Daily News- December 20 - 2001- Thursday

  • 822 Myanmar dissidents still in jail, NLD secretary says
  • 2,500-Postcards for Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Thai government to face EU protest
  • Chinese-made army equipment said crossing Mu-se border
  • Myanmar overtakes Afghanistan as world's top opium producer
  • Four More Political Prisoners Released

  • 822 Myanmar dissidents still in jail, NLD secretary says

    YANGON, Dec. 19 Kyodo - The secretary of Myanmar's National League for Democracy (NLD), U Lwin, said Wednesday 194 NLD-affiliated political prisoners have been released from detention since January but 822 still remain in various jails in the country.

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    2,500-Postcards for Aung San Suu Kyi

    By Win Htein
    The Irrawaddy

    The Norwegian Postal Union will send 2,500 postcards to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi bearing stamps with her image. "This is because we really want to see how serious the junta is about banning her stamps," said Joson Hosam, director of NPU.

    "We sent dozens of letters to our listeners in October. However, they are just receiving them now," explained a Democratic Voice of Burma Radio journalist. According to Oslo-based DVB, the Burmese military regime has already banned letters with stamps of the 1991-Nobel Peace Prizewinner.

    To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Postal Authority issued eight new stamps with pictures of Nobel Laureates, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in September.

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    Thai government to face EU protest

    Larry Jagan
    The Bangkokpost

    The European Union is to formally protest to the Thai government about the treatment of Burmese refugees.The EU commissioner and the Belgium and Spanish ambassadors representing the European Troika will today deliver a demarche to senior members of the Foreign Affairs and the Interior ministries.

    ``The demarche will cover a variety of refugee-related matters including the fate of 181 Karen refugees who are seeking safety in Thailand and the definition of safe areas,'' said a diplomatic source. The demarche follows an earlier letter to the Foreign Affairs Minister Surakiart Sathirathai expressing concern at the forced repatriation of 63 Karen villagers at the Burmese border on Nov 6.The ministry has not responded, but a senior ministry official said an internal inquiry was initiated immediately after the letter was received.

    ``The army know the position along the border best and we accept their assessment of the situation,'' said Laxanachantorn Laohapan, director-general of the Department of International Organisations.

    Before entering Thailand, the Karens had been on the run for more than four months with aid workers saying they were fleeing human rights abuses committed when the Burmese army forcibly relocated several villages.The UNHCR told Thai authorities an assessment had found the asylum seekers were legitimate refugees.

    The 9th Army repatriated the refugees against the UNHCR's advice early last month, with the group joining more than 700 other Karen villagers in a camp run by another ethnic group, the Mon.

    Within days, the Burmese army attacked the area and several of the group were detained and questioned by the Burmese army. One man was shot and left to die. He was later found by Mon villagers, but he had to have his right leg amputated.The more than 700 Karen are now in hiding in the Mon camp, fearing for their lives.

    The international community is urging Thai authorities to allow them to cross into Thailand and is one of major areas that will be discussed during the EU demarche.The international community believes Thailand too narrowly defines the basis for accepting asylum seekers as ``fleeing from firing.'' The general convention is fleeing from fighting and its consequences. Thai authorities have pointed out that they have not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and therefore are not obliged to accept the broader definition.

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    Chinese-made army equipment said crossing Mu-se border

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 19, 2001
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 18 December

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned from a very reliable source that many Chinese-made weapons were transported to Burma recently.

    DVB correspondent Kyaw Sein Aung reported that on 15 December, 40 vehicles to pull gun carriages, artillery accessories, artillery pieces, and high-level communication equipments were delivered to Lashio via the China-Burma border town of Mu-se. This military equipments was handed over to Lashio-based Artillery Battalion Commander Lt-Col Hla Oo and Communications Battalion Commander Lt-Col Sein Tun by Chinese military authorities.

    Many Chinese made artillery pieces and communication equipments began arriving at the Military Operations Management Command in Mong Yawng region a few months after the Chinese military engineers started constructing an artillery battery there. The imported Chinese made military equipment only formed a small part of Chinese made military hardware and equipment the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] has ordered from China. Over 300 Chinese made light personnel carriers were delivered in August while eight truckloads of military equipment, weapons, and ammunition were delivered in July.

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    Myanmar overtakes Afghanistan as world's top opium producer


    BANGKOK, Thailand, Dec. 20 Myanmar is once again the world's top opium producer because of a sharp drop in production of the drug in Afghanistan, according to the latest U.S. government survey.

    Myanmar overtook Afghanistan, which had been the No. 1 opium producer for the past three years, despite having its smallest opium harvest since the mid-1980s this year, the survey showed. Opium is used to make heroin.

    Myanmar produced an estimated 865 metric tons of opium in 2001, down from 1,085 tons in 2000, a U.N. official said Thursday, citing the State Department's Annual Survey of Opium Cultivation and Production. The U.S. survey attributed Myanmar's drop in production to poor weather and drug eradication efforts.

    But Myanmar's drop in production was dwarfed by Afghanistan's. The war-ravaged nation produced just 185 tons of opium in 2001, compared with 3,276 tons in 2000, according to the U.N. International Drug Control Program, or UNDCP. Afghanistan's opium yield dropped this year because of a successful ban on poppy growing by its former Taliban rulers, who have been ousted by U.S.-led forces in the war against terror.

    According to U.S. figures, Afghanistan overtook Myanmar, also known as Burma, as the No. 1 producer in 1998 and last year was responsible for 72 percent of the global supply.

    The U.S. figures are set for publication in an annual report early next year. The survey uses satellite imagery and opium yield sampling on the ground. The figures were given to The Associated Press on Thursday by Yngve Danling, law enforcement adviser at UNDCP's Asia office in Bangkok.

    Danling said world prices of opium and heroin should rise as a result of the fall in supply. Prices have already increased sharply in Afghanistan and central Asia, but the impact would take longer to be felt farther afield, Danling said.

    ''It's too early to see any reaction globally (to the drop in opium production). We'll probably only see that by the end of next year when the heroin reaches the market,'' he said.

    The Myanmar government, which has been accused of turning a blind eye to drug trafficking in its border regions, says it is doing all it can with minimal foreign aid to end opium growing by poor hilltribe farmers.

    Opium production nearly doubled soon after the current military regime took power in 1988 and reached cease-fires with ethnic armies heavily involved in the trade. But it has declined steadily since 1996.

    As opium production has fallen, Myanmar's drug producers have diversified into cheap and popular stimulant pills, which have become a social menace in several Asian countries. These synthetic drugs, known as methamphetamines, are easier to produce than heroin and offer greater profits.

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    Four More Political Prisoners Released

    YANGON, Dec 20, 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 were released from the "various correctional facilities," identifying their names as U Thaung Aye, U Soe Myint, U Kyaw Thaung and U Tin Win.

    The release has brought the total number of the NLD's political prisoners freed in the country to 198 since January of this year, it added.

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