Daily News-October 17 - 2001- Wednesday


  • Authorities squash NLD attempt to open office in Mandalay
  • Ethnic groups meet UN special envoy, claim lack of political freedom
  • Burma rejects EU charges
  • Myanmar Not Facing Food Problem
  • Burma situation discussed
  • Red Wa strengthen town against attacks
  • Thailand fishery officials visits Myanmar
  • UN envoy cuts short Myanmar trip for health reasons


  • Authorities squash NLD attempt to open office in Mandalay

    Text of report in English by Burmese opposition electronic newspaper BurmaNet News on 13 October

    Mandalay: Burma's military regime has acted quickly to squash an attempt by the National League for Democracy [NLD] to open a constituency office outside of Rangoon.

    On Monday [15 October], when members of the Pyigyidagun branch of the NLD in the south part of Mandalay city sought permission for the party to re-open its township office, they were advised by officials of the divisional electoral office that the party did not have official recognition in the township, according to a ruling of the national Multiparty Electoral Commission.

    When U Saw Htay of the NLD's Pyigyidagun branch asked for the ruling to be delivered in written form, he was told that the local electoral office did not have authority from the district electoral commission to issue such a statement.

    Since NLD party offices have been allowed to re-open in more than 20 constituencies in Rangoon division, party officials are questioning what basis in law the Multiparty Electoral Commission could find for recognizing the right of the NLD party branches to organize in the capital while denying constituency branches the same right in other parts of the country. The answer would appear to be that the Electoral Commission is not guided by the law in arriving at its decisions.
    Ethnic groups meet UN special envoy, claim lack of political freedom

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 13 October

    [Ko Moe Aye] We heard that Mr Pinheiro met with five nationality groups including yours. Could you tell us about that meeting?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Frankly speaking, it is quite demoralizing. Nothing has improved. His report was a little optimistic because he did not get his facts right. The nationality parties such as the Arakan, Mon, Chin, and Karen were unable to engage in party activities and he had to be told. We told him that we wanted to participate in party activities in a similar manner to the NLD [National League for Democracy].

    [Ko Moe Aye] What did Mr Pinheiro tell the five nationality parties?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Well, he understood the five parties were unable to do any party activities so he told us why we did not pursue further. We told him we were unable to contact the township, district, state, and division authorities. He did not seem to know the facts.

    [Ko Moe Aye] In his report he said that the human rights situation has improved. He wrote it in a positive light.

    [U Khun Tun Oo] He said something like cautious optimism. He even asked where is the optimism? We gave him a diplomatic reply but in real terms the situation is not favourable.

    [Ko Moe Aye] What was his impression after meeting with you and the nationalities?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Well, he will have to rewrite his report. He will have to write that the nationality parties have no freedom of movement to do any political activity.

    [Ko Moe Aye] Did you discuss other things?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] He asked whether there were any arrests and I frankly said no since the climate has improved regarding the political process [preceding two words in English] and that there have been no arrests. He inquired whether there was any detention recently and I simply replied no. He asked why and I said it might be because of the good political climate.

    [Ko Moe Aye] In yesterday's news he also met with the USDA [Union Solidarity and Development Association] group. Did he tell you anything about that?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Well, he met with one Kayah group, two Karen groups, and one Mon group. The two Karen groups could be Phado Aung San's and Saw Thamu He's groups. He said he met with the cease-fire groups. He also said he met with S-1 [SPDC Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt] as well.

    [Ko Moe Aye] Did he give a rough explanation about his meeting with S-1?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] No, he did not. He just informed us about his meeting.

    [Ko Moe Aye] Can you tell us how long you were able to talk with Mr Pinheiro? Whether you were able to present your views fully and how much time was allocated?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] He talked with us for about one and half hours. We all tackled him with questions. He even asked whether Mr Razali knows about all this and we said yes, we told him so. We explained to him the difficulties of ethnic people, even to travel to the districts. We also told him about the lack of political activity, freedom of association, freedom of organization, and freedom of assembly and gathering. We said these should be allowed because once the political process changes, we want to be ready. We had to explain it to him. He thought we had already started the dialogue process. He said that only the NLD is active then and we told him that NLD and USDA are engaging in the activities. The Shan party, being a legitimate party, was active for a while. There wasn't much pressure though. It was worse for the other groups. The UNLD [United Nationalities League for Democracy] won over 40 seats, including those from the Mon, Arakan, and Chin groups.

    [Ko Moe Aye] I believe Mr Pinheiro has asked permission to visit the jails.

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Yes, he has and I think he will visit Insein Central Jail.

    [Ko Moe Aye] What is your opinion of his itinerary and what you discussed?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Since he is staying a little longer than the last time and if his visit is more thorough, then I think he will be able to know 50 per cent of the actual news. It will be different from his first visit because I have read his report.
    Burma rejects EU charges

    BBC
    By BBC Burma analyst Larry Jagan

    The Burmese Government has rejected allegations made by European MPs last week that the army was still using forced labour. The Government spokesman told the BBC that the MPs had made up their minds without examining the real situation.

    Evidence was submitted to hearing at the European Parliament that British and French oil companies in Burma were dependent on forced labour to lay their pipeline to Thailand and that the Burmese army colluded in this practise. The Burmese Government remains convinced that most of its critics are politically motivated.

    In a statement to the BBC the military spokesman Colonel Hla Min said the European MPs had ignored the facts and were not prepared to acknowledge the real developments that had taken place in the country.

    ILO investigation

    On the issue of forced labour, Burma's military leaders have good reason to feel aggrieved - especially at the timing of the MP's renewed allegations. After all, the Burmese government has just allowed in a major investigative mission from the International Labour Organisation to assess Burma's efforts to stamp out the use of forced labour.

    Many of the documented incidents of forced labour tabled at the European Parliament occurred more than a year ago. The government says it outlawed forced labour officially late last year. The ILO mission has now completed its research and is currently preparing its report for the organisation┐s meeting in Geneva next month. It is going to be more thorough than any other UN investigation so far held into Burma's human rights record.

    Courage

    While in Burma, the four-member team travelled independently of the army to locations they wanted to visit and used their own interpreters to gather testimonies. According to ILO sources, the team were impressed with the courage of those who came to talk to them.

    The mission then spent a week in northern Thailand talking to refugees - Shan, Karen and Karennis - who had fled Burma to escape being used by the army as porters. The ILO is remaining tight-lipped about the mission and say it will all be in the report when its published.

    Engagement

    In the meantime, the Burmese Government continues to insist the international community still has not given it credit for reforms implemented over the past year. The EU has already signalled its willingness to review its policy of isolating Burma if Rangoon is really committed to introducing political change.

    For Burma's part, the military spokesman told the BBC, the government always welcomed constructive, realistic and meaningful engagement. But the question remains to what extent are Burma's ruling generals actually willing to reciprocate.
    Myanmar Not Facing Food Problem

    YANGON, October 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar leader Lieutenant- General Khin Nyunt claimed on Tuesday that his country does not face any food problem, saying that it will never face the problem in the future either.

    Speaking at a ceremony here marking the World Food Day, Khin Nyunt noted that in addition to fulfilling its local demand, his country will also help fulfill the local and international food requirements to the best of its ability. He told the ceremony that Myanmar's surface area and population are in a proper proportionate ratio.

    He said the Myanmar government is applying various means to extend cultivated areas, to supply adequate amount of irrigation water and to develop farm machinery manufacturing enterprises as well as making arrangements to develop the use of modern agricultural methods and high-yield crop strains. He called for cooperation among all developed and developing nations to ensure food sufficiency for the whole civilization to be free from poverty and hunger.

    Myanmar's agricultural sector, in which 65 percent of its labor force are engaged in, contributes to the country's gross national product by 42 percent. The cultivable area of Myanmar's agricultural sector is 18.225 million hectares, of which 10.125 million have been put under crops, while 8.1 million remain to be utilized. To promote agricultural development, Myanmar government has exempted the import duties of agricultural implements including fertilizer, pesticide, improved variety and machinery.
    Burma situation discussed

    Bangkok Post - October 16, 2001.

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and British ambassador Lloyd Smith met yesterday to discuss the national reconciliation process in Burma, a defence source said. Mr Smith said he was concerned about a reported conflict among the junta leaders which could pose a setback to the process, said the source.

    Gen Chavalit assured the ambassador there was no conflict among Burmese strongmen Gen Than Shwe, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and Gen Maung Aye. The minister said he was confident the process would get under way soon. Gen Chavalit has close ties with the Burmese military leaders. A dialogue process is under way between Rangoon and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt has asked Gen Chavalit to get the rebel groups talking. The minister would begin with the Kaya rebels and the Karen National Union. The Shan State Army would be left until later as it had set a large number of conditions.
    Red Wa strengthen town against attacks

    The Bangkokpost
    Wassana Nanuam

    The Red Wa-controlled Mong Yawn town in Burma has been fortified against anticipated air attacks on drug factories, an army intelligence source said.

    The United Wa State Army has installed Chinese-made anti-aircraft guns and started building a fence and forts around the border town last month, the source said. The town's defence system was specially designed to cope with air attacks amid fears the Thai military would step up drug suppression efforts against the Red Wa.

    The source said the Red Wa was expected to produce up to one billion speed pills next year despite the Rangoon government's policy to rid Burma of drugs in five years.
    Thailand fishery officials visits Myanmar

    BANGKOK, Oct 15 (AFP) - A high-ranking official delegation from Thailand's fisheries department arrived in Yangon on Monday to meet Myanmar authorities to discuss re-deployment of Thai fishing trawlers in Myanmar waters, state media said.

    A 13-member Thai mission, headed by Dhammarong Prakobbon, Director General of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry's Fisheries Department, was welcomed at Yangon airport by their Myanmar counterpart, TV Myanmar reported late Monday.

    The official invitation to the Thai mission was made under the agreement of bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries, it said without eleborating further details.

    Myanmar cancelled Thai fishing licenses in October 1999 after the Thai government supplied an escape helicopter to five anti-junta gunmen in exchange for the release of hostages held captive at Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok.

    Since then, Thai Fishery Department and Foreign Ministry officials have travelled several times to the military-ruled nation in the hope of negotiating a workable deal for Thai trawlers. Despite a series of talks, the two sides have failed to reach agreement on the revival of fishing concessions in a stand-off that has cost Thai fishermen dearly.

    The relations between the two neighbouring countries has improved following the two leadership's recent goodwill visits. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited Yangon in June and the Myanmar junta's number three, military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt, travelled to Bangkok last month.
    UN envoy cuts short Myanmar trip for health reasons

    YANGON, Oct. 17 - The U.N.'s human rights envoy to Myanmar is cutting short a visit to the military-ruled country for health reasons, officials said on Wednesday.

    They said Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N.'s special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, would return to his native Brazil. He arrived on October 9 and had been due to stay until Saturday.

    ''Mr Pinheiro is leaving Myanmar this evening,'' a United Nations official told Reuters. Pinheiro declined to comment on his visit when contacted by Reuters by telephone. ''It's a bit premature to comment. I'm preparing a press communique,'' he said. ''Our headquarters in Geneva will issue it today.''

    Pinheiro, making his second visit to the country, met senior government members before leaving for the Shan, Kachin and Mandalay areas of the country on October 13.

    The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which won elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern, criticised Pinheiro for not doing enough on his current trip to investigate the human rights situation.

    ''During this visit, he shouldn't have spent so much time with government and other officials without investigating the basic human rights situation,'' NLD Secretary U Lwin told the BBC's Myanmar-language service. U Lwin said Pinheiro had not met NLD leaders during his current visit.

    PARIAH STATE

    Myanmar is regarded as a pariah state by much of the international community because of its human rights record and its treatment of the NLD. NLD Secretary-General Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been held in de facto house arrest for more than a year.

    The government began regular confidential meetings with Suu Kyi a year ago, aimed at breaking the political deadlock. The talks have not yielded any concrete political deal, but since they began the government has been steadily releasing political detainees.

    On the day Pinheiro arrived, five NLD prisoners were freed, bringing the total number of releases since the talks began to 174. Pinheiro first visited Myanmar in April after being appointed as special envoy in February by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

    A report written by Pinheiro and released by the U.N. earlier this month welcomed efforts by Myanmar's ruling military to improve human rights in the country, but repeated calls for the release of all political prisoners.Amnesty International says there are more than 1,500 political detainees in Myanmar.

    Pinheiro's predecessor, Rajsoomer Lallah, was never allowed to visit Myanmar, and in his final report last year he accused the military of torturing, raping and executing civilians. (With additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok)