Daily News-July 20 - 2001- Friday

  • Burma :The politics of compromise
  • Suu Kyi Martyr's Day no-show a 'bad sign for talks'
  • Suu Kyi’s Absence Dims Hopes for Talks
  • Burma paper reports UK welcoming release of opposition detainees
  • Escapes and Malaria Outbreak Concealed by Prison Officials
  • New jail in Kawthaung almost completed
  • Burma citizens are majority at a shelter home in India’s North East state
  • Alphabet gets ISO approval
  • Burma regrets Suu Kyi snub of national ceremony

  • Burma :The politics of compromise

    source : CNN

    Myanmar, formely known as Burma, has been under military rule since a coup in 1962. The main opposition in the last decade has been the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.
    CNN's special takes a closer look at the reasons for the country's political strife.

    This week Myanmar marks the anniversary of the assassination in 1947 of its founding father, General Aung San.But unlike previous years, the annual Martyrs’ Day celebrations come amid signs of warming relations between the NLD and the government, with the recent release of 151 NLD detainees and the reopening of its party offices.

    The developments are credited to secret negotiations that began last October between military leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi,who remains under house arrest in Myanmar’s capital Yangon.

    But Myanmar has a long road to recovery. It remains a nation emaciated by diplomatic and economic isolation, and the efforts to restore it to democracy are a long way from being fulfilled.
    Suu Kyi Martyr's Day no-show a 'bad sign for talks'

    source : News.com.au

    AUNG San Suu Kyi's failure yesterday to attend a key ceremony marking the death of her father has disheartened Burma's exiled activists, who interpret it as a sign reconciliation talks between the democracy leader and the ruling junta have stalled.

    Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council has released 151 political prisoners since the talks with Ms Suu Kyi began last October, including 11 on Wednesday.

    In recent weeks, it has also allowed Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to reopen 18 offices in Rangoon. The positive signs led to speculation that Ms Suu Kyi herself could be released from house arrest.

    Leaked messages from inside Burma had suggested the military regime was preparing to release her to coincide with yesterday's Martyr's Day celebrations.

    It would have neatly coincided with next week's annual ASEAN foreign minister's meeting, at which Burma is expected to be informally questioned about the progress of the talks.

    Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar yesterday said Kuala Lumpur, which strongly supported Burma's entry into ASEAN in 1997, was "very happy with the development that's taking place in (Burma)".

    But activists in Thailand interpreted Ms Suu Kyi's no-show at the early morning ceremony as a sign the talks were not progressing well.

    "There could be two reasons," said Sonny Mahandar, foreign secretary of the All Burma Students Democratic Front, based in Thailand. "One, the SPDC didn't allow her to go . . . or two, she's not satisfied with the talks." Mr Mahandar, who was last night awaiting a report from inside Burma, said he thought either scenario augured bad news. "If she showed up it would have been a good sign for both sides, reflecting that they have understanding," he said.

    Ms Suu Kyi has not missed a Martyr's Day ceremony since 1995. She was elected Burma's leader in 1990 but the military junta refused to recognise the result. Ms Suu Kyi is not officially under house arrest, but has not been seen in public since she defied an order to remain in Rangoon last September.

    Although the talks have been shrouded in secrecy, the idea of forming a joint NLP-SPDC government to draft a new constitution and work towards a general election is thought to be high on the agenda.
    Suu Kyi’s Absence Dims Hopes for Talks

    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    July 19, 2001-Concerns about the progress of talks between Burma’s ruling junta and the democratic opposition grew today following Aung San Suu Kyi’s apparent decision to stay away from an official Martyrs’ Day ceremony. It was the first time since her release from house arrest in 1995 that the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader had failed to attend the ceremony, held in honor of her father and other independence leaders slain on this day in 1947.

    Today’s ceremony was a low-key event, despite months of speculation that the occasion could be used to announce a breakthrough in negotiations between the NLD and the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Talks between the two sides have been taking place since late last year.

    "It is like a non-event," commented one journalist in Rangoon, noting that the state-controlled press made no mention of the ceremony. Editors of privately owned magazines also avoided running commemorative articles, saying they feared harassment by the authorities.

    Sources in Rangoon reported that the mood in the Burmese capital was subdued, with shops closed for the holiday and heavy rain falling since early this morning. Suu Kyi’s conspicuous absence from the ceremony, which seemed to confirm observers’ fears that the talks had stalled, also added to the gloom, one source added.

    According to an Associated Press report, three senior NLD members, led by party secretary U Lwin, laid wreaths at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in central Rangoon as part of the official ceremony. U Lwin later declined to comment on Suu Kyi’s absence, but told reporters: "This is her decision. She asked us to go there." The AP report said that there was no indication the SPDC had barred her from the event.

    Meanwhile, an NLD source reported that around 400 people attended a separate ceremony at the party’s Rangoon headquarters. According to the source, a declaration read by party member Ba Swe called for continued faith in the democratic cause and praised Burma’s brief era of democratic rule prior to a military coup in 1962, but stopped short of criticizing the current regime. Foreign diplomats and journalists, who often attend as guests at party functions, were notably absent from the gathering.

    Despite this latest evidence of uncertainty surrounding the talks in Rangoon, other signs have been more encouraging. The SPDC has released twenty high-profile political prisoners in the past week, including celebrated journalist San San Nweh, for a total of more than 150 released since January.

    But many observers remain unconvinced that the ruling junta is prepared to make more meaningful compromises with its opponents. "The government is just releasing some NLD members who they think no longer pose a threat," remarked one Rangoon-based writer.
    Burma paper reports UK welcoming release of opposition detainees

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 19, 2001

    Text of unattributed report: "Aye Win joins growing list of freed NLD opposition members" in English by Burmese newspaper The Myanmar Times on 19 July

    The government last week released a cousin of NLD [National League for Democracy] leader Aung San Suu Kyi from jail, sources said, in the latest sign of progress in talks between the government and the NLD.

    Aye Win, a close aide to Daw Suu Kyi, was allowed to leave Yangon's [Rangoon's] Insein prison Monday [16 July] after completing a five-year sentence, a family member told Agence France Presse.

    In the past few weeks the government has allowed dozens of members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) to leave the jails and government guesthouses where they were detained. Less than a fortnight ago it freed nine senior party members, bringing to 23 the number who have been given their liberty.

    The government has said the concessions reflect progress in talks with Aung San Suu Kyi which began in October, and which have raised hopes for a national reconciliation process.

    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 reopening 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 Myanmar," said Straw. "We now look forward to further releases, as part of the confidence building measures we hope the government will take in support of its dialogue with the NLD leader."
    Escapes and Malaria Outbreak Concealed by Prison Officials

    By Maung Maung Oo
    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    July 18, 2001--Prison authorities presented a bogus list of inmate names during a routine inspection of a hard-labor camp in Kawthaung in an attempt to cover up recent escapes and a deadly malaria outbreak, according to a source close to local prison authorities.

    Brig-Gen Than Maung, a member of the committe for the Development of Border Areas and National Races, inspected the hard-labor camp in Kawthaung during a recent visit to the area by Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, Secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). During the general’s inspection, there was reportedly no mention of any escapes or of the ongoing malaria epidemic at the camp, according the source.

    Over 120 prisoners were believed to have escaped from the camp during the first six months of this year, while another sixty-four had succumbed to malaria, according to records from Kawthaung's District Health Department. Another ninety-one prisoners suffering from malaria are in serious condition, the records showed. There were 940 prisoners registered at the camp at the beginning of the year.

    "Prisoners are trying to flee these camps every day," noted a former prisoner of a hard-labor camp. "When inmates die of malaria, camp authorities tell their relatives that they have escaped."

    Labor camps in Burma are notorious for their inhumane conditions and the brutal treatment meted out to prisoners. Hundreds of prisoners from hard labor camps die every month from malaria and malnutrition, according to a prison source, who added that prison officials routinely sell medication intended for prisoners’ use.

    When prisoners die at the camps, authorities often refuse to unlock the shackles from their legs and instead cut off the legs of the dead prisoners before burying them, according to a former labor-camp inmate. According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), there are over two hundred hard labor camps in Burma.
    New jail in Kawthaung almost completed

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 18 July

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that just as the international community has been praising the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] on the release of political prisoners, the SPDC has been planning to open a new jail.

    The SPDC Home Affairs Minister Col Tin Hlaing arrived in Kawthaung, Southern Burma on 7 July. He met and held talks with responsible Prisons Department [PD] officials and urged them for an early completion of the jail being constructed in Kawthaung.

    Although the sleeping quarters for the inmates and the watchtowers have been almost completed, the living quarters for PD personnel remain unfinished. A PD official who does not want to be named said Col Tin Hlaing directed those responsible for the timely completion of the staff quarters and the earliest opening of the new jail.

    DVB has learned that at a time when talks on national reconciliation are being held and the release of political detainees are being discussed PD officials cannot understand why there is a need to open a new jail.
    Burma citizens are majority at a shelter home in India’s North East state

    Aizawl (Mizoram State), July 19, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    Orphans, drug-addicts, mad persons from Burma occupy 70% of total residents of a shelter home in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram State.

    Thutak Nunpuitu Team (TNT), a Christian de-addiction center and a shelter for homeless, has been treating both Indians and Burmese citizens for the past eleven years in this remote place without much attention from the outside world.

    The TNT, situated in Zuangtui town (outside Aizawl) has about eight hundreds patients and orphans and about 70 per cent of them are from Burma, which has international border with this mountainous state of India’s North East.

    Children of young age, homeless women and men, drug addicts and mad persons originally from Burma, mostly from Chin State are the majority patients in the center.

    The TNT (which means helping needy people is having a real life) was founded by one-man mission by one Mizo national Mr. Sangthankima in 1988. It had only one homeless person when it was founded but it has now become a home for more than one thousands help-needed persons both men and women.

    “We treat them through religion, with the help of God”, said Mr. Lalnuntluanga Fanai, a social worker who has been working in the center for the past three years. There are about 200 drug-addicts who are being camped in the center for de-addiction.They have to stay here minimum six months. During that period, they also treat themselves by sharing experiences, by listening to Jesus, he added. The center’s motto is God gives us daily bread, he added.

    There are several Burmese immigrants, mostly Chin nationals, both men and women who are receiving the treatment and shelter in the center. Among them is a patient who is under going de-addiction treatment. He is from Chin State of Burma but he has been living in Mizoram for the past thirteen years. Before he came to the center, he worked as a hard laborer in Aizawl. He started using drugs a year ago. After some months, he changed to injection (of Proxyvon) and his right leg had to be operated due to drug injections. He has been in the center for two months and his condition is stable now.

    There are about 300 children in the center. The center provides them with education, food, and cloths until they can live by themselves in outside world. A few months ago, a Burmese who is working in Aizawl came to the center and kept two of his children, as he could no longer feed them. The two boys, who forget Burmese language now, are otherwise doing well.Notsurprisingly, noofficials from Burmese government have ever visited the center.

    We don’t receive any assistance from governmental or international agencies. We run the center by the grace of God and with the contributions. People come and visit us everyday and they contribute money to the center, said a voluntary worker. There are about 60 voluntary workers in this center alone. There are two more centers under TNT in Mizoram State; one is in Lunglei and another is in Kolasib town.
    Alphabet gets ISO approval

    Myanmar Times, July 16 - 22, 2001
    By Moe Zaw Myint

    MYANMAR characters will be included in international computer font codes for the first time, and moves are now afoot to lobby for the script's inclusion in the next version of Microsoft Word.

    The Myanmar alphabet of characters has been certified as ISO 10646 Unicode Standard Version 3.0 by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

    The outcome is the result of three years of work by a group of IT professionals, linguists, literature experts and historians. The group's achievement, and its consequences were detailed at a seminar on the ISO Unicode in Yangon last week organised by the IT standardisation committee of the e-National Taskforce and sponsored by KMD Computer Centre.

    "We have had various kinds of Myanmar font softwares so when we put them in the web page, unless we have a standard character set, we will not be able to read our characters," said U Pyone Maung Maung, managing director of CE Technology and a member of the e-National Taskforce. But the team's task was not yet complete, as it would "have to work on the implementation of the rules" surrounding the ISO recognition. "We will also try to have our Myanmar characters included in Microsoft's next version as a new font," U Pyone Maung Maung said.
    Burma regrets Suu Kyi snub of national ceremony

    By Aung Hla Tun

    YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government said on Friday the nation regretted opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's absence at a national ceremony commemorating the murder of her father -- a snub widely seen as a political statement.

    Suu Kyi failed to show up at the official Martyrs' Day ceremony in Yangon on Thursday, fuelling fears that landmark peace talks between the 56-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and the ruling generals are in trouble.

    "The nation regrets her absence and the government has nothing to say but to respect her decision," a government spokesman said in a statement.

    The government made clear it was surprised that Suu Kyi had boycotted the event, which marks the 1947 assassination of her father, independence hero General Aung San, and eight other cabinet ministers. They were killed during Myanmar's transition to independence from Britain, when Suu Kyi was just two.

    "The government expected Aung San Suu Kyi to attend the Martyrs' Day ceremony," the government said. "In fact, upon the government's invitation, Aung San Suu Kyi always attended this ceremony in recent years."

    The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been holding regular secret meetings with Suu Kyi since October in a bid to break the political deadlock that has gripped the impoverished country for more than a decade. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern.


    No news on the progress of the talks has emerged, but the military has extended several olive branches since the start of the talks, releasing more than 150 detained NLD activists and allowing the party to reopen 18 of its branch offices.

    "On account of the recent positive developments taking place between the SPDC government and the NLD party, the government believes that the road for better understanding and cooperation has been paved (and is) optimistically anticipating for the best," the government statement said.

    "In this regard, not only was the invitation officially extended but transportation as well as an escort officer was being arranged for her maximum convenience."

    Suu Kyi has been kept confined to her Yangon residence since September, out of contact of even her closest aides. Only a handful of foreign diplomats have been allowed to see her.

    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 dialogue, stirred hopes the negotiations were still on track.

    But given Suu Kyi's inability to make public comments on the talks, her failure to attend the ceremony was seen by many diplomats as a signal to the outside world that despite the government's olive branches, the two sides remain far apart.(With additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok)