrest in 1995.

    Shogo Watanabe, a lawyer who represents asylum-seeking Myanmar dissidents in Japan, said: "The historic fight for democracy and human rights by Suu Kyi and the peoples of Burma will live on in the history of Myanmar."

    Two of Suu Kyi's longtime supporters, Mizuho Fukushima, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Satsuki Eda of the DPJ, were also at the gathering.

    Similar events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize and Suu Kyi's 10th anniversary as a Nobel Peace laureate are slated in many capitals around the world, with another event scheduled Sunday evening in Tokyo's Yotsuya district, organizers said.

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    Another Woman of Burma Honored

    By Richard Humphries/Tokyo
    the Irrawaddy

    December 10, 2001—As Nobel Peace Prize winners gathered in Oslo to mark the 100th anniversary of the prestigious award and to express their support for fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, another woman from Burma was honored at a human rights ceremony in Tokyo.

    Dr Cynthia Maung, an ethnic Karen woman who has run the Mae Tao clinic for refugees on the Thai-Burma border since 1988, was named the recipient of the sixth annual Female Human Rights Special Award at a ceremony held by the Foundation for Human Rights in Asia (FHRA). The ceremony took place in Iidabashi, Tokyo on Dec 7 (Japan time).

    The ceremony coincided with the closing day of a three-day conference on peace and world conflict in Oslo, Norway, attended by recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. By Saturday evening, 24 laureates had signed a letter calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader, and hundreds of other political prisoners being held by the country’s ruling junta.

    Like Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest in Rangoon, Dr Cynthia was absent from the ceremony in Tokyo, apparently because of visa difficulties. Tokyo resident and practitioner of traditional Burmese dance Soe Soe Shwe accepted the award on her behalf. A short video segment on the Mae Tao clinic was also shown.

    Also honored in Tokyo was the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which received the FHRA’s sixth Human Rights Award. Takako Doi, a noted parliamentarian and leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, presented the awards and gave the keynote address.

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    Burmese students in Maneeloi camp to enter Hunger Strike

    Network Media Group

    Mae Hong Son, December 10, 2001.

    Burmese students from Maneeloi camp decided to enter into hunger strike tomorrow, December 11, to protest against Thai government's plan to move them to border camps, border opposition sources said.

    Burmese students in Maneeloi camp in Rachaburi district near Bangkok said that they heard that those living in the camp as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - UNHCR's persons of concern and those who recognized as border case would be sent to border camps whereas those received "reject case" will be sent back to Burma by force.

    Burma Students Association (BSA) has not yet got any answer till December 9, although they requested UNHCR and Thai authorities to negotiate with them and asked the Burmese opposition groups to give pressure on UNHCR and Thai government to accept their four demands, mentioned in the open requesting letter of BSA to Burmese opposition groups sent on December 9.

    "We asked Thai authorities and UNHCR to come and discuss with us. We are demonstrating aiming to Thai government. The sit in demonstration ends today. But, there was no reply from Thai authorities as well as UNHCR yet. So, we will enter into hunger strike start from tomorrow", said Kyaw Swe, joint general secretary of BSA on telephone interview today.

    According to the Burmese students in the camp, Burmese students led by BSA demanded four points; "to exit the Burmese Student' Center in the Future, to recognize the status of Political Refugees, to stop the Plan for Forced Relocation to the Political Refugees and not to use force to solve the problems".

    After releasing the demands, Burmese students started to boycott and made sit in demonstration since December 6 in Maneeloi camp.

    The news about the closure of the camp came out after some Burmese students raided "Myanmar" Embassy in Bangkok in 1999 October.

    "We are going to enter into hunger strike starts from tomorrow in protest not to move the camp. We will demonstrate peacefully. If Thai authorities use force to stop the demonstration, Thai government must take all responsibilities for complications", Kyaw Swe continued.

    The students in camps said UNHCR could not give appropriate answer for their questions and demands although they had meetings with UNHCR on November 20 and November 27. The Mayor of Rachaburi said the camp would be closed down on December 15, reported in the Bangkok Post newspaper November 24 issue.

    During the demonstration, the students in Maneeloi camp managed today to celebrate International Human Rights Day and National Day of Burma successfully, said student leader Kyaw Swe. Since 1988, about 3,000 Burmese students have resettled to third countries with the help of UNHCR and more than 300 Burmese students are still left in Maneeloi camp.

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    AAPP Launches Site

    By Zarny Win
    The Irrawaddy

    December 10, 2001-A new web site was launched yesterday with detailed information concerning Burma's political prisoners as well as the prisons that house them. The web site was created by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP).

    "We decided to create a web site to help bring awareness to the plight of our fellow activists who are currently incarcerated in Burma," said Ko Tate, secretary of the AAPP.

    The web site contains data, photos and publications that the AAPP has released. Former Burmese political prisoners now living in exile founded the AAPP on March 23, 2000. The AAPP web site can be reached at

    "It is very difficult to collect reliable information regarding the conditions of political prisoners in Burma. There are a number of political prisoners in Burma that we are still trying to identify," Ko Tate added.

    Burma has 2,000 plus political prisoners, according to the AAPP. The London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International, however, puts the number at 1,800. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited prisons and hard-labor camps around the country last year and was able to identify 1,245 political prisoners.

    The military's official web site, http://www.myanmar.com/Moha/Prisons/PrisonsMain.htm also mentions a bit about prisons in Burma.

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    Pilot project to help Burma

    The Bangkokpost
    By Subin Khuenkaew

    The government will allocate 20 million baht to carry out a pilot project in Burma's opium-growing regions under a joint co-operation plan to suppress illegal drugs.The project, similar to the Doi Tung royally-initiated project in Chiang Rai, would provide local people with alternative cash crops to opium.

    Maj-Gen Picharnmet Muangmanee, deputy commander of the Third Army Region, told the Bangkok Post Burma proposed the pilot project be initiated in Toom, along the border.Toom town, opposite Hua Mae Kham village in Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district, was once a military base controlled by Shan rebels under former drug warlord Khun Sa.

    Top Burmese leaders visited the Doi Tung development project and sought Thailand's co-operation to launch a similar project in their country.``The pilot project was suggested after Burmese Prime Minister Gen Than Shwe and other top government figures visited Doi Thung. Rangoon believed the project could successfully tackle drug problems in hilltribe communities,'' the Third Army deputy commander said.The government will soon hold a meeting with relevant agencies to discuss the project.

    Sources said Rangoon initially proposed the pilot project be initiated in Mawng Yawn, opposite Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district, but later opted for Toom.Sources said Toom is now occupied by the Wa ethnic minority group, which moved to the area in 1999. About 2,800 households, or 17,000 Wa residents, live in the town.But the Shan State Army, under the leadership of Col Yod Suek, former close aide of Khun Sa, was thought to be still active near the town.

    Meanwhile, Chartchai Suthiklom, deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said Thailand's efforts would encourage several hundred other Wa families to stop producing opium and turn to alternative cash crops.Mr Chartchai said the project would also improve relations between Thailand and Burma.

    ``We expressed sincerity in assisting Burma to help develop its land and in return asked that Burma also help us. In a gesture of goodwill, Thailand wants to exchange a working collaboration and co-operation with Burma on the prevention and suppression of drug trafficking,'' he said.

    Mr Chartchai said development in the area would start next year and be completed in one year.He said other areas in Burma would be included if the project was successful. The project could get financial support from the world community, Mr Chatchai said, and drug smuggling would likely decrease in areas under the project.

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