Daily News- August 10- 2002- Saturday

  • Myanmar government reiterates "one China" policy
  • Analysts Express Concern Over Thai-Burma Agreements
  • Exiled Muslims Deny Taliban Connections
  • Burmese two brothers ended in tragedy in Malaysia
  • Unocal wants U.S. government to quash labour lawsuit for Burma

  • Myanmar government reiterates "one China" policy

    YANGON, Aug. 9 (Xinhua)net -- Myanmar Foreign Minister U Win Aung reiterated here Friday that the Myanmar government's adherence to the One-China policy will not change.

    In an interview with Xinhua, U Win Aung said Myanmar government came to notice some remarks of Taiwan leader recently. The attitude went backwards to some extent compared with the past, he added.

    In remarks made on August 3, Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian denied Taiwan was part of China, preaching that the two sides of the Straits were two equal sovereign states, or "Each side is a country." He also called for legislation on a referendum to decidethe future of the island in a bid to split China.

    In the interview, U Win Aung reaffirmed that Myanmar government's adherence to the One-China policy does not change at present and will also not change in the future.

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    Analysts Express Concern Over Thai-Burma Agreements

    Ron Corben -Bangkok
    Source : VOA

    Thailand's government says border tensions with Burma have been resolved after Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai visited Rangoon this week. But analysts remain concerned the agreement may be short-lived and say few details have been released to the Thai public. Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai says the two countries will be working together on such areas as drug smuggling, illegal immigrants and economic development.

    Relations between Burma and Thailand have been tense for more than two months. The dispute started with a Thai military crackdown on illegal drugs smuggled into Thailand from Burma.

    Bangkok blames the United Wa State Army, an ethnic minority force in Burma, for the flood of illegal drugs into Thailand. The Wa are linked to the Burmese government. Rangoon, however, accuses Bangkok of backing ethnic Shan rebels, who have long fought the Burmese army along the border.

    To ease the tensions, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra shifted a top Thai general to a lesser post.Thai political analysts and some opposition politicians worry that warmer relations may have a cost to Thailand.

    Aung Zaw is the editor of the Burmese opposition newspaper, Irrawaddy. He says there are fears that the Thai army will take a tougher stance with the 100,000 refugees from Burma. Aung Zaw fears Thailand has paid a high price to end to the tensions.

    "I think Thailand has been sold out to Burma because whenever there are conflicts between the two countries Thailand always has to go and bow, has to give in, has to go to Burma to strike a deal," he said.He says there also are fears that a special anti-drug task force Thailand, set up with support from United States, may be downgraded.

    Somchai Homlaor is the spokesman for human rights group Forum Asia which is critical of Prime Minister Thaksin's dealings with Burma's military government - known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

    "We think the government of Thailand should be more transparent in dealing with the SPDC leaders and we need the participation of the people of Thailand in that decision-making," he said. Forum Asia, along with other rights groups, is calling on the Thai government to release more details about its agreement with Burma.

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    Exiled Muslims Deny Taliban Connections

    By Naw Seng
    The Irrawaddy

    August 09, 2002 - Burmese Muslim dissidents living in exile denied accusations that they have connections to the Taliban or to the Rohingya separatists of Burma.The announcement comes in response to an Agence France Presse report yesterday that cited State Peace and Development Council spokesman Col Hla Min saying that some Rohingya individuals received training in Afghanistan from Taliban troops as well as in other terrorist training camps in the Middle East.

    "That is impossible," says U Kyaw Hla, chairman of the Muslim Liberation Organization of Burma (MLOB). "If the Taliban trained and supported the Rohingya exiles, they would be much stronger and much larger. We know some Rohingya from Bangladesh, but we have no special connection to that group." Some Burmese Muslims living in refugee camps in Bangladesh formed the separatist Rohingya Solidarity Organization and several smaller organizations. The Muslim fundamentalists receive arms, cash and training the Middle East via Pakistan.

    Khine Myat Kyaw, director of Narinjara news group based in Bangladesh, told The Irrawaddy, "We don’t know of any Rohingya receiving training from the Taliban."

    In the AFP report, Col Hla Min also suggested that the SPDC would cooperate with the US to annihilate terrorism in Burma and put to rest all threats to national and regional security through its "zero tolerance" policy. "While the government of Myanmar and the US have had differences in years past, we are pragmatically in full agreement that terrorists must be given no sanctuary," the spokesman said.

    After the Sept 11 attacks last year on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the junta flatly denied that Burma hosted any terrorist organizations on its soil. The denial came after Osama bin Laden boasted of having Taliban agents "from Indonesia to Algeria, from Kabul to Chechnya, from Bosnia to Sudan, and Burma to Kashmir."

    This most recent change of heart comes amid increasing support for international aid and humanitarian assistance to Burma. By announcing that terrorist groups pose a threat to national and regional stability, the regime may begin receiving more financial aid for the war against terrorism.

    "Burmese authorities are changing their face as they want to get international assistance for themselves," said Khine Myat Kyaw.

    Earlier this month, at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Brunei, Burmese leaders signed the US-Asean declaration on cooperation against terrorism. The regime is trying to name its own dissident groups that have been fighting Rangoon for decades as terrorist organizations.

    "The Burmese junta are also accusing even the unarmed democratic opposition groups as terrorists," said U Kyaw Hla.

    Rohingya groups have been waging war against Burmese authorities for years but they are not believed to be involved in any a pan-Islamic movement. Currently, the Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) is fighting against the central government from inside Burma. The group formed in 1988 when the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF) and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) joined their combined forces of about 200 members.

    Under pressure from both the Burmese and Bangladeshi authorities, ARNO once sought to join other exile dissident groups in the struggle for democracy. Their efforts failed, however, as the historical animosity between the Arakan and Rohingya proved too difficult an obstacle. Rohingya has never been formally recognized as an ethnic group in Burma.

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    Burmese two brothers ended in tragedy in Malaysia

    Source : The Star (Malaysia)

    KUALA LUMPUR-- A much-awaited trip home to Burma for two brothers ended in tragedy,with one of them feared dead after he jumped into a disused mining pool to escape a police operation against illegal immigrants here on Wednesday.

    Yusof Yakob, 26, said his brother Yunos Yakob, 20, was very excited about the bus trip home, via Thailand, in the evening after having worked at the Selayang wholesale market as vegetable sellers for the past few years.

    Yunos is among five other illegal immigrants, mostly Burmese and Indonesians, who are believed to have drowned after they jumped into the pool beside the Selayang wholesale market to escape police in the noon operation.

    So far, the Fire and Rescue Department’s underwater rescue unit has recovered two unidentified bodies.

    "I was out shopping for some clothes for both of us as we were going to take the night bus to Thailand and then a bus back home from there,’’ said Yusof.

    "However, I was shocked when told that police had raided the market and my brother was among 50 people who had tried to escape by leaping into the mining pool.’’

    Yusof was among 30 foreigners anxiously waiting along the banks of the pool while firemen, some with scuba gears, searched the murky waters covered with water lilies.

    Another Burmese national, Shafie Hamid, 22, said he was carrying some vegetables when he heard people shouting that police were raiding the wholesale market.

    "I dropped everything and grabbed my elder brother, Rezab, before running out with a crowd of about 80 people towards the pool about 100m away."

    "Most of my friends were arrested along the way but about 50 of us managed to escape and all of us leapt into the pool."

    Shafie said that was the last time he saw his brother Rezab, who is also feared drowned.

    "Every year, several foreigners drown in the pool in their attempt to escape the authorities.’’

    City Fire and Rescue Department assistant director (operations) Abu Obaidat said department personnel had fished out two bodies which had been sent to the KL Hospital for a post-mortem.

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    Unocal wants U.S. government to quash labour lawsuit for Burma

    Source : The Financial Times

    Unocal, the US oil company, told a California court yesterday that American foreign policy interests could be harmed by a lawsuit that alleges the company used forced labour in Burma.

    The move comes just days after the US government warned a Washington DC court that a pending lawsuit against Exxon Mobil over alleged abuses in Indonesia would hinder the war on terrorism and jeopardise foreign investment in a key ally.

    Unocal lawyers asked the court to seek a similar State Department opinion, saying that many of the arguments in the Exxon case were "equally applicable" to its case.

    By seeking to penalise a US company investing in a country with a record of human rights abuses, the litigation could "have a chilling effect on investment and efforts to induce the home country to improve human rights", Unocal said in its submission to the court.

    The Unocal request has raised new fears among human rights groups that the State Department's actions in the Exxon case could quash further efforts to use domestic courts to sue US companies over alleged abuses in their overseas operations.

    The Unocal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Burmese villagers, alleges the company used forced labour in the construction of a pipeline. Unocal has denied the charges.

    The case is set to go to trial this autumn, the first of about a dozen similar cases to reach that stage.

    But the State Department's intervention in the Exxon case has raised serious questions about whether Washington will now systematically try to discourage the courts from trying US companies over abuses abroad.

    Human rights groups say the State Department's action contrasts sharply with commitments it made in December 2000, when it launched an initiative aimed at ending human rights abuses by security forces protecting oil and mining companies in the developing world. The Exxon lawsuit, which alleges that Indonesian security forces hired by the company were responsible for murder, torture and rape in the 1990s, was one of several high-profile cases that the joint US-UK initiative was aimed at addressing.

    "It is the height of hypocrisy for the State Department to publicly promote principles for the oil and gas industry and then tell a judge that the scrutiny of an oil company's human rights record runs counter to foreign policy," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

    The State Department letter came after a heated debate inside the agency, with its human rights bureau arguing that US intervention in the case would mar US credibility on issues of corporate social responsibility. But other officials are worried that the spate of court cases is angering US allies and interfering with the government's foreign policy authority.

    The cases have been filed under a 200-year-old law called the Alien Tort Claims Act, which has been interpreted by some US courts to allow lawsuits if US companies violate international laws abroad.

    The department's legal affairs office, headed by William Howard Taft IV, "saw an irresistible opportunity to strike a blow against the Alien Tort Claims Act," said a former State Department official.

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