Daily News-November 18 - 2001- Sunday

  • Myanmar junta says generals dismissed for 'violating state policy'
  • Myanmar says shake-up means no changes at talks
  • Troika reins in junta
  • Malaysia not behind sackings in Myanmar
  • British firms on blacklist for Burma dealings
  • Myanmar reports seizure of arms destined for Indian rebels
  • White tusker sign of good govt: Myanmar media
  • Amateur Men's Body Building Championship to Be Held in Myanmar

  • Myanmar junta says generals dismissed for 'violating state policy'

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP)- In a rare but guarded public admission of problems within the ruling junta, Myanmar's deputy intelligence chief said Saturday that two top generals of the ruling military junta were dismissed for "violation of state policy."

    Speaking at a press briefing, Maj. Gen. Kyaw Win denied that the dismissals and a recent Cabinet shake-up were linked to the ongoing political dialogue between the military and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    However, he also failed to elaborate on the nature of the generals' "violation."

    The junta's fourth-ranking general, Lt. Gen. Win Myint, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Military Affairs Lt. Gen. Tin Hla were sacked on Nov. 9 in the surprise Cabinet shake-up. Two aging deputy prime ministers and three other ministers were"permitted to retire" the same day.

    "The cabinet reshuffle and military reassignments had nothing to do with the ongoing dialogue. It is simply to inject young blood into the ministry of defense and to improve the efficiency," said Kyaw Win.

    The shake-up of the regime's top ranks was the biggest since November 1997, when the original junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, was dissolved and renamed the State Peace and Development Council, with younger officials drafted in to replace corrupt and old military leaders.

    The news briefing was apparentl held to counter rampant rumors about the latest move.

    The military took power after a bloody crackdown on nationwide protests for democracy in 1988. It held general elections in 1990, but refused to honor the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy party of Suu Kyi, who is currently under house detention. Reconciliation talks between Suu Kyi and the regime began last October but have shown no sign of bringing an end to the country's political deadlock.

    Kyaw Win said Win Myint and Tin Hla were dismissed "because they violated the state policy." He added that the two generals had been questioned but no action had been taken against them, again without elaborating.

    The military posts of Win Myint as army adjutant general and Tin Hla as quartermaster general have been filled by regional commanders in a series of recent military reassignments, but their political positions within the junta as Secretary Three and deputy prime minister will not be filled, he said.

    Kyaw Win said the reshuffle was meant to shrink the size of the Cabinet, adding that two deputy prime minister posts vacated by the retirement of two aging deputy prime ministers, Lt. Gen. Tin Tun and Vice Admiral Maung Maung Khin, would not be filled, too. The post of Secretary Two in the junta, left vacant since the death of Lt. Gen. Tin Oo in a helicopter crash in February this year, will also not be filled, Kyaw Win said.

    The reshuffle saw 10 powerful regional army commanders who are members of the 13-member State Peace and Development Council promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and given positions in the Ministry of Defense. The move appeared meant to consolidate the authority of the top three generals, by depriving the regional commanders of their power bases, their direct command of troops.

    The 13-member junta is dominated by its three top generals junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, army chief Gen. Maung Aye and military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt. New regional commanders will be chosen from among junior battalion commanders but it is not yet clear whether the new regional commanders will become members of the ruling council.

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    Myanmar says shake-up means no changes at talks

    By Aung Hla Tun

    YANGON (Reuters) - The recent shake-up in Myanmar's ruling military will not affect its talks with pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a senior official said on Saturday.

    "The change we made in the armed forces and the government is carried out with a good intention. It means to make the government more efficient and to have new blood in the leadership of the army," Major-General Kyaw Win, deputy chief of Military Intelligence, told a news conference. "But it will not have any impact on the ongoing talks with the opposition," he said.

    Myanmar's military government, officially called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), earlier this week removed two top leaders, retired two deputy prime ministers and three ministers, and reshuffled the cabinet. The two most senior generals fired -- Win Myint, number four in the SPDC and head of the Myanmar Economic Holdings Company, and Lieutenant General Tin Hla, head of the Myanmar Economic Corporation -- had close ties to the private sector.

    But the SPDC's three most powerful men -- Chairman and Prime Minister Than Shwe, Vice Chairman and army chief Maung Aye, and Secretary One and intelligence chief Khin Nyunt -- remained firmly in place.

    Asked about government efficiency, Kyaw Win said, "Things are expected to become faster, quicker and better."

    The talks between Suu Kyi and the SPDC, brokered by UN special envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail, started in October last year. Brig-Gen Than Tun, a senior military intelligence officer acting as liaison between the SPDC and Suu Kyi, said the talks were ongoing but not according to a timetable. Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, whose party won 1990 elections by a landslide but was never allowed to govern, has been under virtual house arrest for more than a year.

    Ismail will return to Myanmar this month for a fifth time since April last year, in a fresh bid to end the political stalemate. A number of Western countries, including the United States and Europe, have sanctions in place against Myanmar, saying they want a transition to democracy and accusing the military of widespread human rights abuses.

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    Troika reins in junta

    The Bangkokpost

    Rangoon - Burma's ruling junta said yesterday the country's leadership now rested in the hands of three top generals and two high-ranking posts would be left vacant in the wake of a recent military shake-up.

    Major-General Kyaw Win, deputy chief of military intelligence, said the Secretary Two post once held by late Lieutenant-General Tin Oo and the Secretary Three post held by Lieutenant-General Win Myint, who was sacked last week, ``will not be filled''.

    He said Burma would now be led by a troika of generals Senior General Than Shwe, head of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), General Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the SPDC, and Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, First Secretary and chief of military intelligence.

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    Malaysia not behind sackings in Myanmar

    The Star (Asia)

    KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday denied a report alleging that Malaysia was behind the dismissals of seven generals by the Myanmar government last weekend.

    The Prime Minister said Malaysia had nothing to do with the workings of the governments of other countries. "We are working closely with the Myanmar government but only in so far as helping them in their process of democratisation. "They sought our help on that matter and we are helping them," he told reporters after opening a conference on terrorism yesterday.

    Dr Mahathir said there was no truth in the report because Malaysia did not meddle in the domestic business of other countries. "We have nothing to do with that. "It was their decision," he said.

    The Nation, an English daily published in Bangkok, had reported on a major shake-up in Myanmar over the weekend, in which seven generals were ousted from administrative posts.

    It said that Secretary One of the State Peace and Development Council Khin Nyunt fired the seven generals after pressure from Dr Mahathir during the Asean summit in Brunei recently.

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    British firms on blacklist for Burma dealings

    Andrew Osborn in Brussels
    Saturday November 17, 2001
    The Guardian

    Seven British companies which continue to do business in Burma, despite its repressive military dictatorship and a barrage of calls on them to sever links with Rangoon, have been named and shamed by the international trade union movement.

    The seven are among 250 companies spanning a range of industries which have been "blacklisted" on the internet by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in Brussels. It is the culmination of a nine-month campaign in which ICFTU has written to every company in the world doing business in Burma, asking them to withdraw.

    The British companies listed are Premier Oil, Standard Chartered Bank, the insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson, First Dynasty Mines, Mekong Travel, Andrew Brock Travel and Crown Relocations.

    Some companies failed to respond to ICFTU's plea, while others claimed that their presence was beneficial to the people of Burma. But Bill Jordan, general secretary of the ICFTU, said: "Any international business involvement in Burma is an accommodation with tyranny. "It supports a corrupt and repressive military regime that has never been granted any legitimacy by the people of Burma."

    The ICFTU estimates that more than 1m Burmese are subjected to forced labour building roads, railways, oil pipelines, military installations and tourist facilities.

    The military junta denies this but the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva said earlier this month that forced labour was still a widespread problem, despite an official decree outlawing the practice.

    Andrew Brock Travel told the ICFTU that its campaign was "obscenely inappropriate" since it would result only in the unemployment of Burmese people. Premier Oil said it had talked to the junta about stopping forced labour, and it would be unwise to isolate the country.

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    Myanmar reports seizure of arms destined for Indian rebels

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Myanmar has seized 900 weapons heading for rebels in India's Assam state and arrested five people in connection with the alleged smuggling, Myanmar's deputy chief of military intelligence said at a press briefing Saturday.

    In response to a question about reports of arms smuggling near the India-Myanmar border, Maj. Gen. Kyaw Win said that, acting on intelligence information, the government had recently arrested the Assamese and seized the arms, including some AK-47 assault rifles, at Tamu, a town near the border with India.

    He did not give the date of the arrests and arms seizure. Tamu, opposite the Indian town of Moreh, is about 850 kilometers (530 miles) northwest of Yangon.The weapons were brought to Tamu by boat and were to be sent to Assam or Manipur states in India, but their source is still under investigation, Kyaw Win said.

    An official in India recently told reporters that more than 200 separatist rebels from Manipur were arrested in counterinsurgency operations by the Myanmar army that began last month.

    The Inspector-General of the Indian Border Security Force in Manipur, P.K. Mishra, was quoted Thursday by the British Broadcasting Corporation as saying that Myanmar troops had overrun three Manipuri separatist camps and seized more than 1,600 weapons, including Chinese-made assault rifles, mortars, machine guns and rocket launchers. He said that more than 200 guerrillas of three separatist groups in Manipur, including seven of their leaders, had been captured.

    Myanmar's Kyaw Win made no mnetion of such activities at his briefing Saturday. He said that his country's relationship with India had improved since the visit to India last year by army chief Gen. Maung Aye.

    "Myanmar-India security matters such as the exchange of information and cooperation in suppression of rebels along the Myanmar-India border were discussed last month between the two countries," he said. "The recent seizure of arms was the outcome of the security cooperation." Myanmar and India share a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border.

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    White tusker sign of good govt: Myanmar media

    The Times Of India

    YANGON, Myanmar: A rare white elephant caught in the jungles of western Myanmar has been hailed by the state-controlled press as a harbinger of good times for the military-run nation.

    The elephant was accorded a grand welcome and given an official title - "Yaza Gaha Thiri Pissaya Gaza Yaza," or Glorious Elephant King, as it arrived in the capital after a long boat journey from northwestern Myanmar, state media reported on Friday.

    The discovery of the pachyderm - technically an albino elephant, a dark, dirty pink in color - was welcomed as an event that bodes well for the country, whose long-standing political problems and stagnant economy give little occasion for everyday cheer.

    The official press spoke of the "emergence" of the animal as a sign of good fortune and linked it to the administrative policies of the present military regime, which has been widely criticized for failing to yield power to a democratically-elected government.

    White elephants have been revered for centuries in Southeast Asia and were the symbol of kingship in Myanmar - also known as Burma -Thailand and Laos. They are regarded as sacred and treated with reverence.

    "According to records, white elephants have emerged during times when kings and governments ruled the nation in accord with the ten kingly virtues," the official New Light of Myanmar daily stated.

    "Emergence of the white elephant is a good omen at this time when the State is endeavoring to build a peaceful, modern and developed nation. It is assumed that the nation will be peaceful, prosper and be totally free from all the dangers because of the white elephant."

    The elephant traveled down river from the Rakhine state capital of Sittway and arrived at the jetty in Yangon Thursday. The eight-year old bull, standing 1.8 meters (6-feet) tall, was among eight elephants caught by forestry officials last month at Chutpyin village in Rakhine State, 550 kilometers (340 miles) northwest of Yangon.

    Experts judged it had the distinctive characteristics of a white elephant, including pearl-colored eyes and white hairs on the body. Its skin is light pink in the rain and soft reddish brown in sunny weather.

    Accompanied by another elephant, it was brought from the jetty on a truck decorated with four white parasols to a temporary elephant shed build on Mindhamma Hill in northern Yangon.

    Official media reported Thursday that Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, third ranking leader in the ruling military council, sprayed sacred water on the elephant in the temporary "White Elephant Hall." Sacred water contains elements of gold, silver and nine kinds of precious stones.

    Mindhamma Hill in Insein township also hosts a huge marble Buddha image erected recently by the government to burnish its religious credentials. Myanmar is a Buddhist nation, and devotion runs deep among most people.

    Nearly 3,000 elephants are still used extensively in Myanmar's forests to haul teak logs. A war between the kings of Myanmar and Thailand was fought in the 16th century over disputed ownership of four white elephants.( AP )

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    Amateur Men's Body Building Championship to Be Held in Myanmar

    YANGON, Nov 17, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The 55th World Amateur Men's Body Building Championship will be held at the National Indoor Stadium-1 here from November 21 to 26, according to the Myanmar Body Building and Physical Culture Federation (MBBPCF) on Saturday.

    Of the 63 countries which have registered to take part in the contest, confirmations have been received from 156 body builders of 58 countries so far, the MBBPCF disclosed, saying that some of the nations may not be able to take part in the contest due to flight difficulties.

    There will be seven divisions in the 6-day contest, it said. Nine contestants of Myanmar will take part in the four events --four in 60-kilo class, two in 65-kilo class, two in 75-kilo class and one in 80-kilo class, it added. The 54th World Amateur Men's Body Building Championship was held in Malaysia.

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