Daily News-July 18 - 2001- Wednesday

  • Thailand Says Burma Talks Good Sign For Democracy
  • Burma optimistic ADB aid will restart
  • US Gives Thailand $3.7 Mln To Fight Drug Trafficking
  • New Drug Factories in Laos
  • Rangoon free to spend gas money on anything it wants
  • Burmese leader meets visiting Chinese land minister
  • Hackers developing anti-censorship software
  • Myanmar Calls for Effective Treatment of STI
  • Thai Plan to purchase missiles not related to Rangoon's decision
  • Daw San San Nwe,Only a Folding Umbrella, freed on eve of key ceremony

  • Thailand Says Burma Talks Good Sign For Democracy

    SINGAPORE (AP)--Secret talks between the military regime and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi show there is movement toward democracy in Myanmar, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Tuesday.

    During a speech in Singapore, Surakiart said Thailand has no plans to participate in the talks unless asked to do so. "Our position is that we support the national reconciliation process with the regime and Myanmar. And I personally do feel that the process is real," Surakiart said.

    Many have dismissed the secret talks as a publicity stunt aimed at getting international critics off the junta's back.The current military rulers of Myanmar, also known as Burma, came to power after brutally crushing pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988. Elections were held in 1990, but the regime refused to honor the victory of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her democracy struggle, has been under house arrest since Sept. 22 after she tried to travel outside the capital Yangon in defiance of official restrictions. The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962.

    Earlier this month, Thai Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was quoted in a Thai newspaper, The Nation, as saying Suu Kyi and the military are set to form a national government.

    When asked if he shared Chavalit's confidence, Surakiart said that whether a compromise of that nature could be reached "remains to be seen."

    Despite recent bitter arguments between Thailand and Myanmar, Surakiart said the neighbors "have entered a new era of mutual trust and meaningful partnership."

    There are plans to build new roads connecting the countries, and Surakiart said Thailand has reversed a policy of trying to expel 1 million illegal immigrants working in the country - mostly from Myanmar.Hundreds of thousands of people from Myanmar are working in wealthier Thailand illegally. Surakiart said the problem "cannot continue," but Thailand no longer planned to deport the migrants.

    "I can assure that it will be a very practical approach ensuring the rights of illegal immigrants and also taking into account the security concerns of Thailand," Surakiart said. Surakiart said the plan would be unveiled in about a month.
    Burma optimistic ADB aid will restart

    YANGON, July 16 (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government is optimistic that theAsian Development Bank (ADB) will soon resume assistance to the impoverished country, the English-language Myanmar Times newspaper said on Monday.

    The newspaper quoted an unidentified senior government official as saying Yangon had patched up relations with the ADB and expected loans and technical assistance grants to resume soon.

    But an ADB spokesman said in a statement there had been no change in its position, and while there had been some positive developments in Myanmar, no decision had been taken to resume aid.

    "The ADB is monitoring the situation carefully. Any decision on resuming assistance to Myanmar will be made by our board of directors, representing 59 member countries," the spokesman said.The Manila-based ADB has not extended any loans to Myanmar since 1986, and has not offered any technical assistance since 1987.

    Myanmar has been isolated by much of the international community because of accusations of systematic human rights violations and suppression of the pro-democracy opposition led by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi. But recent developments, including talks between the government and Suu Kyi, andthe release of more than 100 political detainees, have been widely welcomed.

    "There have been positive moves on the international and domestic front. A European mission visited Myanmar. Internally, there has been a resumption of negotiations between the government and opposition camps," the ADB said.

    In April, Japan announced an end to a freeze on aid to Myanmar, saying it planned to honour a suspended commitment of about 3.5 billion yen ($28.03 million) to help upgrade a dam. Japanese officials have said the decision was a reward for the start of talks between the government and Suu Kyi.

    Analysts and diplomats say Myanmar is desperately in need of increased investment and more foreign exchange. At the ADB annual meeting in Honolulu in May, Myanmar urged the ADB to resume assistance as soon as possible, saying the suspension was "regrettable".
    US Gives Thailand $3.7 Mln To Fight Drug Trafficking

    BANGKOK (AP)--The U.S. will provide Thailand with $3.7 million for anti-narcotics and law enforcement programs, the U.S. embassy said Tuesday.

    Ambassador Richard Hecklinger will sign an agreement with Thai Prime Minister's Office Minister Krasaw Chanawong for the aid on Wednesday, an embassy statement said.

    The U.S. has provided more than $81.0 million to Thailand in anti-drug assistance since 1974, it said. Thailand lies at one corner of Southeast Asia's opium-producing Golden Triangle that encompasses neighboring Myanmar and Laos, but Thailand has largely eradicated the illicit crop from its mountainsides.

    Increasingly, Thailand's anti-drug efforts are directed at stopping the trafficking of heroin and methamphetamines from Myanmar.
    New Drug Factories in Laos

    By Aung Zaw
    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    July 17, 2001-- The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has been moving some of its methamphetamine production bases from Burma to areas in Laos opposite the Thai provinces of Chiang Rai, Phayao and Nan, according to recent press reports in Bangkok. Thai army intelligence sources have confirmed that about fifty-five factories exist in the Shan State in Burma with another ten now in Laos.

    The methamphetamine production bases in Laos are located mainly in the northern province of Udomxai, according to well-informed Lao sources. The sources also said that several ethnic minority groups are thought to be operating the drug rings.

    The Bangkok Post recently published a report citing a Thai military source who claimed that the Wa had shifted some of their operations to Laos. "The Wa moved eleven factories to an area (in Laos) opposite Chiang Saen (Thailand) in addition to five other factories already run by Shan people who were former members of the Mong Tai Army. Their combined production capacity should reach a million pills a month," according to the source.

    Another source in Bangkok said that he suspects Thai businessmen and corrupt Lao officials are behind the new drug factories. "When Thai businessmen support (drug rings) financially, Laos officials give them protection," said the source.

    Former Hmong rebels on the Laos border are also helping to set up and provide security for the new methamphetamine factories, a Thai intelligence source said.

    There are currently two major routes for smuggling methamphetamines—known locally as yaa baa—from this region of Laos. The first route is to Luang Prabang Province via Xieng Khuang Province en route to Vietnam. The second goes to Luang Prabang via Bokeo Province and the northern section of Sainyabuli Province before ending in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The second route targets the markets of Thailand, the world’s largest consumer of yaa baa.
    Rangoon free to spend gas money on anything it wants

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Jul 17, 2001

    Burma can use the money Thailand pays for natural gas for any purpose it pleases, including buying new warplanes, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

    However, a spokesman denied a report in Jane's Defence Weekly that Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai was president of PTT Exploration and Production when the deal to purchase gas from the Yadana natural gas field was signed.

    The weekly reported in its July 11 edition that Rangoon was buying 10 MiG-29 jet fighters from Russia for US$130 million and the money was coming from Thai gas purchases.

    Deputy ministry spokesman Isorn Pocmontri said neither Thailand nor Mr Surakiart had anything whatsoever to do with the plane purchase. The MiG deal was between Russia and Burma. The gas purchase was a separate matter, Mr Isorn said.

    "It's not a Thai grant, but payment on a business deal.Therefore it is up to the Burmese government how it uses the money."

    The magazine also said the gas deal was sealed when Mr Surakiart was president of PTT Exploration and Production, a joint investor in the Yadana gas field with France's Total and Unocal of the United States.

    Mr Isorn said PTTEP signed the joint venture agreement with Total in 1995, three years before Mr Surakiart became the state-oil company's president, a position which he resigned from in March last year.
    Burmese leader meets visiting Chinese land minister

    Xinhua (New China News Agency)

    Yangon [Rangoon], 17 July: First Secretary of the Myanmar [Burma] State Peace and Development Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt met with visiting Chinese Minister of Land and Resources Tian Fengshan here Tuesday [17 July].

    Khin Nyunt said Myanmar-China friendship is long-standing and the frequent exchange of visits at high level between the two countries has promoted the development of bilateral friendly relations.

    He added that Myanmar supports China's bid to the right of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and its joining of the World Trade Organization, expressing extreme delight over Beijing's successful Olympic bid.
    Hackers developing anti-censorship software

    LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - A group of hackers is finishing work on software that would enable human rights workers to access censored Web sites, in a move that ratchets up the ``arms race'' between free speech activists on the Internet and government censors in Asia and the Middle East.

    The software, called ``Peekabooty,'' was scheduled to be unveiled this past weekend but was pushed back to later this year to make sure it adequately protects those using it, said Oxblood Ruffin, a leader in the group.

    ``We believe that access to information is a basic human right guaranteed by law,'' he told Reuters following a weekend session on the project at the DefCon conference for hackers and network security advisors. ``It is going to be an arms race.''

    Already there have been efforts to thwart the project. The United Arab Emirates blocked access to the Web site of hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow last year right after the group announced plans for the anti-censorship software, said Bronc Buster, another member of the group, which calls itself ''Hactivismo.''

    Along with the UAE, countries that prevent their citizens from accessing certain Web sites they deem political or pornographic include Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, China and North Korea, the group said.

    The Peekabooty software will circumvent filters designed to block access to Web sites by going around them, using a distributed privacy network, according to a Hactivismo fact sheet. Nearly 30 volunteers are working on the project, including lawyers, programmers, students and human rights workers in the United States, China, Canada, Europe, Israel, Taiwan and South Korea, the group said.

    At the conference, human rights workers urged hackers to do what they could to use technology to advance human rights.

    Patrick Ball, deputy director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Science and Human Rights Action Network, said encryption had helped his group save lives and bring human rights abusers to justice.``Hacking is finding things out. It is knowledge, especially when things are hidden, obscure and important,'' Ball said.

    The Cult of the Dead Cow is known for making a splash at DefCon. In 1999, the group released Back Orifice, which can be used by malicious hackers to gain unauthorized access to PCs running Windows 95 or Windows 98.
    Myanmar Calls for Effective Treatment of STI

    YANGON, July 17 (Xinhuanet) -- A high-ranking Myanmar health official has called for effective treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STI) which is one of the main strategies for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS under the country's National Health Plan.

    Deputy Health Minister Kyaw Myint made the call here on Monday at the opening of a five-day inter-country workshop on management of STI, participated by health officials from Myanmar and representatives from Southeast Asia (SEA) regions and the World Health Organization (WHO), official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Tuesday.

    The workshop, sponsored by the Myanmar Ministry of Health and the WHO, aims at reviewing the latest issues related to treatment and control of STI, discussing training of medical practitioners at public and private sectors and imparting skills on STI management using syndromic approach.

    Kyaw Myint stressed the importance of the workshop within the context that STI remain a public health problem of major significance in most parts of the world with SEA not exceptional. He called for extra vigilance in prevention and control of the dreadful disease, which is a threat to all ages, all walks of life and the community, stressing the need for the program to be multi- dimensional, multi-sectoral and multi-faceted.

    HIV/AIDS, a national concern in Myanmar, is recognized by the Myanmar ministry of health as one of the three priority communicable diseases -- malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB).

    Meanwhile, the UNAIDS has identified Myanmar along with Thailand and Cambodia as the priority country in SEA where taking of urgent action is called for to prevent the spread of the epidemic.A 1999 estimation, jointly made by the UNAIDS and WHO, shows there were 530,000 HIV positive cases in Myanmar.
    Thai Plan to purchase missiles not related to Rangoon's decision

    Source : Bangkok Post

    An air force plan to buy eight air-to-air missiles from the United States is not related to Rangoon's decision to buy 10 MiG-29 fighters from Russia, said Air Force Commander-in-chief ACM Pong Maneesilp.

    "The Amraam (advanced, medium range air-to-air) missile purchase has been planned for quite some time and is not aimed at countering anyone," he said.

    The air force wanted to upgrade the efficiency of its F-16 fighters. The missiles would be kept in the US unless a security threat arose, when they would be handed over, he said.

    The air force would hold joint air exercises with the US air force next year to make pilots familiar with the missiles and other air weaponry systems.

    "The exercise will relate directly to training on air weaponry systems," said ACM Pong.

    An air force source said a squadron of used F-16 fighters bought from the US would be delivered to Thailand starting late next year.
    Daw San San Nwe,Only a Folding Umbrella, freed on eve of key ceremony

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    Rangoon, July 18 ---Myanmar's military government released 11 more members of the opposition from prison on Wednesday, including a noted writer close to pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi.

    San San Nwe, a leading member of a writers' group in Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of fabricating and circulating false news.

    She was considered one of Burma's most prominent journalists and this year was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom prize by the World Association of Newspapers.

    In the four years before her arrest, she had been banned from printing any articles or literature. Up to this point she had written 12 novels, several non-fiction books, scores of poems and hundreds of short stories.

    Her 1977 novel ''Only a Folding Umbrella'' was translated into English and Russian.

    The release of the 11 opposition members is the latest sign of a thaw in relations between the military government and the NLD since October, when the ruling generals began secret talks with Suu Kyi.

    The NLD won Burma's last general election in 1990 by a landslide but was never allowed to govern. Over the last decade its members have faced harassment, arrest and imprisonment.


    No information has been released on the progress of the talks. Suu Kyi has been held under de facto house arrest since September and only a handful of foreign diplomats have been given access to her.

    But since the start of the talks, 151 NLD detainees have been released and the party has been given permission to reopen 18 of its branch offices.

    The government and opposition have agreed to refrain from open criticism of each other while the talks are going on.

    Wednesday's releases come on the eve of a major national ceremony marking Martyrs' Day, the anniversary of the assassination of Suu Kyi's father, independence hero General Aung San, and eight senior officials on July 19, 1947.

    This year's ceremony is being closely watched to see whether Suu Kyi attends.

    Despite her rift with the ruling generals, Suu Kyi has always attended the ceremony in recent years, even when she was being held in house arrest between 1989 and 1995.

    But diplomats and officials said last week Suu Kyi had declined to attend Thursday's ceremony. If she fails to appear, it would be widely interpreted as a sign that the talks with the government are not going well.

    Earlier this year, diplomatic sources said the talks appeared to have stalled, but subsequent prisoner releases and a visit by United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, who helped broker the talks, stirred hopes the negotiations were still on track.

    There had been rumours in Burma that restrictions on Suu Kyi could be lifted ahead of the Martyrs' Day ceremony.