Daily News-September 28 - 2001- Friday

  • Burma opposition tells military free Suu Kyi now
  • NLD calls for Aung San Suu Kyi's release at anniversary event
  • Myanmar Leader Ends Visit to Malaysia
  • Source Food Imports From Myanmar
  • Time Running Out for Burma's Forests
  • Myanmar Hosts Regional Meeting on AIDS
  • A Shan student dies after first solo swim at Singapore Pool

  • Burma opposition tells military free Suu Kyi now

    By Andrew Marshall in Bangkok

    RANGOON,(Reuters) Sept. 27 - Burma's opposition on Thursday demanded the immediate and unconditional release of pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi, in its most strongly worded statement since peace talks with the military began last year.

    At a ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of the founding of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won Burma's last election in 1990 by a landslide but was never allowed to govern, the party called for the release of all political prisoners.

    ''We demand the unconditional and immediate release of our secretary-general, Daw (Mrs) Aung San Suu Kyi, and all other political prisoners,'' the NLD said in a statement read by a party representative from the Karen ethnic group.

    The party also reaffirmed the mandate of Suu Kyi and NLD Chairman Aung Shwe to carry on their duties in working for the emergence of democracy in Burma.

    The 56-year-old Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been held under de facto house arrest for more than a year, cut off from contact with the outside world. But since last October, the military junta has been holding regular meetings with her to discuss ending the political deadlock that has gripped Burma for more than a decade.The NLD and the junta agreed to cease verbal attacks on each other after the start of the talks, and the junta has released more than 150 political prisoners.


    But according to Amnesty International, more than 1,500 political prisoners remain in jail.

    Around 400 people attended the ceremony at the NLD's central Rangoon headquarters, including senior party leaders, veteran politicians and diplomats from the United States, Britain, Japan, France, Australia and South Korea.

    A year ago, amid a military crackdown on the NLD, such a ceremony would have been unthinkable. All senior NLD leaders were in forced confinement this time last year, and the military junta barred access to the NLD's headquarters.

    ''It is pretty long since we held such a ceremony,'' said Hla Pe, a member of the NLD's central executive committee who acted as chairman for the ceremony. ''It is a very auspicious day but we cannot feel complete happiness,as our secretary-general, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, cannot attend this ceremony.''

    NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo, recently released from de facto house arrest, told NLD members they had to be flexible in their fight for democracy.

    ''There is no such thing as an enemy forever or a friend forever,'' he said in an address to the ceremony.''Of course, a noble friend is best. But a noble enemy is second best.''

    Few details of the talks between Suu Kyi and the military have emerged, and the dialogue has not passed beyond the stage of confidence-building.The start of dialogue was welcomed by the international community and by representatives of Burma's many ethnic groups. But diplomats say the goodwill will not last forever.

    Opposition members and ethnic groups are pressing for more transparency and for concrete signs of progress, to prove the dialogue is more than just a public relations exercise. The junta insists it wants to move Burma towards democracy, but says the country faces anarchy and disintegration if the process moves too quickly.
    NLD calls for Aung San Suu Kyi's release at anniversary event

    YANGON, Sept 27 (AFP) - The opposition National League for Democracy called for the unconditional release of its leader Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday at a ceremony to mark the 13th anniversary of its founding.

    The military regime has held Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest at her lakeside residence for the past year after she attempted to journey to the northern city of Mandalay in defiance of a travel ban.

    The pro-democracy party also demanded the release of an estimated 1,500 political prisoners still being held in Myanmar's jails, as part of a three-point resolution unamimously adopted at the meeting.

    Some 500 party members were joined by diplomats from the United States, Britain, Australia, Japan and other nations, as well as veteran politicians from other pro-democracy parties and the media at the ceremony.

    The NLD called on all its members and elected MPs to "further consolidate their strength and unity for renewed efforts to achieve the party's objective to attain genuine democracy."

    A final resolution proclaimed the members' "complete trust and confidence" in the party's leaders to do "whatever was necessary through discussion, negotiation or co-ordination" to achieve democracy.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has spent the last 11 months in secret talks with junta leaders, which observers hope will herald a fully-fledged reconciliation process that could one day introduce democracy to military-ruled Myanmar.

    At Thursday's ceremony, party chairman Aung Shwe, who was recently released from house arrest in a goodwill gesture aimed at bolstering the talks, noted that the current political climate was conducive to national reconciliation.And in an obvious reference to the ongoing dialogue, vice-chairman Tin Oo said there was no such thing as "an eternal foe" or an "eternal friend".

    "Time and circumstances always dictate changes," he said, going on to point out that in any "fruitful negotiation" there had to be "give and take" and that the end result should not be seen in terms of losers and winners.

    In a sign of the political thaw initiated by the talks, the security presence at the meeting was less obtrusive than in previous years when each guest was photographed entering NLD headquarters.On Thursday, no attempt was made to hinder party members or invited guests who were allowed to enter the venue freely, and traffic on the busy road outside was not affected.
    Myanmar Leader Ends Visit to Malaysia

    KUALA LUMPUR, September 27 (Xinhuanet) -- Chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council Than Shwe left Northern Malaysia Thursday afternoon after concluding the three-day visit to the country.

    Before departure, Than Shwe visited Langkawi resort in Northern Malaysia,where he attended a 30-minute briefing on Langkawi's development.Later, Than Shwe visited Galeria Perdana, a complex where souvenirs received by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his overseas trips are displayed.

    During the visit, Than Shwe held an one-hour talks with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad on bilateral and regional issues.

    Malaysia is Myanmar's third largest trading partner after Thailand and Singapore within ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members. The volume of their bilateral trade amounted to some 300 million U.S. dollars last year.It is Than Shwe's second visit to Malaysia since 1996.
    Source Food Imports From Myanmar

    KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 (Bernama) -- Malaysian importers were today urged to consider sourcing cheaper and competitive food supply from Myanmar and pass the benefits on to the consumers.

    In making the call, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said his visit to the country last April convinced him that Malaysia could source supply of fish and other sea food as well as poultry and livestock products from Myanmar besides maize.

    Presently a Malaysian company has been granted an area in Myanmar for poultry farming but there was no taker yet for a proposed maize-cultivation project there, he said.Muhyiddin told reporters this when approached on an offer by Myanmar's Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council Senior General Than Shwe yesterday that Malaysian investors cultivate farming land his country to meet Malaysia's food needs.

    Than Shwe, who is also the Myanmar prime minister said Malaysia could cut down on its RM10-billion imported food bill by growing food in his country which has 10.4 million ha of virgin and fallow land for cultivation.
    Time Running Out for Burma's Forests

    Far Eastern Economic Review -Issue cover-dated October 4, 2001

    Western environmentalists warn that northernmost Burma's remaining forest will all be gone within a few years if current rates of clear-cutting continue.

    Unchecked logging could have severe long-term effects as the watersheds of two of Burma's most important river systems--the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin--are located in the far north.

    Over the past year, companies based in the adjacent Chinese province of Yunnan have felled hundreds of thousands of logs in Burma's Kachin state, and new roads have been built across the border to get the timber out.

    Previously, logging was confined to border areas east of the Kachin capital of Myitkyina, but the loggers have moved into the central part of the state and concessions are being extended all the way to India in the west.

    According to local Kachins, those involved in the clear-cutting include a Yunnan company, a Beijing-based firm, a Malaysian-Chinese outfit and an Australian-listed mining company. The companies have hired more than 1,000 local tribesmen--former anti-government rebels--to cut the trees in what appears to be the most extensive deforestation in Southeast Asia today.
    Myanmar Hosts Regional Meeting on AIDS

    YANGON, September 27 (Xinhuanet) -- The Ninth Meeting of Task Force of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on AIDS is being held here to enhance combat activities against the disease in the region.

    The three-day meeting of the task force on AIDS, which began on Wednesday and is hosted by Myanmar for the first time, is attended by the Chairman of the ASEAN Task Force, officials of the ASEAN Secretariat and delegates of the ten ASEAN countries as well as representatives of U.N. agencies.

    The meeting will discuss information exchange on AIDS among the member states and cooperation in the sector and will work out a second plan on HIV/AIDS to be adopted in the future as a follow up of the First ASEAN Regional Program on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control (1995-2000).At the national level, Myanmar has instituted proactive measures against HIV/AIDS since a decade ago, forming a multi- sectoral National AIDS Committee in 1989.

    A master strategic plan for the upgraded and expanded response to HIV/AIDS infection was then also developed with the objectives of expanding the existing programs activities reaching all areas and population groups of the country.

    Myanmar has called on the ASEAN member states to strengthen ASEAN spirit and to work unitedly in fight against HIV/AIDS.HIV/AIDS, a national concern in Myanmar, is recognized by the Myanmar Ministry of Health as one of the three priority communicable diseases --malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB).

    Meanwhile, The UNAIDS has identified Myanmar along with Thailand and Cambodia as the priority country in Southeast Asia region where urgent action is called for to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

    According to the latest report of the World Health Organization, 3,817 AIDS cases were reported and 510,000 HIV infections estimated in Myanmar as of December 2000 with 760 cases per 100, 000 population.

    The combined budget of the Myanmar government, the U.N. system, local and international non-governmental organizations was also estimated to amount to about 3 million U.S. dollars annually.
    A Shan student dies after first solo swim at Singapore Pool

    By Julyn Kang
    The Straits Times

    IT WAS the first time 24-year-old Sai Aik Mon had gone swimming alone.And that could be why the Singapore Polytechnic student lost his life.The novice swimmer died an hour after he was pulled out of the pool at the polytechnic's staff centre on Tuesday evening.

    He had managed half a lap before he started flailing. He splashed and spluttered desperately a few metres from the pool's side, in water that was 2 m deep, but did not call for help.He was pulled out of the water by two bystanders, who jumped into the pool when they heard the shouts of another swimmer who had seen him struggling.

    The civil-engineering student was conscious then, but collapsed a few minutes later. Two lifeguards tried cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, but could not revive him.

    The student died at the National University Hospital at 7.35 pm.The police are investigating the matter and have classified the case as unnatural death.The swimmer who spotted him, as well as the two bystanders who pulled him out of the water, could not be contacted.

    Mr Johnson Sng, sports manager of the polytechnic's Department of Student and Alumni Affairs, said: 'We're shocked and saddened by what happened.' He said the polytechnic had called Mr Sai's parents, who live in a village in Myanmar near the country's border with China, to tell them the bad news and offer its help.He is waiting to hear if they will be flying to Singapore to claim their son's body.Mr Sai, who had celebrated his birthday on Sunday, was their only son.

    According to his friends, he had learnt to swim after he arrived in Singapore in July this year to begin his studies.He had signed up for swimming as one of his electives at the polytechnic, they said, and would often try out his new skills in their company. His first solo swimming attempt was on Tuesday.

    Mr Sng said that this was the first tragic incident at the pool since it was built in 1986. It is open from 10 am to 8 pm and there are two lifeguards on duty during the peak hours from 5 pm to 8 pm. There were about 40 people in the water at the time of the incident.

    The polytechnic has stringent safety measures at the pool, Mr Sng said, but is looking into how to improve these to prevent further accidents. 'We'll definitely review our lifeguard system and see if we can put more of them on duty,' he said, adding that the polytechnic also plans to install an alarm system at the pool that will activate a loud siren to alert staff.