Daily News-November 24 - 2001- Saturday

  • New UN effort in Burma talks
  • Annan's envoy set to visit Myanmar to help democratization, national reconciliation talks
  • Myanmar gives sanctuary to Pak nuke scientists
  • 'Myanmar army attacking resettled villagers'
  • Wa cease-fire group suspends road construction near China border
  • Speed flowing through Laos
  • Indian army team discusses militants' arrest with Burmese officers
  • Locals want Burma power plant monitored
  • Myanmar To Hold Annual Gems Emporium
  • Countries bodering Mekong to hold meeting in Myanamar

  • New UN effort in Burma talks

    BBC (22-11-01)
    By the BBC's Burma analyst Larry Jagan in Bangkok

    United Nations envoy Razali Ismail is due to visit Burma again next week to renew his efforts to facilitate talks between the military government and the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    UN sources told the BBC that Mr Razali is now definitely due to arrive on Tuesday and spend a week meeting both military and opposition leaders. This is the envoy's fourth visit to Burma this year.

    Nearly 200 political prisoners have been released from jail since the beginning of the year when Mr Razali made the secret talks public. But in recent weeks there has been growing concern among diplomats in Rangoon that the talks between the two sides had stalled. It is three months since Mr Razali's last visit and very little has happened since then to suggest that the process is actually entering a new phase.

    Possible solution?

    A top leader from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, Tin U, says the process is still in the confidence-building stage.

    Diplomats in Rangoon fear talks have actually stalled and that the Burmese generals are now trying to spin the process out. The UN, on the other hand, is more optimistic.

    Mr Razali is believed to be working on a plan that he will discuss at length with both the government and the opposition next week. He wants to establish an overall framework that could be the basis for a transition government.

    This would involve both sides accepting that the elections, which the NLD convincingly won more than a decade ago, be put to one side. The military prevented the NLD from taking power despite its victory.

    Foreign aid

    The key immediate issue though is the question of international assistance. Last time Mr Razali was in Burma, the opposition leader indicated her willingness to allow limited humanitarian assistance provided it did not directly benefit the army.

    As a result many countries, particularly Japan and the European Union, have signalled their willingness to support a new international aid programme which was carefully monitored and had combating the spread of Aids as its highest priority.

    Mr Razali, according to UN sources, is keen to see aid resume and will be suggesting that the way forward might be to set up a co-ordinator to oversee both non-government and international aid.He even has some names in mind, a UN source told the BBC.

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    Annan's envoy set to visit Myanmar to help democratization, national reconciliation talks

    23 November - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy to Myanmar is scheduled to visit the country at the end of this month to help facilitate the talks between the Government and opposition leaders, a UN spokesman announced today.

    Razali Ismail is expected to meet with Government leaders, including Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development Council, and senior members of the National League for Democracy, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar, the spokesman, Fred Eckhard, told reporters in New York.

    Mr. Ismail is slated to visit the capital, Yangon, from 27 November to 4 December for his sixth mission to Myanmar since he was appointed Special Envoy in April 2000, according to the spokesman.

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    Myanmar gives sanctuary to Pak nuke scientists

    Press Trust of India

    New Delhi, November 23: Close on the heels of US intelligence officials questioning two Pakistani scientists on their alleged links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, Myanmar authorities have reportedly granted sanctuary to two other Pakistani nuclear scientists following a request from Islamabad, according to highly-placed intelligence sources.

    The two scientists, Dr Suleiman Asad and Dr Mohammad Ali Mukhtar, have been flown to Sagaing division of Myanmar, after the authorities in Yangon acceded to Pakistan regime's request, the sources said in New Delhi. The request made by Pakistan's Foreign Office was promptly accepted after Islamabad gave an assurance that the duo were not involved in any terrorist activity, the sources added.

    They said Asad and Mukhtar were involved in the development of Islamabad's nuclear programme and the US authorities had been looking for them too. CIA and FBI officials had on Tuesday interrogated the other two scientists, Dr Bashiruddin Mehmood, who retired as the chief of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, and Chaudhury Abdul Majid, a former chief engineer, at the American Embassy in Islamabad. The two are now reportedly under house arrest. Pakistan had earlier denied reports that the US had sought their extradition.

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    'Myanmar army attacking resettled villagers'

    The Times Of India

    BANGKOK: Myanmar's army has been attacking settlements of the Karen ethnic minority, forcing many to flee toward the border with Thailand, a relief agency claimed on Friday.

    According to the committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, nine Myanmar army battalions launched attacks on November 11 in three areas of Papun district in Karen State in northeastern Myanmar.

    Armed Karen insurgents, seeking more autonomy for their people, have been fighting the government for more than five decades. The fighting has displaced many Karens from their villages, who now live in temporary settlements such as the ones reportedly being attacked by the army.

    The committee detailed attacks beginning shortly after midnight on November 11 which have driven at least 800 people north and east out of their homes. "Most fled with only the clothes on their backs. Those on the run include over 70 children from a primary and middle school that was located on the Bilin River," said the committee. The Myanmar government did not immediately respond to the claim.

    The committee said there were no casualty figures, adding that these are usually low because people generally can flee ahead of the government troops. But it added there was "an immediate need for relief supplies such as food, cooking pots, and especially now for blankets and warm clothes."

    The committee is a Karen organization that operates on the Myanmar-Thai border, gathering information on the plight of the internal refugees and provides limited assistance. Earlier this month, the committee issued a report saying 37,007 Karen remained displaced in Papun district where over 50 villages were forcibly relocated.

    It said that people from the nearby districts of Nyaunglebin, Taungoo and Thaton districts had also resettled also in Papun district since fleeing army attacks last year. "This has put a strain on the people of this district as they struggle to help feed these new arrivals from their own stocks," it said, adding that food shortages forced some people to refugee camps in Thailand.

    The report claimed that Myanmar's army "continues its attacks... destroying rice supplies, torturing and executing villagers, looting villages, relocating people by force, conducting forced labor, and terrorizing the population by the systematic laying of land mines throughout each district."

    The army has a history of harshness in dealing with ethnic insurgents in the country's border regions.

    The London-based human rights group Amnesty International said in June that ethnic minorities continue to be repressed, mostly with forced labor. Earlier this month, the UN's International Labor Organization said after an inspection tour that legislation enacted in Myanmar last year had failed to wipe out forced labor.( AP )

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    Wa cease-fire group suspends road construction near China border

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Nov 23, 2001
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 21 November

    The Wa Army, which signed the cease-fire agreement with the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] military government, has suspended the road construction project in the Wa region near China-Burma border on 16 November. The project was carried out under the contract signed with the SPDC.

    The Wa organization was permitted to freely engage in economic enterprises under the agreement signed with Secretary-1 Lt Gen Khin Nyunt since the signing of the cease-fire agreement with the SPDC military government. The Wa were permitted to hire Chinese companies for logging and the Wa Army built roads allegedly for regional development.

    On 13 of this month, Maj Thuta Swe, commander of SPDC military intelligence unit No 24 banned the Wa Army from logging enterprise. Following the ban, the Wa Army suspended the construction of 90-mile long road between Panghsang and Mong Yang.

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    Speed flowing through Laos

    The Bangkokpost
    Sermsuk Kasitipradit

    Illicit drugs from Thailand and Burma are crossing Lao borders instead, said the man running Laos' anti-drugs effort. ``Our territory is being used to send illicit drugs to our neighbouring countries,'' Soubanh Srithirath told the 4th Lao-Thai meeting on drugs held in Luang Prabang.

    The minister attached to the Lao President's Office, who chairs the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision, said trafficking of methamphetamines had increased rapidly as a result of crackdowns in Thailand and Burma. ``Thousands of our students and workers are now addicted and several thousands are in rehabilitation,'' Mr Suobanh said. Millions of methamphetamine pills had been sent across the Lao border with Thailand and the Mekong river in the last year.

    The minister dismissed reports in Thai papers that the United Wa State Army, regarded as the biggest source of illicit drugs in the Golden Triangle, had moved its drug plants to Bo Kaeo province in Laos.

    Gen Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayuthaya, who supervises Thailand's anti-drugs efforts, said co-operation between countries in the Golden Triangle had made life more difficult for drugs traffickers. ``They are much in disarray and cannot move drugs as freely as they once did,'' he said. Further co-operation was needed, however, to clamp down on recent drug movements, he said. The government would look at Laos' request that Thailand set up detoxification and rehabilitation centres in Laos, he said.

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    Indian army team discusses militants' arrest with Burmese officers

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Nov 23, 2001
    Text of report by Indian news agency PTI

    Moreh (Manipur), 23 November: An Indian army team held discussions with Myanmar [Burma] army officials at the Myanmarese town of Kalemyo on the recent arrest of some Manipur insurgents, official sources said in this border town Friday [23 November].

    Led by Maj-Gen Iqbal Singh, GOC 57 Mountain Division, the team was understood to have asked the Myanmar officials to hand over the insurgents arrested during raids on underground camps located in that country early this month, sources said.

    Though sources described the discussions as a "normal meeting", it assumes significance as the Myanmar army has arrested several insurgents including some senior leaders and seized over 10m rupees and some sophisticated weapons.

    Myanmar army personnel had raided three underground camps at Tamu,Namphalong and Khunjao, close to the Manipur border between 2 and 10 November, and arrested about 40 insurgents belonging to United National Liberation, People's Liberation Army and People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak.

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    Locals want Burma power plant monitored

    The Bangkokpost

    Chiang Rai _ Local activists have demanded an air pollution control centre be set up in Mae Sai if the government allows a shipment of power generator parts to be sent across the Burmese border to a power plant in Tachilek.

    Praphan Srivichai, from the Rak Mae Sai group, said the locals would allow the shipment through if a centre is set up to monitor air quality in the district.He demanded the government seek Rangoon's written guarantee the power plant in Tachilek will be safe. Rangoon has assured that the plant would meet ISO standards.

    On April 20, 14 trucks carrying generator parts was prevented from crossing the Burmese border by Mae Sai residents who feared the power plant in Tachilek would harm the environment on the Thai side of the border.

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    Myanmar To Hold Annual Gems Emporium

    YANGON, Nov 23, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar will hold its 39th annual gems emporium in March 2002 to put on sale locally-produced quality gems, pearl and jewelry through competitive bidding, tender and at fixed price, according to the Myanmar Ministry of Mines Friday. However, the exact date of holding the emporium has not been fixed yet.

    In addition to annual events taking place every year in March since 1964, Myanmar also used to hold mid-year ones in October introduced since 1992 to boost the country's gems sale.

    At the 38th and 10th mid-year Myanmar gems emporiums held during this year,10.12 million and 9.556 million U.S. dollars were respectively earned. Each emporium attracted hundreds of merchants from over a dozen countries and regions, mostly from China, China's Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

    Myanmar, a well-known producer of jade, ruby and sapphire in the world, has fetched a total of 339.834 million dollars of foreign exchange from its 38 annual and 10 mid-year gems emporiums, according to official statistics.Myanmar enacted the New Gemstone Law in September 1995, allowing national entrepreneurs to mine, produce, transport and sell finished gemstone and manufactured jewelry at home and abroad.

    Since April 2000, the government has reportedly started mining of gems and jade in joint venture with 10 private companies under profit sharing basis.

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    Countries bodering Mekong to hold meeting in Myanamar

    Asia Pulse; Nov 23, 2001-MANILA, Nov 23 Asia Pulse - Ministers from six countries bordering the Mekong River will gather in Yangon, Myanmar on November 29 to discuss ways to step up cooperation.

    Ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, China and Vietnam will share responsibility for the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-assisted Regional Economic Cooperation Program of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). In Yangon, they will discuss a new cooperation strategy covering the next 10 years.

    "Adopting a new strategy for cooperation is a positive step to boosting cross-border trade and investment, and thereby expediting economic integration in the Mekong countries," said Toru Tatara, head of the ADB's GMS unit. With ADB assistance, the six GMS countries first entered into a program of economic cooperation in 1992.

    The program has helped to build trust and confidence through conferences and joint initiatives, and has led to a series of infrastructure projects and other activities.To date, the program had involved 10 projects with investments totaling about US$2 billion, the ADB said in a press statement. It also addressed the environment and social issues such as AIDs and drug trafficking.

    During the forthcoming ministerial meeting, four countries - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - are expected to sign a landmark cross-border agreement to facilitate the flow of people and goods.With China and Myanmar also expected to sign in the near future, the agreement could well lead to expanded trade among the signatories, as well as with the rest of the world.

    The agreement will simplify and harmonize legislation, regulations and procedures relating to cross-border transport, the ADB said.In addition, it will combine border controls to facilitate speedy joint inspections.

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