Daily News- April 30- 2002- Monday

  • Burmese explain `facts' of clash
  • Aid to junta `not justified'
  • Myanmar Cultivates 10,117 Hectares of Coffee
  • Myanmar abuzz with talk Suu Kyi will be freed
  • Myanmar UN envoy hints at release of Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Top Myanmar official visits Suu Kyi amid speculation over release


  • Burmese explain `facts' of clash

    The Bangkokpost

    The prime minister yesterday asked the military to show restraint in dealing with unintentional border crossings by Burmese troops and their allies, unless suspected of drug trafficking.

    Thaksin Shinawatra's surprise remark came after last week's exchange of mortar and cannon fire between cavalry troops of the Third Army Region and armed militants from the United Wa State Army, at Ban Pong Hai in Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai.

    The clash followed the capture of two UWSA fighters suspected of scouting for drug traffickers. The UWSA's demand that their men be returned was rejected and they responded by shelling Thai positions. The military retaliated in kind.Mr Thaksin said relations at the government level between Thailand and Burma had improved satisfactorily, so the military should be careful in dealing with unintentional border incursions.

    A senior military officer said he was puzzled by the prime minister's remark.``It is our duty to safeguard our sovereignty, but now the prime minister urges us to be lenient,'' the officer said.

    Rangoon has claimed elements in the Thai miltiary are trying to undermine the premier's policy of fostering ties with Burma.Win Aung, the Burmese foreign minister, has sent a letter to Foreign Minister Surakiat Sathirathai explaining the ``facts'' of the incident. The Burmese ambassador also met with a deputy foreign permanent secretary to inquire about the incident, a ministry spokesman said.

    Aid to junta `not justified'

    The Bangkokpost
    Onnucha Hutasing

    The government should refrain from giving excessive help to Rangoon and opt instead to push democratic principles in negotiations, Senate foreign affairs committee chairman Kraisak Choonhavan said yesterday.

    The government was going too far in giving financial support to the ruling junta when there was no sign of movement towards democracy in Burma, he said.

    Problems between Thailand and Burma were structural and democracy-related, so Bangkok should use democratic principles in negotiations with Rangoon. The senator said Thailand had never benefited from paying the ``price of friendship'' with Burma and at the same time unwittingly put Burmese people in trouble.Rangoon made a habit of breaching peace agreements with the 22 Burmese minority groups and had increased the size of its army from 100,000 to 400,000.

    ``Even as our government gave Gen Maung Aye a warm welcome during his visit here, there were clashes at the border.``An accusation followed that Bangkok allowed the Thai military to enter Burmese territory.``Under the Thaksin administration, there have been about 10 skirmishes at the Thai-Burmese border, killing 20 people. I want to ask how could a friend do such things?'' he said.

    Mr Kraisak said the International Labour Organisation had condemned Rangoon for using slave labour, burning villages and killing 125 people in its bid to realise the Yadana gas pipeline project.Burma had failed to combat drugs despite a UN subsidy equal to 625 million baht to support farming to replace drug crops.Instead of creating peace, Rangoon had moved at least 100,000 people from the North to occupy minority-held areas in the lower part of the country, he said.

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    Myanmar Cultivates 10,117 Hectares of Coffee

    YANGON, April 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar cultivated 25,000 acres (10,117.25 hectares) of coffee trees up to March, the end of the fiscal year 2001-02, according to the figures released recently by the state-run Myanma Farms Enterprise (MFE).

    The country plans to add another 14,000 acres (5,665.66 hectares) of coffee plantations during the present fiscal year of 2002-03, which began in April, in the wake of growing demand for coffee in the world market, said the MFE under the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.For the next five years, Myanmar will eventually target to plant 100,000 acres (40,469 hectares) of coffee trees, it added.

    According to the MFE, Myanmar produced 2,000 tons of coffee in the fiscal year of 2001-02 and it has won a sale contract with a major French trading company for exporting 36 tons of coffee beans grown in the country's Shan state at a sale price of 1,600 U.S. dollars a ton, the biggest deal of its kind in its export to a foreign company. The country's coffee export covers Europe and Japan.

    Myanmar's agricultural products, including various beans and pulses, have major markets in the world. Official statistics show that it exported 989,100 tons of such beans and pulses in 2001, earning a foreign exchange of 276.52 million U.S. dollars during the year.

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    Myanmar abuzz with talk Suu Kyi will be freed

    YANGON (REUTERS) April 30 Military-ruled Myanmar was abuzz with speculation on Tuesday that pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was set to be freed after 18 months in house arrest following a deal with the ruling junta.

    The release of the 56-year-old Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, is one of the top demands of the international community. She has been kept confined to her lakeside Yangon residence, with her telephone line cut, since September 2000.

    A source close to the ruling junta told Reuters the government was set to announce the release of Suu Kyi and a deal under which she would co-operate with the junta in administering humanitarian work in fields such as health and education

    ''It will be more than the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and some other political prisoners. It will be a breakthrough in Myanmar politics,'' the source said.

    Razali Ismail, the U.N. special envoy to Myanmar, ended a four-day visit to the country on Friday saying he expected a breakthrough soon in the peace process. On Tuesday, Razali told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the expected major announcement could include the release of political prisoners or further freedom for political activities.

    ''The one that everyone expects is the release of Aung San Suu Kyi,'' the Malaysian diplomat said. ``Be patient. I think something big will happen.''

    PATIENCE WEARING THIN

    The government began secret talks with Suu Kyi in October 2000, a move hailed as a breakthrough. But since then no concrete progress has been announced. The release of Suu Kyi is widely regarded as the single most important step the junta could take to show the increasingly impatient international community that it is considering political change.

    Myanmar Labour Minister Tin Win told a news conference at the weekend that the government would make a major announcement ''in a few days.'' Asked what progress had been achieved in the talks, he said: ''Just wait and see.''

    itnesses said a team of municipal workers were cleaning the road outside Suu Kyi's home on Tuesday morning and repairing potholes.

    Diplomats in Yangon confirmed speculation was rife that Suu Kyi would be freed, but pointed out that similar rumours have circulated before. ''Certainly the government has to announce something,'' one Western diplomat said. ''It's hard to see how it could fail to include Suu's release. But we've been disappointed before.''

    Suu Kyi, the charismatic daughter of assassinated independence hero Aung San, was held under house arrest from 1989 to 1995. She was placed back under house arrest in 2000 after she embarrassed the government with several high-profile attempts to challenge travel restrictions that confined her to Yangon.

    Her release in 1995 did not herald any political change. But analysts said if she had indeed agreed to limited co-operation with the ruling junta, this would be a major shift in her stance. Previously she has refused all overtures from the military to work with them.

    Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won Myanmar's last election in 1990 by a landslide, but the military government refused to hand over power. Myanmar has faced international isolation and economic sanctions over its human rights record and its treatment of Suu Kyi and the NLD. (Additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok and Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur)

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    Myanmar UN envoy hints at release of Aung San Suu Kyi

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 (AFP) - United Nations envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail hinted Tuesday that the release of Nobel peace laureate and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be imminent.

    Razali, who made a key four-day visit to Myanmar last week, was commenting on a statement by a minister in Myanmar's military government Sunday of "significant progress" in national reconciliation.

    Asked by reporters what he expected, Razali replied: "Well on a scale of zero to ten, what will be your expectation?"It must be the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, release of political prisoners and further freedom for political activities.

    "That is on the menu. The one that everyone expects is the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Be patient. I think something big will happen."

    Aung San Suu Kyi has been under virtual house arrest for much of the past decade and all of the last 18 months.Razali's comments, made on the sidelines of a conference here, came after Myanmar Labour Minister Tin Win said Sunday that the near future would yield "significant progress" in the military junta's political reconciliation with Aung San Suu Kyi.But he played down expectations that her release was imminent.

    "A certain significant progress will take place within a few days," he said. "I am saying in a few days, I am not saying in a week or in a month."

    But Tin Win implicitly discounted the possibility this week would see the release of Aung San Suu Kyi."I don't think so," he said when asked if the junta would release her in coming days.

    "It may not be any statement issued, (but) it will be some sign of progress shown," Tin Win added. "Please be patient and wait a while."

    The international community has been anxiously awaiting news out of Yangon since envoy Razali made a key four-day visit to Myanmar ending Friday in which he said important developments could happen "quite quickly."Razali, a Malaysian diplomat, held a rare meeting Friday with the junta's troika of top generals and said afterwards he felt the reconciliation process was back on track.

    The Sunday statements were the first official signs from the government here that it shared in Razali's optimism over his trip.Deputy foreign minister Khin Maung Win said he was "very happy" with the visit, Razali's seventh since being appointed two years ago as special envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

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    Top Myanmar official visits Suu Kyi amid speculation over release

    YANGON, April 30 (AFP) - A high-ranking Myanmar junta official made a rare visit to Aung San Suu Kyi's home Tuesday, sources said, heightening speculation she was about to be released after 18 months under house arrest.

    Brigadier-General Than Tun, the official liaison officer between the opposition leader and Myanmar's military regime, spent 10 minutes at the University Drive residence, in his first visit for several months.

    Than Tun, the head of the political department of the defence ministry, does not see Aung San Suu Kyi on a regular basis, but typically only when there is a matter that needs to be attended to.

    His brief visit Tuesday came after United Nations envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail, who made a four-day visit to Myanmar last week, hinted Aung San Suu Kyi could be released shortly.

    "That is on the menu. The one that everyone expects is the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Be patient. I think something big will happen," he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

    Myanmar observers were watching closely for any sign that a release was imminent, particularly as major announcements are typically made ahead of important holidays, like Wednesday's May Day celebrations.

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