Daily News- December 22 - 2001- Saturday

  • Thailand pushes back EU request to grant asylum to ethnic Karen
  • Pro-democracy Activist Flees Burma
  • Observers note political motive behind military shake-up
  • Olympic Team Cancelled Deal with Triumph

  • Thailand pushes back EU request to grant asylum to ethnic Karen

    BANGKOK, Dec 21 (AFP) - Thailand will stand by its decision to refuse asylum for 796 ethnic Karen fleeing fighting in Myanmar despite a plea from the European Union (EU) to give them refuge, officials said Friday.

    Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Rattakit Manathat told reporters that Thailand stood firm on the issue and would reconsider the decision only if violence against the group worsened.

    Thailand has assisted displaced villagers escaping clashes between Myanmar's ruling junta and ethnic militias along the border for years, leaving some 108,000 people currently seeking asylum in Thailand, he added.

    Rattakit said the EU should instead grant asylum to the Karen villagers whose cause they have taken up."The EU should grant them asylum if they are concerned about these people," he said. "In the past, only 10 percent of Myanmar student dissidents have been granted asylum in EU countries."

    Member states of the EU and the United States, Canada, Norway and Switzerland sent a joint letter to Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai last month expressing concern over the forced repartiation to Myanmar of 63 ethnic Karen.The villagers were among a group of 796 Karen living in Thailand's rugged border region.

    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

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    Pro-democracy Activist Flees Burma

    By Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    December 21, 2001-Two years after completing a ten-year jail sentence, Burmese activist Win Myint Naing has fled to Thailand. In 1990, he became a Central Exclusive Committee member with the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) and was imprisoned the following year.

    Since his release, Win Myint has faced harassment and has been under regular military surveillance. Win Myint explained to the Irrawaddy why he left Burma:

    "One problem is security, and the other is politics. Inside, the political situation is so tense, that I could no longer be involved in the movement because of the high security risks. Many other activists also face the same problem." "For student activists and politicians from Burma, there are no guarantees for their security," Win Myint added.

    "Military Intelligence Service (MIS) used to watch over me all the time, and the Special Branch intelligence group questioned me on several occasions. Each time, Special Branch authorities made me write down my personal biography."

    In December 1990, DPNS refused to sign government statement 1/90, which urged political organizations to declare that they would not form an interim government and recognize SLORC's National Convention. For that reason, high-ranking DPNS members from its headquarters in Rangoon, including Win Myint, were arrested by MIS and detained in Insein prison for two months.

    When DPNS was abolished in December 1991, Win Myint was arrested again by MIS and sentenced to ten years in prison under Article 5(j) of the 1950 Emergency Provision Act. He served his prison term in Taungoo prison and was released in late 1999. Win Myint has now resumed working along the Thai-Burma border with his mother party, DPNS. The party has given him his old position as a Central Exclusive Committee member.

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    Observers note political motive behind military shake-up

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 21, 2001
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 20 December

    An AFP [Agence France Presse] news report received today cited Vice Chief of Military Intelligence Maj-Gen Kyaw Win who said that, although 10 new regional commanders were appointed, they are unlikely to be included in the State Peace and Development Council [SPDC].

    Maj-Gen Kyaw Win told reporters this new generation of commanders, aged around 47 years, will have authority only in their respective regions and they will not be appointed as SPDC members.

    He added that the reshuffle of the military has nothing to do with the present political situation and the rumours that something politically is going to take place on 4 January 2002, Burma's Independence Day, is also groundless.

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the appointment of divisional commanders and operations commanders, including the 10 regional commanders, was decided at the recent Commanders Conference and the official announcement will be made only on 4 January, Burma's Independence Day.

    According to the new set-up of the SPDC military, four new Bureaus of Special Operations were created between the War Office in Rangoon and the regional commands. It seems that the four bureaus of special operations will supervise region-wise the 12 regional military commands, 10 divisions, and 21 operations commands on behalf of the War Office in Rangoon.

    The shuffle and appointment of commanders seems a normal thing but it is quite unusual the 10 regional commanders were not given ministerial posts, remain as SPDC members while appointed as Bureau of Special Operations [BSO] commanders.

    Military analysts and observers noted the move is not only unprecedented in the SLORC [State Law and Order Restoration Council] and SPDC era but also in Burmese military history.

    Observers believe there could be political rationale behind the new setup since the four BSO commanders were ordered to administer the 14 states and divisions on behalf of the government. Observers noted on one hand the SPDC wanted to control the commanders from becoming warlords while on the other hand they wanted to draw a line between the regional and divisional commanders that manage troops and the SPDC members that hold the political reins.

    The SPDC's revamping of military intelligence, communications, and other support and logistics battalions indicated without doubt the political motive behind the set-up but the motive is hard to fathom. Political researchers say the SPDC could adopt either of the following two political objectives:

    1. To prepare the military to transfer power to a civilian government, or
    2. To prepare the military never to transfer power to a civilian government.

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    Olympic Team Cancelled Deal with Triumph

    by Worldview Rights 2001-12-21
    Source : Burma Peace Campaign

    The Norwegian Olympic Team has just announced cancellation of it‘s Triumph International sponsorship because of the company‘s presence in Burma and the Burma Campaign UK‘s (BCUK) high profile campaign against the company.

    The Norwegian Team had refused to wear the Triumph logo or products unless the company pulls out of Burma. As Triumph has so far refused to withdraw, the Team is going to the winter Olympics without Triumph sponsorship.

    "This is not a prestige case for us" said the chief of the Olympic Team Bjørge Stensbøl, "I think it is great that the team has reacted in this way and said that they do not want to wear clothes made by a firm that has a production in a country that breaks human rights laws".

    Yvette Mahon Director of the Burma Campaign UK said: "Triumph had better realise that this is just the beginning. They could cut their pain and cut their losses and get out if Burma now, or choose further humiliation and embarrassment of this kind. We salute the Norwegian Olympic Team for their integrity and support of the oppressed people of Burma."

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