Daily News-July 23 - 2001- Monday

  • Myanmar says landmark talks with Suu Kyi on track
  • ASEAN to hail "encouraging developments" in Myanmar
  • Burmese historic littérateur Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing memorial literary discussion ceremony held in Japan
  • Hit-and-run scapegoats in Burma
  • Thai minister's Myanmar trip will help heal wounds
  • Grp Protests Myanmar Blacklisting 2 Foreign Journalists

  • Myanmar says landmark talks with Suu Kyi on track

    HANOI (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government said on Sunday landmark peace talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi were on track, brushing aside concerns that her snub of a ceremony last week was a sign the dialogue was in trouble.

    "It has not stalled," Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung told reporters on arrival in Hanoi for a regional meeting."It is progressing and on track."

    The military government has been holding secret meetings with the detained Nobel Peace prize winner since October, a development widely welcomed by the international community. Since the talks began the ruling generals have extended several olive branches to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the country's last elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern.

    More than 150 NLD detainees have been released and the party has been allowed to reopen 18 of its branch offices. Attacks on the party in Myanmar's state-controlled press have also ceased.

    But no news on the progress of the talks has emerged -- the government says the content of the dialogue is confidential, and Suu Kyi has been kept confined to her Yangon residence since September, with only a handful of diplomats allowed to see her.

    Last week, the 56-year-old Suu Kyi declined to attend a national ceremony marking the 1947 assassination by political opponents of her father, independence hero Aung San, and eight other cabinet ministers. They were gunned down during Myanmar's transition to independence from Britain, when Suu Kyi was just two years old.

    Despite her rift with the ruling generals, Suu Kyi had always attended the Martyrs' day ceremony in recent years, and her failure to show up this year was widely interpreted as a signal that the talks with the government had hit problems.

    Earlier this year, foreign diplomats in Yangon said the talks appeared to have hit an impasse, 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.

    Last week the government said it was surprised by Suu Kyi's decision to stay away from the ceremony, and that the country regretted her absence.

    Foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) arrived in Hanoi on Sunday for a week of meetings that will also include key regional players China, Japan and South Korea and ASEAN's dialogue partners in the 23-member ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia's main security grouping.

    Win Aung said he would brief his counterparts about developments in Myanmar. "Let's hope for the best," he said.
    ASEAN to hail "encouraging developments" in Myanmar

    HANOI, July 22 (AFP) - Southeast Asian foreign ministers are set to hail "encouraging developments" in the bloc's most troublesome member Myanmar at their annual meeting here this week, according to a draft statement obtained by AFP Sunday.

    "We noted encouraging developments in the Union of Myanmar and appreciated the efforts of the government of Myanmar towards these developments," the draft statement expected to be adopted by ministers Tuesday said.

    "(We) reiterated our support to the ongoing process of national reconciliation in this country."

    The release of dozens of political prisoners by the military junta in Yangon in recent months has sparked mounting hopes that talks between the generals and detained opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi will lead to a breakthrough.

    During a visit to Singapore last week, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said the developments "clearly indicate that there is movement or positive development towards the direction we all like to see, towards democracy, towards ... human rights." Surakiart said he believed foreign governments should not intervene in the process but "should stand ready to assist if requested and ensure that the national reconciliation process will continue".

    Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under de facto house arrest since September, just before she embarked on landmark talks with the junta which may pave the way for national reconciliation.

    Progress in the talks will be vital for relations between ASEAN and the European Union, whose external affairs commissioner Chris Patten is due to attend a regional forum on Wednesday following the ministers' meetings.

    The two regional groupings only resumed ministerial meetings last December after a three-year boycott by the EU in protest over Myanmar's admission to ASEAN in 1997. That meeting was held in Laos, but the next meeting is due to be held in Europe late this year, requiring a relaxation of the EU's visa ban on junta officials.

    In April, the EU renewed its sanctions against Myanmar for six more months, stating that the human rights situation in the Southeast Asian nation remained "extremely serious". Nevertheless, EU ministers said they "sincerely hoped" that contacts between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi would lead to political reconciliation.

    Belgium, the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, hopes to send a new mission to Yangon to assess developments there before ministers review the sanctions at the end of October.

    The release of more political prisoners and "freedom of movement and action" for political parties in Myanmar are "prerequisites" for the EU to lift the sanctions, which also include an arms embargo and a ban on non-humanitarian aid, Belgium's ambassador to Thailand, Pierre Vaesen, said this month.

    The EU's policy towards Myanmar will also hinge on information from other forthcoming visits, including a three-week International Labour Organisation mission in September to investigate forced labour, he said.
    Burmese historic littérateur Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing memorial literary discussion ceremony held in Japan

    Ahara Burmese Library (Japan)

    Burmese historic littérateur Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing memorial literary discussion ceremony was held in Tokyo with the sponsorship of "Ahara Burmese Library in Japan on Sunday, July 22.

    In the ceremony, Dr. Min Nyo, professor from Japan Aichi University attended to discuss about Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing's struggles for national freedom. And Dr. Maung Maung Hla Kyaing, from N.L.D (LA), Japan Branch also participated, discussing about the works and masterpiece of the littérateur.

    Other participants were Ko Thet Linn, who discussed about Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing's attempts for peace, Michael from L.D.B (League for Democracy in Burma) about Kodaw Hmaing's association with "Doh Bamar Asiayon, and Ko Than Tun Win, who recited Sayagyi Hmaing's poems.

    The ceremony was the second of its kind in Burmese circle in Japan and aimed for all Burmese abroad to grow and liven the spirits of nation, politics and literature.

    Independent Pen Organization (I.P.O), Journalist Kyaymon U Thoung, writer Maung Sin Kye, poet Tin Moe, writer Tin Maung Than (Thint Bawa), poet Maung Lwann Ni, and activist for Burmese Democracy Aung Saw Oo respectively sent their letters of felicitation from countries they are presently in.
    Hit-and-run scapegoats in Burma

    From ERIC ELLIS in Singapore
    source : News.com.au

    WHY take the rap when you kill someone if you can pay someone else to take it for you?

    That's the advice doled out to Singapore's businessmen operating in Asia's pariah nation, Burma, in a new business guide book recently published by a respected Singapore diplomat and trade adviser.

    The book, Myanmar In My Heart, by Matthew Sim, has been published by Times Publishing, a division of the Singapore government-connected Fraser and Neave group, a big Singapore beverage company with interests in Burma, or Myanmar, as it is known in the region.

    he book makes stunning reading, particularly as its audience is a country that famously attributes much of its success to being the Asian economy least tolerant of corruption.

    Singapore has strict laws governing corruption. One cabinet minister recently took his own life after being suspected of kickbacks, including corrupt practices, while abroad.

    The Sim book recommends effective methods of bribing Burmese government officials, money-laundering, procuring prostitutes and avoiding prosecution in fatal traffic accidents.

    The author was commercial secretary of Singapore's embassy in Rangoon from 1995 to 1997, where he helped make Singapore Burma's second biggest trading partner and investor.

    Before arriving in Rangoon, Australian-educated Mr Sim was a career officer at the Singapore Government's Trade Development Board with the task of overseeing the promotion of Singapore's exportable services and products to the world.He is now a lecturer in international business at a Singapore polytechnic.

    Under the chapter heading, Committing Manslaughter When Driving, Mr Sim asks what an international businessman does when he has accidentally killed a pedestrian, before describing two ways of avoiding prosecution if Burmese throw themselves in front of a car.

    Firstly, the international businessman could give the family of the deceased some money as compensation and dissuade them from pressing charges.

    Secondly, he could pay a Myanmar citizen to take the blame by declaring that he was the driver in the fatal accident.

    An international businessman should not make the mistake of trying to argue his case in a court of law when it comes to a fatal accident, even if he is in the right. "He highly probable (sic) that he will spend time in jail regretting it. It is a sad and hard world. The facts of life can be ugly," it says.

    Described by one local reviewer as a critical step in this knowledge-based economy, Mr Sim's guide seems to open a window into Singapore's pragmatic corporate practices in Burma.

    In his book, Mr Sim also has a message for those battling Burma's notorious official corruption, which has helped make it Asia's most desperate country. His advice? Go along with it.

    A little money goes a long way in greasing the wheels of productivity, he writes.

    And Mr Sim pulls no PC punches when it comes to prostitution. "I have always said that women have their cosmetics while men have their money," he writes. "With money, men who are old, fat and ugly can be instantaneously transformed into desirable creatures sought by young pretty women everywhere." He then goes into considerable detail on discreet methods of obtaining paid sex.

    Mr Sim also advises on effective ways of bribing. One important factor to keep in mind is that gifts (for VIPs) must be easily re-saleable for cash, and the amount should reflect their rank.
    Thai minister's Myanmar trip will help heal wounds

    YANGON, July 23 (AFP) - Thai Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's inaugural official visit to Myanmar which began Monday will help heal wounds caused by a half-year row that was defused last month, an official said.

    Chavalit, a former army chief with close ties to the ruling junta, arrived in Yangon with a 54-member delegation on a mission "to further cement improving Thai-Myanmar relations," the official said.

    His trip is expected to "further consolidate matters already agreed upon" during a June visit by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra which largely repaired the serious rift in relations, the source added.

    The Thai defense minister was greeted at the airport by Minister of Military Affairs Lieutenant-General Tin Hla, who will serve as official host during the two-day trip. He later met with Myanmar's military ruler Senior General Than Shwe.

    Chavalit said before his departure from the Thai capital that he would meet with senior officials including Than Shwe to discuss the thorny issue of promoting trade along their common border.

    Trade between the neighbours has been stifled in recent months due to sporadic fighting between ethnic militias and a diplomatic row over responsibility for the burgeoning narcotics trade along the border.

    A half-day clash between the national armies in February prompted Thailand to shut down the important Mae Sai-Tachilek border crossing and halt supplies destined for use by the Myanmar military, including medicine, rice and fuel.

    In a retaliatory move, Myanmar authorities in March banned imports of Thai-made energy drinks and goods containing the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate, saying they were "injurious to health".

    In April, Thailand blocked a shipment of Chinese generators to Myanmar that were destined for a power plant partly owned by a junta-allied ethnic armed force accused of narcotics trafficking.

    After Thaksin's inaugural visit to Myanmar in June which helped normalise bilateral relations, the Mae Sai-Tachilek border crossing was reopened.
    Grp Protests Myanmar Blacklisting 2 Foreign Journalists

    BANGKOK (AP)--International press watchdog Reporters Without Borders has protested to Myanmar's military regime for blacklisting an Australian and a U.S. journalist, a statement received here Monday said.

    The Paris-based group said Myanmar embassies were ordered July 9 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Win Aung to add reporters Evan Williams of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Tony Emerson of the American magazine Newsweek to a list of people banned from entering Myanmar. The country is also known as Burma.

    The Myanmar government said in a statement that reporters judged as "too biased and non-constructive in their concepts and reporting are commonly denied visas to enter the country."

    Reporters Without Borders said that since the current crop of generals took power after a bloody suppression of mass protests for democracy in 1988, dozens of foreign journalists have been blacklisted.

    "To prevent the international public opinion from knowing the real situation in the country is a grave violation of the right to be informed," Robert Menard, the group's general secretary, was quoted as saying.

    Australian journalist Williams reported from the Thai-Myanmar border for a television program broadcast June 26 on the Myanmar regime's alleged involvement in drug smuggling. Myanmar is the world's largest source of opium, the raw material of heroin.

    Williams told Reporters Without Borders that he had been denied a visa to Myanmar for the past two years, after he reported in 1998 in the Myanmar capital Yangon about a government crackdown against the opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "The Burmese junta reproach me for my reports, but they don't let me cover their point of view," he was quoted as saying.

    Emerson wrote an article about the regime's education policy that was published July 9 in Newsweek. Universities in Myanmar are currently open, but have been shut for much of the past 13 years because of fears of antigovernment protests by students.

    Myanmar's regime issues journalist visas on a selective basis and usually allows foreign reporters it lets in freedom of movement, but they are often monitored by military intelligence. Many reporters enter the country on tourist visas to avoid restrictions and detection.

    The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962. Suu Kyi's party won general elections in 1990, but was prevented from taking power.