Daily News- August 06- 2002- Tuesday

  • Reform on agenda as Myanmar's Suu Kyi meets Japanese, UN envoys
  • Suu Kyi softens stand,welcomes foreign aid
  • Ethnic political parties form "temporary" United Nationalities Alliance
  • Thai minister in Myanmar to patch up ties
  • Thai army to toe govt line on Rangoon
  • Suu Kyi to talk with Burmese junta soon-U.N. envoy
  • Burmese compelled to find work abroad
  • Kachin representatives to meet Razali Ismail

  • Reform on agenda as Myanmar's Suu Kyi meets Japanese, UN envoys

    YANGON, Aug 5 (AFP) - Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi Monday and was due to see UN envoy Razali Ismail, as the two visitors attempted to push ahead democratic reforms in the military-run nation.

    In a meeting with the leader of Myanmar's junta, Senior General Than Shwe, Kawaguchi urged the regime to push ahead with a landmark dialogue it began with the Nobel peace laureate in October 2000.

    "We want her to have a dialogue with the government so that national reconciliation can move forward," a senior Japanese foreign ministry official told AFP."She (Kawaguchi) encouraged the SPDC to promote political dialogue further," he said referring to the ruling State Peace and Development Council.

    "Also, she emphasised the importance of attracting foreign capital through economic reforms... and she encouraged the SPDC to move ahead further with its reconciliation with minorities."In response, "General Than Shwe said they will do their best," the official said.

    Aung San Suu Kyi, released by the junta on May 6 after 19 months of house arrest, was hosting the Japanese and UN officials separately at her lakeside residence as a culmination of their visits to the country.

    Japanese officials said Kawaguchi met for over an hour with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD).Kawaguchi is the most senior government official from an industrialised nation to meet with the pro-democracy leader since her release.

    Razali, who helped broker the dialogue between the generals and Aung San Suu Kyi, has also held talks with both sides of the countries' political divide and said Sunday that his meetings were "very productive".He was due to dine again with "The Lady," as she is popularly known here, Monday evening following a day of meetings with regional and Western diplomats.

    Observers in the Myanmar capital took the diplomatic flurry as a positive sign, but cautioned against unrealistic expectations of rapid progress in the political dialogue.

    "I think that in its own rather uncoordinated or rather imprecise way it has been moving ahead steadily but not rapidly and certainly not with any dramatic developments," said one diplomat who attended Razali's briefing."The real question remains the one that it has always been, which is when will they begin substantive political discussion?

    "We still don't know the answer to that and that was one of the things Mr. Razali was interested in pushing along," he said.

    The landmark reconciliation talks have so far led to the release of the NLD leader but are yet to progress beyond the confidence-building stage.The charismatic leader has been permitted to make two major political trips outside the capital -- both of which drew crowds in their thousands -- and a number of NLD offices have been reopened across the country.But no other progress is believed to have been made towards bringing democratic reform that would end four decades of military rule.

    A potentially groundbreaking trip is due to take place later this month when Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad visits Myanmar on August 16.A senior Malaysian official said Monday that Aung San Suu Kyi has requested a meeting with Mahathir, and that the possibility of face-to-face dialogue was high but that Malaysia would seek the junta's approval first.

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    Suu Kyi softens stand,welcomes foreign aid

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told Japan's visiting foreign minister Monday that she does not oppose economic aid to military-ruled Myanmar, a fresh demonstration of her softening stand toward the junta.

    Suu Kyi made the statement during a one-hour talk with Yoriko Kawaguchi, said Taeko Takahashi, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

    "(Suu Kyi) said she does not oppose foreign assistance which will reach really needy people, but in that process transparency and accountability should be guaranteed,'' Takahashi told reporters.

    In the past, Suu Kyi bitterly opposed all foreign aid to Myanmar, saying the money simply fattened the junta's coffers. But since her May 6 release from 19 months of house arrest, Suu Kyi appears to have dropped her hardline stand.

    Japan, Myanmar's biggest aid donor, has been holding back on more assistance because of Suu Kyi's opposition so far. By conveying her position first hand to Kawaguchi, Suu Kyi appears to have given the green light to Japan.

    Kawaguchi, who ended her three-day visit after meeting Suu Kyi, is the highest ranking official from an industrialized country to meet the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate since her release.

    Earlier Monday, Kawaguchi told the junta leader, Gen. Than Shwe, that Japan would be happy to provide more aid if the junta and Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party jointly agreed on a project, Takahashi said.

    The foreign minister also urged the junta to promote dialogue with the NLD on policy and move forward with political and social reforms. Than Shwe promised to do his best, but could not give "any concrete response at this point,'' Takahashi said.

    Kawaguchi stressed three points: promotion of political dialogue toward democratization, the encouragement of direct foreign investment through economic reforms, and the need for reconciliation with the country's ethnic minorities, Takahashi said.

    Suu Kyi told Kawaguchi that the NLD "is ready to move forward and she wants the government to come forward as well,'' Takahashi said. "Both (the NLD and government) agreed to the necessity of speedy change and transparency of economic system.''

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    Ethnic political parties form "temporary" United Nationalities Alliance

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 2 Aug 02

    Excerpt from interview by Democratic Voice of Burma correspondent Ko Moe Aye with Shan Nationalities League for Democracy chairman U Khun Tun Oo on formation of United Nationalities Alliance; date and place not given, broadcast by Democratic Voice of Burma on 2 August.

    [U Khun Tun Oo] To explain it clearly, we have grouped together eight nationalities parties, we regularly meet and discuss how we meet Mr Razali [UN secretary-general's special envoy to Burma] and then to prepare ourselves if the bipartite dialogue [between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Rangoon (Yangon) military junta] is upgraded to tripartite dialogue. We regularly meet and discuss matters such as the needs of the nationalities, how to solve the political problems, the literature and culture of the nationalities, and the right to map our own destiny. We discuss these matters among others and then to represent the national races if the dialogue becomes tripartite.

    [Ko Moe Aye] The group's current name is United Nationalities Alliance [UNA], which in vernacular would be Nyi Nyut Thaw Taing Yin Thar Lu Myo Su Myar Maha Meik Aphwe Gyoke.

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Yes. That is correct. It is not a group per se but we have come together and formed it as a temporary measure and we recognize each other... What we anticipate after forming this group is that one day we will have the right to perform political activities. In other words, the nationalities are attempting to collectively form an organization that will have the right to engage in political activities. In this group, only the SNLD [Shan Nationalities League for Democracy] has the privilege to engage in political activities at present, the others do not have that privilege so it is one of the problems.

    [Ko Moe Aye] Could you tell us which nationality parties are in the group?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] The other parties are ZNC, Zomi National Congress, that is a Chin group; CNLD [Chin National League for Democracy] is another Chin group, the Mon party is MNDF [Mon National Democratic Front], the Arakan group is ALD [Arakan League for Democracy], the Karen group is KNC [Karen National Congress for Democracy], the Kachin group is KNCD [Kachin State National Congress for Democracy], and the Kayah group is the Kayah State all Nationalities League for Democracy [KNLD]. Of the eight, seven parties [except the KNC] won seats at the Multiparty General Elections held in 1990.

    [Ko Moe Aye] Yes. Have these parties come together to have a discussion?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] Well, we have. We frequently have informal talks and discussions. When Daw Suu was released from house arrest she said the nationalities groups should be engaged in nationalities affairs. She also mentioned very clearly that she will not meddle in nationalities affairs. Another point is, the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] has declared that it has opened a new page in history, that it is trying to return the country to democracy, that it will allow the citizens to participate freely in the political process, and that it is the duty of all national races to give priority to national unity, peace, and stability of the country. These promises and slogans and the improvement of the political climate have encouraged us to become politically active.

    [Ko Moe Aye] So far the nationalities have got together and held talks and discussions. Do you have any collective position or view regarding when the tripartite talks should begin and the view of the current bipartite talks?

    [U Khun Tun Oo] No absolutely nothing at all. As I have mentioned before, it is premature to say when the tripartite talks will begin. We will mention about the tripartite talks only when the bipartite talks with NLD [and the SPDC] becomes unproductive. I think it will be a long time before the tripartite talks topic emerges.

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    Thai minister in Myanmar to patch up ties

    BANGKOK, (Reuters)Aug. 5 - Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai arrived in Myanmar on Monday saying he was confident of ending a row which saw their shared border closed more than a month ago.

    Surakiart will meet the three most senior Myanmar military rulers during his two-day visit to Yangon to try to heal bilateral relations, which nosediveD following a series of bloody border clashes in May.

    ''I have all the confidence that we can resolve all the problems and we can improve relations to the same level we had last year,'' Surakiart told Reuters on his arrival.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters earlier in the day that the foreign minister would discuss ways to restore good relations during his visit on Monday and Tuesday. ''Our core principle, which has never changed, is we are inseparable neighbours who need to share mutual borders forever,'' Thaksin said. ''A healthy bilateral relationship is our...foremost priority.''

    Surakiart will meet his Myanmar counterpart Win Aung on Monday night, and hold talks with the junta's supreme leader, General Than Shwe, on Tuesday. He will also meet with the powerful intelligence chief, General Khin Nyunt.

    Thaksin said on Monday a good relationship with Myanmar would allow Thailand to more effectively fight drug trafficking. ''Everything will be cleared up after the foreign minister has returned, as they will trust us after the visit,'' Thaksin said.

    Thai army to toe govt line on Rangoon

    Wassana Nanuam Yuwadee Tunyasiri
    the Bangkokpost

    In a reversal of the army's hardline stance on Burma, Gen Somdhat Attanand, the army commander-in-chief designate, yesterday announced that under him the army would strictly follow government policy and do nothing that could damage Thai-Burmese relations.

    His remark followed reports that in contrast to the active suppression of drug trafficking along the Thai-Burmese border and the unyielding ``sovereignty first'' stance of outgoing army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont, Gen Somdhat would take a softer stance on Burma and back off on the army's vigorous efforts to combat drugs even at the expense of relations with Rangoon.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday also expressed confidence that Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who left on a visit to Burma yesterday, would be able to quickly improve Thai-Burmese relations.

    Gen Somdhat, who succeeds Gen Surayud on Oct 1, told reporters, ``The present time is the age of politics leading the military, so we must follow government orders or policies.'' He said he would ask the prime minister about government policies for use in drafting his own rules for the army.

    Though he has never served in the Third Army Region which is responsible for the northern border with Burma, Gen Somdhat said it was not beyond his ability to learn.

    He said the army's policy to refrain from supporting minority people in border areas would remain unchanged and the army would not get involved in Rangoon's crackdowns on Shan State Army rebels on Burmese soil.

    Gen Surayud yesterday said he had no worries about his successor's stance on border problems since Gen Somdhat, as a former army chief-of-staff, must understand the issue well.

    ``But the military has duties to provide security, protect sovereignty and suppress drugs according to the charter. If we do not do that, it is deemed a constitutional violation. Our duty is to keep our force in a state of preparedness and to protect sovereignty,'' Gen Surayud said.

    Deputy Defence Minister Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapa insisted the transfer of Gen Surayud out of the army's top post was not related to Thai-Burmese ties nor aimed at appeasing Rangoon.Gen Surayud was known for his tough stance on Burma, which put him at odds with government attempts to ease border conflicts with a prickly neighbour.

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    Suu Kyi to talk with Burmese junta soon-U.N. envoy

    KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 (Reuters)- - The United Nation's special envoy to Burma said on Tuesday opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ready to work with the country's military rulers to help bring about democracy and talks would begin soon.

    "There is a common effort to try to discuss the necessary political and constitutional issues," Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail told Reuters on his return to Kuala Lumpur after a six-day visit to Rangoon.

    Razali said the discussions would take place "very, very soon". He said the talks would certainly happen before his next visit to the country, due within a "couple of months".

    The envoy also gave Reuters a written statement.

    "Mr Razali was informed by Aung San Suu Kyi that as a consequence of her recent travels, she was willing to co-operate with the government in ways that directly benefit all the peoples of Myanmar and are conducive to the evolution of a democratic state," it said.

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    Burmese compelled to find work abroad

    Source : Mizzima News Group

    Due to economic hardship and job scarcity, more and more people leave Burma, even to the developing countries such as India and Cambodia.

    Burmese people now more and more often consider going abroad; moving to any country is preferred to living in Burma", says a graduate student in mathematics, Ko Aung Maw, in Mandalay town.

    Those wanting to work abroad are interested mostly in going to Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, South Africa, in addition to Europe and the United States. The U.S. is preferred to Japan because the right of citizenship may be granted there and investigations for overstay of visas are much less likely there than in Japan.

    Reasons put forward upon entering the U.S. include they want to become seamen, stays sponsored by the invitations of relatives, study stays, accompanying monks who serve Burmese exile communities in the U.S. or cultural groups from Burma doing a tour of those communities.

    "I have attempted three times to get a visa; the embassy is extremely strict now", says a textile seller, whose monthly income is about two lakh kyats. "We gave US$ 10.000 to an agent. He could only arrange fake documents. For finding contacts and getting a visa we had to rely on our fate. The embassy counselor is the decision-maker. The responsible embassy officers are now well acquainted with all sorts of attempts to get a visa on made-up grounds - they don't buy certain stories anymore".

    "Rumour inside Burma has it that one can go to a neighbouring country and apply for refugee status there. Once one has obtained refugee status, it is possible to go to Canada, Australia or the U.S.", an editor of the Business Magazine explained. He added: "India is the most popular first destination".

    In reality, obtaining refugee status in India is difficult. Applications take very long to process - during the process no recognition is given.

    Cambodia is one of the poorest countries on the list of destinations of Burmese exiles.Medical doctors, Engineers, accountants and computer experts risk to Cambodia to work.

    There are over a hundred Burmese professionals working there. Burmese workers are employed in Cambodian textile factories, most of them having immigrated illegally from Thailand.

    Burma's Passport Department and related departments benefit from the surge out of the country. Men and women wanting a passport speedily pay one and half lakh kyats and up to 10-lakh kyat respectively. The offices are overwhelmed with demand.

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    Kachin representatives to meet Razali Ismail

    Source : Mizzima News Group
    Ruili, 3 August 2002

    Mizzima News has learned that two representatives of the Kachin National Congress Party, Duwa Zaw Ing and Duwa Bom Lan, left for Yangon to meet UN Special Envoy Ismail Razali. Mr. Razali is to hold talks with the National League for Democracy (NLD), the SPDC and ethnic nationality parties. According to a Kachin politician, over one hundred Kachin students and civilians signed an agenda, which is to be handed to Mr. Razali and discussed with him.

    Amongst the issues the Kachin representatives intend to raise are democracy and the federal union. The two representatives were elected Members of Parliament from the Kachin National Party in the 1990 general elections; they had even been detained by SPDC. They are said to represent the Kachin people themselves rather than the Kachin Independence Organisation KIO.

    The Kachin politician talking to Mizzima News alleged that "the KIO is not working for the politics in the interest of the Kachin people but only for the SPDC by listening to whatever the SPCD had to sayduring the ten-year period of cease-fire". He furthermore explained that the Kachin people had sent their two elected non-KIO representatives to hold a political dialogue with Mr. Razali as they had lost patience while awaiting a change of government.

    It is not clear yet whether the Kachin representatives will be able to meet Mr. Razali and if - should they meet him - they will be able to discuss political issues frankly and freely without intervention by the SPDC. Should military intelligence insist on being present during the discussion, no discussion will take place, the Kachin politician said.

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