Daily News- February 01 - 2002- Friday

  • Aung San Suu Kyi talks denied
  • Junta frees five more political prisoners a week after Suu Kyi's secret meeting with leader
  • Junta postpones UN special envoy Razali's February visit to March
  • Thai FM to visit Myanmar next week
  • Troops told to make friends
  • Myanmar Calls for Observance of WTO Rules
  • Burma cancels licences of 68 tour operators for "breaching regulations"
  • Myanmar Exposes 194 Drug-Related Cases in December 2001

  • Aung San Suu Kyi talks denied

    The Bangkokpost

    Burma's military government said yesterday that reports of a secret meeting between one of its top generals and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi were ``completely false.''

    Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under loose house arrest since Sept 2000, was widely reported to have left her compound for a meeting on Jan 22 to meet with Burma's Senior General Than Shwe.Reports about the meeting fuelled rumours the democracy leader's release from house arrest could be imminent.

    ``Media reports regarding a meeting on Jan 22 between Senior General Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi are completely false,'' a Junta official said.

    The Nobel Peace Prize winner began secret talks with the junta in Oct 2000 aimed at ``national reconciliation,'' but analysts say the discussions have reached a near standstill.Earlier yesterday, a representative from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy said he had no knowledge of the alleged meeting.

    Than Shwe and Burma's powerful military intelligence chief, Khin Nyunt, met with Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time in Sept 1994, when the democracy leader was under house arrest.The meeting was heralded by Burma's state media, though analysts saw no tangible outcome from the talks. Relations between the ruling State Peace and Development Council and the NLD later deteriorated.

    In Oct 2000, following a visit by Razali Ismail, the special envoy to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, tensions appeared to ease between the two sides and secret reconciliation talks began.Yesterday, a source familiar with the talks said ``relations still exist, and nobody is complaining about the situation.'' The ruling military has authorised the reopening of at least 25 NLD offices which were forced to close in 1995.It has also released more than 200 political prisoners in the past year. Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD claimed an overwhelming victory in 1990 elections, but the results have never been recognised by the ruling junta.

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    Junta frees five more political prisoners a week after Suu Kyi's secret meeting with leader

    YANGON, Myanmar(AP) - Five members of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party were released from Myanmar prisons Thursday, the government said.

    All five "are all in good health and back together with their respective families," a government statement said. The releases were the first since Suu Kyi and the country's ruling military leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, met secretly on Jan. 22, according to diplomats.

    It apparently was her first meeting with Myanmar's top junta leader since the start of U.N.-mediated talks in October 2000 to end the country's 12-year political standoff. Neither side has divulged the content of the talks.

    Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current group of generals came to power in 1988 after leading a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations. The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi's party won overwhelmingly. Instead, hundreds of opposition activists were jailed. Suu Kyi herself has been under house detention since September 2000.

    Since the latest round of talks have began, the military regime has released 212 political prisoners, the most tangible outcome of the negotiations. Details about the five prisoners released Thursday — identified as Ohn Myint, Ar-Kar, Maung Seint, Shwe Aye and Tin Win and where they were held were not given.

    The government said in statement that the 212 prisoners released so far represent nearly half the total number of NLD members "being detained with the intent to maintain peace and stability in the country and for their transgression of laws in the past." A number of other opposition prisoners also have been released but were not included on that list, it said, without further explanation.

    The statement credited the "level of confidence and progress achieved between the government and the NLD party" for the releases. The NLD party said 804 of its member remain in prison following the latest release.

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    Junta postpones UN special envoy Razali's February visit to March

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jan 31, 2002
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 30 January

    UN sources say UN secretary-general's special envoy Mr Razali Ismail's visit to Burma has been postponed to March. Although he was scheduled to arrive on 3 February, sources close to the junta said the government has cancelled his visit. However, Mr Razali has proposed to come in early March but the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] has not responded yet.

    This visit will be the seventh for Mr Razali, who has become the facilitator in the ongoing dialogue between the SPDC and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that Mr Razali, during his forthcoming visit, is expected to meet with veteran politicians led by Bohmu Aung, who fought for Burma's independence.

    A UN source told DVB that nothing was disclosed about the cancellation of UN special envoy Mr Razali Ismail's February visit. During his last visit to Burma in December 2001 Mr Razali said that changes would be seen in Burma in 2002.

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    Thai FM to visit Myanmar next week

    BANGKOK, Jan 31 (AFP) - Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will pay a three-day official visit to Myanmar for talks on narcotics, illegal migrants, trade and fisheries, Thai officials said Thursday.

    Surakiart is scheduled to leave Bangkok Wednesday evening before his official program begins the next day. During the visit, the foreign minister is due to meet with his Myanmar counterpart, Win Aung, as well as General Maung Aye and the junta's head of military intelligence, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt.

    "The talks between the two ministers would cover five areas, including drugs, illegal migrants, displaced persons, trade and fisheries," Ratthakit Manathat, foreign ministry spokesman, said in official statement. Surakiart met with Win Aung earlier this month to discuss the repatriation of illegal workers and ethnic minorities who have fled Myanmar.

    About 560,000 Myanmar workers have registered since last September with the Thai authorities. About 110,000 ethnic Karen and Karenni people are in 11 camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, which Thailand also wants to close.

    The ministers are also expected to discuss trade and fisheries. Myanmar cancelled Thai fishing licenses in October 1999 after the Thai government supplied an escape helicopter to five anti-junta gunmen in exchange for the release of hostages held at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok.The two sides have failed to reach agreement on the revival of fishing concessions in a stand-off that has cost Thai fishermen dearly.

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    Troops told to make friends

    The Bangkokpost
    Wassana Nanuam

    Military units along the border have been instructed to improve relations with Burmese soldiers stationed opposite them by organising meetings and parties.

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is also planning exchange visits between Thai and Burmese reporters, Gen Sanan Kachornklam said.The first Thai visit would be to Rangoon and the office of the state-run New Light of Myanmar daily.Gen Sanan said the two moves were part of a new push to improve bilateral understanding.

    The defence minister's chief adviser, Gen Pat Akkanibutr, would lead a team of 4th Infantry Division officers to meet and make friends with Burmese troops in Myawaddy on Tuesday. They were expected to discuss border problems and ways of improving ties.

    ``We are confident that, from now on, there will be no more border skirmishes between Thai and Burmese soldiers, since all know each other well,'' Gen Sanan said.``Burma insists no more shells from Burma will land on Thai soil.''

    Gen Chavalit was also pushing for the setting up of a Thai-Vietnamese cultural and economic association, similar to the cultural and economic association link with Burma.

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    Myanmar Calls for Observance of WTO Rules

    YANGON, January 31 (Xinhuanet) -- A high-ranking Myanmar commerce official has called on all member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to observe the rules of the organization which provides a multilateral trading system, stressing the importance of the rules for them especially for the small- and medium-sized economies.

    Brigadier-General Pyi Sone, Myanmar Minister of Commerce, made the call here on at the opening ceremony of a three-day training workshop on WTO agreements and trade and investment opportunities for Myanmar, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Thursday.

    "All the members have to follow the obligations of these rules and also all the members have rights to safeguard their economic sovereignty," he emphasized.He maintained that the rule-based multilateral trading system can guide the disciplined trade all over the world, saying that it also can accelerate the global trade liberalization and trade volume as well.

    "Because of the current downturn of the global economy, we are facing a growing concern for protectionism especially by the developed country members though the commitments for market access and special and differential treatment are given to the developing WTO members," he said.

    He stressed the need under such situation to foster expansion and diversification of trade for the economic development and to know more than ever about the WTO trading principles and trade opportunities.

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    Burma cancels licences of 68 tour operators for "breachingegulations"

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jan 30, 2002
    Text of report in English by Burmese newspaper The Myanmar Times web site on 21 January

    The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has cancelled the licences of 68 local travel and tour companies for breaching regulations. The ministry's director general, U Khin Maung Latt, said the licences were cancelled last week.

    "Some of the tourism companies failed to send in monthly reports, some had not renewed their licences and some had failed to maintain contact with the ministry," U Khin Maung Latt said. The firms which had failed to renew their licences had not responded to warning letters, said an official from the ministry's regulations department.

    Travel companies are required to pay an annual fee of 5000 kyat and to renew their licences every two years. Most of the affected companies were based in Yangon [Rangoon], but some operated in Mandalay Division and Shan and Kachin states, the official said.

    Meanwhile, tourist industry representatives say improved infrastructure and increased funding for promotional activities is essential for attracting more foreign visitors. The need for better infrastructure was emphasized by Daw Rita Myint, the managing director of Taw Win Travel and Tours, and Mr Laurent Kuenzel, the managing director of Asian Trails tour company. Both are members of the marketing committee of the semi-government Myanmar [Burma] Tourism Promotion Board [MTPB].

    They were responding to a call earlier this month by Secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development Council, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, for big improvements in the industry. Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt made the call in an address to the Management Committee for the Development of the Tourism Industry in his capacity as its chairman, as reported in Myanmar Times ("Secretary 1 says improvements needed in the tourism industry").

    He said the industry had not developed as successfully as other ASEAN economies "despite an abundance of favourable conditions". Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt also called for increased cooperation between the government and private sectors to attract more tourists. Mr Kuenzel said that while a move by the marketing committee of the MTPB to increase revenue by charging membership fees was "not perfect" it was helping to raise funds. "Though the idea of the marketing committee is good, the main problem is that it is not working properly," he said. Daw Rita Myint said that while fund raising was necessary, the committee should take into account the income of each member.

    A leading member of the marketing committee, Inya Lake hotel general manager Mr Manfred Keiler, said Myanmar should adopt the marketing strategies used by other countries. He said Myanmar should lead efforts to develop the industry, with foreigners playing a supporting role.

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    Myanmar Exposes 194 Drug-Related Cases in December 2001

    YANGON, January 31 (Xinhuanet) -- The Myanmar authorities exposed a total of 194 narcotic-drug-related cases in December 2001, seizing 49.688 kg of opium and 2.1473 kg of heroin, according to the Myanmar Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control Thursday. The seizure, made by army units, police and the customs, also includes 2.949 kg of marijuana and 469,593 tablets of stimulant drugs.

    Following the declaration of its Mongla region in eastern Shan state as an opium-free zone in April 1997, Myanmar began in 1999 implementing a 15-year drug eradication plan in three phases each lasting for five years.

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