Daily News-November 22 - 2001- Thursday

  • Myanmar political prisoners get additional sentences
  • Chinese request on power generators to be discussed
  • 'Drug-crazed' man shot dead in Chaing Rai
  • China jails rebel leaders on Myanmar border
  • It's not graft for a change
  • Shipment ban may be lifted
  • NZ Government ears deaf to Burmese pleas

  • Myanmar political prisoners get additional sentences

    BANGKOK, Nov 20 (AFP) - Myanmar's ruling military junta has extended the sentences of 10 political prisoners, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) radio reported on late Monday.

    The 10, including Kyaw Mya, Than Naing, and Bo Bo Han, are currently held in a prison in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar, the Oslo-based station's Burmese (Myanmar) language service said in a broadcast monitored here.

    Their terms were extended by an additional seven years for violation of prison rules, the radio said quoting official sources in Yangon. No further details were given.

    Opposition radio also reported that the military junta has released four other political prisoners of the country's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

    Maung Kyaw, Tin Aung, San Lwin Lay and Hpoe Aye were freed on Monday from Mandalay's prison, according to its official sources in Yangon, it said. "They are all in good health and are reunited with their families," it added.

    The latest release brought to 200 the number of NLD members freed this year. The ruling military regime has also held the NLD's leader, the Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest since September last year after she attempted to go to Mandalay in defiance of a travel ban. The pro-democracy party has demanded the release of an estimated 1,500 political prisoners still being held in Myanmar's jails.

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    Chinese request on power generators to be discussed Shipments to Burma unlikely to be stopped

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Nov 21, 2001

    A meeting will be held in this northern province tomorrow to discuss China's request to allow a shipment of power generators via Mae Sai district to Tachilek, a Third Army officer said yesterday.

    The meeting, to be chaired by National Security Council deputy chief Prakit Prachonpatchanuek, will include Rungrit Makarapong, the Chiang Rai governor, Decha Satthapphon, Mae Sai district chief, and representatives of the Third Army, Science, Technology and Environment Ministry and members of the Mae Sai conservation group. The purpose of holding the meeting is to make the people, who oppose the power plant, understand the Defence Ministry's co-operation policy with China.

    ''We have been instructed to fulfil this task because Burma has confirmed its intention to go ahead with the power plant project and China has found,through a research study, that the plant would not cause any adverse environmental impact,'' said the officer who asked not to be named.

    The National Security Council also held a meeting last month to discuss the matter, but not in the presence of people's representatives. It assigned the Third Army to talk to the people to clear the air.

    A convoy of 14 trailer trucks carrying generator parts from China was stopped at the Mae Sai border checkpoint in Chiang Rai on April 20. The Third Army said the checkpoint was not yet open and stopped the trucks from crossing into Burma. The trucks had to return to Bangkok.Thai-Burmese relations at the time were also tense. The generator parts were intended for a lignite-powered electricity generating plant in Tachilek.

    The people of Mae Sai district had rallied to oppose their shipment, saying the power plant would cause serious environmental problems on the Thai side of the border, citing its similarities with the lignite-fired power plants in Lampang's Mae Moh district.

    Pang Polchai, an adviser to the Mae Sai conservation group, said the people of Mae Sai will persist in blocking the delivery of the parts to Tachilek unless there is a written agreement that if the plant becomes a source of air pollution, Thais affected by it must be compensated and the plant immediately stopped from running until the problems were solved.

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    'Drug-crazed' man shot dead in Chaing Rai

    The Nation

    An unidentified man, who police say appeared to be high on ya ba , or methamphetamines, was shot dead yesterday in Chiang Rai after he allegedly threatened police and villagers with a 55cm knife.

    The man was shot in the neck, chest and abdomen with an 11mm pistol and died instantly, Chiang Rai Police said. He was wearing only trekking shoes and pants. Police say they found 46 methamphetamine pills in his left pocket. At about 10am the man was seen running through Mae Jan district's Pah Bong Luang village threatening people with a knife.

    Lt-Colonel Supot Saeng-phet led about 10 police officers to the village to try to subdue the man. Supot shot him three times after he lunged at him, police said.Police say the unidentified man was either a member of a drug-trafficking gang or an ethnic insurgency group from Burma.

    The shooting comes in the wake of public criticism of police handling of another case in Bangkok earlier this month in which a man high on methamphetamine took a 20-year-old female college student hostage and stabbed her to death before police could rescue her. The incident prompted calls from the public for police to use sharpshooters to end hostage-takings, which have become increasingly frequent with the spread of methamphetamine.

    In another drug-related incident, a shoot-out in Lampang province between a gang of drug dealers and anti-narcotics agents left one official injured and one suspect captured. A team of 60 anti-narcotics agents and 23 policemen yesterday went to search a suspected hide-out of a methamphetamine-trafficking gang in Jae Hom district's Huai Rin village, said Lt-Colonel Ammarin Khattiyawara, deputy commander of the district police.

    The team was fired upon when it arrive at the house,Ammarin said. Corporal Siwarit Meekaew took a bullet in the left shoulder, he said. After a 10-minute exchange of gunfire, five suspects managed to escape but one was arrested, he said. The suspect, identified only as Ah Song, 50, claimed to be the head of an ethnic Lahu group. Police found 74 methamphetamine pills and 26 grams of opium in the house.

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    China jails rebel leaders on Myanmar border

    BEIJING, Nov. 22 China has jailed six leaders of what it called a multinational terrorist organisation fighting Myanmar's ruling military junta from southwestern China, a local court official said on Thursday.

    The six, all Chinese citizens, were members of a group called the ''Myanmar Democratic Union Army'' which carried out kidnappings and armed robberies in China's southwestern province of Yunnan and plotted to attack police and civilians in Myanmar, he said.The group was formed last year in the Chinese city of Ruili on the Myanmar border by Huang Yuequan, a former member of a Myanmar military faction, to raise support for another Myanmar military faction, the court official told Reuters.

    ''The leader of the group said he hated the Myanmar government for killing many Chinese and he was taking revenge,'' the court official said, without elaborating. It was not immediately clear which military faction Huang was involved with and the Myanmar embassy declined to comment.

    There are many ethnic Chinese living just over the border from China in Myanmar's Kokang region, a major poppy-producing area partly controlled by the rebel Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.

    Huang, originally from the southwestern city of Chengdu, recruited 22 people and gave them military training, the official Xinhua news agency said. Operating from its headquarters in a casino on the Myanmar side of the border, the group carried out two kidnappings and countless armed robberies, it said. The court official said police had caught about 15 of the group's members and they were awaiting trial.

    Huang was sentenced to 14 years in prison while the other five leaders were given sentences ranging from one to seven years, he said. Cross-border cooperation between China and Myanmar has increased since an accord signed in January to try and stem the tide of illegal drugs from the region.

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    It's not graft for a change

    The bangkokpost

    It is generally understood that all members of Burma's ruling military clique are corrupt, so it brings a wry smile to the lips to know they sacked two of their own for being ... corrupt. - And just what to do about that old man that Hun Sen so desperately wants to put on trial for trying to kill him? - When the boys get out of hand, there's only one thing for it: Send in a mother figure to knock a few heads together.

    The Burmese junta has pulled off one of its occasional surprises aimed at giving it the veneer of credibility. Two leading military, and thus political, figures have been sacked on charges of corruption at the order of Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the State Peace and Development Council's 1st Secretary.

    The official New Light of Myanmar made the shock announcement in its Nov 10 edition. No explanation was given in the Council's declarations 5/2001 and 6/2001 for the dismissal of Lt-Gen Win Myint, the Council's 3rd Secretary, and Lt-Gen Tin Hla, a deputy prime minister and minister for military affairs, but there was huge speculation that it involved a power struggle among the ruling generals.

    Corruption was just an easy excuse. Graft among the military elite is endemic. Align yourself with the most powerful faction and you will become untouchable, according to one Rangoon watcher.

    A senior Thai army officer who has been monitoring events inside Burma said Lt-Gens Win Myint and Tin Hla are generally known to have close ties with the Council's No 2, army commander Gen Maung Aye, who is known to be at odds with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the No 3.

    Gen Maung Aye is seen as opposed to the opening up of the country, while Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt represents the progressive wing inside the junta. It was Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt who pushed for a political dialogue between the ruling council and the National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi in an effort to break the present political impasse.

    Last week's sackings have helped strengthen Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt's hand inside the junta, said another seasoned watcher, as Lt-Gens Win Myint and Tin Hla are opposed to the dialogue with the NLD.And Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt also has benefitted from the appointment of Maj-Gen Thein Sein, a region commander, as the replacement to Lt-Gen Win Myint as the army adjutant-general.

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    Shipment ban may be lifted

    The Bangkokpost
    Wassana Nanuam

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has backed China's request for Thailand to allow the shipment of power generators through Mae Sai district to Burma.

    The generator parts were intended for a lignite-powered electricity generating plant in the Burmese border town of Tachilek. Local people in Mae Sai district, which is across the border from Tachilek, blocked a convoy of 14 trailer trucks carrying the parts from crossing into Burma on April 20. They feared the power plant would be detrimental to the environment on the Thai side of the border.

    Gen Chavalit, also deputy prime minister, yesterday allayed fears about potential adverse impacts, saying the power plant used new technology.China and Burma had made several requests for the shipment of parts via the Mae Sai border checkpoint, said Gen Chavalit, adding he had delayed his approval as he wanted to make sure the power plant would have no environmental impact on the Thai side.``Both Burma and China confirmed that the power plant would not cause any adverse environmental impact on the Thai border.

    ``I had sent officials to inspect the plant and they found that old technologies were already replaced with new ones,'' Gen Chavalit said.He admitted Thailand had no right to protest against the Burmese project. He said it was difficult to block the shipment from crossing the border since the Mae Sai checkpoint had been reopened.The National Security Council would today call a meeting with relevant agencies to discuss China's request.

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    NZ Government ears deaf to Burmese pleas

    The New Zealand Herald

    The Government's refusal to accept 39 Burmese families from a Thai refugee camp just weeks after rescuing Afghan refugees off the MV Tampa is being criticised as inconsistent by refugee workers.

    Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel yesterday rejected pleas from Burmese in New Zealand to allow friends and family "in danger of their lives" to come here as refugees. She said she had to rely on recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees when deciding the make-up of the refugee quota.

    Burmese refugees in NZ and volunteers who support them wrote to the Government last month when they learned that Thai authorities intend to close the Maneeloy refugee camp before the end of the year and send the remaining refugees to camps on the Thai-Burmese border. The letters warned that the lives of relatives and friends of NZ-based refugees would be in danger if they were sent to the notorious camps.

    The NZ-based refugees want the Government to accept a further 39 families from Karen state - 72 adults and 53 children - whose situation, they say, is "absolutely desperate".

    Lianne Dalziel replied that the Government had to rely on UNHCR assessments. If it got involved it would be seen as political interference.

    David Goold, from the Rawene Centre in Birkenhead, which runs a refugee resettlement programme supporting the Karen refugees, said Ms Dalziel's stance was an inconsistent, knee-jerk reaction. "They intervened for the Tampa boat people and as far as I know none of them had been given refugee status by the UNHCR. "It's totally inconsistent and is just following the world spotlight."

    The Government won praise for its compassionate response to the boat people, but was treating the Karen appeal differently because "the eyes of the world are not on them". "They're sinking in a camp rather than a boat," Mr Goold said, but were also in desperate need.

    The refugees' failure to get UNHCR resettlement status was not because their plight wasn't serious, he said. It was due to the "complicated political situation" where Thai authorities wanted to wash their hands of the refugees.

    New Zealand took in 207 Burmese refugees from Maneeloy this year and Mr Goold said there was an established, active community here willing to support new arrivals. The Thai Government plans to close Maneeloy, the camp where refugees fleeing the regime in Burma have been held before being resettled in third countries.

    Aung Htay Nyan, leader of NZ's Karen community, said around 50 refugees were due to leave for the US but more than 300 others who had been refused resettlement status by the UNHCR would be sent to camps on the Thai-Burmese border.

    The Herald visited Maneeloy in February and this week received a letter from Moses Zan, a refugee in the camp, pleading for help.

    Mr Zan wrote: "It is an irresponsible act of the UNHCR to classify [those remaining] as border-case refugees. They are genuine refugees under the mandate of the UN convention on refugees."

    A recent US Committee for Refugees report reached similar conclusions, saying: "Many convention refugees may have been left unprotected".

    Mr Nyan said life in the border camps was extremely dangerous and the refugees, who had fought the Burmese authorities, were in danger of being pushed back into the country. That had happened before and refugees had "disappeared".

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