Daily News- December 13 - 2001- Thursday

  • Myanmar dissidents stage hunger strike over closing of Thai camp
  • China- Myanmar signed seven agreements
  • Veteran politicians call for release of Aung San Suu Kyi
  • India wants probe into Pak's links with Taliban
  • Bank of Korea head to visit Myanmar central bank
  • Burmese bra wars
  • Three-year repatriation goal urged for Burmese refugees

  • Myanmar dissidents stage hunger strike over closing of Thai camp

    BAN MANEELOY, Thailand, Dec 12 (AFP) - Myanmar political dissidents said Wednesday they had launched a hunger strike to protest Thai government plans to close a camp in western Thailand where they have been living for years.

    The move follows a pledge by Thailand to close the Maneeloy Holding Center, which houses dissidents from the Myanmar junta's bloody 1988 crack-down on pro-democracy demonstrators, on December 15.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in June that the Maneeloy camp in Ratchaburi province would be closed along with other refugee camps and that attempts would be made to resettle eligible inhabitants in third countries.

    But Myanmar dissidents on hunger strike since early Tuesday said only 100 out of 480 at the camp had been resettled in countries such as Australia with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).The remaining 380 feared they would be forced to return to Myanmar, they said.

    "Now the UNHCR cannot help Burmese (Myanmar) students," Maung Maung Oo, who lives at the camp and is secretary general of the Burmese Student Association (BSA), told AFP.

    "Three hundred and eighty of us don't have anything for the future, so yesterday morning at 9:00 am we began our hunger strike," he added before leading protestors in shouting out a list of demands.

    In a statement, the BSA called on authorities to delay the closing of the Maneeloy camp, recognise Myanmar dissidents as political refugees and hold a tripartite meeting between the Thai government, the BSA and the UNHCR."We cannot move to border areas for the reason that border areas are full of peril for our lives," it added.

    Thaksin said earlier this year that Maneeloi and the numerous refugee camps along the Myanmar border would be gradually closed, and that he would tackle the problem of illegal immigrants from Myanmar, who number about a million.

    Thailand is home to more than 120,000 refugees who fled fighting between Myanmar troops and ethnic independence armies. Many of them are from the Karen ethnic group and live in camps on the Thai side of the border.

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    China- Myanmar signed seven agreements

    ASSOCIATED PRESS YANGON, Myanmar, Dec. 12 Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrived Wednesday on a four-day visit aimed at expanding cooperation with neighboring Myanmar, whose military junta faces global criticism for suppressing democracy and human rights. The countries quickly signed seven pacts on economic matters and border security in a boost to their close ties.

    Jiang is the first Chinese president to visit Myanmar since the current regime took power in 1988 after a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters left hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead. Although Chinese presidents had visited Myanmar before, they weren't the top leaders of the communist party at the time.

    Myanmar's top three generals, including leader Gen. Than Shwe, and hundreds of flag-waving children greeted Jiang and his 100-member entourage at Yangon airport. Jiang and Than Shwe later held talks at the Parliament building in Yangon, officials said. Details weren't disclosed.

    After the signing of the seven agreements, China's foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said at a news conference that Beijing offered $100 million in aid and investment to Myanmar, mostly to promote development, Myanmar has depended heavily on China over the last decade for trade, credit and weapons. Bilateral trade totals $600 million annually, according to Chinese statistics, third behind Myanmar's trade ties with Singapore and Thailand.

    Jiang's visit signals Beijing's intention to reassert its economic and strategic interests in impoverished Myanmar, which offers China potential access to the Indian Ocean and a trading bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.The two other major Asian powers, India and Japan, are also vying for influence in Myanmar, which until recent years faced virtual international isolation for its human rights record.

    China stuck by Myanmar after the regime crushed the 1988 pro-democracy uprising often compared to Beijing's Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. China also didn't join international criticism of the junta over its refusal to accept the general election victory of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1990.

    Analysts expected Wednesday's discussions to include counter-narcotics cooperation along their 1,250-mile border. Myanmar is the world's leading producer of heroin, which has led to high addiction rates and the spread of AIDS in southern China.On Thursday, Jiang will visit Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's most revered Buddhist shrine, and meet with Chinese business leaders in Yangon. He is also visiting a beach resort and the northern city of Mandalay before departing Saturday for Beijing.

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    Veteran politicians call for release of Aung San Suu Kyi

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 12, 2001
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 10 December

    Veteran politicians led by Bohmu Aung [who fought for Burma's independence from Britain] urged the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] today for the unconditional and early release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political prisoners. This was disclosed in a statement issued today by the veteran politicians and colleagues in commemoration of 81st National Day. The statement was read by veteran politician Thakhin Thein Pe at a National Day commemorative get together and dinner attended by former thakhins [nationalist leaders], war veterans and veteran politicians, who participated selflessly in the anti-fascist revolution, anti-colonialist movement, independence struggle, and democracy activities.

    The function was organized by Thakhin Thein Pe, adviser to Bhomu Aung, and over 100 guests attended the dinner including war veterans, veteran politicians, leaders of the National League for Democracy [NLD] party, and leaders of ethnic nationalities parties led by Shan Nationalities League for Democracy Chairman U Khun Tun Oo.

    Veteran politician Thakhin Thein Pe read the National Day Statement issued by the veteran politicians to DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] for the benefit of the listeners.

    [Thakhin Thein Pe - recording] Statement issued by the veteran politicians in commemoration of 81st National Day. Well, we have issued a number of statements.

    1. Today, the 10th waning moon of Thazaungmon of the Burmese era and AD 10 December 2001 is the 81st anniversary of National Day.

    2. In 1920, university students protested the Rangoon University Act which was seen as a move to prolong the servitude of the Burmese people. The Ninth GCBA [General Council of Burmese Associations] Conference prescribed that day as National Day. Since then National Day is celebrated nationwide sending a clear signal to remind the need for national solidarity and unity in the anti-colonialist movement and the struggle for independence.

    3. That led the Burmese people to fully regain their independence [from Britain] in 1948. But due to various circumstances, national solidarity was shattered soon after independence and since then the fires of internal strife have been raging to this day.

    4. National unity was destroyed due to this internal strife. The people are unable to enjoy the fruits of independence to this day for lack of a government of national unity and they have been bitterly facing the political, economical, and social consequences. The only way to redeem this situation is to rebuild national solidarity as soon as possible through national reconciliation.

    5. That is why on this auspicious 81st National Day, the veteran politicians, who participated selflessly in the anti-fascist revolution, anti-colonialist movement, independence struggle and democracy activities, and the guests that attended this National Day function earnestly request and urge those responsible to implement the following soon before it is too late for the good of the country and the people.

    A. To upgrade the present meeting between the SPDC and the NLD in the earliest instant from a confidence building stage to direct discussions in order to reach a political agreement.

    B. Furthermore, cease-fire agreements should be reached with the remaining armed groups and then to hold talks with legally standing nationalities parties and organizations, and cease-fire groups including them as soon as possible to find a way of reaching a political solution. During this time, NLD General Secretary Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who is a discussion partner and all the political prisoners should be unconditionally released.

    C. Political organizations and democratic forces from the ward and village level to the central level should be allowed to freely engage in organizational activities.

    We firmly believe that the implementation of our suggestions will help the country and the people alleviate sooner from their difficulties.

    Veteran politicians and colleagues.

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    India wants probe into Pak's links with Taliban

    The Times Of India

    NEW DELHI: Observing that India was well aware of certain clandestine characteristics of Pakistan's nuclear programme, New Delhi on Wednesday sought proper investigation of reports on the nature of Islamabad's close links with the Taliban at various levels in this regard.

    "We know very well of Pakistan's intricate web of contacts with Taliban groups and those connected with the Taliban regime," an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said in response to questions."These reports need to be properly investigated," she said, adding New Delhi will be concerned about the outcome of these investigations and "hopes that Pakistan will cooperate".

    Her remarks assume significance in the wake of reports of two Pakistani nuclear scientists conducting long conversations with Osama Bin Laden on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in August this year and two other Pakistani nuclear scientists taking sanctuary in Myanmar.

    It is believed Bin Laden has tried to obtain the materials and knowledge to make nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, but there is no evidence that he succeeded.

    The two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid, reportedly met Bin Laden and three al-Qaeda officials over two or three days at a compound in Kabul in August.( PTI )

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    Bank of Korea head to visit Myanmar central bank


    Bank of Korea Gov. Chon-Chol-hwan will travel to the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar till next Monday at the invitation of Kyaw Kyaw Maung, head of Myanmar's central bank.

    Gov. Chon will meet with his counterpart to exchange views on issues of mutual concern and discuss ways of expanding personnel exchange between the two central banks, the BOK said. The BOK head will also give a speech on Korea's experience in the financial sector's role in economic development to staff members of the Myanmar central bank.

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    Burmese bra wars

    The Burma Campaign UK (
    BCUK) is urging people not to buy Triumph underwear and to send virtual protest postcards demanding that the company stops manufacturing in the military-controlled country. Triumph began manufacturing in Burma in 1997 in a factory located on a military-owned industrial estate which was upgraded using child labour. BCUK wants UK retailers, including Debenhams and Selfridges to stop selling Triumph products. A series of store protests and posters saying 'Support Breasts Not Dictators' and 'Support Genitals Not Generals' are also planned. Following earlier protests, Levis, Bhs, The Arcadia Group (then called The Burton Group) and River Island have all withdrawn from Burma.

  • Send a virtual protest postcard here.

  • For regular campaign updates email here .

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    Three-year repatriation goal urged for Burmese refugees

    The Bangkokpost
    By Achara Ashayagachat

    Can't wait for peace talks to bear fruit

    Thailand should set a timeframe of three years for the repatriation of Burmese refugees and begin preparing for that goal, an adviser to Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday.

    Gen Sanan Kajornklum said a process should be drawn up pending a tripartite agreement on the repatriation between Thailand, Burma and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    ``If we do not start now, we will go nowhere,'' he told a seminar organised by the UNHCR. ``The three-year aim is just a timeframe. If the Thaksin government achieves this during its tenure, that would be great. After all, it depends on progress in national reconciliation inside Burma.''

    The government should seize the opportunity of ``improving bilateral relations'' to begin preparations toward eventual repatriation, said Gen Sanan, who played a key role in the return of Cambodians to their homeland in the early 1990s.

    UNHCR data compiled in October showed 108,804 Burmese refugees were living in 11 holding centres in Mae Hong Son, Tak, Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi.

    Gen Sanan proposed the setting up of co-ordination centres along the border to screen, register, train and educate refugees.Gen Sanan dismissed fears that Rangoon might not accept the return of ethnic minorities, and said they could be represented in a committee entrusted with repatriation preparations.

    ``When I was head of the repatriation centre for Cambodian refugees, all Khmer factions were included in the preparatory process for their return home, so Burma's ethnic minorities could do the same,'' he said.

    But human rights advocates at the seminar on ``Permanent Solutions for Refugees and Displaced Persons'' opposed the early repatriation of Burmese.Chalida Tacharoensuk, co-ordinator of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, said there could be no permanent solution to the problem of refugees and displaced persons until justice and political freedoms were restored in Burma.

    Thailand's task was to help push towards this end and to ``reconsider our policy to allow displaced persons to cross the border into Thailand while there is still fighting inside Burma'', she said.

    Tirawat Sucharitkul, aide to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and a former UNHCR officer, was supportive of Gen Sanan's idea.He said the Thai government and UNHCR should work out a clearer position towards a permanent solution.``Whether that goal should be reached in three or five years, we should start something now,'' Mr Tirawat said.``Dialogue between Thailand and Burma is needed and the UNHCR should try harder to advance the process.''Like Gen Sanan, he said Thailand should not pressure Rangoon too much but rather respect the administration.

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