Daily News- April 26- 2002- Friday

  • U.N. rights body urges Myanmar to move to democracy
  • UN envoy meets Aung San Suu Kyi for second straight day
  • U Aye Tha Aung's health condition is getting worse, his son expresses
  • 49 U.S Congressmen Call for Release of Min Ko Naing
  • Activists Protest Gen Maung Aye's Visit
  • Myanmar's army chief returns to Thai capital
  • East Timor keen on ASEAN membership despite Myanmar objection
  • Thailand to Hold Trade Fair in Myanmar
  • U.N. envoy upbeat at end of Myanmar visit
  • UN's Burma envoy hints at progress
  • Myanmar's army chief wraps up visit to Thailand

  • U.N. rights body urges Myanmar to move to democracy

    GENEVA (Reuters) - The top U.N. human rights body on Thursday urged Myanmar's rulers to open "substantive" talks with the opposition to speed a transition to democracy.

    Adopting a resolution presented by the European Union , the forum said it deplored "systematic violations" of human rights in Myanmar, including executions, forced labour and forced relocation of ethnic minorities.

    The U.N. Commission on Human Rights, whose 53 member states wind up their annual six-week session in Geneva on Friday, accepted the text by consensus after a debate. It renewed the mandate of its special independent investigator on Myanmar, Brazilian lawyer Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who last visited the country in February.

    The National League for Democracy, headed by Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won Myanmar's last elections in 1990 by a landslide but was never allowed to take power. Hundreds of NLD members have been jailed and harassed over the past decade.

    The EU text expresses concern at the "slow pace of the process of national reconciliation and democratisation" and urges the military to release Suu Kyi from de facto house arrest and other NLD members from prison.

    Myanmar's delegate took the floor to declare that national reconciliation was a "subtle and step-by-step process" and his country would not bow to "pressure tactics on the pretext of promoting human rights". The government released a record 580 detainees last year and its cooperation with U.N. mechanisms had reached "new heights", according to the envoy.

    Delegations from Malaysia, India and Pakistan closed ranks around their regional partner, criticising the EU for failing to sufficiently recognise positive steps by Myanmar.

    These ranged from growing cooperation with U.N. envoys including Pinheiro, as well as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross which began prison visits in 2000. The government last month agreed to allow the ILO, a U.N. agency, set up a liaison office in Myanmar to help wipe out forced labour. ILO officials say the army is still forcing villagers to work on infrastructure projects or as porters.

    The EU resolution cites "only very modest improvement in the eradication of forced labour", despite an official ban.

    In Yangon on Thursday, U.N. envoy Razali Ismail, who is trying to salvage flagging reconciliation talks, said he was confident of progress but could not predict when it would come. In 2000, Razali, a Malaysian diplomat, helped broker secretive talks between the military and Suu Kyi, which have been hailed as a breakthrough in a long political deadlock. But the talks have failed to produce any concrete results and patience is waning.

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    UN envoy meets Aung San Suu Kyi for second straight day

    YANGON, April 25 (AFP) - UN envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail on Thursday met for the second straight day with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), in his bid to further reconciliation talks between the NLD and the junta.

    The UN secretary general special envoy went to the Nobel peace laureate's lakeside residence in downtown Yangon at 7 pm (12H30 GMT) for dinner, sources say.Earlier, Razali had what he called "useful and encouraging" talks with senior lieutenants of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The Malaysian diplomat, who met for two hours with Aung San Suu Kyi Wednesday evening in the isolated military-ruled state, held talks Thursday morning at NLD headquarters with eight members of its Central Executive Committee."I found it useful and encouraging," Razali told reporters about his hour-long meeting. "I am hopeful (about) the result of my visit, that there would be progress."

    NLD secretary U Lwin told reporters Razali had said "new developments will come up soon," but he did not provide a timeframe.U Lwin also said he had asked Razali to try to facilitate the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, and other political prisoners from detention.

    The envoy requested permission to pay a courtesy visit on Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) prior to wrapping up his seventh visit to the country Friday, though he said he had yet to receive a response.

    Razali has brokered secret reconciliation talks between Myanmar's junta and Aung San Suu Kyi which began in October 2000, one month after she was confined to her home.The flurry of meetings, which also included talks Wednesday with the junta's number three, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, comes as hopes rise of significant progress towards the eventual release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "He (Razali) was quite upbeat after seeing the government people," a well-placed observer told AFP late Wednesday after speaking with the UN envoy."He hopes there will be some results coming out in the coming weeks." The results, the observer said, could be seen as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and an agreement that she would be free to operate as leader of the opposition party."He is talking in terms of weeks rather than months," the observer added.

    Rumours swirled through the diplomatic community this week that the junta was poised finally to release Aung San Suu Kyi, perhaps during Razali's visit.But observers countered that any major development would come after the envoy left Yangon.

    When he arrived in Myanmar on Tuesday, Razali carried with him hopes he would finally prompt a breakthrough in the reconciliation talks, which have proceeded at a painfully slow pace and behind closed doors.

    The NLD said earlier this month that it was hopeful the two sides would soon conclude an initial "confidence-building" phase and start discussing a political transition to end four decades of military rule.The talks have already borne some fruit, securing the release of more than 250 political prisoners and lifting the junta's pressure on the NLD, which was in tatters before the talks began.

    Myanmar's tightly controlled state press has instituted a total news blackout on Razali's visit, and observers said residents of Yangon were scrambling to obtain news of the events.The envoy had been due to visit Yangon last month, but the junta postponed the visit after announcing it had foiled a coup plot mounted by relatives of former dictator Ne Win.Myanmar's military prevented the NLD from taking power in 1990 after it won a landslide election victory.

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    U Aye Tha Aung's health condition is getting worse, his son expresses

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 23 Apr 02

    Health condition of U Aye Tha Aung, 52, secretary of the Committee for Representing People's Parliament (CRPP) is still serious. However, the authority recently stopped his medical treatment. He is suffering from hypertension and heart diseases and being detained at Rangoon General Hospital Prison Ward.

    U Aye Tha Aung who is also a joint-general secretary of Arakan National League for Democracy was arrested in July 2000 and was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for having connection with "outlawed armed groups operating along the Thai-Burma border." Members of International Human Right Watch including Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar have urged SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) to release him.

    One of U Aye Tha Aung's son told DVB about his father health condition in details.

    (Ko Moe Aye) - We heard that your father - U Aye Tha Aung's health condition is serious. Could you please explain current situation?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) - He is suffering from migraine. He could not move his right arm as well. But the authority stopped his medical treatment. Our family seeks advice from physicians and instructs him to do some physical exercise. He can't sleep during the night although he gets some medicine from us. We can tell you about his condition only as he told us because we don't have direct contact with him in daily bases.

    (Ko Moe Aye) How often have you seen him?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) We are allowed to meet him fifteen minutes once a week.

    (Ko Moe Aye) Is there anyone who are guarding during your meeting?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) Yes, there is. Sometimes police officers or sometimes one or two military intelligent officers.

    (Ko Moe Aye) What about the talks, can you freely talk with him?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) We can't talk freely as sometimes they take notes on what we said.

    (Ko Moe Aye) What about the food? Do you provide him with food or he gets it from the prison?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) We deliver food for him every morning.

    (Ko Moe Aye) What about the medicine?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) We buy medicine that the medic asked us to get for him.

    (Ko Moe Aye) So only medic is treating him but not the doctor?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) Yes, only the medic. Not long time ago, he suffered severe migraine and dyspepsia. He requested the doctor to check him. But the doctor did not show up and then medic gave him a medicine. He just had to accept it.

    (Ko Moe Aye) Did the doctor give him any reasons why he did not show up?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) No, he did not give any reason.

    (Ko Moe Aye) You earlier mentioned that the authority stopped him from his weekly physiotherapy treatment. Could you please explain why?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) We don't know exactly why they stopped it. But according to my father, he was regularly sent to physiotherapist once a week followed by some guards to take physiotherapy treatment. Now is already four days that he has not been to physiotherapist. The last time when he visited to the physiotherapist, she said that 'uncle, I am sorry and it's very difficult to say that I can't give you any more treatment. Since that day, he is stopped from his weekly physiotherapy treatment.

    (Ko Moe Aye) In overall situation, what kind of worries do you and your family have for your father?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) We are very worried about him because of not being able to take care of him freely and closely. We don't see any improvement of his health condition. When we met him, his face was swollen and we were told that he got pain in his waist when he walked, suffered from arthritis and heart problems. His colleges at the Rangoon General Hospital prison ward also worry about his serious health situation.

    (Ko Moe Aye) Do you worry that you may not be allowed to meet your father because of this interview about his health?

    (U Aung Tha Aung's son) It's dilemma as everything is under their control. As a member of family, I am just expressing my worries about my father's serious health condition. It is all depends on them how they will respond it. For the time being, we only worry that the authorities may do further damage to his health.

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    49 U.S Congressmen Call for Release of Min Ko Naing

    By Tin Maung Htoo (Burma Media Association )

    April 24, 2002-- 49 U.S Congressmen call on the Burmese military government to release imprisoned student leader Min Ko Naing, saying his continued detention is "arbitrary."

    A letter directly addressed to Senior General Than Shwe insists that Min Ko Naing has already served his full sentence and he should have been released since early 2000. However, he has been held in the solitary confinement for most of his imprisonment, the Congressmen lamented in the letter, citing the report of U.N Human Rights Special Rapportuer Poalo Sergio Pinheiro who had seen many political prisoners in Burma.

    The letter also quotes many phrases from the ruling of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) in order to make sure of its assertion.

    "The depravation of liberty of Paw Oo Tun (Min Ko Naing) is arbitrary, being contravention of article 9, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right," quoted UNWGAD as ruling in the letter.

    "We are appalled and outraged at the imprisonment and treatment of such a brave young student leader," added congressmen along with their signatures in the letter. "In light of this ruling, we call upon the SPDC to release Min Ko Naing immediately," states in the letter. It also calls for the release of other 1800 political prisoners in Burma.

    Aung Din, a colleague of Min Ko Naing, former political prisoners and now a Free Burma campaigner informed that they could deliver the letter to Razali Ismail before he started his trip to Burma. Aung Din said he expects UN special envoyRazali would use this letter to apply pressure to the Burma military regime for the release of Min Ko Naing. He also added that the letter was delivered to Burmese Embassy in Washington D.C on April 15.

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    Activists Protest Gen Maung Aye's Visit

    By Ko Thet and John S Moncreif
    The Irrawaddy

    April 25, 2002--Approximately ten Thai student and human rights activists submitted a statement on Tuesday to Thai government officials calling for them to address human rights issues rather than trade during Burmese Gen Maung Aye's visit to Bangkok.

    The activists dressed as Burmese laborers, fishermen, and housekeepers, gathered at the government house to submit a joint statement on behalf of a coalition of student and human rights organizations in Thailand. The organizations in the coalition include the Student Federation of Thailand and the All Burma Students' Democratic Front. While the activists presented their statement, the organizations also held a joint press conference at the Student Christian Center in Bangkok.

    "Burma and Thailand should talk about human rights, not just about business," according to Addisorn Kermong of the Thai Action Council for Democracy in Burma, who spoke at the press conference.

    The statement called for the Thai government to play a vital role in supporting the on going dialogue in Burma between the military regime and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.The organizations also called for the Thai government to be "more concerned with human rights", including Burmese refugees in Thailand, and the people's participation in Thai-Burmese policy. The activists also urged "the Thai government to reveal all agreements and conditions made between the two governments."

    Gen Maung Aye, Vice Chairman of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council, and his thirty eight member delegation arrived in Thailand on Tuesday for a four-day visit to meet with Thai officials, including Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, about bilateral issues-- including drug trafficking, investment and ethnic insurgents.Gen Maung Aye also had an audience with His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej. He is also scheduled to play a round of golf with Thai Defense Minister Gen Chavalit Youngchaiyudt in the Thai resort town of Phuket in Southern Thailand.

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    Myanmar's army chief returns to Thai capital

    BANGKOK, April 25 (AFP) - Visiting Myanmar army chief General Maung Aye arrived in Bangkok Thursday after an overnight trip to the Thai resort island of Phuket, military airport officials said.

    Maung Aye, who is also vice chairman of Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), was scheduled to hold private talks with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra late on Thursday afternoon, prior to a dinner at the premier's residence.The two also held talks after Maung Aye's arrival for his four-day visit in Bangkok Tuesday, during which they discussed a range of contentious issues that have hampered bilateral relations between the two countries recently.

    The talks resulted in the formalising of an agreement reached earlier this year that allows Thai fishing trawlers back into Myanmar waters. The trawlers had been banished after clashes between rival ethnic militias touched off skirmishing between the two national armies in February 2001.

    As well, Thailand pledged aid of 80 million baht (1.9 million dollars) for the development of a 16-kilometre (10-mile) road linking the Thai border town of Mae Sot to Myawadi and Kawkareik.Thailand will also provide a soft loan of 300 million baht for the contruction of another 160-kilometre road from Kawkareika to Pa-an, which will link to a road from India.

    The countries agreed to explore joint developments in trade, tourism, agriculture and livestock.Thailand also expressed an interest in importing sesame, soybeans, and castor oil.

    Earlier on Thursday, Maunge Aye played a round of golf with Thailand's deputy prime minister and defence minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.The general is the first top Myanmar official known to have travelled out of the isolated country since the junta announced last month it had foiled a coup attempt by relatives of former dictator Ne Win.He will return to Yangon with his 37-strong entourage on Friday morning.

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    East Timor keen on ASEAN membership despite Myanmar objection

    SINGAPORE, April 25 (AFP) - East Timor is keen to gain entry into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in five years despite objections from Myanmar, foreign minister Jose Ramos Horta said Thursday.

    "The reality of the matter is East Timor is a Southeast Asian sovereign entity. The geographical criteria alone should prevail," he told foreign correspondents at a luncheon in Singapore.Ramos Horta said his war-ravaged country, which will formally gain independence on May 20, is working to be an ASEAN member in five years and wants observer status to be granted in the interim.

    "We do not seek immediate membership... because there are enormous cost implications for East Timor," Ramos Horta said."In the next few months, we will continue the efforts in engaging the ASEAN countries in seeking observer status in ASEAN," he said, adding that even this effort was facing objections from military-ruled Myanmar.But differences among ASEAN members are common, he said.

    "What I can say is that among the 10 ASEAN countries, there are often differences... some of them how to address the issue of Burma or Myanmar," Ramos Horta said.

    ASEAN foreign ministers discussed at a meeting in Thailand in February a proposal to give East Timor observer status but failed to reach any consensus.Myanmar objected to the proposal, citing East Timorese leaders' "past dealings" with Myanmar opposition forces led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi when East Timor was still under Indonesian control.Ramos Horta himself is a Nobel peace laureate.

    Observer status, now enjoyed by Papua New Guinea, would allow East Timor to attend ASEAN's annual ministerial meetings and hold informal consultations with the group.ASEAN, formed in 1967, now groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.East Timor has been invited as a guest of host Brunei at the group's foreign ministers' meeting and security forum in July.

    Thailand to Hold Trade Fair in Myanmar

    BANGKOK, April 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Thailand will organize a trade fair in Myanmar next month to strengthen trade and cooperation between the two neighboring countries, the Thai News Agency (TNA) reported Thursday.

    Oum Maolanont, Thai Ambassador to Myanmar, was quoted as saying that the trade fair, dubbed as Thailand Exhibition 2002, will be held in Rangoon between May 9 and 12.Various Thai products will be displayed in the fair, ranging from automobile parts to textile products and fruits, he said.Thailand organizes two large scale trade fairs in Myanmar every year.

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    U.N. envoy upbeat at end of Myanmar visit

    YANGON(Reuters), April 25 A top U.N. envoy trying to salvage flagging reconciliation talks between Myanmar's ruling military and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi ended a four-day visit on Friday saying he was optimistic of progress soon.

    Diplomats have said if Razali Ismail's mission to Myanmar ended without any sign that the secretive peace dialogue was moving forward, the credibility of the talks would be severely dented.

    Razali, a Malaysian diplomat who played a key role in brokering the start of talks between Suu Kyi and the military in October 2000, met Senior General Than Shwe, head of the ruling junta, on Friday before leaving Myanmar.

    Asked about the meeting, he told reporters: ''It was very useful and a big honour for me.'' Razali said on Thursday he was confident of progress in the political dialogue in Myanmar but could not predict when it would come. A source close to Razali said on Friday the latest visit could bear fruit soon. ''We can expect to see the results in a few weeks,'' the source said.

    On Thursday evening, Razali had dinner with Suu Kyi at the lakeside Yangon home where she has been held under house arrest for 18 months. It was his second meeting with the 56-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner during his visit.

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    UN's Burma envoy hints at progress

    source : BBC

    The United Nations special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, has told the BBC he expects "significant developments" soon in the talks between the country's military government and opposition. Mr Razali would not be drawn on details, but UN officials said the release from house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was one possibility.

    Mr Razali was speaking after meeting Burma's three top leaders on Friday, as pressure mounted on all sides for a breakthrough. Mr Razali had a working lunch with General Than Shwe, General Maung Aye, and Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt. General Maung Aye arrived back a few hours earlier than planned from Thailand to attend.

    The meeting with Than Shwe, thought to be only the second between the two men since Mr Razali initiated talks between the government and opposition 18 months ago, will be seen as symbolically important.

    The talks have so far produced few concrete results, and diplomats warn that unless the military makes concessions soon, notably by freeing Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma could face trade sanctions.

    On Thursday Mr Razali met Aung San Suu Kyi at her lakeside home where she is under house arrest. It was their second meeting in two days. Mr Razali also met officials from her National League of Democracy.

    Rights attack

    The urgent need for progress was underlined by a resolution adopted on Thursday by the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The 53-member commission accused the military government of "a continuing pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights", and of stalling on political progress.

    Its charges against Burma included:

  • Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

  • Enforced disappearances, rape, torture, inhuman treatment, forced labour, including the use of children

  • Forced relocation and denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression, religion and movement

  • The lack of an independent judiciary

  • Delaying the process of national reconciliation and democratisation

  • Mr Razali said after Thursday's meeting at NLD headquarters that he could not promise when there would be any positive developments, but remained "hopeful". NLD Secretary, U Lwin, said the talks had been useful but he cautioned against over-optimism.

    Little to show

    The junta has refused to give up power despite a landslide election victory by the NLD in 1990. The BBC's Larry Jagan in Rangoon says diplomats believe it unlikely the military will free Aung San Suu Kyi unconditionally. But, he adds, many feel that the main issue is whether or not the junta will agree to meaningful political talks with the NLD. Mr Razali has now left Burma.

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    Myanmar's army chief wraps up visit to Thailand

    BANGKOK, April 26 (AFP) - Myanmar army chief General Maung Aye concluded on Friday his four-day visit to Thailand, during which he held two rounds of talks with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

    Maung Aye, who is also vice chairman of Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), left for Yangon from Bangkok's military airport at 9:00 am (0200 GMT), one hour ahead of his original schedule, airport officials said.Thai Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbaransi bade farewell to the army chief and his 37-strong entourage.

    The vice chairman was given a red carpet welcome by Thaksin and his government throughout his visit, highlighting the significance the Thai government attaches to its relationship with the military-ruled regime.Tensions between the two countries rose last month when the United Wa State Army (UWSA), an ethnic militia allied with Yangon, attacked a Thai army unit on the border hours ahead of a planned visit by Thailand's Queen Sirikit.

    Following his arrival Tuesday, Maung Aye met with the premier for talks on a host of other contentious issues that have plagued the bilateral relationship recently.The wide-ranging talks produced a joint agreement allowing Thai fishing trawlers back into Myanmar waters. The trawlers were banished after clashes between rival ethnic militias touched off skirmishing between the two national armies in February 2001.Other topics discussed included the repatriation of illegal Myanmar workers, drugs suppression, tourism cooperation and Thai-funded road construction in Myanmar.

    On Wednesday Maung Aye headed for the resort island of Phuket, where he attended a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and played a round of golf with Defense Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

    During Maung Aye's Phuket stay, Surakiart called for the international community not to press for talks between the military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), the Bangkok Post reported.

    Maung Aye again met with Thaksin on Thursday for dinner at his private Bangkok residence.Wattana Muangsuk, deputy secretary to the prime minister, said that the two discussed security issues as well as drug suppression cooperation.

    The general is the first top Myanmar official known to have travelled out of the isolated country since the junta announced last month it had foiled a coup attempt by relatives of former dictator Ne Win.It is his first visit here since 1993, and his first ever as the SPDC number two.The current Thaksin administration has been more tolerant of the human rights violations known to be occurring under Myanmar military's ruling junta than Thailand's previous government.

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