Daily News- August 27- 2002- Tuesday

  • Myanmar holds two students after political protest
  • Thai policy on Burma `hurting democracy'
  • Thai govt defends history revision
  • Rangoon says Sein Win behind the rape story

  • Myanmar holds two students after political protest

    BANGKOK,(Reuters) Aug. 26 Most of the students arrested in a crackdown by Myanmar's ruling junta this month have been freed but two are still in detention for mounting a political protest, officials and human rights groups said on Tuesday.

    At least 15 students were arrested in Yangon on August 17 and 18 ahead of a visit by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, dimming hopes that the junta was ready to ease its stance on political dissent and start substantive talks with pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Two students -- Thet Naung Soe and Khin Maung Win -- were still being held, rights groups said. The two were arrested on August 18 for staging a protest in front of Yangon City Hall.

    The Free Burma Coalition, a rights group which supports the Myanmar democracy movement, says Thet Naung Soe unfurled the flag of Myanmar's underground student union, which shows a fighting peacock, while Khin Maung Win handed out leaflets. The fighting peacock flag is a potent symbol of student protest. Students were at the forefront of pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 that were bloodily put down by the military, earning international condemnation for the junta. Sources in Yangon say Thet Naung Soe and Khin Maung Win were quickly apprehended after starting the protest, and have not been heard from since.


    Several other students were arrested at their homes the same weekend. The Free Burma Coalition said 13 students were arrested, for forming a literary organisation and publishing a journal without permission. It said all had since been released.

    Myanmar officials also said most of the arrested students had been freed. ''Those who were found not to have been deeply involved have been released,'' Major General Kyaw Win, deputy chief of military intelligence, told reporters on Monday. He declined to elaborate.

    The government has freed hundreds of political prisoners over the last two years, including more than 300 members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). The releases began after the ruling generals started confidential talks with Suu Kyi, which they said were aimed at eventually bringing democracy to Myanmar, formerly called Burma. But this month's arrests have raised concerns among rights groups that the junta is planning a new crackdown on opponents.

    After strong international pressure, Suu Kyi was released from 19 months of house arrest in May. But since then she has had no meetings with senior members of the junta. Sporadic talks held with the junta over the last two years have yet to move beyond ''confidence building,'' officials say. Suu Kyi has repeatedly called for meaningful talks to begin as soon as possible.

    The 57-year old Nobel peace laureate has also said the release of all political prisoners is a precondition for political progress in Myanmar. Suu Kyi's NLD was the overwhelming winner of an election held in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power.

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    Thai policy on Burma `hurting democracy'

    The Bangkokpost

    The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) has called on the government to ensure the safety of activists working for the promotion of democracy and peace in Burma.

    Forum-Asia secretary-general Somchai Homlaor said in a press release that human rights activists working from Thailand to promote democracy and reconciliation in Burma for the past several years, were now receiving threats or being warned of raids from security officials.He said many of their offices in Chiang Mai have had to close for fear of raids by the police.

    Last week, pro-democracy activists taking refuge from prosecution by Rangoon were arrested in Kanchanaburi by Thai police, who charged them with illegal entry and subsequently deported some of the group back to Burma.

    Mr Somchai said a Forum-Asia staff member recently received threatening phone calls at home, after giving comments to media on the Thai government's Burma policy.The anonymous phone call, which Forum-Asia believes was from Thai security authorities, followed strong criticism from the forum regarding the arrest of the pro-democracy activists in Kanchanaburi.

    Thailand has previously enjoyed a good international reputation for providing sanctuary to pro-democracy activists and providing a safe working environment for local and international NGOs.

    By deporting activists back to Burma, or by allowing academics or NGOs to be threatened, Thailand was placing economic interests before human lives and eroding its international reputation, the press release said.

    Forum-Asia asked the government to ensure that activists not be deported back to Burma and to ensure their safety and the freedom of expression in their promotion of peace, reconciliation, human rights and democracy in Burma.

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    Thai govt defends history revision

    The Nation

    The Education Ministry yesterday defended the preparation of a new school history book, saying the book - intended for extra-curricular study - was not aimed at pleasing Burma but at alleviating conflicts possibly caused by differing representations of history.

    "The revision is based on facts and accuracy. Our objective is not to try to reduce pressure on the country's relationship with Burma," said Curriculum and Instruction Department director-general Prapatpong Senarit.

    He said the revised work - conducted by a 15-member committee - would be finished after receiving comments and opinions from teachers and students. The content will then be submitted for final approval to Education Minister Suwit Kunkitti.

    "We do not want our students to learn about the country's history by focusing on conflicts with a neighbouring country. We want to try to avoid the use of harsh language," Prapatpong said.Thailand and Burma have previously had disagreements over differing representations of history, he added.Prapatpong also said that the revision would be more objective and would not focus on who killed whom during the wars between Thailand and Burma.

    The revision project was conducted under a project organised by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation. The project calls for member countries to review their presentation of history so that they can be compiled into a "History Book of Southeast Asian Countries".The ministry wants students to lean about conflict so that they can understand to live with others, the director-general said.

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    Rangoon says Sein Win behind the rape story

    Source : The Straits Times / AP

    Rangoon--- Burma's government yesterday accused two dissidents, including a cousin of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, of fabricating reports that soldiers raped Shan minority women to retaliate against guerillas.

    Senior Defence Ministry official Colonel San Pwint told a news conference that the rape reports were masterminded by Han Yawngwe and Sein Win to tarnish the government's reputation and obtain aid from the West.

    He said the two have given financial assistance to the Shan Women's Action Network 'to prepare a false report with the objective of putting the government in a tight situation and creating ethnic problems...at the suggestion of some countries'.

    Rangoon has repeatedly denied the rape allegations, made in a June report by the Shan Women's Action Network and the Shan Human Rights Foundation, two Thai-based groups.

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