Daily News-May 07- 2001- Monday

  • Burma talks in trouble as splits emerge within the junta
  • Musharraf fails to raise J&K issue in Burma
  • Pakistan minister says Burma, Vietnam urge dialogue to resolve Kashmir issue
  • Democratic countries restricting internet use
  • Bomb injures four fleeing skirmish
  • Australian Police General concludes visit
  • Ahead in Asia Times Online
  • Tomorrow Burma talks set to centre on drugs
  • Mae Sai flooded with smuggled goods
  • Asean Urged To Check Progress Of Burma's Labor Reforms
  • Karen rebels attack Burma bases near Thai border

  • Burma talks in trouble as splits emerge within the junta

    YANGON, May 6 (AFP) - Secret talks between democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar junta are in jeopardy as dissenting factions within the military regime baulk at the prospect of far-reaching reforms, sources said.

    Diplomats and political observers in Yangon have grown concerned in recent weeks as signs emerged that the dialogue which began last October is failing to make headway.

    In the clearest indication that all is not well, the United Nations envoy who acted as a catalyst for the historic contacts, Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail, has been denied permission to visit since January.

    A much-anticipated mass release of political prisoners has failed to materialise, as has a promise that the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) would be given permission to relaunch political activity.

    Sources familiar with the talks say they ground to a halt after entering a crucial decision-making stage which prompted elements within the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to begin wrangling over their next move.

    "There is obviously a big difference within the SPDC over this whole process and where it is leading. People in favour of bigger reforms are not getting their way," said one diplomat.

    "The junta agreed to a dialogue but now it has got into nitty gritty issues some of them are having second thoughts."

    Issues at stake include the future role of the army and its powerful business empire, as well as the mechanism for a transition to civilian government after 40 years of military rule.

    Mindful of the fate of fallen dictators in Asia and elsewhere around the world, Yangon's generals are fearful that by wading deeper into the national reconciliation process they will unleash forces they cannot control.

    They are asking themselves: 'Once we open the door, how do we know it will be a tightly controlled process'," the diplomat said.

    For now, Aung San Suu Kyi remains in isolation at her lakeside home, out of contact with even her own party lieutenants in line with an agreement to hold the talks under conditions of strict secrecy.

    But impatience is growing among the international community, exiled activists and the nation's ethnic minorities for some concrete results to emerge.

    Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wing Aung defended the talks last week, telling reporters who flew in for an Association of Southeast Asian Nationsmeeting that they were still on track. "We are not playing games for the sake of the media ... this is not a public relations stunt," he said. "But we hope that this process, which is very complex and delicate, should be left at a distance right now because the freedom of the country depends on this."

    Observers in Yangon say that if the national reconciliation process fails to regain its momentum, there will be huge implications for both sides on Myanmar's political divide.

    Foreign governments could force even harsher sanctions against the regime, which entered the talks partly out of concern about the effect its pariah status has wreaked on the paralysed economy.

    More punishment could prove to be the death knell for Myanmar's finances, now reputedly to be stumbling along only thanks to the thriving blackmarket and profits from the drug trade.

    For her part, Aung San Suu Kyi could find it difficult to switch back to an openly confrontational stance towards the regime after agreeing to meet in secret with its leaders for so many months.

    Observers in Yangon say that while they have not completely given the process up for dead, the next few weeks will be critical.If the junta fails to agree on a package of concessions, Aung San Suu Kyi may have to seriously consider breaking the talks.

    But after 10 weary years of political stalemate since the opposition was prevented from taking power after a landslide election win, the junta still does not appear to be in any hurry.

    "There is no set time for the dialogue or peace process in Northern Ireland, or in Sri Lanka or the Middle East," Win Aung said. "This is also not a process where you can start a countdown. This is timeless."
    Musharraf fails to raise J&K issue in Burma

    source : The Times of India

    NEW DELHI: Myanmar's tepid response to Pakistani Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf's efforts to garner support over the Kashmir dispute during his visit last week has pleased India, which has been seeking to improve ties with Yangon.

    The Kashmir issue figured in a joint communiqui issued Thursday by Musharraf and Senior General General Than Shwe, chairman of Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), at the end of the Pakistani military ruler's three-day visit. Yangon, however, limited itself to calling for a "just resolution" of the 12-year-old separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir.

    "The Chief Executive (Musharraf) briefed the Senior General on the initiatives taken by Pakistan for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and for the commencement of a meaningful dialogue with India for this purpose," said the joint communiqui. "Senior General Than Shwe expressed the hope for a just resolution of this longstanding problem," it said.

    G. Parthasarathy, former Indian envoy to Myanmar, said Yangon's reaction to Musharraf's overtures was in keeping with its policy. "It's a typical Myanmarese reaction. It is in keeping with their policy of not getting involved in other's bilateral disputes. They will not get involved in our dispute with China or Pakistan," he told IANS.

    Senior Indian intelligence officials said the inclusion of the Kashmir issue in the communiqui could have been the handiwork of a section of Myanmarese military officials, led by Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, Secretary-I of the SPDC, who favor closer ties with Islamabad.

    "When former Indian Army chief, General V.P. Malik, visited Myanmar in January last year, Khin Nyunt left the country for a visit to Pakistan," one official here pointed out. "This was viewed as a snub to General Malik. Nyunt has always favored better relations with Pakistan."

    Musharraf's trip to Myanmar and Vietnam was aimed at reaffirming Pakistan's close ties with them. This was the first visit by a Pakistani head of government to Myanmar since General Zia-ul Haq visited the country way back in 1985.

    In fact, New Delhi's worries about China's increasing influence in Myanmar has led to recent efforts to upgrade ties with the military regime. India rolled out the red carpet for General Maung Aye, Myanmar's second most powerful official, when he visited New Delhi in November last year. Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh had visited Myanmar earlier this year.

    Closer ties with Myanmar are part of India's "Look East" policy focusing on Southeast Asian countries. New Delhi is also seeking Yangon's help in combating insurgent groups operating in northeastern states bordering Myanmar and has in recent years received good cooperation from the Myanmarese military. (IANS)
    Pakistan minister says Burma, Vietnam urge dialogue to resolve Kashmir issue

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 6, 2001

    Text of report by Radio Pakistan on 6 May

    Myanmar [Burma] and Vietnam have emphasized the need for resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the Kashmir problem through dialogue and peaceful means. This was stated by the minister for science and technology, Dr Ataur Rahman, in an interview with Radio Pakistan. He accompanied the chief executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf, during his official visit to the two countries.

    Dr Ataur Rahman said that the two countries agreed that the Kashmir issue needed to be resolved through a meaningful dialogue. He said Pakistan has offered help to Myanmar and Vietnam in the development of telecommunication infrastructure as Pakistan is producing its own telecom equipment and has manufacturing facilities for fibre optics.

    He said Myanmar and Vietnam showed great deal of interest in the development of biotechnology for which Pakistan can assist them.
    Democratic countries restricting internet use


    Windhoek, May 6: With the number of internet users almost doubling this year since 1999,covering almost seven pre cent of world population, several democratic countries have taken steps to restrict uses of the worldwide web.

    A latest global survey, conducted by US-based Freedom House, says the major reason for countries like United States, Britain, France and Germany to restrict the usage of web was to protect national security and prevent pornography and hate messages on websites.

    ''The UK demands that all internet flows move through MI-6 (British intelligence Agency), while Russia also moves all internet traffic through the security offices, " senior journalist Leonard R Sussman, who coordinated the survey, told the world press freedom conference on its concluding day here.

    He said only three countries in the world, Afghanistan, Burma and North Korea- were not on the web. ''They are self-made pariahs,'' he said.

    Most of the internet users were from the urban areas, Sussman said adding the number of on-line users more than doubled from an estimated 201 million in 1999.

    The US had 154 million users, followed by Europe with113.14 million and Asia with 105 million. Other regions were way below, with Africa having 3.11million users, Middle East 2.4, Latin America 16.45 and Canada 13.28, he said. (PTI)
    Bomb injures four fleeing skirmish

    source : Bangkokpost

    Abooby-trap bomb exploded and wounded four Karen villagers,including a five-year-old child, as they were fleeing from fighting in Burma.

    Kyaw Hein, 45, Daw Naing, 44, Ma Thein Swe, 47, and Mala Gyi, 5, crossed the border on Friday to seek treatment at a hospital in Mae Ramat district of Tak province. One of them stepped on the booby trap causing it to explode in the Burmese border area of Maw Pa Zu, opposite the Thai village of Huay Pla Klong.

    They were fleeing from fighting between Burmese government troops and Karen National Union rebels.

    A border source said Burmese troops and pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army guerrillas attacked the KNU's 7th division on Thursday.

    A bomb also exploded in a passenger vehicle in tambon Mae Chan on Thursday, killing the driver and injuring a passenger, police said. Somchai Songno, 44, was killed instantly while Kowit (surname unknown) was seriously injured when the bomb went off under the vehicle with nine people in it. Police said the bomb was planted close to the driver's seat.
    Australian Police General concludes visit

    source : NLM

    Yangon, 5 May- Director-General of Australia Police Force Mr Michael Joseph Keelty and party left here for home by air this morning. They were seen off at Yangon International Airport by Myanmar Police Force Director-General Police Maj-Gen Soe Win and party.

    The Australian Police General and party visited Shwedagon Pagoda yesterday and made donations. They then visited Criminal Investigation Department. At 3.30 pm, the Australian Police General attended the opening of Australian Police Force Public Relations Office at the Australian Embassy.

    Also present were Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Brig-Gen Thura Myint Maung, Head of Department Col Kyaw Thein of the Office of Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defence, MPF Director-General Police Maj-Gen Soe Win.
    Ahead in Asia Times Online

    source : Asiatimes

    WHISPERS OF CHANGE IN MYANMAR: A three-part series coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 10-12.

    Lucy Murray has just visited Yangon and writes in Part 1 of rumors and the prospects for change in the political set-up.

    Part 2 examines the deepening economic crisis in the country that is now largely without electricity, and completely without key economic data since the junta stopped publishing them.

    In Part 3, Murray writes of life on the borderline for the country's minority ethnic groups, and their feeling that change in the capital will change little for them.
    Tomorrow Burma talks set to centre on drugs

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thailand will discuss drugs with Burma tomorrow at the start of three days of United Nations-backed talks in Rangoon, to curb what its drug agency stresses is a borderless business.

    The bilateral and regional talks, continuing till May 11, will also feature Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme.

    Issues such as cross-border law enforcement co-operation, drug control advocacy and capacity strengthening, precursor chemicals control, the massive increase in trafficking and abuse of synthetic drugs _ in particular methamphetamines _ legal co-operation, the spread of HIV/Aids through drug use, as well as rural drug demand and poverty reduction, will be discussed.

    "The timing couldn't be better," the UNDCP said in a statement.

    "While countries are still divided by boundaries, political differences, legal systems and differing national capacities, drug traffickers and their criminal masterminds work a well-oiled machinery on a global scale, causing serious harm beyond national borders.

    "Drugs can no longer be conceived as a mere national problem and solutions can no longer be found by single countries alone.

    "The responses must be national and regional."

    The six countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region signed a memorandum of understanding on drug control in 1993, and came up with a sub-regional action plan in May 1995, at their first ministerial meeting in Beijing.

    Funding for the plan, which calls for 13 projects costing more than US$30 million (1.4 billion baht) has been provided primarily by the governments of Japan, Britain, the European Union, the US and Scandinavian countries.

    The meeting will review progress of the action plan in the fields of drug abuse, reduction of illegal drug production and trafficking, and law enforcement co-operation. It will also look into efforts at cross-border, bilateral, regional and international levels.
    Mae Sai flooded with smuggled goods

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The border town of Mae Sai is flooded with smuggled Chinese and Burmese goods and is again attracting tourists, but the Tachilek checkpoint remains closed.

    Vendors at the Mae Sai border marker said contraband goods on offer include electrical appliances, fruit and wild products brought in from Burma to Mae Sai every night.

    Most arrive between 8pm and midnight, smuggled across the narrowest parts of the Sai river, which is only 5m wide in places like Pa Daeng, Koh Sai, Muang Daeng and Tha Kalam in tambon Mae Said.

    Smugglers are said to be paying both Thai and Burmese officials to turn a blind eye, with the going rate 500 to 5,000 baht a trip, depending on the amount of goods.

    Fuel and other "strategic items" including cars and construction materials are in turn smuggled into Burma despite specific bans on their export by the Thai government. They are being stored in more than 100 warehouses along the Sai river, vendors say.

    The visible consequence is that tourist numbers are up again in Mae Sai with people drawn by the cheap contraband from China and Burma.

    The Mae Sai-Tachilek crossing was closed following border skirmishes between Thai and Burmese troops in March that soured relations.

    Thailand reopened the Mae Sai checkpoint just before the Songkran festival, but the ban on passage of cargoes remained.

    On the Burmese side, the Tachilek checkpoint has remained closed.

    Maj Domsak Khamsaengsai, chief of the Thai-Burmese co-ordination team, said nothing has changed between the sides despite agreement at the Regional Border Committee meeting last month that the two sides would hold a township border committee-level meeting once a month.

    Burmese authorities claim they fear for their safety because Thai people in Mae Sai are dissatisfied over the construction of a lignite-fired power plant in Tachilek, he said.
    Asean Urged To Check Progress Of Burma's Labor Reforms

    KUALA LUMPUR (AP)--The Association of Southeast Asian Nations should send a mission to Burma to check on progress the country's military junta is making toward ending forced labor, a Malaysian opposition leader said Monday.

    Ahead of a meeting of labor ministers from the 10-nation grouping in Kuala Lumpur May 10-11, Lim Kit Siang, chairman of Malaysia's Democratic Action Party, urged Asean member countries to "pressure the Myanmese military junta to end forced labor and repression of trade unionists" in Burma.

    "The Asean labor ministers meeting should ask for a progress report by the Myanmese Labor Minister on the decree issued by the (Myanmar junta) to abolish forced labor, and should consider sending a fact-finding mission to Myanmar on the forced labor question," Lim said in a statement.

    Burma has long been assailed by the United Nations and Western countries for suppression of democracy and its human rights record - including use of unpaid civilian labor on infrastructure projects.

    Burma has said civilians contribute their labor voluntarily to promote development of the nation. Last year, the government issued a decree making forced labor illegal.

    Human rights groups claim the decree was issued to avoid international criticism and that forced labor continues to be used.

    Malaysia is developing as a broker between the reclusive Burma's government and the international community. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad met with senior generals when he visited Burma in January, and the U.N.'s special envoy is a Malaysian diplomat.

    Lim said Malaysia should rally support among Asean for an International Labor Organization plan to apply economic sanctions against Burma because of alleged forced labor practices.

    Asean, which groups together Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has a policy of noninterference in the domestic issues of its members.
    Karen rebels attack Burma bases near Thai border

    MAE SOT, Thailand, May 7 (AFP)

    The rebel Karen National Union (KNU) has launched a fresh round of attacks on Burma's army bases, killing five soldiers and injuring five others, a KNU source said Monday.

    More than 100 KNU guerrillas beseiged two Burma bases about three kilometers (two miles) from the border in Thailand's Tha Song Yang district using grenade launchers and mortars.

    Five Burmese soldiers were killed and one injured in the fighting Sunday afternoon, while four KNU soldiers were seriously injured, the KNU said. The report has not been independently confirmed.

    The KNU has fought an exhausting 51-year battle for greater autonomy against the central government in Rangoon and is one of the last major insurgent groups fighting the junta.

    Fighting between the KNU and Burma's military government and its allied ethnic militias intensified earlier this year and has forced the evacuation of thousands of villagers along the border.

    Thailand is home to more than 120,000 refugees from Burma, many of whom are ethnic Karen and live in camps on the Thai side of the border.

    Meanwhile, the Thai Royal Army said Monday it had responded to border incursions during the past week.

    The army said in a statement that it had identified 30 armed troops who strayed into Thailand late last week as members of the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

    The army said it told the Burma-allied militia, which had taken up a position on Thai soil, to return to Burma but got no response and began shelling the area Sunday afternoon.

    On Monday, the army added that the alleged UWSA troops were lingering on the Thai side of the border and that it had resumed efforts to push them back after having submitted a letter of protest to the Thai-Burmese border committee.