Daily News- August 17- 2002- Saturday

  • Razali must come clean at once
  • Myanmar to launch Iris’ e-passport system Monday
  • Burma frees 5 opposition members and cancer stricken leader
  • Myanmar's junta says no plans to reopen border with Thailand
  • Thai senate group hears stories of atrocities by Myanmar military
  • Further surgery needed on Siamese twins in Myanmar
  • 27 human trafficking cases reported in Myanmar this year

  • Razali must come clean at once

    The Nation -EDITORIAL

    Strange things happen with dictatorship regimes around the world. Their leaders know how to deal with outsiders, especially those who have vested business interests in the country. The military junta leaders in Rangoon are no exception: they know how to engage the United Nations envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail.

    Razali partly owns Iris Corporation, a Malaysian-based company that specialises in smart card-based security, including electronic passports and identity documents. The company's very first project for Burma is for e-passports for its citizens, a world first that Burmese newspapers have been trumpeting on their front pages. The passports will have an embedded microchip containing the personal data of the holders. Automatic gates will be installed at the airport's departure terminal.

    This suddenly makes Burma look like a "techno city", at least at the airport. It also immediately raises the question of why Burma, one of the world's poorest countries, would need such a system if not for some sinister reason.

    The passports will be issued to Burmese diplomats, officials and leading business people as an experiment, but concerns have been expressed that they could be used to track members of the opposition or any other groups which the junta wants to keep an eye on.

    Razali hopes the e-passports will be introduced in all East Asian nations in the future. It is interesting that this concept should be adopted first by a pariah regime, one that has been shunned by the world. Would it have been so if it were not for the privilege that comes with Razali's post?

    To be sure, Razali has defended himself time and again, saying that his company was given the contract before he was appointed to the UN post. But this does not fly. He has not convinced critics that his company's dealings with the Burmese junta are not a conflict of interest. He may believe it is not, but undeniably the regime is benefiting from this enterprise with his company. Just look at the way in which the junta leaders have awarded business contracts to foreign companies - they all owe the regime special favours, which must be returned in earnest in the future.

    Razali should have the courage to choose one or the other job. He should understand his dilemma better as a veteran diplomat who has been exposed to similar issues around the world. The UN's reputation is also at stake when the Rangoon junta makes use of him.

    In Asia, the concept of conflict of interest seems elusive. Asian leaders and their family members love to get involved in business activities using their connections. They say there is no question of conflict of interest, it's just complementary to their work. Think again.

    Razali is a respected diplomat and his role in mediating national reconciliation in Burma is reaching a crucial stage. His integrity must be untainted. In other words, he must come clean.

    Myanmar to launch Iris’ e-passport system Monday

    source :NSTP

    IRIS Corp Bhd’s electronic passport (e-passport) will be put to test for international recognition when Myanmar launches the system at the Yangon International Airport on Monday.

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad is scheduled to witness the launching of the system in conjunction with his two-day working visit to Myanmar starting tomorrow.

    It is learnt that Iris and the Myanmar Government will sign a contract for the installation of the e- passport system during the launch.

    Iris Corp managing director Tan Say Jim, when contacted by Business Times, said he was not aware of the launching ceremony but he will be in Yangon today to make sure that the auto gateway works. "At the moment, we are installing the system at Yangon International Airport. Hopefully, we will be asked to install the system at other airports in Myanmar," he said.

    Iris Corp has started offering the system to other countries of Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) besides Myanmar.Earlier reports had quoted Tan as saying that the company is eyeing contracts in at least four other Asean countries. "We showcased the auto gateway in Bali during the working visit to Indonesia by the Prime Minister early this month," he said.

    Tan said the company received the letter of intent to install the e-passport system as a pilot project by the Myanmar Government about three weeks ago.It was reported that Iris Corp has clinched a deal with Myanmar’s E-National Task Force to develop an initial 5,000 smart passports from end-August.

    Tan had said the pilot project involves the supply and implementation of Iris’ technology for faster immigration processing at Myanmar’s international airport.He declined to reveal the value of the deal but had said that the company expects the project’s contribution to its earnings to be not less than the RM2.2 million it earned during the last financial year ended December 31 2001.Iris had been making losses in the previous five years before the RM2.2 million profit.

    The e-passport will be modelled after Malaysia’s e-passport that was implemented on March 23 1998. Myanmar will be the second country in the world to adopt e-passport technology, after Malaysia.The e-passport eliminates the need for air travellers to wait at long queues for their passports to be stamped by immigration officials. It will also help reduce manpower needs.

    Iris’ microchip technology includes a complete system from front-end capture systems for passport personalisation to auto gates for faster immigration processing.Iris, or Image Retrieval Identification System, will also supply the retrieval and encoding systems for chip personalisation, use of finger print biometrics and systems integration to existing back-end databases.

    Set up in 1994, Iris is a Multimedia Super Corridor status company. It also co-invented the Government's multi-purpose smart card, or MyKad, in 1999. Iris was listed on the Mesdaq market on July 18.

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    Burma frees 5 opposition members and cancer stricken leader

    Source : The Star(Malaysia) / AP

    Burma's military junta on Friday freed five members of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party and a cancer-stricken opposition leader in the latest show of political goodwill, the government said.

    The release came as Suu Kyi was quoted Friday by Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying that she is willing to compromise with the junta in their talks to achieve national reconciliation.

    "Dialogue always entails compromise,'' Suu Kyi was quoted as saying by Haaretz, one of Israel's most respected newspapers. A copy of the report was received in Bangkok, Thailand.

    "I don't think you can go into dialogue saying 'I can't compromise,''' said Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate who was released from 19 months of house arrest on May 6. "You had better not start that way, because the dialogue won't get anywhere.''

    A government statement said it had freed five members of the National League for Democracy party from various correctional facilities and that all are "in good health and back together with their respective families.''

    It said the government also released from custody an "NLD-related individual,'' Aye Thar Aung, who is being treated for liver cancer in hospital.

    "The authorities concerned have released him from custody on humanitarian grounds and will continue to assist him and his family with necessary care and assistance,'' the statement said.

    Aye Thar Aung, 57, is secretary of the NLD's 10-member alternative parliament, which the party formed after the junta refused to hand over power despite an overwhelming NLD victory in 1990 general elections.

    He is a representative of ethnic political parties but not a member of the NLD.

    Aye Thar Aung was arrested in April 2000 and given a 21-year jail sentence for flouting an emergency law and a publishing law. Details of his alleged crimes were never released.

    Friday's releases bring to 308 the number of opposition members freed since the start of the reconciliation talks almost two years ago between Suu Kyi and the junta. Another 250 NLD members remain in custody.

    Suu Kyi has made the release of all political prisoners her foremost demand.

    In her interview with Haaretz newspaper she did not say what she was willing to compromise over.

    "I am not going to talk about it. It's very premature ... How can I talk about it?'' she said during the Aug. 6 interview with a Haaretz correspondent in Rangoon.

    Suu Kyi has led a nonviolent campaign for democracy in Burma since 1988, soon after the current junta came to power after crushing a pro-democracy movement.

    Her reconciliation talks have so far been described as confidence-building steps. No substantive dialogue has taken place between the two sides, but the government has made several concessions including giving Suu Kyi political freedom and releasing NLD members.

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    Myanmar's junta says no plans to reopen border with Thailand

    YANGON, Aug 17 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government said Saturday that it had no plans to reopen its border checkpoints with Thailand, which were closed three months ago after a border skirmish sparked a diplomatic row.

    "We have no plans to do so at this juncture," deputy military intelligence chief Major-General Kyaw Win told reporters when asked about Thai speculation that checkpoints would be reopened as early as Sunday.

    Junta spokesman also Colonel Hla Min told AFP that the speculation surrounding the reopening had been going on for some time, but was one-sided."We can't go and unlock the gates just like that," he said."Even if the authorities decided to do so we would still have to prepare the groundwork, so it's unlikely that these points will be reopened soon."

    Thailand's Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, said last week that the checkpoints could gradually be reopened from as early as Sunday.After talks with Myanmar's top three military leaders on August 6 in Yangon, Surakiart said relations between the historic adversaries were "normalized" and that simmering issues would be resolved in the next few weeks.

    Sources along the Thai border also said last week that the high-level Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee (TBC) would convene in the Myanmar town of Tachilek, opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district, on Sunday for a meeting of at least two days.Yangon also suspended all TBC meetings after closing the border.

    Relations between Thailand and Myanmar spiralled to a low in May when border clashes erupted between the Myanmar junta and ethnic rebels, which Yangon accuses Thailand of assisting.The two countries exchanged official protest notes, and Myanmar sealed all border gates and barred official visits. In the ensuing weeks it mounted a tirade in its official press against Thailand.

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    Thai senate group hears stories of atrocities by Myanmar military

    BANGKOK(AP), Thailand - Refugees fleeing into Thailand say Myanmar troops are engaging in widespread brutality including the gang rapes of children as young as 11, a newspaper said Saturday.

    Shan ethnic minority refugees, who are seeking a new home in Thailand, made the claims Friday before the Thai Senate's foreign relations committee, the Bangkok Post said.Similar reports of rape, killings, forced labor and the burning of villages by Myanmar troops have recently been released by Amnesty International and other human rights groups.

    The junta which rules Myanmar, also known as Burma, has denied the allegations, saying they are being fabricated by anti-government rebel groups.

    Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate committee, said the 606 refugees who fled recently into the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai, about 670 kilometers (415 miles) north of Bangkok, should not be repatriated to their homeland."No one wants to return to such an ordeal," he was quoted as saying.

    Human rights violations are being reported mainly from areas inhabited by the Karen and Shan ethnic minorities. Both continue to offer strong armed resistance to the central government.The U.S. State Department last month condemned the pervasive use of rape and other sexual violence against a vulnerable population and urged Myanmar officials to investigate the reports.

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    Further surgery needed on Siamese twins in Myanmar

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Further surgery will be needed on a pair of 1-year-old Siamese twins but both girls are recovering well nearly a week after they were surgically separated, Deputy Health Minister Kyaw Myint said Saturday.

    The twins, Moe Ma Ma Aung and Moe Pa Pa Aung, who were joined at the hips, were separated in a 14-hour operation last Sunday in the northern city of Mandalay.

    "Both girls are doing well though they feel a bit uncomfortable because of the straps on their legs. They started eating solid food today,'' the minister told reporters.

    Dr. Aung Kyi, who headed the surgical team, said "it can be assumed that they are out of the woods,'' but the minister added they would need further corrective surgery and rehabilitation.

    The girls were born premature and underweight in July 2001 at the Mandalay Women's hospital. The twins shared a colon and were joined at the bladder and pelvic bones, a condition known as "ischiopagus tripus.''

    "The operation is unique because each girl fortunately has a pair of legs. Normally only one child has a pair of legs,'' the surgeon said.

    It is only the 19th successful operation in the world on conjoined twins joined at the pelvic bones, according to Aung Kyi.

    A video clip of the operation was shown at a press briefing and doctors said information gained from the operation would be posted on a web site. Earlier reports said this was the third pair of Siamese twins to be separated in Myanmar.

    The first twins were separated in Yangon in 1970 but only one survived. The second operation was in 1993 and both babies survived. Myanmar, also known as Burma, is one of the poorest countries in the world with an infant mortality rate of 79 per 1,000 births. In neighboring Thailand the infant mortality rate is 26 and in the United States it is seven. The reports said the twins parents were poor and that the operation was paid for by donations from the public. - AP

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    27 human trafficking cases reported in Myanmar this year

    YANGON, Aug. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- There occurred 27 human traffickingcases in Myanmar so far this year and the authorities have taken actions against 34 related brokers, a high-ranking Myanmar official disclosed Saturday.

    Than Tun, department head of the Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence, said at a news briefing here that such brokers, who trafficked people to border areas, charged for a payment of 50,000 kyats to 150,000 kyats (about 55-166 US dollars)per head.

    He said that lured by brokers, young boys and girls living in the country's rural areas went abroad illegally through neighboring countries on the excuse of seeking employment.

    According to official statistics, 3,982 illegal Myanmar workershave returned to Myanmar from Thailand since February this year. Earlier reports said that there are 140,000 Myanmar refugees and over 400,000 Myanmar illegal immigrants living in Thailand.

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