Daily News- April 16- 2002- Tuesday

  • Seven killed, 27 injured in bomb blast on Thai-Myanmar border
  • Myanmar ushers in the year 1364 with rowdy water festival
  • Burma Muslim refugees languish in Bangladesh camps
  • Myanmarese hijacker denied bail
  • Burma launches probe into fatal border blast

  • Seven killed, 27 injured in bomb blast on Thai-Myanmar border

    MAE SOT, Thailand, April 15 (AFP) - Seven Myanmar citizens were killed and at least 27 injured in a bomb blast Monday at the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge that crosses into this border town, immigration officials said.

    Captain Paitoon Lakleua said the bomb was fitted to a three-wheel bicycle cart, used to carry passengers or produce, which was parked on the Myanmar side of the bridge, in the township of Myawadi.The explosion occured around 5:00 pm (1000 GMT) only 20 metres (yards) away from a military checkpoint, he said, adding that two Myanmar officials were among those injured.

    "It is likely that a TNT device hidden in the cart was detonated by remote control," he told AFP.Paitoon said the crossing, which was kept open beyond its usual 6:00 pm closing time to allow any injured to be brought into Thailand, was closed after Myanmar authorities said they could handle the casualties.

    "Myawadi officials say they will not send patients to Thailand because they can take care of them," he said.However, Paitoon said the Myanmar authorities were also likely to want to deter survivors from talking to the Thai press, which had gathered on the other end of the bridge."Several reporters have called to check the news with the Myawadi governor, and I don't think they will happy about that," he said.

    About 50 Thai border rangers were on alert near the Friendship Bridge after the explosion.While there was no official theory as to the cause of the bomb, a Thai military source said it could be linked to ethnic militias fighting in the area.

    He said the explosion could have been a revenge attack by the rebel Karen National Union (KNU) after the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a rival group which has signed a ceasefire with Myanmar's military government, bombed a gas station in Mae Sot district last week, injuring four people.

    Traffic across the Friendship Bridge between Mae Sot and Myawadi was much heavier than normal Monday due to festivities for the traditional new year which began in both countries on Saturday.Thousands of people flocked across the border into Mae Sot to visit a funfair and to watch tournaments of kick-boxing and football.The area of town near the border crossing was the focus for the celebrations, with hundreds of stalls set up along the road leading up to the checkpoint.Spirits were high in the Thai border settlement over the weekend as revellers drenched each other to celebrate the water festival which ushers in the Buddhist new year.

    Myanmar ushers in the year 1364 with rowdy water festival

    YANGON, April 15 (AFP) - Myanmar has ushered in the year 1364 on the traditional Buddhist calendar with exuberant street celebrations and water-throwing that caused havoc on the streets of the capital Monday.

    Youths piled into stripped-down vehicles cruised the major roads, while being pelted by crowds on water-throwing stands, or "pandals", including one presided over by the city mayor in the middle of downtown Yangon.

    Even government dignitaries and resident diplomats took part in the wet-and-wild merry-making during the four-day water festival that began Saturday to ring in the new year.Some of the bigger pandals, set up by petroleum companies like France's Total and Britain's Premier Oil, drew huge crowds that caused heavy traffic snarls despite frantic police attempts to keep cars moving.

    In chaotic scenes rarely seen in this tightly controlled military state, vehicles appeared bent on breaking every traffic rule and the lack of a heavy road toll appeared to be the result of good luck rather than good management."We try, but nobody gives a damn," one harried traffic policeman lamented as he tried to untangle a three-hour jam caused by vehicles ignoring the two-way system.

    Despite dire official warnings that misconduct and unseemly behavior would not be condoned, the water festival is one time of year that authorities are obliged to turn a blind eye to rowdy public gatherings, as long as they stay strictly non-political.

    Most of the colorful water-throwing pandals, which in the evenings are turned into makeshift stage shows, are located on the shores of Inya lake where water is plentiful.On opposite banks, both Myanmar's former dictator Ne Win, and the nation's most prominent pro-democracy dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, are languishing under virtual house arrest in their respective homes, well away from the chaos on the city streets.

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    Burma Muslim refugees languish in Bangladesh camps

    Source : MSNBC

    DHAKA, April 16 ---More than half of 21,600 Burmese Muslim refugees, stuck in cramped camps in Bangladesh, are suffering from malnutrition and have skin diseases, an international aid agency said on Tuesday.

    ''The 21,600 Myanmar Muslim refugees, called Rohingyas, are still facing an unacceptable humanitarian situation in two camps in southeastern Bangladesh,'' said Nelke Manders, head of mission in Bangladesh of the Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

    ''After ten years of their taking refuge, (the Rohingyas) live in overcrowded, tight spaces with insufficient water and food,'' she told Reuters.

    Manders said at least 58 percent of Rohingya children, and 53 percent of adults suffer from chronic malnutrition and skin diseases. They are not allowed to leave the camps and barred from working outside, she said.

    More than 250,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar district from Myanmar's western Arakan province in 1992, trying to escape alleged military persecution including killing and rape.

    Nearly 230,000 had returned home under the supervision of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) before the repatriation process stopped in the middle of 1997.

    OPPOSE FORCIBLE REPATRIATION

    The Holland-based MSF, which has been offering medical services to the Burmese refugees ever since they arrived in Bangladesh, has urged the UNHCR and government of Bangladesh to improve living conditions of the refugees as well as their safety and security in the camps.

    Manders said the MSF opposed forcible repatriation of the refugees.

    ''The refugees have the right to determine whether it is safe for them to return home. A durable solution for the future of the refugees has to be found,'' she said.

    UNHCR officials said they were trying to do the best for the refugees in terms of supplying food, water and other necessities.

    They also said the Burmese authorities had recently cleared another 5,000 Rohingyas for repatriation but the process was yet to resume as the refugees weighed their options.

    ''Some of them have agreed (to go back), but most of them are not ... because of fears of torture and social problems. We can't force them to go back,'' said UNHCR programme officer in Dhaka, Maksudur Rahman.

    He said the refugees also did not want to go back as split families.

    ''In some cases, two or three of a five or six-member family have been cleared to go back, but they refuse to leave the rest of their family members behind,'' Rahman told Reuters on Tuesday.

    The UNHCR and Bangladesh government are trying to motivate those having the clearance to go home, he said without giving details.

    Bangladeshi officials said most of the Rohingyas were economic refugees and could not be considered for a permanent living in Bangladesh.

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    Burma launches probe into fatal border blast

    Source : AFP

    Burma authorities began investigating a blast which killed seven Burmese citizens and wounded at least 27 near a border checkpoint, a Thai army official said.

    "They are questioning witnesses and relatives of the dead and injured people to find the cause of the blast," said the official with the Third Army, which patrols the northern border region.

    The explosion occurred Monday afternoon on the Burmese side of the Thai-Burmese Friendship Bridge which crosses into this border town.

    The crossing was re-opened Tuesday, and scores of Thai military personnel were patrolling the area, an immigration official told AFP.

    Thai authorities said the bomb was fitted to a three-wheel bicycle cart, used to carry passengers or produce, which was parked in the Burmese township of Myawadi, only 20 metres (yards) away from a military checkpoint.

    Traffic across the bridge between Mae Sot and Myawadi was much heavier than normal Monday due to festivities for the traditional Buddhist new year which began in both countries on Saturday.

    Thousands of people had flocked across the border into Mae Sot to visit a funfair and to watch kick-boxing and football tournaments.

    The area of town near the border crossing was the focus for the celebrations, with hundreds of stalls set up along the road leading up to the checkpoint.

    While there was no official theory as to the cause of the bomb, a Thai military source said Monday it could be linked to ethnic militias fighting in the area.

    The source said it could have been a revenge attack by the rebel Karen National Union (KNU) after the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a rival group allied with Burma's military government, which bombed a gas station in Mae Sot district last week, injuring four people.

    Thai and Western tourists also use the bridge to cross into Burma, many traveling on day passes issued at the border.

    Burma authorities made no immediate comment on the blast.

    Myanmarese hijacker denied bail
    The Times of India; Apr 16, 2002

    KOLKATA: Rejecting the bail petition of Myanmarese student leader Soe Myint, accused of hijacking a Thai Airways plane on November 10, 1990, SDJM of Barrackpore Utpal Mishra on Sunday remanded him in judicial custody till April 17.

    Soe Myint had hijacked the aircraft to draw attention to the atrocities committed by the military junta in MyanmarŒ along with another student, Ye Htin Kyaw alias Kyaw Zeya.

    The then state home secretary Manish Gupta had written to the joint secretary of the Union home ministry (memo no. 555-8H dated July 8, 1995) that the cases be withdrawn on humanitarian ground.

    Thai Airways had also not shown interest in pursuing the case as Myint had not resorted to violent means while hijacking the plane. Freed on bail, Soe Myint was running a news agency in New Delhi.

    On April 10, a West Bengal CID team went to Delhi and arrested him again. He was brought to the city on Saturday. CID sources said he was charged under sections 4 and 5 of the anti-hijacking Act and under sec-tions 342, 506 and 120B of the IPC.

    Soe Myint told TNN in court that though he was accused of jumping bail, he felt it was a conspiracy of the Myanmarese government. He is a supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi¡s National League for Democracy. His news bureau, Mizzima, specialises on Myanmar-related news and his feed is used by the Myanmarese radio. His UNHCR recognition as refugee is valid till September 24 this year (memo HCR/BUOOO-147). His wife Thin Thin Aung, who was not allowed to meet him, feared that the Myanmarese junta might be pressing for the extradition bona fide political refugees in India.

    Soe Myint¡s counsels Nandita Haksar and Ajoy Dutta said he was a professional journalist and was being forced by the CID to disclose his news sources.



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