Daily News- December 14 - 2001- Friday

  • NLD sees sign of reconciliation on Independence Day
  • Four More Political Prisoners Released
  • Myanmar dissidents at Thai camp will not be sent back: UNHCR
  • Drugs issue on agenda of Jiang visit to Burma
  • Japan offers Burma aid for road improvements, electrification
  • Chinese firms to build pulp factories for Burma
  • Myanmar to Launch Aerospace Engineering University

  • NLD sees sign of reconciliation on Independence Day

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ The anniversary of Myanmar's independence next month could herald a significant improvement in relations between Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party and the ruling military junta, a top party official said Thursday.

    U Lwin, a central executive committee member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, anticipated prisoner releases or even the start of a more substantive dialogue between the regime and the NLD.U Lwin said the United Nations special envoy, Razali Ismail, had given "rather encouraging" signs when he visited Myanmar last month on his sixth visit to broker a political reconciliation.

    "We are waiting for Independence Day on Jan. 4," U Lwin told The Associated Press in an interview at NLD headquarters in Yangon. On that day, Myanmar, also known as Burma, will mark its liberation from British colonial rule in 1948. Traditionally, it is a day when authorities grant amnesties.

    "We are hoping for a big change, mainly in the shape and pattern of the discussion, to have a proper dialogue," U Lwin said. He said he hoped officials from both sides could discuss political reconciliation and the future of the country. "We don't want confrontation," U Lwin said. "We want to cooperate for the benefit of the country."

    Suu Kyi, who is under house detention, has held closed door talks with the regime since October last year. They are the most significant discussions between the two sides since the NLD won the 1990 general elections by a landslide. The military regime barred the NLD from assuming power. But there have been little progress other than the release since January of 194 NLD detainees and the reopening of more than 20 small NLD offices around Yangon.

    The government announced the latest releases Thursday of four NLD members, including elected parliamentarian Than Lwin, held in the northern city of Mandalay.

    U Lwin expressed disappointment at the slow pace of prisoner releases in recent months. Only about 40 of those freed so far had been convicted of any crime, he said. Twenty of them had already completed their jail terms while about 825 NLD members remain in jail, he said.

    U Lwin pointed to a number of "confidence-building" steps take by the regime as reason for optimism. He said military intelligence officers weren't harassing NLD members as much as before and members "come and go as they please" at headquarters, he said.

    The NLD had been authorized to send party officials to prepare for the reopening of township offices in Mandalay, Mergui and Irrawaddy Divisions, he said. The party still hopes to reopen 10 of the 39 township offices still closed in Yangon, he said. Previously, travel curbs were placed on NLD party organizers, U Lwin said.

    The regime ordered about 300 party township offices shut nationwide after the NLD gave an ultimatum to the government in 1998 to recognize election results. Only a few offices stayed open.

    U Lwin said he and party chairman Aung Shwe and vice-chairman Tin Oo were meeting with Suu Kyi three times each week at her lakeside home on Yangon's University Avenue, where she remains under house arrest. She has been confined to her house since September last year after twice defying restrictions by attempting to travel outside Yangon for party meetings.

    He said they are seeking Suu Kyi's release from detention and government assurances of her complete freedom. "She does not want another standoff," U Lwin said.

    Last week, Nobel Peace laureates marking the centennial of the award called for the release of Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel in 1991 for her democracy struggle.

    To The Top

    Four More Political Prisoners Released

    YANGON, Dec 13, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Four more political prisoners, who are members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), were freed by the Myanmar government on Thursday afternoon, said an official statement.

    The document said the four NLD members, including a parliament representative elected in the 1990 General Election, were released from the "correctional facility" in Mandalay, identifying their names as U Than Lwin, U Than Htik, U Nyein Maung and U Myo Naing.

    The release has brought the total number of the NLD's political prisoners freed in the country to 194 since January of this year, it added.

    To The Top

    Myanmar dissidents at Thai camp will not be sent back: UNHCR

    BANGKOK, Dec 13 (AFP) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Thursday that Myanmar political dissidents at a Thai camp due to close this week would not be forced back to the military-ruled state.

    But some Myanmar nationals not considered refugees at the Maneeloy Holding Center, which houses exiles from the Myanmar regime's 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy activists, would be "sent back," according to a Thai official.

    Johanshah Assadi, the UNHCR's Bangkok-based regional representative, told AFP that the agency had resettled nearly all the camp's 2,200 refugees in 10 different countries since October 1999.

    About 150 refugees at the camp, where some dissidents on Tuesday launched a hunger strike against the closure of the center planned for Saturday, were awaiting deportation to third countries, he added.

    The UNHCR representative said some 200 other "persons of concern" would be moved to a different location in Thailand. "These 200 will be moved according to the government's wishes to a border location in Thailand," he said. "No question of them being returned to Myanmar. No refugees or persons of concern will be sent back to Myanmar."

    A third group of people, estimated by Thai officials to number about 100, had been classified by the Thai government as illegal immigrants, Assadi added.These people would face legal action and be "sent back home" to Myanmar after the holding center closes, Thai National Security Council secretary general Kachadpai Burusapat told reporters last week.

    Kachadpai said protestors at the camp -- one of whom told AFP they were beyond the help of the UNHCR and feared for their safety -- were angry because they could not go to a third country.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in June that the Maneeloy center and refugee camps along the Myanmar border would be gradually closed, and that he would tackle the problem of illegal immigrants, 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 minority and live in camps on the Thai side of the border.

    To The Top

    Drugs issue on agenda of Jiang visit to Burma

    By William Barnes in Bangkok
    Financial Times

    President Jiang Zemin of China will seek assurances from Burma's military government that it will keep increasing pressure on drug traffickers operating across their common border, during a four-day visit to Burma that began on Wednesday.

    Mr Jiang will also try to find out from its close ally about the year-long closed-door talks between the regime and Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular opposition leader, according to Chayachoke Chulasiriwongs, professor of international relations at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

    "If Burma accommodates Aung San Suu Kyi at any level then that means that China's influence will be diminished because Aung San Suu Kyi appears to represent western influence in Burma," he said.

    But China is not likely to urge the military regime to resist all demands for some political liberalisation if this is the price of future stability because, in common with countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, it recognises that Burma's political and economic drift serves no-one well, according to a Rangoon-based diplomat.

    "Burma is a vital part of China's plans for the 'opening to the south-west'. It's a strategic toe in the Indian Ocean, it's great business potential, at the moment it's a close friend. China intends to embrace Burma for a long time," said the diplomat.

    Razali Ismail, the United Nations special envoy who brokered the talks said, after his recent sixth trip to Rangoon, that he expected "good news soon" on some key issues, including presumably the release of political prisoners.

    Burma has for centuries sought to "resist but accommodate" its giant northern neighbour by not saying anything to upset it but keeping it at arm's length. After a cold war spell of super-neutrality under the old dictator Ne Win - when China ran its biggest communist insurgency outside Indochina in Burma - a desperate military moved much closer to China a decade ago after becoming an international pariah for crushing protests and rejecting an opposition election victory.

    Yet relations remain ambivalent with many Burmese, including some soldiers, fearing domination by China, and with Beijing irritated by Burma's blatant drug traffickers who have been flooded with region with amphetamines and remain the world's second biggest source of heroin.

    The ruling generals have deepened relations with India, Japan and fellow members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, partly to counterbalance China.

    To The Top

    Japan offers Burma aid for road improvements, electrification

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 13, 2001
    Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

    Yangon [Rangoon], 13 December: Myanmar [Burma] and Japan exchanged notes Thursday [13 December] on Japanese economic assistance of 800m yen for electrification and road construction in Kokang State in northeastern Myanmar.

    Kokang, close to the China border, was once the major poppy growing area and state authorities are making intensive efforts to make the region opium-free.Of the total grant, 584m yen will be used for improvement of roads, and 216m yen for electrification.

    "In order to facilitate efforts to eradicate opium poppy cultivation in Kokang State, assistance for social development is needed to improve living condition of the local population. The ODA grant is expected to contribute to the improvement of the living standard in Kokang region," a Japanese embassy press release said.

    To The Top

    Chinese firms to build pulp factories for Burma

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 13, 2001
    Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

    Yangon [Rangoon], 13 December: A Chinese company, the Tianjin Machinery Import and Export Corporation (Group), has reached a contract with the Myanmar [Burma] industrial authorities to build a pulp factory in the country's southeastern Ayeyawaddy division

    The contract was signed between the company and the Myanmar Paper and Chemical Industry (MPCI) of the Ministry of Industry-1.The pulp factory, to be built in Thabaung township of the state at a cost of 36.5m US dollars, will produce 60 tons of pulp per day.

    Meanwhile, another Chinese company, the Chengda Chemical Engineering Corporation, has also signed a contract with the MPCI to build an unbleached bamboo pulp mill of 80-ton-per-day capacity, a chemi thermo mechanical pulp factory of 50-ton-per-day capacity and an alkali recovery plant of 120-ton-per-day capacity. The contract for the three plants values a total of 81.5m dollars.

    There are three state-run existing paper plants in Myanmar under the ministry respectively producing stationery and print paper, exercise book, brown paper, packing paper and tissue paper.The three plants are targeted to produce a total of 18,530 tons of various kinds of paper in the present fiscal year ending in March 2002.

    According to the ministry, Myanmar's per capita consumption of paper is 2.6 kg and its total domestic paper demand in the present fiscal year is 117,600 tons.The country produced 16,894 tons of paper in 2000, accounting for only 14.36 per cent of the total demand, and it has still to import over 100,000 tons of the paper or 85.64 per cent of the total demand.

    To The Top

    Myanmar to Launch Aerospace Engineering University

    YANGON, Dec 13, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar will open an Aerospace Engineering University, the first ever in the country, in August next year, aiming at producing international-standard aerospace engineers and officers, according to sources at the Ministry of Science and Technology Thursday.

    At the university run by the ministry, three degree courses will be conducted which cover aerospace propulsion and flight vehicles, aerospace-avionics and aerospace- electrical systems and instrumentation.The university will initially admit a total of 150 students to study these courses, each of which takes five years, the sources said.

    Meanwhile, the Myanmar government has also planned to open its first maritime university, also in August next year, to produce international-standard maritime officers, engineers and architects for ship building.

    According to official statistics, the government built 110 universities and colleges in the 13 years since 1988 when it took office, bringing the total number of institutes of higher learning to 142 at present. Meanwhile, during the period, the number of students studying at these higher education institutions increased by 416,719, bringing their total number to 556,456.

    To The Top