Daily News-June 02 - 2001- Saturday

  • UN envoy seeks Burma breakthrough
  • THAI-BURMESE FLAP: 'Not quite' an apology
  • When death means freedom
  • Burma's Rice Export Sharply Up In 1st Two Months
  • UN envoy Razali meets with Aung San Suu Kyi, junta leaders
  • Thai PM to visit Burma early this month
  • God's Army twins to get new life in US

  • UN envoy seeks Burma breakthrough

    source : BBC

    A United Nations special envoy has begun a fresh attempt to inject impetus into talks between Burma's military rulers and the opposition.

    The envoy, Razali Ismail, was met on arrival in the capital Rangoon by Foreign Minister Win Aung at the start of a visit which will end on Monday. During the visit he will hold talks with other members of the military government and the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Mr Razali is scheduled to meet one of the three main leaders in the regime, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, on Saturday. He will also meet with representatives of ethnic minorities, according to his official programme.

    It is not yet clear when he will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been holding closed-door negotiations with junta leaders while being kept under virtual house arrest.

    Secret talks

    This is Mr Razali's fourth visit since his appointment as the UN special envoy to Burma last April, to mediate between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi.

    After a visit in January, he broke the news that the junta and the opposition had been holding secret talks since last October. His latest visit has assumed greater significance in the light of reports by diplomats that the talks were not showing any progress.

    A BBC correspondent in the region says that because nothing concrete appears to have emerged after seven months, there is growing international concern that the military leadership is using the talks to deflect criticism of their rule.

    Both parties have agreed to keep the content of the dialogue confidential. Last month the government denied that the talks were stalled and Foreign Minister Win Aung said the negotiations were not merely a "publicity stunt" to appease the West.

    House arrest

    Until October, the junta had consistently refused to negotiate with the opposition if Aung San Suu Kyi took part.

    The change of heart is believed to have been brought about by Mr Razali, a Malaysian, as well as Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.

    The junta has come under widespread criticism, mainly by the West, for refusing to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, which won the 1990 general elections. Instead, NLD members have been subjected to harassment and arrests. Its leader has lived under virtual house arrest since 22 September, when she tried to defy a long-standing travel ban.
    THAI-BURMESE FLAP: 'Not quite' an apology

    source : The Nation

    But story praising Thai Royals seen as good first step

    The Foreign Ministry yesterday said the Thursday article in Burma's official mouthpiece expressing admiration for the Royal Family was a signal for quick restoration of ties but stopped short of interpreting it as an apology.

    "If there are no media attacks against one another and no attacks along the border, the tension between the two countries will ease," said Ministry spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni. Norachit was commenting on a May 31 article in The New Light of Myanmar entitled "Placing Loving Kindness in the Fore", written by Ma Tin Win, the writer of two earlier controversial articles Thailand deemed an affront to the Thai monarchy.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai has urged Rangoon to seek an appropriate remedy to the damage caused by the articles dated May 21 and May 24 which described Siam under King Rama IV and Rama V as being enslaved to the West despite maintaining its independence.

    In her latest article, Ma Tin Win defended her previous articles and said she had no intention of damaging the reputation of the historical Thai monarchy. "After writing articles, there appeared responses. Experience has made me accept the response as it is natural and no one is to blame," she wrote.

    Although she said she thought Thai politics dirty and had a bad memory of Thailand for supporting the anti-Communist Nationalist Chinese invasion of Burma after World War II, she said her respect for the King and Queen was an exception to this. Referring to her fond memories of their Majesties' 1960 visit to Rangoon to strengthen friendship with Burma, Ma Tin Win recalled the news photo of the King and the Queen offering food alms to the eminent monks of Burma.She said those pictures reinforced the fact that Thais and Burmese were of the same Buddhist faith and had aroused the Burmese people's "loving kindness" towards Thailand. Norachit said the article reflected the reverence that the writer and the Burmese people felt for to the Thai monarch.

    Emphasising that the Thai government had not sought an apology from Rangoon for the previous articles, he said he would hesitate to interpret the latest article as an apology.
    When death means freedom

    By Naimul Haq
    source : The Daily star

    After nearly six years of confinement, 28-year old Awang Maung, a Myanmar national, died from AIDS at Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in the city last week. Maung was suffering from acute diarrhoea.

    Maung, from Netiyun under Yangoon police station, was arrested on charge of illegal fishing off the coast of Mongla Port and fined Tk 2000 or to suffer 15 days in jail in default. The authorities handed down the punishment on October 9, 1995. Due to his failure to pay, Maung was sent to Khulna Jail on October 11, 1995 and later, to Comilla Central Jail on 25th of the same month.

    The Daily Star ran a report on Maung titled 'In Hell and Home' on January 21, 2000. The ministry tried to send Maung to his homeland through Cox's Bazar border, but to no avail. On October 14, 1996, Maung fell seriously sick. And on November 11 the same year, he was shifted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital for treatment. Blood samples were sent to Dhaka for diagnosis after doctors failed to identify the cause of his sickness. He was diagnosed as HIV positive.

    Later, Maung was sent to the IDH. He had since been condemned to a solitary life in a shabby room on the sixth floor of the hospital where he witnessed death of six other AIDS patients. Another AIDS patient, aged 23, from the same country, was his inmate.

    Soon after his confinement, Myanmar officials in Dhaka visited Maung at IDH. They said he was not a Myanmar national. The officials' denial made him stateless.

    Four police personnel of Dhaka Central Jail used to keep vigilance on them round the clock to make sure that none of them escaped or attempted suicide. Maung tried to commit suicide at least twice.

    He had a six-year old daughter and a beautiful wife who fled to Thailand. In an interview, Maung said, "When I left my house for fishing I told my wife that I would be back with enough money, but I guess I would never see her."

    Says Dilruba Karim, senior programme officer of Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh: "Let Maung's roommate not die the same way and we must find a way out to free him from confinement. Above all, he is a human being and there are many HIV-positive people who are living happily." She also said, "Had the government wished, we could have ensured his freedom. Let's not make the same mistake as we did for Maung."

    According to the AIDS policies in Bangladesh, the patients are allowed freedom. But the government refuses to put the policies into action.
    Burma's Rice Export Sharply Up In 1st Two Months

    YANGON, June 1 (Oana-Xinhua) -- Myanmar exported a total of 71,400 tons of rice in the first two months of this year, earning foreign exchange of US$8.75 million, the country's Central Statistical Organisation said in its latest data.

    The export volume and foreign exchange earning during the two- month period were respectively up 549 percent and 548 percent compared with the same period of 2000.

    Although Myanmar's rice export dropped from 111,700 tons in 1998 to 63,700 tons in 1999, it rose to 141,600 tons in 2000. To meet its food demand and to export more rice, Myanmar has since 1999 reclaimed 467,370 hectares of vacant, virgin, fallow and wetlands in the country for cultivation by private entrepreneurs. -- BERNAMA
    UN envoy Razali meets with Aung San Suu Kyi, junta leaders

    Rangoon, June 2 (AFP)

    UN envoy to Burma Razali Ismail met with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and top members of the ruling junta Saturday during his mission to promote the dialogue they embarked on last year, sources said.

    Razali and his entourage arrived in a fleet of three limousines at Aung San Suu Kyi's lakeside residence for the late afternoon meeting.

    Earlier, the Malaysian diplomat talked with the junta's influential number-three Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt and its minister in charge of economic development Brigadier-General David Abel.

    The official press maintained a black-out on Razali's visit and no details on the discussions were immediately available. However, sources in Rangoon said the envoy may see both Aung San Suu Kyi and Khin Nyunt again before he leaves on Monday.

    Razali's four-day visit comes as the historic dialogue between the two sides on Burma's political divide, which he helped initiate last October, appear to have hit a road bump.

    Diplomatic sources in Rangoon have said that splits appeared within the regime when the talks reached a critical decision-making phase, and that some elements have baulked at the prospect of introducing democratic reforms.

    The junta's decision to allow Razali into the country after a break of five months has raised hopes that he will be able to breathe new life into the national reconciliaton process which could end four decades of military rule.

    There are also hopes that the generals in Rangoon will take the opportunity to shed some light on the direction and intent of the talks, which have so far been held under conditions of strict secrecy.

    "I do hope that his present visit will signal the start of a full-fledged dialogue or come out with something really positive at the very least," said one analyst in Rangoon.

    In another sign that the talks may have got back on track, Aung San Suu Kyi met with senior officials in the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) twice last month, on May 13 and 17, according to official sources.

    The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) is optimistic that even if Razali fails to nudge along the process this week, his visit may be marked by the release of more of its jailed members.

    "I'm sure he'll make such a request," one NLD member told AFP. "There are quite a number of very sick and old persons who have yet to complete their sentences but may not make it through ... we are very concerned about them."

    Amnesty International last month rapped Burma over its record on political detention, saying hundreds more prisoners were taken into custody last year even as the regime embarked on the talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "At least 1,500 political prisoners were arrested in previous years, including more than 100 prisoners of conscience and hundreds of possible prisoners of conscience remained in prison," it said in an annual report.
    Thai PM to visit Burma early this month

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has decided to pay Burma an official visit early this month and will also include Laos in his itinerary, a source said last night.

    "The prime minister has already decided to make a trip to Burma, and the Foreign Ministry is looking for a suitable date for the visit that will include Laos in his itinerary," said the source who is a cabinet minister.

    The minister said Mr Thaksin and Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh were very pleased to see a positive gesture from Burma through its state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

    The paper on Thursday ran an article praising Their Majesties the King and Queen whose visit to Burma in 1960 helped strengthen bilateral ties.

    The article marked a change of tune as the paper had earlier published articles strongly critical of Thailand and two late Thai monarchs.

    Ma Tin Win, who penned the articles, yesterday sent more positive signals in a new piece entitled "Siam in the midst of colonialists", expressing sympathy for Thailand for having been unfairly treated by two colonial powers-France and Britain-in the mid-1800s.

    "The atmosphere has much improved in the past week, especially after the New Light of Myanmar changed its tune. This positive sign will certainly help hasten the trip," the source said.

    A security source close to the defence minister said Gen Chavalit was very hopeful that the impending visit would open a new chapter on Thai-Burmese co-operation.

    The Foreign Ministry yesterday said the Burmese media's show of respect for Their Majesties was a "signal" that could lead to normalisation of ties between the two countries.

    However, ministry spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni said he did not want to interpret the article praising Their Majesties as a full-scale apology.

    Normal relations could not be attained until there was a complete end to media attacks on Thailand, and relaxation of Thai-Burmese border tensions, he said.

    He confirmed that Win Aung, the Burmese foreign minister, would visit Bangkok in the third week of this month.
    God's Army twins to get new life in US

    BANGKOK, Thailand (AP)--- Johnny and Luther, twins who fought Burmese troops as boys in the jungle, may be headed for a new life in the United States, a senior provincial official said Saturday.

    The twins, now 15, their parents and followers of a rebel group known as God's Army have reportedly begun procedures for resettlement in the United States.

    Phayakkaphan Phokaew, a district chief in Ratchaburi Province, about 60 miles west of Bangkok, said U.S. officials showed interest in accepting the refugees.

    He said Thailand's interior ministry had asked the United States to accept the group.

    ``A representative of the U.S. Embassy came to interview 24 people - the boys, their parents and other followers on May 11, and they will be interviewed a second time by U.S. immigration officials before a decision is made,'' said Phayakkaphan in a telephone interview.

    The twins gained international attention in late 1999 when the Associated Press and AP Television News met with them in the jungles of Burma. Gun-wielding Johnny and Luther exhibited traits of hardened soldiers and playful boys.

    They had acquired near-legendary status as leaders of an offshoot of the Karen National Union, an ethnic minority insurgent group which has been battling the central Burma government for decades.

    When Burmese troops entered their village during a sweep of Karen areas about four years ago, Karen National Union soldiers reportedly fled while the twins rallied some locals and directed a successful counterattack.

    After that, the twins' followers said the boys - who are Christians - had powers from God. Their followers believed bullets couldn't hit them and mines wouldn't explode under their feet.

    Currently, the twins are living in a border patrol police base in Ratchaburi. They surrendered to Thai authorities in January after fleeing attacks by the Burmese military.