Daily News-May 09- 2001- Wednesday

  • Burmese students in India protest against military
  • UCLA group stages 'die-in' to raise awareness of Burma
  • Job Losses,Burma Forced Labor Allegations Top ASEAN Meeting
  • Thai Army talks tough on Wa troops
  • Thai-Burma fighting forces 1,000 villagers to seek safety
  • DVB reports seizure of bomb cache at Kalemyo bus station
  • India not concerned by Pak's ties with Burma, Vietnam
  • Consecration Ceremony for Burma Jade Buddha Held in Beijing
  • Thai Army says Burmese Intruders to face full strike
  • Thai Army accuses Burma's Artillery Of Supporting Wa Intruders
  • Burma Accuses Shan Rebels Of Mandalay Market Bombing Last Week

  • Burmese students in India protest against military

    NEW DELHI, May 4 (Reuters) - About 80 people belonging to a Myanmarese student group marched through the Indian capital on Friday to protest against what they called human rights violations under Myanmar's military regime.

    The protesters gathered in downtown New Delhi with anti-government placards, shouting "We want democracy" "We need human rights" and "Down with military rule".

    "This is a protest against human rights violations in Burma (Myanmar) which has being going on for decades," Soe Myint, general secretary of the All Burma Students Council's central committee, told Reuters.

    He said the protest came after the International Conference of Free Trade Unionsurged companies to withdraw investment in Myanmar because of "forced labour" in the country which has been under military rule for most of the last 40 years.

    Last month, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution which praised Myanmar's ruling generals for taking part in talks with pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi but alleged major violations ofhuman rights including executions, mass arrests and forced labour. The resolution also expressed grave concern at what it called "the systematic policy of the government of Myanmar of persecuting the democratic opposition...members and their families, as well as ethnic opposition parties".Myanmar's military government lashed out at the resolution on the country, branding it "derogatory, unfair and partial" and denying accusations of rights abuses.

    Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won Myanmar's last general election in 1990 by a landslide victory but has never been allowed to govern. The country's generals and Suu Kyi have held closed-door talks since October last year but the people of Myanmar want a more transparent process, the protesters said.

    "Let the junta clarify their stand openly. We don't want talks to go on in a secret way. We want transparency," the president of the students group, Kyaw Than, said.

    India-Myanmar ties have been strained by Myanmar's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters since 1988 and India's willingness to accept anti-government Myanmar exiles. General Maung Aye, the second most powerful figure in Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council, improved previously cool relations when he visited India last November.
    UCLA group stages 'die-in' to raise awareness of Burma

    May 4, 2000
    By Scott B. Wong
    Daily Bruin
    U. California-Los Angeles

    (U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- Five students from the University of California at Los Angeles' Environmental Coalition staged a "die-in" at noon Thursday, chalking outlines of bodies in the center of Westwood Plaza and laying themselves face-down on the hot pavement in the name of Burma. Since 1988, the Southeast Asian country has been under military-rule.

    Students said it's up to those who have a voice to overthrow the structure of the Burmese government. "We need a lot of student demand focused on this issue," said Christine Riordan, a third-year international development studies and Spanish student.

    For the past four months, EC members have pressed the University of California Board of Regents to divest in corporations located in Burma, like Proctor & Gamble and Halliburton, which manufactures hardware for oil and gas pipelines.

    "We need to cut their military off economically," Riordan said.

    The bodies and coffin, she said, evoke an unpleasant image, depicting the "murder, torture, rape, and coerced labor" the Burmese government inflicts upon its people to maintain rule.

    Kevin Rudiger, a second-year graduate student in urban planning, said the black outfits worn by members symbolized remembrance and mourning. "We're paying tribute to those who have suffered so much more than we can even begin to suffer," he said.

    Hundreds of people passed by the exhibit -- some obliviously walking right through it, others stopping to look. One onlooker said she was curious, but didn't know what was happening in Burma. "But if they think that lying on the floor will perpetuate awareness, then why not?" she said.

    Third-year psychobiology student Cindy Jimenez said there are many atrocities happening in the world. "It's sad that this is just another one."
    Job Losses,Burma Forced Labor Allegations Top ASEAN Mtg

    KUALA LUMPUR (AP)--Fears about massive job losses as a result of the U.S. economic downturn and accusations of forced labor in Myanmar emerged Tuesday as central issues for a meeting of Southeast Asian labor ministers this week.

    Officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations opened talks Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur to set the agenda for a meeting of labor ministers from the 10-country grouping, as well as Japan, China and South Korea.The ministers meet Thursday and Friday

    "The U.S. economic issue is the main problem, that will be a starting point for the ministers to discuss," said Bounnhou Phommavongsa, the deputy director-general of Laos' labor ministry.Thousands of jobs have already been shed this year in export-dependent Southeast Asia as the global slowdown begins to bite. Among the worst hit have been countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, which rely on U.S. demand for electronics components and products.

    Syed Muhamad Abdul Kadir, the secretary-general of Malaysia's human resources ministry, said urgent action was needed to curb layoffs."The important thing is to take immediate action to curb massive retrenchments," Syed Muhamad said.

    Officials also indicated that ministers would agree to a unified stand in support of Myanmar's military government against persistent claims that forced labor continues in the reclusive country, which is also known as Burma.In November, the International Labor Organization recommended that its 175 member states, employers, workers and international organizations review their dealings with Myanmar to make sure they are not abetting forced labor.

    While Myanmar says it has outlawed the practice, human rights groups say the ban is simply an attempt to deflect criticism and that abuses continue.Seine Myint, deputy-director of Myanmar's labor department, said Tuesday that the government would ask for ASEAN's support to arm itself against further criticism expected at the ILO's next meeting in Geneva in June.

    "We hope to have support from the ASEAN countries," Seine said. "We have no doubt that we will have it."

    Asked about the issue Tuesday, officials from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam indicated Myanmar would get ASEAN's support.

    "We have called for cooperation between the ILO and the government of Myanmar to address the issue," said Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy director-general of the Vietnam labor ministry's international relations department.

    "We are against the application of any kind of sanctions or penalties to an ASEAN member country," he said. "The victims of the sanctions would be the people and the workers." Describing Myanmar as a "close friend" of ASEAN, Syed Muhamad said the grouping would strive for a common stance, "so when the topic is discussed in June, at least ASEAN will have some stand."

    On the job front, Bounnhou said the ministers would discuss how to fund various worker skills development projects which were agreed to at their last meeting in Manila. ASEAN countries would seek funding for the programs from the three richer Asian nations, and "we are hopeful that they will help us." China, Japan and South Korea - which attend major ASEAN meetings as the so-called plus three countries - are scheduled to take part in the labor talks for the first time. ASEAN has 10 members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
    Thai Army talks tough on Wa troops

    source . The Nation

    Drastic measures will be taken to dislodge a group of United Wa State Army (UWSA) soldiers still occupying a strategic hill on the Thai side of the border near Chiang Mai province, said senior defence officials yesterday.

    Action would be taken if the UWSA troops have not moved by tomorrow, the officials said.Their stern message came after Burma's military government denied that any of the soldiers were government troops. With diplomatic channels exhausted, restraint is wearing thin among the military quarters.

    Two 15-man units of Wa soldiers are still holed up on Hua Lone Hill, about 400 metres inside Thailand. They were forced to withdraw yesterday during a dawn offensive by the Thai troops but later returned to take up their position, which triggered a second consecutive day of heavy shelling. More than 10 Wa soldiers were killed as the sides traded fire for several hours, Thai military sources said.

    "We could not dislodge them, not because there are many but because they positioning on a vantage point," said Deputy Defence Minister Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapha.He downplayed a prospect of an all-out offensive but said the Army would use force to capture the outpost by today or tomorrow at the latest.

    The foreign forces, believed to be comprised of both Burmese and Wa, entered Thailand between May 1 and Sunday at Chiang Mai's Fang district after successfully retaking three strategic bases from the Shan rebels. Their presence and ensuing fighting forced the Thai authorities to evacuate more than 600 villagers from the area. The evacuees are said to suffer from malaria, chicken pox, typhoid and diarrhoea.

    "Whenever the Burmese troops enter [Thai territory], we will have to expel them. We will not succumb to the Burmese," said Yuthasak.

    Col Somkuan Saengpattaranetr said the Wa had ignored a warning to withdraw as well as a protest letter submitted through the Township Border Committee (TBC).

    "The Burmese troops in the area claim that they cannot control the Wa who intruded into out territory. Now it is our duty to drive out the intruders who have violated our territory," Somkuan was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

    Third Army Commander Gen Wattanachai Chaimuanwong said he was not convinced by the Burmese explanation that the Wa had carried out the operation on its own. He said he believed the UWSA - an ally of the Rangoon regime - is just a proxy for the government's army, which did not want to encroach into Thailand. On the other hand, the junta has accused Thailand of assisting the SSA.

    In Rangoon, Prime Minister's Office Minister Gen Thamarak Isarangura reportedly held a closed-door meeting with his Burmese counterpart yesterday on the sidelines of a regional anti-drug conference. Details of the talks were unknown. Before attending the meeting Thamarak said he would ask the Burmese to issue a withdrawal order.
    Thai-Burma fighting forces 1,000 villagers to seek safety

    BANGKOK, Thailand (AP)--Thai forces and ethnic Wa armed intruders from Myanmar exchanged heavy fire Tuesday at the border, forcing 1,000 villagers to move to safer areas, Thai officials said Tuesday.

    Late Monday, Thai forces fired warning shots, but between 30 and 60 intruders from the United Wa State Army occupying a hilltop about 500 meters (yards) inside northern Thailand, did not withdraw, the Thai army said.

    Early Tuesday, Thai army fired more than 100 artillery and mortar rounds at the intruders, who fired back. There were no reported injuries or serious damage on the Thai side. The Myanmar government made no immediate comment about the incident.

    As a safety precaution, the inhabitants of three hilltribe villages in Fang district, Chiang Mai province, about 780 kilometers (475 miles) north of Bangkok, were evacuated late Monday. They are now sheltering 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border, said Arthit Thangchitwong, the local chief of civil defense.

    The exchange of fire comes as Thai-Myanmar relations are at their lowest point in years, following a direct armed confrontation in February and a spate of border skirmishes in the past three months involving Myanmar ethnic armies.

    The Wa army has reached a cease-fire agreement with Myanmar's military government. It is widely recognized as being a major producer of methamphetamines and heroin and Thailand says Myanmar is doing little to stop it trafficking the drugs over the border.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar accuses Thailand of helping other armies along the border that are opposed to its rule. Col. Somkuan Saengpattaranetr, the Thai army spokesman, said that Thailand would take severe action to dislodge the intruders since they had ignored warnings to move.

    "The Myanmar troops in the area claim that they cannot control the Wa who intrude into our territory. Now it is our duty to drive out the intruders who have violated our territory," Somkuan told The Associated Press.He said that a protest letter had been sent to Myanmar but so far there had been no formal reply.

    The 1,000 villagers had reoccupied their homes only two days ago, after being moved out for two weeks during heavy fighting near the same spot between anti-Yangon Shan rebels and Myanmar forces over control of a hilltop border post.
    DVB reports seizure of bomb cache at Kalemyo bus station

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 8, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 7 May

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that many ownerless bombs and fuses used by the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] Defence Services were confiscated at Shwetaungdan car terminus in Kalemyo, Sagaing Division on 8 April.

    The bombs and fuses were deposited at the Shwetaungdan terminus on 7 April by an unidentified passenger. As no one came to redeem the package before the departure, supervisor U Kyi Maung and clerk U Than Tun notified the combined departmental personnel investigation team.

    The team discovered over 100 BA-91 training bombs, many assorted bombs including 40 mm anti-tank bombs and BA-91 assault bombs, two viss [one viss equals 1.64 kg] of plastic explosives, and almost 50 fuses.

    Local residents from Kalemyo remarked that there have been frequent seizures of such ownerless goods because the Defence Services personnel attempt to sell the stolen goods to supplement their low income to make ends meet.

    As the Defence Services is stealing and selling the weapons in the open market, the groups that have signed cease-fire agreements with the government are also engaged in a weapons black-market. Kalemyo residents feared that bomb explosions similar to the recent Mandalay Zaycho bomb blast might occur sporadically everywhere.

    This report was filed by DVB correspondent Kyaw Swa.
    India not concerned by Pak's ties with Burma, Vietnam

    source : South Nexus

    ISLAMABAD, May 08: India is not concerned by Pakistan's move to develop relations with Myanmar and Vietnam as New Delhi shared long-standing friendship with the two countries which military ruler General Pervez Musharraf visited last week.

    "I do not think General Musharraf's visit to the two countries is going to impact in any major way and cause major concern to India," Indian High Commissoner to Pakistan V K Nambiar told Indian reporters here on Monday.

    Asked about security implications for India over Pakistan's attempt to develop defence cooperation with Myanmar, he said, both the Indian and Myanmarese leaderships were "sufficiently confident of sustaining our relationship."

    With regard to Vietnam, Nambiar said, New Delhi and Hanoi shared extremely friendly relations. "Politically also there is a great deal of understanding." Referring to Gen Musharraf's references to Kashmir during his talks with the leaders of Vietnam, Nambiar said, "we have received from Vietnam a fair degree of understanding" on India' position on the problem. About India's developing ties with Iran, he said,it was not directed against anyone but at the same time was focussed on certain issues which have become more germane in the current international context.
    Consecration Ceremony for Burma Jade Buddha Held in Beijing

    The People's Daily (China)

    A consecration ceremony for a jade Buddha presented by the Myanmar government was held Monday by the Chinese Buddhist Association in Beijing`s Lingguang Temple.

    When visiting China last June, General Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council, said that he would present a jade Buddha to China on behalf of the Myanmar government to commemorate China's senting of the tooth relic of Sakyamuni to Myanmar for enshrinement.

    The tooth relic, still treasured in Lingguang Temple, has so far been sent to Myanmar three times to be enshrined and worshipped there at the request of the Myanmar side.

    On a nine-inch pedestal, the 54-inch-tall jade Buddha was formally handed over to China early this year, and will be enshrined in the Jade Buddha Hall of Lingguang Temple.The Chinese Buddhist Association made considerable preparations to welcome the jade Buddha. For instance, it rebuilt and refurbished the old Buddhist hall to enshrine the Buddha.

    The ceremony was attended by officials from the Chinese State Administration of Religious Affairs and the Chinese Buddhist Association as well as hundreds of monks and laymen. A Myanmar government delegation headed by Minister of Religious Affairs U Aung Khin and some diplomats from the Myanmar Embassy in China also attended the ceremony as honored guests.
    Thai Army says Burmese Intruders to face full strike

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The Third Army will mount a full military strike today after a heavy artillery bombardment failed to dislodge Burmese troops and their United Wa State Army allies from Hua Lone hill. Mortar emplacements inside Burma fired back in response yesterday.

    Pha Muang task force commander Maj-Gen Nakorn Sripetchphan ordered the strike against the insurgents, who occupied the southern part of the hill, 500m inside Thai territory.

    The Pha Muang task force's 2nd cavalry regiment fired more than 200 mortar and artillery shells onto the hill yesterday, seized a day earlier when Burmese troops and their allies crossed the border. Five of the 30 intruders were reportedly killed.

    Burmese troops at Hua Nok hill, about 1km from Hua Lone hill, countered the shelling with mortar shells.

    No Thai casualties resulted. Villagers from Ban Khob Dong and Ban Norlae were evacuated on Monday.

    Col Chaovalit Sirisuk, the 2nd cavalry regiment commander, said his instructions were to dislodge foreign forces from Thai soil "at any cost". Army commander Gen Surayud Chulanont had approved "drastic measures". The Pha Muang task force, in charge of security along the border opposite Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, would lead the offensive this morning, sources said.

    The clash comes as Gen Thammarak Issarangkul na Ayudhya, a minister heading the government's drug fight, visits Rangoon for a four-day drug meeting held by the UN International Drug Control Programme.

    A Pha Muang task force officer said the hill was not regarded as a strategic position and the intruders caught Thai troops off guard.

    The Third Army had planned a forward outpost on the hill in a move to stem the flow of illicit drugs.

    "It was once used as a drug route by the UWSA," said a drug official.

    Army spokesman Col Somkhuan Saengpataranetr said Burma was using the UWSA as its proxy in the clash.

    The area was the scene of heavy fighting last week as hundreds of Burmese troops battled with rebels from the Shan State Army and recaptured Takhi outpost, seized earlier by the SSA.

    Burma accused the Pha Muang task force of firing shells in support of the SSA. The army dismissed the allegation as groundless.

    Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said Thailand had handled the Hua Lone hill problem through agreed channels. A protest was lodged through the township border committee, but there had been no reply. Thailand would not tolerate foreign troops on her soil, but military efforts to push them back would not intrude into Burmese territory either, he said.
    Thai Army accuses Burma's Artillery Of Supporting Wa Intruders

    BANGKOK (AP)--The Thai army accused Burma Wednesday of firing artillery to support a small group of ethnic Wa fighters on Thai soil, and vowed to use all means to drive them out.

    The warning is certain to raise tensions between Thailand and Burma, whose relations are at their lowest point in years, following a direct armed confrontation in February and a spate of border skirmishes in the past three months involving Burma's ethnic armies.

    The Thai army said between 30 and 60 guerrillas of the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army dug in on Hua Lone hill 500 meters inside the border in northern Thailand. Tuesday, they resisted heavy Thai artillery and mortar fire to pressure them to withdraw.

    The army claimed that Burmese government troops on a nearby hill on the Burma side of the border responded by firing 19 105mm artillery shells at Thai forces. The hill in Thailand is of strategic importance to the Burmese army in its fight against antigovernment rebels.

    "The incident has clearly shown that Myanmar troops are supporting the Wa, because the Wa rebels do not have such heavy artillery," said Col. Somkuan Saengpattaranetr, a Thai army spokesman.

    Since Burma "ignored our diplomatic overture, then it is legitimate for the army to use all means of force to drive out the intruders who are violating our sovereignty," Somkuan said.

    Burma's military regime denies Thailand's contention that it uses the Wa army - which reached a cease-fire with Rangoon a decade ago - as its proxy. It is yet to make a comment on the latest skirmish.

    According to Thai and U.S. narcotics experts, the Wa army is the leading producer of illegal drugs in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle. Much of it is exported to Thailand.

    Burma rejects accusations it does little to stop the Wa from smuggling heroin and methamphetamines. It also says that Thailand is giving military support to other armies along the border that are opposed to its rule.

    About Thai 1,000 villagers have been moved to safety but there have been no reported casualties on the Thai side.

    There was no sound of gunfire Wednesday morning, according to Thai officials at the scene of the standoff, in Fang district, about 780 kilometers north of Bangkok.

    A Thai army official at the border said Thailand may change tactics by sending in a ground force instead of relying on heavy weapons.

    Early Wednesday, the Thai army reported that it clashed briefly with six pro-Rangoon ethnic Karen guerillas, who were trying to cross the border in Tak province, about 400 kilometers to the south of Chiang Mai province.

    The guerrillas withdrew after a five minute exchange of gunfire. Last week, three Thai villagers were killed and five others injured during an intrusion at the same spot.
    Burma Accuses Shan Rebels Of Mandalay Market Bombing Last Week

    Rangoon (AP)--Burma's military regime Wednesday accused ethnic Shan rebels of carrying out a bombing last week that injured eight people at the main market in the country's second city, Mandalay.

    Lt. Col. San Pwint, a senior military intelligence officer, said the Shan State Army (South) led by Yawd Serk was retaliating for government attacks against rebel camps on the Thai-Burmese border.

    San Pwint's remarks were the first comments by the Burmese authorities about Friday's explosion. It went unreported in the state-run media, which usually plays down negative news.

    The Shan army, which the regime calls the Shan United Revolutionary Army, is fighting for independence in eastern Burma. It denied it planted the bomb.

    Tern Serng, secretary-general of the Restoration Council of Shan State, a political wing of the rebel army, told The Associated Press in Bangkok that the army had no role in the bombing and had a policy against committing terrorist attacks.

    But San Pwint, a member of the Office of Strategic Studies, a military intelligence think tank, told a news conference that the government has information about possible "terrorist acts" in the country by the Shan rebels.

    "Whenever, Myanmar army launched offensives against the SURA, the rebels often carried out such terrorist attacks within the country as a diversion," he said.

    He cited a bomb explosion at a cinema in Mandalay two years ago when Burmese army launched offensives against the Shan rebels. Mandalay lies 560 kilometers north of Rangoon.

    Although a number of ethnic armies fight wars of resistance against the Burma's regime in remote border regions, bombings in urban areas are rare. The military has run the country since 1962.

    In his description of Friday's blast, San Pwint said a suspicious package had been found in the west wing of the four-story Zay Cho market. People were told to clear the premises but it detonated before the military arrived. Falling glass caused the injuries, he said.