Daily News- August 02- 2002- Friday

  • AAPP Demands Release
  • AIDS threatens Asia's defense forces
  • UN envoy back in military-ruled Myanmar
  • New Myanmar photos reveal massacre
  • Myanmar's oil, gas production increases in fiscal 2001-02

  • AAPP Demands Release

    By Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    August 01, 2002-A Thailand-based rights group issued a statement yesterday demanding the immediate release of four political prisoners in Burma due to their rapidly declining health. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPPB) said the four are all being held in the prison ward of Rangoon General Hospital (RGH), and are not receiving proper treatment for their ailments.

    According to the AAPPB's statement: "The medical doctors in RGH are reportedly not allowed to give any treatment to the political prisoners without the permission of the military authorities. The patients currently detained in [the prison ward] at RGH are waiting for treatment."

    The four prisoners include U Aye Tha Aung, in his fifties, Dr Than Nyein, 64, U Htway Myint, in his seventies and U Win Tin, 73.

    "U Aye Tha Aung's health condition is extremely poor and the worst of these four people," an advisor from the Social Supporting Committee (SSC) told The Irrawaddy. The SSC was founded in 1995 by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).U Aye Tha Aung, who suffers from lung cancer, is Arakanese and joint-secretary of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP). He was arrested in April 2000 and is serving a 21- year sentence.

    Dr Than Nyein, 64, an elected Member of Parliament and brother-in-law of Sec-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the regime's third most powerful general, suffers from heart disease. He is serving a 7- year sentence. And according to AAPPB, "Htway Myint, a veteran politician in his seventies, has been suffering from a heart condition and also faces general health problems due to his age."

    U Win Tin, 73, former editor-in-chief of the Hantharwaddy newspaper and Burma's most famous journalist, suffers from a multitude of problems-including Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy and Bleeding Pile. He has been imprisoned for 13 years, much of which has been spent in solitary confinement. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the exiled Burma Media Association (BMA) also said, in a report released in July, that U Win Tin's health had become much worse just in the last month.

    Despite Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest in May, and repeated calls from the opposition as well as international human rights groups, an estimated 1,500 political prisoners are still being detained throughout Burma.

    Burma's military government released some 40 political prisoners last week. Analysts, however, say they still doubt the general's sincerity in participating in the country's national reconciliation process. UN special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, is also set to visit Rangoon tomorrow. His eighth visit since taking the post in April 2000.

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    AIDS threatens Asia's defense forces

    By JIM GOMEZ-Associated Press Writer

    BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) _ Rising AIDS infection rates in Asia's security forces could imperil the security and sovereignty of its nations in coming years, officials warned Thursday.

    The grim warning came as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Australia launched a new diplomatic mechanism to keep regional leaders aware of the dangers of AIDS, which is spreading faster in Asia than any other part of the world.

    "We are fighting this virus because it has the potential to undermine the development gains that we have been striving for," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. "Where the virus takes hold, it can be a major threat to sovereignty and security."

    The so-called Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development, launched with Australian seed money, will work with existing bodies, including the U.N. AIDS agency. It will push regional leaders to develop policies that support grass-roots organizations.A report released in conjunction with the event noted that AIDS spreads rapidly in areas of conflict and instability, especially among government troops and rebels or other armed groups.

    The armed forces of developing countries are generally young male conscripts, based far from home, who frequent brothels where prostitutes have little access to condoms and health care.When infected troops get deployed to other areas, they bring the disease with them and spread it. The problem can go international with the deployment of peacekeeping forces, the report said.An estimated 7.5 million people are afflicted with HIV-AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region, with more than 3,000 new cases daily.

    "National security can be threatened because of high infection rates in the uniformed services, competing for allocation in national budgets and deepening economic crisis," said Werasit Sittirai, a UNAIDS official.Peacetime infection rates among the military is on average two to five times higher than among civilians, the report said. During conflicts, the risk of infection soars dramatically.

    Heavy infection rates debilitate the ranks and can lead to poor discipline and affect combat readiness, the report said.Asian militaries facing the greatest danger are in countries that have confronted long periods of instability and civil strife, the report said.

    Infection rates in Myanmar, a poor, military-ruled country where troops have battled ethnic insurgencies for a half-century, are increasing and may exceed 8 percent of all soldiers, the report said.

    In Cambodia, recovering from decades of civil war preceded by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime when doctors were exterminated, poor public health facilities and limited resources could put the figure as high as 12-17 percent, the report said.

    The U.S. Agency for International Development found in a survey in 1997 that 80 percent of police and military personnel visited a prostitute in the previous 12 months, with few using condoms.

    In Thailand, the rate of infection was rising dramatically, especially in areas near the Golden Triangle drug-producing region, until a national safe sex program was introduced in the early 1990s and condom use became widespread.

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    UN envoy back in military-ruled Myanmar

    YANGON, Aug 2 (AFP) - UN envoy Razali Ismail arrived in Myanmar Friday for his eighth visit to the military-ruled country during which he will meet senior junta officials and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The visit is Razali's first since the Nobel Peace Prize winner was released from 19 months of house arrest on May 6. Razali is expected to encourage reconciliation talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, which began in October 2000 but are yet to progress substantively beyond the confidence-building stage.

    The special envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was welcomed by Myanmar's deputy foreign minister, Khin Maung Win, on his arrival in Yangon.According to the junta's official program for Razali -- which for the first time includes details of his non- government related meetings -- a briefing session was held by the UN on his arrival, followed by a lunch with diplomats.

    In the afternoon he was scheduled to meet three ministers -- Brigadier-General David Abel from the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) chairman's office, Labour Minister Tin Winn and Home Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing.Later he was due to meet with the UN country team, prior to attending a dinner hosted by Khin Maung Win.

    On Saturday morning, Razali will meet the SPDC's powerful first secretary, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, and then with Aung San Suu Kyi.A second meeting is also scheduled with the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader on Monday evening over dinner, according to the official program.

    During his five-day visit, Razali is also due to meet with international non-government organisations, the NLD's Central Executive Committee and ethnic minority groups.

    As a goodwill gesture, the junta has released 43 political prisoners in the lead-up to Razali's visit, while nearly 300 have been released since the secret talks began in October 2000.

    The veteran Malaysian diplomat has apparently succeeded in winning the confidence of both sides of the political divide in Myanmar, and driven a process that the international community hopes will lead to democratic reforms after four decades of military rule.

    His arrival in Yangon coincided with the release of photographs in the United States by Myanmar democracy activists that purportedly showed the bodies of 12 villagers, including children and a pregnant woman, allegedly massacred by the military.The junta has yet to comment on the photographs.

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    New Myanmar photos reveal massacre

    WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (AFP) - Myanmar democracy activists Thursday issued graphic photographs showing the bodies of children and a pregnant woman, evidence they say of fresh atrocities committed by Yangon's ruling military.

    The Free Burma Coalition said 12 villagers in Karen state were massacred by the Myanmar military as they tried to escape to refugee camps in Thailand after their villages were forcibly relocated.

    Ten villagers died immediately on April 26, including children of two, five, seven and 14 years of age, when troops lined them up outside a hut where they were sleeping and opened fire, the group said.

    Pictures of the aftermath of the alleged massacre show a line of apparently dead bodies, including those of children, lying in a jungle clearing.

    A pregnant mother and her unborn child died two days after the assault, the group said, and issued a picture of the woman, lying dead on a makeshift stretcher made of bamboo with wounds to her breast and stomach.

    Another picture shows a six-year-old boy with an arm wound who survived the assault, who campaigners say was shot by soldiers.

    "The photos provide "incontrovertible evidence" of the Myanmar government's "horrifying human rights abuses and crimes against humanity," said Republican Congressman Joseph Pitts in a statement.

    The photographs were obtained by the Free Burma Rangers, a group which the Free Burma Coalition says provides toys, education and foods to refugees and displaced people inside Myanmar, the former Burma.

    Myanmar has been accused by rights groups and the US government of repressing thousands of members of the ethnic minorities.Insurgent group the Karen National Union has been battling central control from Yangon for decades. Earlier this week the junta said it was willing to negotiate a ceasefire with the group.

    The new photos were released one day before Razali Ismail, the UN Secretary General's special envoy to Myanmar, is due in Yangon for new talks with the junta and opposition National League for Democracy.

    Myanmar last Friday invited new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello to visit Yangon to inspect its human rights performance, despite widespread perceptions that it is appalling.

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    Myanmar's oil, gas production increases in fiscal 2001-02

    YANGON, Aug 2, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar produced 4.826 million barrels of crude oil in the fiscal year of 2001-02, which ended in March, registering a 16.6 percent increase over the previous year, according to the latest economic indicators published by the government.During the fiscal year of 2001-2, Myanmar yielded 8,787.4 million cubic-meters of natural gas, up 3.6 percent from the previous year.The production of both oil and gas during the year marked the highest in the past seven years.

    Meanwhile, during the year of 2001-02, the country imported 232. 1 million US dollars worth of crude oil to meet its domestic demand, the indicators said, adding that during the year it exported 6,713.4 million cubic-meters of gas, 262.7 percent more than the previous year, with an earning of 633.8 million dollars.Gas export in 2001-02 also registered the highest in four years.

    According to official statistics, during the fiscal year of 2000-01, Myanmar produced 4.137 million barrels of crude oil and 8, 477.7 million cubic-meters of natural gas. During the year, it imported 14.2 million dollars of crude oil, and exported 1,850.7 million cubic-meters of gas, earning for the country 173.5 million dollars.

    Other official figures show that since Myanmar opened to foreign investment in late 1988, contracted investment in oil and gas has reached 2.563 billion dollars.

    The investment include those under 34 contracts in exploring oil and gas at 47 inland blocks and 15 joint-venture contracts with the state-run oil and gas enterprise in the same undertaking at 25 offshore blocks at Mottama, Tanintharyi and Rakhine coastal areas.

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