Daily News- August 03- 2002- Saturday
Myanmar to investigate reports of Shan rapesSurakiart set for visit aimed at clearing airU.N. envoy meets Suu Kyi in effort to revive talks
Myanmar to investigate reports of Shan rapes
YANGON, Aug 2 (AFP) - A team led by Myanmar's deputy home minister left for Shan Friday to investigate claims that military troops raped hundreds of women in the eastern state, official press reported.
A report released last month by two Thai-based Shan rights organisations detailed the rapes of 625 girls and women in the state, mostly between 1996 and 2001, prompting outrage in the United States.Myanmar has repeatedly rejected the allegations.
"These are preposterous accusations resulting from political pressure aimed at breaking up the unity between the Tatmadaw (military) and the minority races," Deputy Home Minister Thura Myint Maung was quoted as saying by the state-run New Light of Myanmar paper."Therefore to refute them, inquiries are to be conducted," he said.
According to the English-language paper, the decision to send a team to the Shan towns of Kengtung, Tachilek, Loikaw and Monghsat was taken this week during a meeting attended by Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
The US State Department said last month it had raised its concerns with the regime over the report."We are appalled by reports that the Burmese military is using rape as a weapon of war against civilian populations in Shan state," a spokeswoman said then, using the country's former name."We have raised our concerns with the Burmese regime and urged them to fully investigate any and all allegations of the systematic rape of ethnic minority girls and women in Burma and appropriately punish those guilty of such heinous crimes."
An editorial in the New Light of Myanmar said that if the accusations were true, a complaint would already have been received by the Committee for Women's Affairs."The government will initiate investigation into the matter in order to expose the truth," it concluded.
The newspaper report came after Myanmar democracy activists in the United States on Thursday released photographs they said 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.
The departure of the team to Shan coincided with the arrival here of United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, who will meet with senior junta officials and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his five-day visit.The Malaysian diplomat 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.
To The TopSurakiart set for visit aimed at clearing air
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will hold talks with his Burmese counterpart in Rangoon on Monday after a three-month freeze in diplomatic ties, intelligence sources said yesterday.
Mr Surakiart was also expected to meet Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council and the country's intelligence chief, during his one-night stopover in Rangoon.
Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung informally invited Mr Surakiart to Rangoon during talks on the sidelines of the Asean Regional Forum in Brunei on Tuesday.
Thai ambassador Oum Maolanonda said yesterday the talks would be the first step toward clearing recent misunderstandings with the Burmese government.``The talks are being held in the best national interests of both countries,'' he said.
Bilateral relations first became strained on May 20, when Rangoon accused the Thai military of shelling its territory to assist the Shan State Army, which was fighting the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army.The Burmese junta retaliated two days later by closing all border checkpoints, leading to many millions of baht in lost trade.Since then, there have been several border incidents, as well as a war of words over articles critical of the monarchy published in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar.
Mr Surakiart was expected to lodge a protest with the Burmese government over the subject matter of the articles, as well as raise the issue of cross- border trade.Rangoon was expected to seek assurances the Thai military would not interfere in its national security affairs.
To The TopU.N. envoy meets Suu Kyi in effort to revive talks
Rangoon (Reuters) - The United Nations special envoy to Burma met separately with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the military government's powerful intelligence chief on Saturday in an effort to kickstart talks on political change.
Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail, on his eighth visit to Burma in two years as U.N. envoy, met Suu Kyi for the first time since she was freed from house arrest in May, sources in her party said.
He also met with military intelligence chief and number three in the ruling junta, Khin Nyunt.
It was the highest level meeting Razali was scheduled to have with the government during a four-day visit that diplomats say aims to persuade the ruling generals to start a dialogue with Suu Kyi on a democratic transition.
Razali's trip coincides with a visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to Burma since 1983. Kawaguchi was scheduled to arrive on Saturday evening.
Japan has shown more willingness to engage Burma than most Western countries, and Kawaguchi's visit is seen as an effort to urge meaningful dialogue. A three-way meeting between Razali, Kawaguchi and Suu Kyi has not been ruled out, officials say.
RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
The secretary of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, U Lwin, told Reuters "national reconciliation" -- a euphemism for talks between the military and the opposition -- and the release of political prisoners topped Razali's agenda.
"We are optimistic about the release of more political prisoners. In the past, the government used to release about 10 political prisoners per month," U Lwin said.
"But altogether 45 were released in July alone. It was a great progress and we hope more will be released shortly."
Razali has concentrated on pushing for the release of political prisoners since he brokered talks between the military and the NLD in late 2000.
Since then, the government has released more than 300 prisoners. After Razali's last visit, the generals released Suu Kyi from house arrest, a concession diplomats say was prompted by growing impatience among Western countries -- and increasingly from Burma's Southeast Asian neighbours.
But more than 200 NLD members are still behind bars along with hundreds of other political prisoners.
SUBSTANTIVE POLITICAL ISSUES
Diplomats said any optimism generated from Suu Kyi's release has begun to evaporate. The charismatic daughter of independence hero Aung San has been allowed freedom of movement but her calls for substantive political dialogue have gone unheeded.
The Razali-brokered talks are still stuck at what the junta calls "the confidence-building phase" and have yet to even begin addressing substantive political issues.
Since Suu Kyi's release on May 6, there have been no meetings with any of the country's senior ruling generals, diplomats say.
The military government may have decided it can risk giving Suu Kyi freedom of movement without seriously weakening its grip on power, they say.
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