Daily News-July 02 - 2001- Monday

  • Burma: The Class Barrier
  • Message to Burma
  • NCGUB welcomes release of political detainees, UN envoy's visit
  • DVB reports 28 June Tavoy bomb blast
  • Burmese opposition radio reports amphetamine seizure in Myawadi
  • Burmese radio reports 17 rebels exchange their weapons for peace in May
  • Suu Kyi's Cousin Released From Prison
  • Junta releases Aung San Suu Kyi's cousin from jail

  • Burma: The Class Barrier

    School’s open but only for docile techies


    July 9 issue - At his house in Rangoon, Tin shows off black-and-white photos of his brothers and sisters in university cap and gown. In a nation where education is revered, Tin is proud of his family, and worried for himself.

    Since students led an uprising in 1988, Burma’s ruling generals have shuttered the universities more often than not, including four of the last five years. Tin, 24, is a pedicab driver and a math major at the University of Rangoon when it is open. I have to graduate,” he says, with an eye to the pictures on the wall.

    Burma has the only government on earth that places such hurdles between its citizens and an education. Many teachers and students have fled to the United States, Thailand and Singapore.

    Burma’s universities are currently open, but only for technical subjects and for students who vow in writing to avoid politics. Old city campuses have been replaced by new ones close to Army bases. Tiny private schools now offer classes, but not enough. When the United States Information Service opened classes last year, fistfights erupted among students vying to get in. Says exiled editor Tin Maung Than, Knowledge is paralyzed.
    Message to Burma


    WITH HIS new legislative effort to prevent the state's $30 billion pension fund from buying stock in any company doing business in Burma - where an illegitimate narco-junta commits the vilest human rights abuses - state Representative Byron Rushing is defending the right of the people of Massachusetts to decide what may be done with their money.

    Rushing's earlier selective purchasing act was overturned last year by the US Supreme Court on the narrow grounds that it had been preempted by federal sanctions on the junta that were imposed a year after the Massachusetts law was passed. Both that earlier law and the current bill were modeled on the precedent of an executive order by which the Commonwealth had divested from the apartheid regime in South Africa.

    Fittingly, it was South Africa's Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu who first gave Rushing the idea to craft legislation that would free the people of Massachusetts from complicity with Burma's thuggish military junta. Tutu was acting in solidarity with his fellow Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest as the leader of the party that won 80 percent of the seats in Parliament in Burma's last free elections, in 1990.

    The junta has not only thwarted the voters' will, but has collaborated in the trafficking of heroin and methamphetamine, has forced villagers to porter for the army across minefields, and has been sanctioned by the International Labor Organization for its persistent exploitation of forced labor.

    The current bill requiring the state's pension fund to divest from Burma is markedly different from Rushing's earlier selective purchasing law. The overturned 1996 law prevented some companies from selling their goods or services to the state. Rushing's new divestment bill applies only to the buying of stocks by the state's pension fund, and it will be hard to argue that stock prices might thereby be improperly depressed or that this bill conflicts with federal sanctions on the junta.

    The state's pension fund is already divested of all tobacco stocks. The Rushing bill to divest from Burma derives from the deepest moral source of the American attachment to government that represents the people.
    NCGUB welcomes release of political detainees, UN envoy's visit

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 1, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 30 June

    The SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] military government's release of some political detainees and allowing the reopening of several NLD [National League for Democracy] township branches have been increasingly welcomed internally and externally. DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has already reported about the remarks by NLD Joint Secretary U Lwin yesterday. DVB contacted Dr Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma [NCGUB], to obtain the views of the exiled elected representatives. DVB will now present the interview.

    [Dr Sein Win] We welcome this news. We believe the release of more political prisoners - not only elected representatives but all political prisoners - and the granting of more political freedom will greatly enhanced the dialogue process.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Now that the SPDC has released several some political prisoners and allowed the reopening of some NLD branches, can you say that the SPDC has either softened their stance or changed their position?

    [Dr Sein Win] As we have mentioned before we welcomed their actions but it is only the release of some detainees and allowing the opening of some party branches. We think they need to review the laws, rules, and regulations against the political parties.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] According to the news, the release of some detainees and opening of party branches have been directly accredited to the progress of the talks between the SPDC and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. What do you expect from the talks?

    [Dr Sein Win] We have already said that we welcomed the talks. Furthermore, we must all head towards national unity. At present we are on the right track but we need to gallop at a faster pace.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Yes. According to the news which we have received, UN special envoy Mr Razali will return to Burma either at the end of this month or early next month to help resume the talks. Rumours are spreading that the talks this time will include particulars about the transformation. What do you think about the prospects of the talks?

    [Dr Sein Win] We really welcomed Mr Razali's trips. The UN can assist us in everything. In future we will have to redevelop the nation. The participation of the UN, Mr Razali's visits, and the assistance towards the resumption and development of the talks are all very much needed and we welcome such acts.
    DVB reports 28 June Tavoy bomb blast

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 1, 2001

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that at least one person was killed and several more were wounded when a bomb exploded around midnight in Tavoy on 28 June.

    The explosion occurred at the Shanmaleswe Ward Peace and Development Council [PDC] Office near Tavoy College in Tavoy. A Tavoy resident who does not want to be identified told DVB that U Tun Yi, member of the Ward PDC, was seriously wounded in the blast and taken to a hospital but succumbed to his wounds on reaching the hospital.

    So far the authorities have been unable to determine who was responsible for the explosion but the Tavoy-based Military Intelligence [MI] Unit 19 is putting the blame on the insurgents. According to latest reports received by DVB, personnel from MI-19 have arrested Min Min Htaik, a motorcycle taxi driver, in relation with the incident.

    A similar bomb exploded near the government petrol station in Shanmaleswe Ward last month. Although the MI has attributed the blast to the insurgents the Tavoy townspeople believed it was an attempt by the MI personnel to instil fear among the local residents by creating such incidents.
    Burmese opposition radio reports amphetamine seizure in Myawadi

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 1, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 29 June

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that over 6m stimulant tablets were seized in Myawadi, Karen State yesterday afternoon. The suspects have already been taken to Rangoon. DVB correspondent Maung Tu filed this report.

    [Maung Tu] A Myawadi resident said personnel from the Military Intelligence Unit-25, Myanmar Police Force, BDSC [Border Development Supervisory Committee], and anti-drug squad searched a house owned by a Chinese in Myawadi at about 1500 [local time] yesterday and seized over 6 million Ya Ba amphetamine tablets.

    A total of five Chinese and Wa nationals including the owner of the drugs were also arrested and have been sent to Rangoon. At about the same, Thai authorities also searched Ban Mae Khang Village in Mae Sot Province of Thailand and seized 180,000 stimulant tablets.

    The Thai side issued a news report that these stimulant tablets were trafficked from the Myawadi Hotel on the Burma side of the Thaungyin River and were seized by Thai (?border police) group in Mae Sot.

    This is the second time millions of amphetamine tablets were seized in the area during this month. Burmese authorities seized 7m stimulant tablets at a passenger bus depot in Pa-an on 2 June. Sources close to the authorities said the suspects have given a statement to the authorities that the stimulant tablets were destined for Mae Sot in Thailand. But the news of such drug seizures are usually not officially reported by the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] authorities inside Burma and they have also refrained from reporting them.
    Burmese radio reports 17 rebels exchange their weapons for peace in May

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 1, 2001

    The State Peace and Development Council, upholding our Three Main National Causes, is striving for national reconsolidation with zeal for the emergence of a peaceful, modern, and developed nation with genuine goodwill. Remnant members of the armed groups after realizing that their destructive acts did not benefit the nation, their acts retarded regional development, and understood the genuine goodwill and correct endeavours of the government have been exchanging their weapons for peace individually or in groups.

    A total of 17 insurgents exchanged their weapons for peace from 1-31 May. Deputy Company Commander Soe Lwin alias Saw Kapaw from the 6th Brigade of the KNU [Karen National Union] armed group and Maung Htein alias Gali, rural chairman of KNDO [Karen National Defence Organization] 2nd Battalion exchanged one hand grenade, two detonators, and one walkie-talkie for peace in the Southeast Military Command area while Ptes Zakye-oh and Htaung Hlan of CNA [Chin National Army] armed group exchanged their weapons for peace in the Northwest Military Command region.

    Six KNU members exchanged one carbine, a magazine, 20 rounds of ammunition, two M-16 automatic rifles, two magazines, 18 rounds of ammunition, one short-barrelled gun, two bullets, and one grenade for peace...

    Two ABSDF [All Burma Students' Democratic Front] armed group members and five BCP [Burma Communist Party] armed group members exchanged one long-barrelled gun for peace in the Coastal Region Military Command area... Responsible officials warmly welcomed the 17 persons who exchanged their weapons for peace and provided them with necessary assistance. More members of the armed groups in the jungle are expected to exchange their weapons for peace.
    Suu Kyi's Cousin Released From Prison

    YANGON (AP)--A cousin of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from prison Monday after completing a five-year jail term for subversion, an official statement said.

    Aye Win, 59, formerly a liaison officer for Suu Kyi, was released at 1:30 p.m. (0700 GMT) from Yangon's Insein prison."He is in good health and is now reunited with his family," said the brief statement issued by the military government.

    Aye Win was jailed in June 1996 under a law protecting the state against subversive elements. Political prisoners in Myanmar, also known as Burma, are often not released even when they have completed their sentences.A member of Aye Win's family confirmed the release and said he was in good health.

    He is the latest in a string of detainees from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to be freed in recent months, as a result of secret talks between Suu Kyi and the military regime.The NLD won general elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to take power. Hundreds of its members have been jailed.

    Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar's national hero, Gen. Aung San, has been under virtual house arrest since Sept. 22 when she attempted to travel outside Yangon on party business in defiance of official restrictions on her movements.

    Aye Win is the son of Ba Win, a brother of Aung San. Ba Win died alongside Aung San when he was gunned down in 1947, a year before the country achieved independence from Britain.
    Junta releases Aung San Suu Kyi's cousin from jail

    YANGON, July 2 (AFP) - Myanmar's military regime Monday released the cousin of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from jail, sources said, in the latest sign of progress in talks between the opposition and the junta.Aye Win, a close aide to the Nobel peace laureate, was allowed to leave Yangon's notorious Insein prison Monday after completing a five-year sentence, a family member told AFP.

    Political prisoners are not routinely released at the end of their sentence, but in the last few weeks the junta has allowed dozens of members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) to leave the jails and government guesthouses where they were detained.

    On Thursday it freed nine more senior party members, bringing to 26 the number of opposition MPs elected in the disallowed 1990 ballot who have been given their liberty.

    The military government has said the concessions reflect progress in talks with Aung San Suu Kyi which began in October, and which have raised hopes that a national reconciliation process may soon get under way.

    The democracy leader is believed to have demanded the junta release political prisoners and allow the party to re-open its offices around the country before the contacts develop into a full-blown dialogue.

    Four groups of NLD MPs have now been released since UN envoy Razali Ismail visited Yangon in early June on a mission to bring new impetus to the fledgling talks -- the first between the two sides since 1994.Razali is credited with acting as the catalyst for the contacts, which appeared to have run into problems several months ago.

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has welcomed the military government's decision to release the opposition members.Through his spokesman, Annan last month called on both sides "to build on this momentum to achieve further progress in their dialogue process."

    Last week, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also welcomed the releases and the re-opening of some of the NLD's offices, saying the developments "are grounds for optimism.""I welcome reports that a number of political prisoners have been released in Burma," said Straw. "They have been incarcerated for far too long. This will provide a boost for the voices of freedom and democracy."We now look forward to further releases, as part of the confidence building measures we hope the regime will take in support of its dialogue with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi."