Daily News- August 20- 2002- Tuesday

  • Myanmar junta praises Malaysia's Mahathir
  • Burma needs more time, says Chavalit
  • Conflicting account of meeting cancellation

  • Myanmar junta praises Malaysia's Mahathir

    YANGON, Myanmar, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The ruling junta in Myanmar praised Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as a "visionary statesman" Monday and awarded four exploration contracts to his country's state-run petroleum company.

    Mahathir, who has led the rush of Asian nations to bring Myanmar's junta in from the cold of diplomatic isolation, arrived in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, on Sunday and departed Monday afternoon after attending several contract signing ceremonies.

    His visit, following on the heels of Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's stopover earlier this month, has highlighted Myanmar's return to international respectability, at least among Asian neighbors, according to regional analysts.

    However, unlike the Japanese foreign minister, Mahathir did not visit Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Mahathir's apparent snub of Suu Kyi was seen as a major coup for the military regime that seized power in 1988, changed the name of the country from Burma, and refused to hand over power when it lost an election to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party in 1990.

    The junta has been shunned by the United States, the European Union and most other democratic governments, who accuse it of widespread human rights abuses.

    The most lavish praise for Mahathir's policy of "constructive engagement" came from Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the chief of Myanmar's secret police.

    "To us in Myanmar, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is more than a leader of the dynamic nation of Malaysia," Khin Nyunt said. "He is a visionary statesman of the region and a staunch defender of the developing world."

    In reply, Mahathir alluded to the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States and said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to which Malaysia and Myanmar belong, could help make up for the relative weakness of small Asian countries.

    "Sept. 11 has changed almost completely our perception of things and with it the way we relate to each other," he said. "This is both unfortunate and fortunate.

    "It is unfortunate because some have acquired a deeper suspicion and enmity toward others while some have discovered a new need to understand other people and other cultures. But at the moment the suspicion and enmity seem to dominate the minds of most. This is the world that we live in today. The weak will once again submit to the strong," Mahathir said.

    The speeches were delivered at the Malaysia Technology Conference at Yangon's Sedona Hotel, where leaders of both countries witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding granting concessions for four oil and gas exploration sites off the coast of Myanmar to the Malaysian state energy company, Petronas.In addition, representatives from the Malaysian cellular network operator Maxis signed a cooperation agreement with the state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications company.

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    Burma needs more time, says Chavalit

    The Bangkokpost

    Burma needs more time to clear up some ``misunderstanding'' before deciding whether to reopen its border with Thailand, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday.

    Gen Chavalit made his remark after there were no signs Burma would reopen its Tachilek checkpoint on Sunday, as expected in Thailand following Rangoon's proposal for talks next month on how to prevent any future border closures.

    Border sources in Burma said Rangoon would not reopen its border with Thailand until Bangkok announced a clear stance on its relationship with Burma's ethnic minority rebels.

    Gen Chavalit yesterday said he did not know why Burma still kept its border closed, but he had heard that Rangoon wanted to open reconciliation talks first.Such talks must be arranged by the Foreign Ministry, and all parties concerned must exercise patience, he said.

    All concerned must try their best to bring about mutual understanding, and good bilateral relations, rather than trade benefits, must be given first priority in considering the issue of border reopening, Gen Chavalit added.

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    Conflicting account of meeting cancellation

    Source : AP / AFP / The Straits Times

    Rangoon - The visiting Malaysian Foreign Minister cancelled a breakfast meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday without explanation, party officials said.

    But the Malaysians denied a breakfast meeting was ever planned.

    'I don't think there was any cancellation. There never was an appointment,' said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who yesterday concluded a two-day visit to Burma.

    The conflicting statements could not be reconciled.

    Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir, accompanied by Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, had said he himself had no intention of meeting Ms Suu Kyi.

    Her National League for Democracy party and diplomats later reported that a breakfast meeting was planned instead between Datuk Seri Syed Hamid and Ms Suu Kyi at the Malaysian ambassador's residence.

    But a Malaysian diplomat called on Sunday and expressed regret to Ms Suu Kyi that the meeting was cancelled, an NLD official said on condition of anonymity, adding that no reason was given.

    Dr Mahathir focused on business aspects, rather than politics.

    He said in a speech at a conference here that Malaysian businesses would like to be welcomed in Burma.

    The Burma junta's No 3 leader, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, said Malaysia was the third-largest investor in Burma with 20 projects worth US$598 million (S$1 billion).

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