Daily News-October 28 - 2001- Sunday

  • U.S. lists worst governments for freedom of faith
  • Myanmar begs magistrate not to deport him
  • Druglords caught in joint effort

  • U.S. lists worst governments for freedom of faith

    By Norman Kempster
    Los Angeles Times

    WASHINGTON — The Bush administration designated the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and six other governments the world's worst persecutors of religious believers yesterday, but rejected calls to include other countries the White House views as key in the war on terrorism.

    Human-rights groups said Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan should have been added to the annual list released by the State Department. The groups said the nations were omitted because the Bush administration needs their help in combating the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

    The State Department added just one government, North Korea, to its list of the most egregious offenders of religious liberty. The Taliban and China, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar and Sudan were also on the list last year.

    State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said officials did not pull any punches to avoid disturbing the anti-terrorism coalition, noting China and Sudan have provided "good cooperation" to the U.S. war on terrorism despite their continued presence on the list. Religious freedom remains an important aspect of U.S. foreign policy," Boucher said.

    The State Department is required to issue its list and a report under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The White House, in turn, is required to impose sanctions on the designated countries, although officials are given wide latitude in choosing the penalties. The administration also can waive the sanctions. The government's own Commission on International Religious Freedom — an independent body appointed by the president and congressional leaders — had urged the department to add North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Laos this year. Nongovernmental human-rights groups also called for the inclusion of Uzbekistan.

    "We are pleased to see that North Korea is a country of particular concern," said Lawrence Goodrich, spokesman for the commission. "We believe that Saudi Arabia, Laos and Turkmenistan are countries of particular concern and should have been so designated."

    Boucher conceded "there is, essentially, no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia," noting the government prohibits the open practice of any religion other than Islam. But he said the situation was unchanged from last year, so "one would not expect the designation to change." He made much the same point in discussing Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Islamic countries on Afghanistan's northern border. "Clearly, the administration doesn't want to offend the allies through excessive truth telling," said Tom Malinowski, an official at Human Rights Watch.

    The State Department report was sharply critical of religious practices in Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, even though the countries are not on the list. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are accused of persecuting Muslims who refuse to attend state-controlled mosques.

    Although China was listed as an egregious offender, the report softened last year's criticism of its repression of the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group in the Xinjiang region. China claims anti-government Uighurs are affiliated with bin Laden's network. The report also listed improvements in religious freedom during the past year, placing Mexico at the top of the list.

    Other countries where an improvement was noted included Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Rwanda.
    Myanmar begs magistrate not to deport him

    The Star

    KUALA LUMPUR: A Myanmar, who claimed to be a revolutionary in his country, begged a magistrate here yesterday not to deport him back to his native land as he feared he would be killed by the military.

    Abdul Shukor Abul Kasim, 30, pleaded before magistrate Tengku Amir Zaki Tengku Abdul Rahman not to send him back to Arakan, his hometown in Myanmar, as the Myanmar military would kill him for being a revolutionary activist.

    Asked by the magistrate to show proof, Abdul Shukor said he had a photograph in his bag to verify his claim. A policeman brought the bag which contained a photograph showing Abdul Shukor in a uniform and holding a rocket launcher.

    Abdul Shukor had pleaded guilty to entering and staying in Malaysia without a valid pass or permit with four others from Myanmar at Villa Laman Tasik 16 in Bandar Sri Permaisuri, Cheras at about 11pm on Oct 3. He said he had a Cambodian Muslim wife and a child to take care of and he wanted to return soon to Thailand where they were now staying.

    The magistrate fined Abdul Shukor RM8,000 in default three months’ jail and ordered that he be sent back to his country. The four others, Abdullah @ Kyaw Win, 18, Mohd Husin Mohd Saufi, 39, Naa Wee Hosen, 31 and Jahangir Sultan Ahmad, 33, also pleaded guilty to committing the offence and were each fined RM8,000 in default three months’ jail by the magistrate.

    Jahangir, in his mitigation told the magistrate that he was a UNHCR refugee and had been in Malaysia for six months. He asked for a reduced jail sentence or immediate release as he claimed, he had to seek treatment for previous injuries due to alleged torture by the Myanmar military.
    Druglords caught in joint effort

    The Bangkokpost
    Sermsuk Kasitipradit

    Burma is committed, says Thammarak

    The recent capture of two leading drug traffickers in Burma was the result of improved co-operation between Bangkok and Rangoon, said PM's Office Minister Thammarak Issarangkul na Ayudhya.The suspects were thought to be directly involved in the trafficking of 116 kilogrammes of heroin and 7.8 million methamphetamine pills seized this year in the Andaman Sea.

    Gen Thammarak, who supervises the Narcotics Control Board, said he was pleased Nyein Kyaw and Kyaw Hlaing, arrested in Rangoon and the Shan State on Oct 8 and 13, had been caught.

    ``The arrests came about because we co-ordinated and exchanged intelligence information. This is a good sign which shows our determination in fighting illicit drugs,'' the Thai Rak Thai party-list MP said.

    On Jan 7, the ONCB joined police, the army and the navy to arrest six Thais aboard two Thai fishing trawlers in the Andaman Sea.``The seizure would not have been possible without intelligence co-operation,'' said Gen Thammarak.The street value of the drugs was estimated at tens of millions of dollars.

    A drug official said the ONCB sought the co-operation of Burma's Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control.The office had told staff there about the possible involvement of Nyein Kyaw.The official said Rangoon kept a close eye on Nyein Kyaw and captured him at the Eastern Hotel on Bo Myat Tun Street on Oct 8.

    Nyein Kyaw admitted shipping the drugs aboard his trawler, Shwengagyi, and handing them over in the Andaman Sea.He said Yaw Phar Li funded the smuggling operation.An ONCB official said Nyein Kyaw and Yaw Phar Li were regarded as leading drug traffickers.

    The official said Yaw Phar Li kept a record in his notebook of drug trafficking in Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces in 1998 involving 841kg of heroin and 5.5 million speed pills.``We may have had problems with Burma in the past but the situation has improved and will lead to a more efficient war against drugs,'' Gen Thammarak said.