Daily News-October 14 - 2001- Sunday

  • UN rights envoy tours Myanmar's northern border area
  • U.S. State Dept. official calls on Suu Kyi
  • THAI :Economic agency to handle investments
  • Refugee influx hurts fragile ecosystem
  • Stranded pilgrims return home from Burma

  • UN rights envoy tours Myanmar's northern border area

    YANGON, Oct 13 (AFP) - United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was due to meet with minority and democratic opposition leaders in Myanmar's north as part of his second visit here, official sources said Saturday.

    Pinheiro was expected to leave Yangon early Saturday for the northern Shan state capital of Lashio, with planned stops at points near the Chinese border. He is due back in Yangon on October 19.

    The Brazilian academic will first visit Muse before journeying to the Kokang and Wa regions, where he is expected to meet with ethnic militias that have signed ceasefire agreements with Myanmar's junta.

    According to an official itinerary, he will travel to the ancient capital of Mandalay, 540 miles (860 kilometres) north of Yangon, for a meeting with leaders of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

    For the remainder of his tour, Pinheiro will visit Myintkyina, in the Kachin State.While there, he is expected to talk with military and government officials as well as leaders from the Kachin Independence Organisation, the political wing of the minority Kachin Independence Army.

    Returning to Mandalay on Tuesday, he will go to the ancient city of Bagan, to stay overnite and visit cultural and religious sites.

    On Thursday, he will visit the capital of southern Shan state to meet leaders from another minority group that has signed the ceasefire pact, the Pa-o National Organization.

    The UN envoy is expected to meet with NLD leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on his return from the upcountry trip.

    Pinheiro, the first UN human rights envoy allowed to visit Myanmar since 1996, is to end his visit on October 20. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the results of the April trip, and the working relationship was cemented Monday when the junta released five top political prisoners to mark Pinheiro's arrival.

    During his first visit Pinheiro was allowed to see Aung San Suu Kyi, who has remained under house arrest for the past year, and spoke of an atmosphere of "cautious optimism" for possible change in the country.

    The UN Human Rights Commission passed a resolution in April with the support of 53 countries saying rights abuses and persecution of the political opposition in Myanmar were at an unacceptable level.

    But Myanmar's junta insisted the resolution failed to accurately portray the situation, particularly because it relied on information supplied by the UN's previous rights rapporteur.
    U.S. State Dept. official calls on Suu Kyi

    YANGON, Oct. 13, Kyodo - A U.S. State Department official in charge of U.S.-Myanmar relations met Saturday with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.

    Judith Strotz, the Myanmar desk officer at the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs, met the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader at her house in Yangon, where she has been under effective house arrest since Sept. 22 last year.

    Strotz arrived in Yangon Friday and was due to leave Yangon later Saturday after meeting Suu Kyi, according to diplomatic sources.

    Her visit marks the third by a State Department official to meet Suu Kyi since the beginning of the year when news surfaced of secret dialogue ongoing between Suu Kyi and the military government. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ralph Boyce visited Suu Kyi on Feb. 26 and again on Aug. 2.

    Strotz's visit came amid that by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, special rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights on the human rights situation in Myanmar, who arrived in Yangon on Tuesday for a 12-day investigative mission, his second to Myanmar this year after having visited in April.

    Pinheiro left Yangon on Saturday to assess the human rights situation in the countryside, having already held talks in Yangon with senior junta figure Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, Foreign Minister Win Aung, the ambassadors of Southeast Asian and Western countries, representatives of ethnic minorities and welfare organizations. Pinheiro will visit Shan State and Kachin state and will inspect a prison in central Myanmar where political prisoners are being held.

    The junta has since January released from prison or from detention centers 174 NLD-affiliated political prisoners, including 53 NLD members who were elected to Parliament in the 1990 general elections, which the NLD won by a landslide but was blocked from coming to power by the military. He is due to meet with Suu Kyi and NLD leaders on his return from the field trip, according to diplomatic sources.
    THAI :Economic agency to handle investments

    Bangkok Post, Sunday 14 October 2001
    Wassana Nanuam

    All talks on investment between Thailand and Burma will have to go through the Thai-Burmese Economic Friendship Association, said Gen Sanan Kachornklam, an adviser to the defence minister.

    He said Burma's Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, informed all Burmese agencies to go through the association. The association was founded last month by Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.Gen Sanan led a delegation to Rangoon for talks with senior Burmese military officers on Oct 9-11.

    ``Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt believes Thailand and Burma will no longer have problems but will co-operate for economic development. He gives us full support. If state-level talks fail, the private sector can talk via the association,'' he said.

    Thailand and Burma would set up special industrial zones and bamboo paper factories in the Tachilek-Chiang Rai, Myawaddy-Tak, and Kawthaung-Ranong areas. To promote tourism, more tours to Burma would be arranged and joint tourism offices set up in Myawaddy, Tachilek and Kawthaung, in Burma, and in Bangkok. To boost cultural ties, the nations would join hands to organise Loy Krathong festivities, cultural exhibitions and student exchanges.

    Gen Sanan said Burma still refused to grant fishing concessions to Thais except for joint-venture investments. But the fisheries chief would hold talks on the issue tomorrow with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.
    Refugee influx hurts fragile ecosystem

    Bangkok Post, Sunday 14 October 2001
    By Kultida Samabuddhi

    The refugee influx from Burma has severely degraded Thailand's western forest complex, one of the most pristine ecosystems in Southeast Asia, environmentalists said yesterday.

    Thirteen refugee camps with around one million displaced people, mostly ethnic minorities from Burma, have been set up along Thailand's western border, which was part of the forest, said Ratchada Chaisawadi, of the Union for Civil Liberty.

    ``The government's unstable policy on the western border issue and refugees are causing negative effects on soil, water and biological resources in the country's largest protected forest area,'' she said.

    Rataya Chanthien, of Sueb Nakasathien Foundation, said the camps, packed with people, had depleted a great deal of natural resources. Problems relating to refugees and the border were intractable, related as they were to national security and Thailand's relationship with its neighbour.

    ``Even the government is unable to tackle these problems,'' Mrs Rataya told a forum on the western forest complex, organised by the Thai Society of Environmental Journalists.

    Covering 11.7 million rai, the forest consists of six wildlife sanctuaries, 10 national parks, and one forest reserve. They include the natural World Heritage sites Thung Yai and Huay Kha Kaeng wildlife sanctuaries. The complex is home to more than 2,500 varieties of plant, 150 types of animal and 470 bird species. It is also the last habitat for large and near-extinct animals such as wild elephants, tigers, gaurs, bantengs, tapirs.

    Chatchawal Pisdamkham, head of the Western Forest Complex Ecosystem Management Programme (Wefcom), said degradation of the forest arose from misuse of forest land. People lacked knowledge about forest ecology. Wefcom is a three-year project, initiated by the Forestry Department with financial support from the Danish Co-operation for Environmental Development.

    ``Some sensitive areas, such as Khao Ban Dai in Huay Kha Kaeng wildlife sanctuary, must be saved as a strictly natural area, a place free from human activity, to protect the fragile ecosystem of fauna and flora,'' he said. Anak Pattanavibool, Wefcom's wildlife ecologist, said activities threatening the forest included state development projects such as dams and roads, depletion of natural resources by minority groups, the camps, and poaching wild animals.

    ``There are still poachers in the protected areas. Most of them hunt for wild elephant tusks,'' he said. Panelists also expressed concern about mining concessions in the forest, including two mines at the south of Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary. Mrs Rataya said mine operators had applied for concessions covering more than 20,000 rai of land and were waiting for permission from the Forestry Department. ``The department should not allow mining in the forest and should immediately annex the area to the proposed Lam Klong Ngu national park,'' she said .
    Stranded pilgrims return home from Burma

    Straitstimes, (Singapore)

    OCT 13, 2001 -KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian missionaries stranded in a Burma jail for more than a year, have been brought home by Umno Youth. The six missionaries from the Tabligh group had been jailed for entering Burma illegally, Berita Harian Malaysia reported yesterday.

    Umno Youth had brought them home at a cost of RM10,000 (S$4,700) after learning about their plight from the Malaysian Embassy in Rangoon. Upon their release, they had walked 200 km over 40 days after crossing the border between Thailand and Burma.

    Missionary Syed Sultan said the episode had begun when the group attended a gathering of missionaries in Thailand last year. He and his colleagues had decided on a pilgrimage to Mecca overland. They had lost their passports in Thailand but travelled on until they were caught by Burmese soldiers.

    Umno Youth official Shamsul Anwar Sulaiman said: 'They were released in April this year after a year's jail but stranded because they had no money to fly home.' He said the International Red Crescent Society had come to know about their problems while visiting the Kyaingtong Prison in Chengton, about 1,000 km from Rangoon. 'We were well treated in prison,' said Syed Sultan.