Daily News-June 16 - 2001- Saturday

  • Burma regime frees more opposition figures
  • Clear signs that the dialogue process is back on track
  • Ivanhoe Mines sets the record straight on its investment in Burma Copper Project
  • PD Burma Japan : Foreign Minister Tanaka is cautious on Baluchaung repair
  • Regime seeks to eject chief accuser at ILO
  • Thai-based Two Activists Tour across Canada
  • Burma trip is ill-advised
  • Myanmar Ambassadors Present Credentials
  • Army allegedly takes 10 girls hostage after five soldiers die in clashes
  • Evacuation drills staged as Burma-Shan clashes feared
  • General's son died in car accident, driving drunk

  • Burma regime frees more opposition figures

    YANGON, June 15 (AFP) - Myanmar's military junta has released another prominent opposition leader among a dozen political prisoners freed in the wake of a recent visit by UN envoy Razali Ismail.

    Saw Mra Aung, a high-ranking opposition figure and close affiliate of the National League for Democracy (NLD), was freed late Thursday with eleven others including eight members of the NLD parliament, an opposition source told AFP Friday. Saw Mra Aung had been appointed speaker of parliament in 1998 by a committee led by democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and founded in the aftermath of the NLD's election victory in 1990, which the junta failed to honour. He was originally a member of the now-defunct Union Nationalities League for Democracy, a grouping of some 20 minority ethnic parties.

    Other NLD parliamentarians released Thursday night were Maung Aye, Ba Swe, Kyin Shin Htan, Han Zaw, Aung Soe, Htun Myaing and Myint Thein. Another detainee, Htwe Myint, was also released Thursday. In addition to the MPs, other NLD detainees reportedly released early Friday included Aung Moe Myint, Kan Oo and Myint Thein (unrelated to the MP).

    Many of them had been held at the Ye Mon military base some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Yangon.

    In a statement confirming the releases, the military government said they came about "due to an understanding achieved between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government and the NLD."

    The eight MPs had been "staying at government guesthouses and have returned home to their respective families since 5pm on June 14. They are all in good health," it said.

    The group represents the second release since Razali visited Yangon from June 1 to 4, in a bid to give new impetus to the national reconciliation process.

    On Wednesday, one of Myanmar's best-known political prisoners, the journalist and opposition leader Soe Thein, was freed just days after the departure of a UN mission. So far, most NLD activists who have finished their prison terms have found themselves remaining behind bars, with their sentences extended.

    Razali's previous visits had been marked by the release of political prisoners, and the NLD had been counting on additional releases -- particularly of old and sick detainees -- following his latest mission. The NLD said before his arrival that it expected the trip to yield the release of prisoners as a goodwill gesture from the junta, which began a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi last October.

    She is believed to have demanded that the junta begin releasing prisoners, and allow the party to reopen its offices around the country, before the contacts develop into a full-blown dialogue. The NLD source also said Friday that the opposition now had plans to revive party activities by reopening 18 township offices and erecting flags and signboards. In 1990, the NLD won 392 of 485 parliament seats but the legislature has never been allowed to meet.

    At Razali's behest, the military junta opened a high-level dialogue with the Nobel Peace prize winner in October for the first time since 1994, aimed at achieving "national reconciliation." So far, the two sides have voluntarily refrained from commenting on the nature and substance of their contacts, with Razali also remaining quiet on the subject.

    The international community has been waiting for a concrete sign of the junta's goodwill, such as large-scale releases of political prisoners -- believed to number at least 1,700 -- before the next UN general assembly meeting in September.Razali is expected to visit Yangon again in July.
    Clear signs that the dialogue process is back on track

    Friday, 15 June, 2001

    Aung San Suu Kyi has continually asked for prisoners to freed

    By regional analyst Larry Jagan

    Burma's military authorities have released eight opposition figures from prison, bringing the number of political prisoners released in the last two days to nine.

    Sources in Rangoon believe this is a sign that talks between the military and the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi are beginning to make headway.

    Clear signs that the dialogue process is back on track

    There had been fears that the talks had stalled, but a visit by the UN special envoy, Razali Ismail earlier this month seems to have broken the deadlock.The issue of political prisoners has been at the heart of the dialogue process between Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's generals which started last October.

    The opposition leader has continually asked the military authorities to release political prisoners as a gesture of good faith. This should have happened in January after the UN envoy's visit to Burma then. The failure to release them was seen as a sign that the talks between the two sides had stalled.


    But diplomatic sources in Rangoon say the military intelligence chief, Lt General Khin Nyunt visited Aung San Suu Kyi last Saturday evening, a clear sign that contact between the two sides has resumed.Senior members of the National League for Democracy told the BBC that at least 18 local offices were about to be reopened. These are both clear signs that the dialogue process is back on track.

    Before he left Rangoon last week, the UN envoy told Burma's military government that to resume the dialogue they must free some of the 200 political prisoners that the NLD were asking to be immediately released.

    He also gave the Generals a letter from Aung San Suu Kyi in which she outlined the steps they should take as part of the dialogue process. These included the release of political prisoners, removing the restrictions on her and other senior opposition leaders and allowing the NLD to function normally.

    She also wants other members of the NLD to be involved in the dialogue process. Diplomatic sources in Rangoon believe these measures would be progressively rolled out if the dialogue process was making progress.

    If that is the case then more releases of political prisoners can be expected in the next week or so.
    Ivanhoe Mines sets the record straight on its investment in Burma Copper Project

    June 15 /CNW/ - Daniel Kunz, President of Ivanhoe Mines, said today that the company's investment in Myanmar, as a 50% partner in the Monywa Copper Project, is a model for resource development in an emerging country.

    "We are proud of the 600 men and women in Myanmar who, with the help of only nine expatriates, are successfully operating this state-of-the-art mine, which is conforming to international standards in terms of health, safety and the environment, and contributing to improved community health care," Mr. Kunz said in a statement prepared for Ivanhoe Mines' annual general meeting.

    "The 600 well-paid jobs are a vital generator of a tapestry of meaningful economic benefits in communities in the vicinity of the mine. The project is contributing to genuine improvement in the lives of approximately 5,000 people, consisting of direct and indirect employees and their families, who are wholly or largely dependent on the operation of the mine. There is plenty of evidence in Monywa-area communities of benefits from enterprise that is being stimulated and sustained by the production of top-quality copper."

    Mr. Kunz said he is disappointed that critics of the government of Myanmar continue to make false statements, and to misrepresent the facts surrounding Ivanhoe's investment in the mine, as part of a campaign to try to influence Canadian government policy and force political change within Myanmar. He said he was particularly disturbed by errors and innuendo contained in a news release, distributed on June 14th by the Canadian Labour Congress and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions, which called on Ivanhoe to abandon its investment in Myanmar because of alleged forced-labour practices in the country.

    "The very idea of the use of forced labour by anybody, anywhere, is as abhorrent to Ivanhoe as it is to any right-thinking person," Mr. Kunz said. "I can categorically state that no forced labour has been used in the construction and operation of the S&K Mine at Monywa."

    Mr. Kunz said that the claim by the labour organizations that there is a link between the Ivanhoe joint venture in Myanmar and alleged mass conscription of involuntary labour is false and repugnant. "Contrary to claims by the labour groups, the Ivanhoe joint venture does not receive electricity from the Thazi hydroelectric plant, and the joint venture did not require, and does not use, a railway line that is more than 20 kilometres away from the existing mine.

    "The suggestion that Ivanhoe should just walk away from its investment in the copper project is unrealistic and unacceptable in human and financial terms. There has never been any evidence or allegation that Ivanhoe has used forced labour, and there is not a whit of evidence that Ivanhoe's investment is contributing to the use of involuntary labour in Myanmar. I have noted that the national government has promised to enforce its ban on forced labour, and I am encouraged by news reports this week that the International Labour Organization will send a high-level mission to Myanmar in September to assess compliance with the ban.

    "Ivanhoe's withdrawal from Myanmar would not bring about the changes in government that the critics want to see. It would not improve the lives of ordinary people in the country. But it would immediately and indiscriminately punish 5,000 vulnerable people in the Monywa area, for whom the copper project is an economic lifeline, and cruelly leave them twisting in the political wind. We think appropriate engagement is better than isolation, and we are prepared to meet and talk with any responsible party who has constructive ideas on the subject."

    The Monywa project, a joint venture between Ivanhoe and a state-owned mining company, is paying fair wages for skilled work. Independent experts have verified that the project is living up to its health, safety and environmental commitments. Earlier this year, the mine was awarded ISO 14001 environmental certification, which is recognized worldwide as one of the most exacting, impartial benchmarks used to evaluate environmental management systems. The copper complex has set a record of 2.5 million hours worked in 535 days without a disabling accident, and the mine pit currently has exceeded 1,200 days without a disabling accident - a safety achievement equalled by few mines in the world. Ivanhoe also is helping to clean up old tailings and mine-waste areas left over from an earlier mining venture at Monywa, in which Ivanhoe had no involvement.In addition to its business investment in Myanmar, Ivanhoe has been instrumental in providing advanced medical equipment to community hospitals, scholarships to school children and safe, clean drinking water to hundreds of families.

    Ivanhoe is a public company whose shares are traded on the Toronto and Australian stock exchanges under the symbol IVN.
    PD Burma Japan : Foreign Minister Tanaka is cautious on Baluchaung repair

    source : Burmanet-[Abridged]-June 14, 2001

    In a reply to Diet member Mizuho Fukushima (Social Democratic Party) at the session of the House of Councilors legal affairs committee on June 11, Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka showed a cautious posture with respect to grant aid for the controversial Baluchaung hydroelectric power station.

    Fukushima, referring to American government criticism of Japan's support to Burma in the timing of aid, and the decision of the ILO requesting sanctions on Burma by members countries, asked Tanaka to show the relation between the four principles of Japan's Overseas Development Aid (ODA) charter and the grant aid to the military government.

    Tanaka responded that the Japanese government is trying to help basic life of Burmese people directly, but she recognizing what Fukushima pointed out. The minister added that she wants to gather information to examine from different channels and not only from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    Regime seeks to eject chief accuser at ILO

    source : BurmaNet: - June 14, 2001

    In a formal challenge dated June 12, 2001, the regime's representative to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva is seeking to have the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB) derecognized by the ILO. Currently, the Burmese labor organization is represented at the ILO by its Secretary General Maung Maung, who have been included as a member of the the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) delegation there.

    BurmaNet has obtained copies of the challenge, contained in a letter from Soe Nyunt to the ILO and a rebuttal by the ICFTU. The ICFTU, in cooperation with the FTUB, layed the forced labor charges against Burma which have resulted in the ILO's current sanctions on the regime.

    In the challenge, Soe Nyunt questioned the standing of the FTUB to file allegations against the regime on the grounds that it does not have "proper registration" as a labor organization and calls for it to produce "relevant certificates of registration." The FTUB is banned in Burma.

    The regime also alludes to its previous allegations against, Maung Maung, saying cryptically "We have certain information about the true identity of Mr. Maung Maung [alias] Pyi Thet Nyunt Wai" and inviting the ILO to write to its Permanent Representative in Geneva for details.

    The regime has previously accused Maung Maung, in collaboration with the ICFTU, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the National Endowment for Democracy of plotting terrorist activities in Burma.

    In a scathing rebuttal, the ICFTU called the insinuations about Maung Maung "unsubstantiated, baseless and insulting" and reminded the ILO of previous bizarre allegations by the regime such as a supposed plot by ICFTU General Secretary Bill Jordan and the President of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney of having plotted in a Rangoon hotel to bomb embassies in Rangoon. "It is" the ICFTU noted, "a matter of public record that [neither] has ever set foot in Burma [and] allegations made by the government...concerning U Maung Maung's personal background are of the same nature."

    The regime's attempt to eject its chief accuser at the ILO will do little to calm fears about the safety of witnesses who speak with the ILO's high level team that will go to Burma in September to assess the credibility of the regime's claim that it stopped using forced labor. The challenge is unlikely to succeed however because the ILO has no mechanism to eject accredited representatives from groups like the ICFTU. A senior ILO official told BurmaNet that ejecting the FTUB "is a legal impossibility."
    Thai-based Two Activists Tour across Canada

    By Tin Maung Htoo
    Burma Media Association (BMA)
    June 15, 2001

    Two Burmese activists, a former political prisoner and a women rights campaigner, arrived in Canada on April 30 and started their long passage, from Vancouver to Montreal, crossing the prairies shield and stopping at Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa.

    When they reached to their scheduled cities, they held several meetings with Burma activists, supporters, and various national and local Canadian rights groups, sharing their experiences and hearing other experiences as well, a report updated by Ottawa-based Canadian Friends of Burma said.

    As a final destination of their campaign trip, they arrived at Montreal and now learning some campaign strategies and techniques presented by the Canadian Foundation for Human Rights (CFHR), which started on June 11 and lasts until early next month.

    Ms. Corinne Baumgarten, Program Director of Ottawa-based Canadian Friends of Burma, accompanied with the two activists, said, "we could take advantage of their time in Canada to offer them exposure to groups that pertain to their work in Thailand and at the same time promote the Burma cause in Canada."

    The two visitors namely Minn from Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) and Charm from Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN) are actively working for their relevant fields in Thailand and Thai-Burma borders.

    Sources closed to the tour said that Minn was detained in for nine years for his political activities in Burma, and after released he escaped to Thai-Burma border in order to keep up with the struggle for Democracy in Burma. Charm is Shan's women rights activist and working with Shan women who had been forced into sex industry in Thailand in terms of daily hardships and various rights abuses in Burma.

    Ms. Corinne said the journey was fruitful but extremely fatigued for the two activists, as they could not even have a chance to explore the Canadian cities they arrived due to the time-restrains and a wave of preceding events in each city.
    Burma trip is ill-advised

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Jun 15, 2001

    Prime Minister Thaksin should reconsider his plan to visit Burma next week .Many say he should wait until Burma has apologised officially for recent articles defaming the Thai monarchy.

    The Thai-Burmese relationship is no longer characterised by long-standing border disputes and minority groups operating along the border. Recent disputes have centred on the influx of methamphetamines into Thailand. Accusations have been traded over who is responsible for producing these drugs.

    Relations between our countries deteriorated further when articles considered defamatory to the Thai monarchy were published in the official New Light of Myanmar A new Burmese textbook also describes the Thai people as lazy.

    The Foreign Ministry has sent protests to Rangoon in response to these articles. The Burmese ambassador was called before Thai ministry officials. But reactions from the Burmese government have so far been cool.

    Mr Thaksin may disagree with those who advise him against going to Burma, but at least he should think about the feelings of those Thais offended by the defamatory articles. An official apology should be made by Rangoon before Mr Thaksin pays his visit.

    It is best to use diplomacy to foster friendship and mutual understanding between neighbours. But it is also necessary to protect the Thai pride and dignity.

    Editorial from Thai Post
    Myanmar Ambassadors Present Credentials

    Information Sheet N0. B-1849 ( I ) 15th June, 2001

    U Kyar Nyo Chit Pe, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Union of Myanmar to Romania, presented his Credentials to His Excellency Mr. Ion Iliescu, President of Romania on 6 June 2001, in Bucharest.

    Similarly, U Myo Myint, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Union of Myanmar to the Kingdom of Thailand, also presented his Credentials to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand on 8 June 2001, at Klaikangwon Palace in Hua Hin.
    Army allegedly takes 10 girls hostage after five soldiers die in clashes

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 15, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 14 June

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] troops have taken 10 villagers as hostages after a battle between them and the opposition armed groups in Mon State's Ye Township in the first week of this month.

    About 60 combined KNU [Karen National Union], PDF [Peace and Democratic Front], and ABSDF [All Burma Students' Democratic Front] forces clashed with SPDC's LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] 299 column in Ye's Chaungcha region on 5-6 June. The villagers were taken as hostages because the SPDC suffered five casualties.

    All the 10 abducted villagers were young Mon girls in their 20s from Lechar and Kinmun Villages in Ye Township. The army officer who arrested them was the commander of the military column, Lt Col Thein Tun, and the fate of the hostages is still unknown.
    Evacuation drills staged as Burma-Shan clashes feared

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Jun 15, 2001

    Evacuation drills have been carried out at four border villages in Wiang Haeng district ahead of anticipated fighting between Burmese troops and Shan rebels in Burma.

    Maj-Gen Nakhon Sriphetphan, commander of the Pha Muang task force, said the drills near the Lak Taeng border crossing were low key, to prevent Burmese misunderstanding about the situation. "We are certain the villagers will be able to protect themselves before help arrives if there is any spillover from clashes in Burma, or if shells land in any villages. "Evacuation drills have been well-planned and carefully practised to prevent any misunderstanding," he said. The drill was prepared on the assumption Burmese soldiers would attack the Shan State Army stronghold on Doi Tai Laeng, opposite Pang Ma Pha district of Mae Hong Son.

    Military intelligence suggested Burmese troops and Shan rebels would clash in a border area opposite Wiang Haeng district.

    Homkhongsai Lungmaung, headmaster of Wat Fa Wiang In Pre-School Childcare Centre, said teachers had not told any of the 128 students the reason why they had to participate in evacuation drills for fear the youngsters would panic. Officials agreed at a meeting in Mae Sai district yesterday that 20 border crossings in Chiang Rai should be closed for security reasons.
    General's son died in car accident, driving drunk

    Rangoon, June 13, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    One of the Burmese top military generals' son died in a car accident last week in the capital while driving in excessively drunk. Sai Wanna Zaw, son of Lt-General Win Myint, Secretary 3 of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) died last Saturday early morning in Rangoon.

    The sources close to the family said Sai Wanna Zaw won a "two-digit" illegal lottery a day before the accident. At night, he gave a party to his friends at "Dream" restaurant situated between Bogyoke Aung San Street and War Tannlan Street in Rangoon.

    "Around 4 o'clock in the morning, the party was ended and he left the restaurant in an excessively drunk condition. He drove off himself", said a waiter of the restaurant, who wants to remain anonymous.

    Minutes after he left, his car first hit a shop on the street and then it hit another car which was coming from opposite direction. The incident happened around 4.30 a.m.