Daily News- August 08- 2002- Thursday

  • U.N. envoy says Myanmar's Suu Kyi might be allowed overseas soon
  • US to wait for reforms before boosting aid to Myanmar
  • Photo exhibition on Myanmar political prisoners opens in Tokyo
  • Myanmar democracy remains a wild card
  • Watchful waiting on Burma's future
  • PM's vision for the slopes of Burma
  • Democracy Uprising Remembered: Reconciliation Hopes Loom
  • Mahathir to discuss issues with Myanmar leader

  • U.N. envoy says Myanmar's Suu Kyi might be allowed overseas soon

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail suggested Wednesday that Myanmar's military government might soon allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to travel to neighboring countries.

    "When the times comes, she herself may come and see the ASEAN countries," Razali, a former Malaysian diplomat, was quoted as saying by Malaysia's national news agency, Bernama. "I don't know; there is a possibility in the near future."

    Myanmar and Malaysia are members of ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Others include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.Razali returned to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday after making his eighth visit to Myanmar since being appointed by the United Nations ( news - web sites) in April 2000 to broker an end to the country's political impasse over the junta's refusal to allow democracy.

    He said Wednesday that Suu Kyi and the military rulers would hold a meeting to discuss Myanmar's future, but did not give details.

    "She is more positive now," Razali said of the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate. "She can travel" within Myanmar. "It's like breathing fresh air for her. She has gone out there to meet people and was well received."

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    US to wait for reforms before boosting aid to Myanmar

    YANGON, Aug 7 (AFP) - The United States will not consider increasing aid to Myanmar until it sees concrete steps towards democratic reform, an official said Wednesday, after democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi softened her stance on the issue.

    "We are not contemplating any change in our approach to assistance," said a diplomat at the Yangon embassy."We feel more needs to be done toward democracy and national reconciliation in Burma. We continue to urge the regime to begin substantive political talks and release all remaining political prisoners," he told AFP.

    Aung San Suu Kyi told visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi this week that she would no longer oppose foreign aid provided it fell within strict guidelines.

    The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader has been a staunch supporter of sanctions introduced following the brutal repression of 1988 protests and 1990 elections won by her party which the junta refused to recognise.But since the Nobel peace laureate's release from house arrest on May 6 from 19 months of house arrest, she has indicated a willingness to engage with the generals, with an eye to the start of a landmark political dialogue.

    On Wednesday NLD spokesman U Lwin said the party was expecting the much anticipated political talks to begin within weeks, raising hopes that the two sides could soon begin discussing democratic reforms.

    Under the current international sanctions placed on the military government, economic and development aid is off limits and only a trickle of humanitarian aid is permitted.

    "We currently do not provide any assistance directly to the regime," the US diplomat said."We provide limited assistance within the country via American and international NGOs (non-governmental organisations) that ensure these resources reach the intended recipients."

    U Lwin stressed that Aung San Suu Kyi would only countenance assistance projects which benefited the people, and not the ruling generals."These days, whatever will benefit the people of Burma, there will be no objection to," he said."But (projects) must be undertaken with three principles in place -- accountability, transparency and the monitoring."

    Japan -- the biggest creditor nation and aid donor to Myanmar -- has already said it stands to increase aid once the generals and the NLD strike a deal on how to receive the assistance.

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    Photo exhibition on Myanmar political prisoners opens in Tokyo

    TOKYO (07/08/02)- A two-day exhibition of photographs capturing the Myanmar junta's suppression of antigovernment movements in 1988 and the lives of political prisoners started Wednesday in Tokyo.

    About 50 photos are on exhibit at the Sohyokaikan meeting hall in Chiyoda Ward, including images of a female student who has fallen after being fired at several times, and prisoners in shackles crouching before being sent on forced labor. (Kyodo News)

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    Myanmar democracy remains a wild card

    By AYA KIMURA and TAKEHIKO YABE, The Asahi Shimbun - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

    YANGON-While Japan is trying to promote political change in Myanmar (Burma) through economic aid, the military junta has stopped short of promising specific measures to embrace democracy.

    Yoriko Kawaguchi became the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Yangon (Rangoon) in 19 years when she arrived Saturday. She closed out her trip on Monday.From Tokyo's vantage, in the words of a senior Foreign Ministry official, the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in May was a ``good opportunity to promote democracy.''

    Kawaguchi pressed the democracy issue by pledging to expand economic assistance on condition the military government agreed on aid policies with Suu Kyi, who heads the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

    Kawaguchi urged Gen. Than Shwe, chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), to discuss policy issues with her.Than Shwe only promised the SPDC's ``best efforts.''

    Tokyo seems to believe that Myanmar, which is in dire economic straits, cannot afford to turn down its offer since its currency value is plummeting and prices are soaring.Another objective is to prod U.S. and European countries to drop their critical stance toward Myanmar and join hands in offering assistance to help it shift to democratic government.

    Japan, itself facing budgetary constraints, cannot afford to remain the only country to offer economic assistance.The military junta appears unwilling to bend, however.

    Win Aung, Kawaguchi's counterpart, said before her visit that Myanmar had no problem accepting Japan's assistance as long as offers of help ``came with a good understanding of policies of the military government.''

    He noted, during an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, that Myanmar is not without friends and mentioned China and India.

    When Kawaguchi discussed conditions for assistance during a meeting Sunday with Win Aung, he pointed out that Suu Kyi opposes foreign aid on grounds it helps the military junta.

    Meantime, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Myanmar's political problems.ASEAN's decision not to mention Suu Kyi's release in its joint statement following a foreign ministers conference July 30 attests to that, particularly since it was at Myanmar's insistence.

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    Watchful waiting on Burma's future

    The Nation - EDITORIAL-Published on Aug 8, 2002

    Today is the 14th anniversary of the pro-democracy movement in Burma when peaceful student demonstrators were crushed by tanks and machine guns. We salute the courage of those who died and those who are committed to bringing about the realisation of democracy in Burma.

    When Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in early May, there was much hope that situation in Burma would improve. The Burmese people would be given more freedom to cope with day-to-day life while the process of reconciliation, marked by dialogue between Suu Kyi and the military leaders, would begin in earnest.But that has not yet happened.

    The Nobel laureate has displayed flexibility since her release. When she met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi recently, she said that she would welcome international development aid for infrastructure projects if the Rangoon junta leaders begin a political dialogue with her. She made a similar statement when she met with the UN envoy for Burma, Razali Ismail.

    This is a good opportunity for the junta to push forward the much-awaited political dialogue and democratisation. Somehow, Suu Kyi knows very well the tactics employed by the junta leaders. She has been careful enough to create a delicate balance to preserve an atmosphere conducive for future talks.

    The international community must not be content with the junta's superficial changes. Any future aid coming to Burma must be in consultation with Suu Kyi. Otherwise, the political process will be stalled as in the past. Japan, the regime's largest aid donor, must keep this in mind. Otherwise, it might derail the national reconciliation process and let the regime get away scot-free.

    An improved situation in Burma will affect Thai-Burmese relations. The notion that Thailand and Burma can let "bygones be bygones" and start anew is laughable. Burma has proclaimed this mantra time and time again. This is the history in which Burma has found solace in its policy towards Thailand - and a triumphant mood.

    As long as Burma represses its own people, a lasting solution with Thailand will not be attained. A deal done with the junta leaders would not be legitimate and long-lasting. It would also create future resentment toward Thailand among the Burmese public.

    As a democracy, Thailand must assist the freedom-loving people of Burma. This is the 14th year that their aspirations remain unfulfilled. The Thai government must encourage the regime to work together with Suu Kyi to bring back normalcy to that once-prosperous nation. Then and only then can the government justify its soft approach.

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    PM's vision for the slopes of Burma


    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has reiterated to Burma his interest in Thailand helping develop the snow-capped mountains in Burma's Kachin state as international ski slopes, said Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

    "The Thai premier asked me to relay a message to the Burmese leaders that both countries should cooperate in developing the area in Kachin state once relations return to a normal situation," Surakiart said on Tuesday in Rangoon.

    Thaksin wishes to see the project move ahead in the near future, said the minister, whose one-day trip to Rangoon on Tuesday was aimed at defusing the ongoing border tension between the two countries.

    Thaksin earlier said that the proposed ski resort in Kachin state would attract international tourists and earn income for cash-strapped Burma.

    Kachin state is a mountainous area that borders Tibet, China, and India. The northern peaks surrounding the city of Putao are continuously covered in snow. The weather in the majority of the state is cool and temperate.

    However, many critics doubt whether the ski slopes would be economically viable since it takes 10 days on foot to reach the area from Kachin's state capital of Myitkyina.

    The political situation in the state has been the site of skirmishes and intense fighting |until the recent cease-fire agreement between the military junta and the Kachin Independence Organisation.

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    Democracy Uprising Remembered: Reconciliation Hopes Loom

    By Ko Thet
    the Irrawaddy

    August 08, 2002 - Human rights and Burmese dissident groups around the world began staging memorials yesterday to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the largest non-violent pro-democracy uprising in the history of Burma, in which thousands of innocent individuals were killed by military troops, and nearly 2,000 political prisoners remain in jail as a result of the protests and the political climate that followed.

    The events also centered on the current state of affairs in Burma namely the large amount of political prisoners still in detention—which pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi commented on yesterday via a video tape smuggled from Burma.

    According to a press release from the US-based Free Burma Coalition, former political prisoners, refugees and members of Burma's government in exile held a ceremony in Washington DC yesterday to mark the occasion. The ceremony, which was held at the International Human Rights Law Group office, was followed by a protest in front of Burma's embassy in DC.

    "August 8, 1988 should have ushered in a new era of democracy for Burma," said Saya U Tin Moe, a Burmese poet and close associate of Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. "Instead, thousands were killed, and many are still in prison because of their beliefs, including National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders like U Win Tin and ethnic leader U Aye Thar Aung, who are in very poor health."

    The Free Political Prisoners Campaign Committee (Burma) (FPPCC), a Thai- based umbrella organization comprised of twelve Burmese human rights groups, also organized a photo exhibit to commemorate the disastrous event. The exhibit was unveiled in the US and Thailand yesterday, and was launched earlier this month in Australia, Canada, India and Japan as well as other countries. The exhibit will be shown throughout the world during the rest of the year.

    The exhibit, entitled "Burma: Prison State", depicts the deplorable conditions in which Burma's political prisoners are incarcerated—including examples of torture practices used by the regime against the prisoners."Burma's Hostage Crisis", an event held yesterday in Thailand, was co-sponsored by the FPPCC and the Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma), a Bangkok-based human rights lobby. A video of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which was recently smuggled out of Burma by Altsean for the event, was also aired. The event was held at Bangkok's Foreign Correspondent Club.

    During the video Suu Kyi said, "The release of political prisoners is important because it means a return to political normalcy. Unless political organizations are free to go about their work unhindered and unintimidated by the authorities, we can never say that we have started the process towards changed democracy."

    Four individuals spoke at yesterday's event including Teddy Buri, chairperson for the Members of Parliament Union, Thin Thiri, from the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC), who is also a niece of U Win Tin, FPPCC Coordinator and former political prisoner Bo Kyi as well as Mr Jaran Ditapichai, from Thailand's National Human Rights Commission.

    Bo Kyi said the release of all political prisoners is of paramount importance if Burma is to take the necessary steps to become a democratic nation.

    Meanwhile, today in Bangkok, another ceremony is being held at the Student Christian Center. Speakers at the event include Mr Orissa Airawanwath, a former Thai political prisoner, Mrs Sunee Chaiyoros, from Thailand's National Human Rights Commission and Mr Sriruk Pliphat, director of Amnesty International in Thailand.

    Last weekend, the National League for Democracy, Liberated Area (Korea) sponsored the FPPCC's photo exhibition in Seoul. Korean University students and Amnesty International also participated in the event, and some 2,000 Koreans signed a petition calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma.

    On August 8, 1988, people from all walks of life in Burma took to the streets and staged a massive protest against the then authoritarian government in hopes of finally establishing democracy in the country after 26 years of military rule. The government, however, open fired on the demonstrators killing thousands of people including monks and young students and in Sagaing Division of Upper Burma, as many as 300 civilians were killed.

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    Mahathir to discuss issues with Myanmar leader

    The Star

    KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Myanmar leader Gen Than Shwe are expected to exchange views on latest developments in Myanmar during the Prime Minister’s official visit to Yangon on Aug 18.

    Besides exchanging views on current developments, they are expected to discuss problems and opportunities for Asean, said Tan Sri Razali Ismail, the United Nations’ special envoy to Myanmar and special adviser to Dr Mahathir.

    Speaking to reporters after delivering a keynote address at a business seminar here yesterday, he said Dr Mahathir was also expected to exchange views on what Malaysia could do in Myanmar’s industralisation and modernisation plans.

    “Dr Mahathir will take a showcase of the best Malaysian technology to Myanmar and exchange ideas and views on what is happening there and in the Asean region,’’ he said.

    Asked whether Dr Mahathir would meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his two-day visit, Razali, who had just returned from his eighth trip to Myanmar, said: "No idea ... Suu Kyi may want to see the PM.’’

    On Monday, a local daily reported that Dr Mahathir was expected to meet Suu Kyi at the invitation of the opposition leader. However, Dr Mahathir said yesterday that his visit was at the invitation of the Myanmar government. He declined to say whether he would meet the opposition leader.

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