Daily News-September 01 - 2001- Saturday

  • Myanmar opposition hopes for new prisoner releases after envoy's visit
  • Statement By The British Foreign Secretary
  • Burma women addressed NGO delegates at WCAR
  • Burmese students vow to stay calm
  • Khin Nyunt talks to include labour issue
  • Illegals to be flown to Rangoon
  • M'sia Offers Military Technology To Myanmar From

  • Myanmar opposition hopes for new prisoner releases after envoy's visit

    YANGON, Aug 31 (AFP) - Myanmar's democratic opposition said Friday it was hopeful that more political prisoners would be released soon to mark a successful mission by UN envoy Razali Ismail to the military-run nation.

    During the four-day trip which ended Thursday, Razali pushed the junta to release 29 elected MPs from the opposition National League for Democracywho remain in jail.The release of the 29 and other leading NLD figures, particularly those who are elderly or infirm, is believed to be a top priority of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who began talks with the ruling junta in October.

    An NLD source said the party was hopeful the military government, which has freed nearly 200 dissidents since the talks began, will release another three MPs who have been hospitalised.

    "We are quite worried about U Win Tin, who is a trusted lieutenant of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi serving an extended jail term at Insein jail, and also U Win Myint and Thu Way, who we understand are presently being treated at the Guard Ward of the Yangon General Hospital," the source said.

    "Quite a number of the other MPs have also passed 60 ... some are suffering from heart ailments and other conditions such as arthritis and lumbago ... we're hoping that they will be the first ones to be released."

    All the NLD MPs -- elected in 1990 elections which the junta refused to recognise -- who were being held at government "guest houses" have been released during the political thaw of this year.

    Some of the prominent figures now expected to be freed include Aye Tha Aung, a representative of ethnic parties and Than Nyein, brother of Myanmar's powerful chief of military intelligence Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt.

    The NLD source said there are also some 20 student activists including the well-known Min Ko Naing, whose terms have expired but who are being kept in jail under a law which protects the state against "destructive elements."

    Razali said little about the progress of his mission while in Yangon, but after he departed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said his efforts to promote national reconciliation and democratic reform remained on track."Razali was pleased to confirm that all parties remain committed to the process of national reconciliation," Annan said in a statement."He hopes that further progress in the ongoing talks between the government and the NLD will be possible."

    Razali's fifth visit was surrounded by a buzz of expectations, especially when the junta released two top NLD members from house arrest on the eve of his arrival in a significant goodwill gesture.A UN source said the mood of the visit was "much more relaxed" than before, but observers said it was hard to know when the talks, which have been held under tight secrecy, will make a public step forward.There are hopes, particularly among groups excluded from the dialogue such as ethnic minorities, that Aung San Suu Kyi will make a statement on the progress and content of the talks -- perhaps when the 29 NLD MPs and a handful of other top opposition figures are freed.

    "I think a statement would be useful but I don't think any of us should say it is essential," said one diplomat."Anything could happen and something could happen quite quickly, one never knows."
    Statement By The British Foreign Secretary

    Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    In response to the UN Special Envoy Razali's latest visit to Burma, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today:

    ‘I am encouraged that the UN Special Envoy for Burma, Razali Ismail, was again granted access to Burma's political leaders during his latest visit this week, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. I hope his visit will inject even greater urgency into a process leading to national reconciliation and a return to democracy in Burma.

    ‘I was also pleased to learn of the release of NLD Chairman Aung Shwe and Vice Chairman Tin Oo last Sunday.

    ‘I look forward to the outcome of UN Human Rights envoy Pinheiro's visit next month, and to the report of the ILO Assessment Mission on forced labour, also due in Burma in September. If real progress is made in Burma towards improved human rights and political freedoms, we shall respond in kind.’
    Burma women addressed NGO delegates at WCAR

    August 31, 2001, Durban, South Africa
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    A panel discussion on Burma under the title of "Cycles of Displacement: Reality for Women under Burma Military" was held this morning at the Asia-Pacific Tent inside the on-going World Conference Against Racism NGO Forum in Durban, South Africa. The discussion was organised by the delegates from Women’s League of Burma (WLB) who are participating as a part of Burma delegates in the NGO Forum.

    Three representatives from WLB presented papers on the situation of women in Burma under the military government and also the situation of Burma women refugees living along the border areas of the country.

    "Women in Burma, particularly the ethnic minority women are discriminated inside Burma in various aspects. They leave their native places due to the multiple discrimination they face inside Burma. Then, when they reach to the border areas and stay as refugees, they once again face discrimination in host countries", said a delegate of the WLB.

    The Burma women delegates urged the government of Thailand not to repatriate the refugees from Burma as long as the military government rules the country. A video show "No Justice, No Peace" was also organised at the end of the panel discussion.

    This morning, the inter governmental meetings of the World Conference Against Racism opened in Durban and the opening session was addressed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, the President of host country South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the President of the General Assembly, Harri Holkeri, and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.

    More than two thousand delegations from total 153 countries, apart from nearly three thousand delegates from non-governmental organisations are participating in this governmental World Conference Against Racism, which is being held from 31st August to 7th September. Two-member delegates from Myanmar (Burma) military government is also participating in the conference.
    Burmese students vow to stay calm

    source : The Nation-Published on Aug 30, 2001

    A Burmese dissidents’ group yesterday assured Thai authorities it would not cause any unrest during next week’s visit by Burmese intelligence chief Lt General Khin Nyunt.

    The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) said it had made the decision because it did not want to harm the ongoing dialogue within Burma.

    Our decision to stay calm during Khin Nyunt’s visit is not because we are afraid of him. We do not want to impact the dialogue inside Burma,it said in a statement.

    United Nations envoy Razali Ismail has in the last four days met with both junta leaders and Burma’s main opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Ismail left Rangoon yesterday.

    Suu Kyi has spent much of the past 11 years under house arrest after winning a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections. The junta never allowed parliament to convene.

    Khin Nyunt, also the junta’s first secretary, is due to arrive in Bangkok on Monday and will stay until Wednesday as a guest of the Defence Ministry. Thai authorities are worried that Burmese dissidents living in Thailand will attempt to cause trouble during his visit.

    The ABSDF statement said the organisation understood Thailand’s attempts to solve bilateral problems through peaceful means. But it said the Thai gov¬ernment should also be aware that the best way to solve existing problems was through sincere political dialogue. All bilateral problems – illegal immigrants, displaced per¬sons and drug trafficking have been caused by Burma’s internal problems, so what is needed is political discussion, said the ABSDF.Therefore, Thailand should not use “business” in its attempt to solve the existing problems, the statement said.

    Defence Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said protection for Khin Nyunt would be similar to other visiting leaders – the Burmese had not asked for special protection. Chavalit was speaking after chairing a meeting of interior, defence and foreign affairs ministries in relation to the Burmese leader’s visit. Deputy Defence Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa said any movements of the Burmese dissidents during the visit were allowed, as long as they were within the law.
    Khin Nyunt talks to include labour issue

    By Bhanravee Tansubhapol
    source : The Bangkokpost

    Thailand will propose that Burma enter into a memorandum of understanding on legal labour when Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt pays a visit next week.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said he would submit a draft MoU on a regime for the import and export of foreign labour to Burma's State Peace and Development Council's Secretary One.A source said the draft was a bid to open a ``new channel'' for labour flows, and to address the problem of Thai employers who claimed they were resorting to illegal means because there was no legal means for hiring labour.

    But the draft was envisaged for the future and would not deal with the estimated 800,000 illegal Burmese workers now in the country , the source said. Agreement on the regime was expected to help reduce the inflow of illegal Burmese workers.Work on the draft started this month, and an agreement in principle could allow the document to be signed at the Thai-Burmese Joint Commission meeting, postponed from this month to December, the source said.The draft provides for protection of workers' welfare and rights, the source said.

    Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt will hold separate talks with Mr Surakiart, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on his Sept 3-5 visit.Mr Surakiart said different issues were being prepared for the discussions.

    Besides the draft MoU, he would also discuss a general policy on foreign labour and the planned voluntary repatriation of illegal workers, for whom Burma would have to prepare a holding area.He would also discuss the repatriation of displaced persons that would take place when the situation normalises. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration would be asked to set up a vocational centre on the Burmese side of the border.He said he had already touched on this plan with his Burmese counterpart Win Aung and the country's defence minister.

    A source said the IOM had been drawn into the plan to allay Burma's fear of being pressured on human rights issues.Mr Surakiart said fishing concessions, lifting limits on trade, construction of a second bridge between Mae Sai and Tachilek, and co-operation against drugs were also on the agenda.
    Illegals to be flown to Rangoon

    By Supamart Kasem
    source : The Bangkokpost

    Burmese labourers who fail to get registered and obtain work permits will be repatriated to Rangoon via an air force plane.The registration period has been set for Sept 24-Oct 13. Once the deadline lapses, unregistered workers would be put on air force planes and flown back to Rangoon instead of simply pushed across the border.

    The air transport was aimed at preventing illegal workers re-entering as was the case in the past. Rangoon is a long distance from the common border.

    Anurak Thossarat, employment official in Tak, urged businesses to bring their workers for registration.At a recent meeting, he said alien workers employed in all businesses nationwide were eligible for registration so they could take up employment ``in the open''.

    Many illegal labourers worked in hiding and were subjected to low wages and substandard living conditions.By being legalised, they would be better regulated and qualify for necessary legal coverage.

    He said the registration would also be extended to workers engaged in independent occupations who do not have employers.Mr Anurak said the air repatriation was expected to be discussed between Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Burma's Secretary One Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt when he visists Thailand from Sept 3-5.

    Deterring new alien nationals who slip in to capitalise on the registration required tight border policing. The armed forces were given power to arrest any such persons and send them to the immigration police for expulsion.The government is setting up an alien workers management committee to be chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

    Information about registered aliens would be compiled in the Labour Ministry's database. Workers would be fingerprinted and photgraphed.The registration, effective for six months and renewable, would cost 3,250 baht per worker.Laddawan Wongsriwong, deputy labour minister, urged business owners not to evade registration and to co-operate fully.
    M'sia Offers Military Technology To Myanmar From

    Shahrullizan Rusli Malaysian National News Agency, Fri, 31 August 2001

    YANGON, Aug 30 (Bernama) -- Malaysia-Myanmar military ties have entered a new phase with the Myanmar military ruler agreeing to send a technical team to Malaysia to study the country's sophisticated defence technology.

    Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said except in military training, defence ties between Malaysia and Myanmar were very limited previously.

    "They are very keen to know our expertise in defence technology and how they can benefit from the knowledge and expertise Malaysia have," he told Bernama in Bagan at the end of his four-day visit to Myanmar.

    The technical team comprising officials from Myanmar's three services -- land, sea and air -- would be sent as soon as possible to explore the opportunities available in the local defence industry.

    Although Myanmar had its own defence industry, it was confined to manufacturing short-range rockets, ammunition, bombs and land mines.

    Their technology is quite old but creative to the extent of inventing own rifle merged with the technology of AK-47 Russian-made rifle and rifles of other European countries.

    Najib said Myanmar armed forces were keen to acquire defence technology available in Malaysia and in turn Malaysia would tap the investment opportunities in that country.

    The highlight of Najib's visit to Myanmar was his meeting with Prime Minister Senior Gen Than Shwe who is also chairman of the State Peace and Development Council on Tuesday. Than Shwe told Najib that he was impressed with Prime Minister DatukSeri Dr Mahathir Mohamad's leadership and was implementing the proposals made by him.

    "I feel this visit is successful as the Myanmar government is showing keen interest on efforts to enhance bilateral ties between Kuala Lumpur and Yangon," he said. Najib said Malaysia was prepared to help develop Myanmar and not merely to enhance friendship. "If Malaysia can contribute towards Myanmar's stability and prosperity, the region will also benefit including Malaysia," he said.

    Najib also encouraged Malaysian entrepreneurs to invest in Myanmar. Myanmar, with a 44 million population, besides providing cheap labour, was rich in untapped natural resources. "Dr Mahathir himself encouraged Malaysian entrepreneurs to seek business opportunities in Myanmar. The 150 entrepreneurs based here are involved in various businesses including hotel, trade and logging," he said.

    He said the secret of doing business in Myanmar was the ability of businessmen to forge cordial ties with the government. "The prospect of getting business is very good indeed if they established close ties," he said. Najib said Malaysian entrepreneurs also had good opportunities in Information Technology (IT) as the Myanmar government was learning from Malaysia's expertise in preparation to enter the Internet network. Despite entering the millennium era, Myanmar still does not have Internet. The communication network was still backward and its infrastructure .