Daily News- April 02- 2002- Tuesday

  • Relatives of former Myanmar dictator to be charged with high treason in alleged coup attempt
  • Durable solutions hinge on Burmese politics alone
  • Myanmar sends condolences to Britain over Queen Mum's death
  • Wa standoff `will be resolved'
  • Aid agency condemns Bangladesh camps
  • Chinese Yunnan Airways opens air link with Burma
  • Myanmar suspends import licenses of foreign companies
  • Burma dismisses Thai media report of Wa army assault on Thai forces
  • Thai arrested in Burma with 37 kg of heroin

  • Relatives of former Myanmar dictator to be charged with high treason in alleged coup attempt

    ASSOCIATED PRESS YANGON, Myanmar, April 1 - Relatives of Myanmar's former dictator Ne Win who were arrested last month on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the military government will be tried for high treason, a senior intelligence official said Monday.

    Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Zaw Win, the husband of Ne Win's daughter Sandar, and their three sons were arrested on March 7 for allegedly trying to recruit military units to kidnap junta leaders and to force them to swear allegiance to Ne Win. Ne Win came to power in a 1962 coup d'etat and stepped down in 1988 in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations quashed by the military.

    ''We are making thorough investigations and are carefully building up the case,'' deputy intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Kyaw Win no relation to the arrested " told reporters. ''There will be an open trial and this is a case of high treason.''

    Treason carries a maximum penalty of death. Asked when the treason case would be tried, Kyaw Win said the timing depended on the ongoing investigation.

    The authorities have put Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win under virtual house arrest, placing barbed wire barricades around their housing compound in Yangon. Kyaw Win said Ne Win is in good health and that his daughter, a businesswoman who was trained as a medical doctor, looks after him with the authorities providing any necessary assistance.

    Kyaw Win also said that more than 200 people " mostly business associates of Aye Zaw Win's family but also some army officers " have been questioned since the arrests of 54-year-old Aye Zaw Win and his sons, Aye Ne Win, 25, Kyaw Ne Win, 23 and Zwe Ne Win, 21. He said that many had been released without being detained.

    He said that the posts of air force commander Maj. Gen. Myint Swe, police chief Maj. Gen. Soe Win, regional military commanders Brig. Gen. Chit Than and Maj. Gen. Aye Kywe, had not been refilled after all were dismissed in connection with the alleged coup plot.

    Ne Win was originally a hero of the country's independence movement, but became an authoritarian ruler and led his once-prosperous nation to economic ruin with policies that mixed socialist and Buddhist doctrines. He was replaced by a group of generals who have also been criticized for failing to respect human rights and democracy. Ne Win was rumored to retain behind-the-scenes influence.

    The junta has alleged that Ne Win's family sought a new government because they were apparently upset at losing some economic and social privileges they previously enjoyed.The government claimed that the alleged plot was meant to install in power members of the military more friendly to Ne Win and his family.

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    Durable solutions hinge on Burmese politics alone

    Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    Improving Thai-Burmese relations and finding a political settlement in Burma were a key for durable solutions to refugees and migrant workers in Thailand, chief of the United Nations refugees agency in Thailand said yesterday.

    Jahanshah Assadi, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, said warmer Thai-Burmese ties were definitely a sign of the good times ahead.

    Improving conditions inside Burma would also benefit the refugees, he said on the sidelines of a NGO-organised seminar to discuss problems associated with refugees, migrant workers, and stateless people in Thailand.

    But Mr Assadi said other agencies, and not the UNHCR, were responsible for tackling the root cause that was making people leave their countries. The UNHCR was committed to seeking a tangible solution by requesting for a presence on the eastern border, he said.

    ``We want to transfer a successful experience of a 10-year-long good working relations with Rangoon in bringing back over 220,000 Burmese refugees from Bangladesh to Arakan state on the eastern border with Thailand,'' he said.

    However, there were more complicated factors in settling the refugees than bringing in the UNHCR to the border, he said, adding: ``For them, it's not the problem of having our presence there, but it's the issue of insurgency, security and military problems that are considered more important.''

    Mr Assadi, who has had a direct experience in repatriation and resettlement of Indochina refugees in the past two decades, emphasised that the UN agency could bring back all Burmese refugees within a year once a political settlement was in place in Burma.

    Some 370,000 Indochina refugees were repatriated within a year after the Paris Peace agreement came into force in 1992. Some 35,000 refugees were later repatriated between 1998-1999 and now only 32 Lao refugees are left at the Na Pho camp, he said.There are only 110,000 Burmese refugees left in 11 camps along the Thai-Burmese border today.

    The panellists noted while the deportation of unregistered migrant workers was being speeded up, the process of issuing citizenship and legal alien status in the northern provinces for highlanders had run into unnecessary problems. Many applicants who were Thais but lacked proper documents had been turned down.

    Pornpimol Treechot, a researcher of the Institute of Asian Studies, concluded that Thailand should provide adequate education and vocational training so that refugees could return home with some knowledge and good impression of the Thai people.Adisak Tanyakul of the National Security Council said the NSC was considering providing basic occupational training in reception camps along the border.

    Myanmar sends condolences to Britain over Queen Mum's death

    BANGKOK, April 1 (AFP) - Myanmar Monday sent its condolences to Britain after the death of the Queen Mother, the country's state-run media said.

    Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) -- the official name of the ruling military junta -- sent a letter to Britain's royal family offering his condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, TV Myanmar reported in a dispatch monitored here.The 101-year-old Queen Mother died on Saturday at Windsor Castle, west of London.

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    Wa standoff `will be resolved'

    Cheewin Sattha
    The Bangkokpost

    Third Army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkasing expects tensions with the United Wa State Army along the Burmese border in Chiang Mai will be resolved.Speaking at the Kawila camp in Chiang Mai yesterday, he said the standoff was continuing.

    The UWSA was still deploying more troops and weapoins along the border near Ban Paek Saem village in Wiang Haeng district. The build-up follows a clash on March 25.However, the situation had stabilised and was likely to unravel. He was willing to speak with the Wa leaders.It was possible there had been misunderstandings.

    Pending talks and a settlement, the Third Army would maintain its forces in the area.``There will be negotiation with UWSA leaders,'' Lt-Gen Udomchai said.``We are ready to talk. If they would like to, we will be ready and there should not be a problem. ``There have been reports the UWSA would like to talk with Thai authorities, but they have not informed us of this officially,'' he said.

    UWSA troops intruded into Thailand in Wiang Haeng district and attacked a cavalry division patrol while it was preparing for a visit to the area by Her Majesty the Queen on March 25. One Thai soldier was killed.The attack followed the deaths of 13 Wa troops and the seizure of 1.6 million methamphetamine pills in an ambush by Thai soldiers on March 22. A Thai soldier was also killed.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai was not worried by the current reinforcement of Burmese troops near Doi Lang and Doi Sanju mountains of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provincesHe said it was normal for the Burmese government to attack ethnic rebels during the dry season. The Third Army had told the Burmese military not to fire into Thailand.

    Aid agency condemns Bangladesh camps

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    An international aid agency has expressed increasing concern over what it called the unacceptable conditions being endured by 20,000 Burmese Muslim refugees, in south-eastern Bangladesh.

    Speaking at a conference in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, a spokesman for the agency, Medecins sans Frontieres, said the refugee camps are overcrowded, with insufficient water and food.

    Thousands of Muslim refugees, known as Rohingyas, began arriving in Bangladesh a decade ago alleging oppression by Burma's military government. About 200,000 have since been repatriated. The Bangladeshi authorities accuse them of smuggling arms and drugs, and having links with militant separatists in Burma; the Rohingyas deny the allegations.

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    Chinese Yunnan Airways opens air link with Burma

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Apr 1, 2002
    Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

    Yangon [Rangoon], 1 April: The Yunnan Airways of China formally opened an international air route on Monday [1 April] linking Kunming and Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city Monday.

    Myanmar Minister of Transport Major-General Hla Myint Swe said the opening of the air route will facilitate personnel exchange between Myanmar and China and promote the development of tourism.

    General Manager of the Yunnan Airways Luo Chaogeng said the air route serves as an overhead bridge between the peoples of China and Myanmar and will enhance the economic, trade and tourism cooperation between them.

    Kunming-Mandalay air route is the first international one with regular flight opened by foreign airlines linking Myanmar's second largest city.

    The Mandalay international airport occupies a land area of 10,131 hectares with a runway of 4,200 metres in length and 60 metres in width and can accommodate large aircraft such as Boeing 747.The airport, which costs 150m US dollars plus 6.496bn kyats (about 18.56m dollars), was formally commissioned into service on 17 September 2000.

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    Myanmar suspends import licenses of foreign companies

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Myanmar's military government has stopped issuing import licenses to foreign companies in a move that trading firms said Tuesday could force them to close and may result in shortages of consumer goods.

    Myanmar's agrarian economy depends almost entirely on imports for almost all consumer goods including medicine, kitchenware, household goods and even staples such as lentils.

    These goods are imported by companies from several countries, including Singapore, India, Japan, Korea and Thailand, which are given two or three-year licenses to trade. They must also apply for a permit for each shipment of goods they want to bring in.

    The government has not officially announced the suspension of the licenses, but a military intelligence official, Brig. Kyaw Thein, confirmed it during a dinner with foreign reporters Monday night.

    Kyaw Thien, of the Office of Military Intelligence, said the suspension was imposed last month and that he did not know when it would be lifted. He said he did not know the reason but speculated that it was to give local companies a "competitive advantage."

    Officials at the Ministry of Commerce were not available for comment. The government does not release trade data, and the value of imports by foreign trading companies is not known.

    Businesspeople said the new restriction could be aimed at correcting Myanmar's trade deficit and stopping the flow of hard currency out of the country. They warned that such a harsh measure would scare away foreign investors.

    An executive of a trading company that imports dlrs 3-4 million worth medicine every year said he first sensed something was amiss when the government failed to renew the company's two-year trade permit when it expired in October.

    The company was given a grace period of several months to continue trading but has not been allowed to import any medicine since March, said the executive, speaking on condition of anonymity. If the suspension is not lifted soon, the company will have to close and fire its 450 employees, he said.

    The absence of any official statement about the suspension has left foreign companies confused and uncertain about the future, an executive of a European company said.

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    Burma dismisses Thai media report of Wa army assault on Thai forces

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Apr 2, 2002
    Text of report by Burmese TV on 1 April

    A regular news conference with local and foreign journalists was held at the Defence Services Guest House this morning at 1830.

    Vice-Chief of Defence Services Intelligence Maj-Gen Kyaw Win explained that a news report issued in Thailand alleged that a Wa militia unit entered Thailand on 25 March and attacked a Thai security unit, killing one Thai and wounding another. He said in response to the report, responsible officials were sent to the said region to investigate the matter. After meeting with leaders of Wa nationals and Wa militia unit for investigation, it was learned that the Wa militia unit did not at all transgress Thai territory.

    There was a clash between Wa militia unit of Kyu San Kut camp and Ywet Sit's [Yord Serk] group inside Myanmar [Burma] territory on 25 March. Kyu San Kut camp, estimated position LY-5594, located inside Myanmar side at the border, is manned by about 50 Wa militia men.

    At 1100 on 25 March, a villager from Wan Ho Hi village reported to the Wa camp the presence of a SURA [Shan United Revolutionary Army] group inside Myanmar between Kyu San Kut and Hway Yawn and that they were capturing Wan Ho Hi villagers near the border. According to the report, three members of Wa unit visited the place about 700 yards west of Wa camp, estimated position LY-5394. The Ywet Sit group attacked the three Wa members, killing two of them on the spot and the remaining one, who was wounded, returned fire. As soon as the shooting was heard, about 30 members of the Wa unit rushed to the scene and attacked the enemy force consisted of 20 Thai security personnel dressed in camouflage uniforms and about 40 men of Ywet Sit's group.

    The clash lasted from 1145 to 1300. When the Ywet Sit group and Thai security force retreated, one M-16 rifle and an Icon walkie-talkie were seized. No other arms, equipment, or men were seized. Two members of the Wa group fell and one member was wounded.

    The clash took place at a location 700 yards from the Wa camp and about 1,000 yards from the border inside Myanmar. At the very site of the clash, MTA [Mong Tai Army] of Khun Sa had been stationed before surrendering to the government. It is evidently inside the territory of Myanmar. Hence, the report on the Wa militia's transgressing the Thai territory on 25 March and its attack on the Thai security force, was fabricated to give a misleading impression that the Wa militia entered the Thai territory.

    After the regular news conference concluded, a dinner was hosted for the journalists.

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    Thai arrested in Burma with 37 kg of heroin

    Rangoon, April 2 (Reuters)- - Burma authorities arrested a Thai man and seized 37 kg (81 pounds) of heroin stashed in his car near the border with Thailand, officials said on Tuesday.

    The large haul was discovered when the man's Thai-registered Landrover was searched in the border town of Tachilek, some 1300 km (800 miles) northeast of Rangoon, a government statement faxed to Reuters said.

    Burma is one of the world's biggest producers of opium, a major ingredient in heroin, and has said it will wipe out opium growing by 2014.

    In February, Burma said it netted its biggest haul of drugs so far this year with the capture of 42 kg of heroin and 383 kg of raw opium from two drug factories.

    In the latest incident, the Thai man was shot in the leg when he resisted efforts by officials to carry out the search, the Burmese statement said. Authorities are trying to track down a second man, who escaped during the scuffle, it said.

    "As the car was searched a total of 37.56 kg of heroin... was seized," the statement said. "Joint operations are being carried out to uncover those involved in Myanmar and Thailand."

    The statement did not say where the Landrover was headed when it was stopped by the authorities.

    The maximum penalty for drug smuggling in Myanmar is death.

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