Daily News- February 11- 2002- Monday

  • U.N. Human Rights Envoy Makes Third Mission
  • Methodists Join Protest Over Olympic Uniforms
  • Thai-Burma border closed as inquiry ordered
  • Thai troops on alert after attack
  • Myanmar delegation in Iraq to discuss trade
  • Thailand, Myanmar Agree to Cooperate in Various Fields
  • Burmese arrested with speed pills
  • Myanmar worker killed in attack at construction site
  • Razali says talks moving but slowly
  • UN Human rights envoy meets Burmese generals, also to see Suu Kyi

  • U.N. Human Rights Envoy Makes Third Mission

    YANGON, February 10 (Xinhuanet) -- United Nations Human Rights Envoy to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro arrived here Sunday on a 10-day mission to the country to further inspect the human rights situation in the country.

    It is the third time for Pinheiro to come to Myanmar since he was appointed as the envoy to the country in February 2001. During his last visit in October 2001, Pinheiro met senior Myanmar government officials and leader of the opposition NationalLeague for Democracy (NLD) Aung San Suu Kyi, the party's General Secretary, who has been under house arrest since September 22, 2000.

    During the visit this time, Pinheiro is expected to meet separately with leaders of both the government and the NLD.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister U Khin Maung Win told Xinhua here recently that during Pinheiro's Myanmar trip, he will be allowed to meet any person whom he wants to.

    The Myanmar government and the NLD started confidence-building talks in October 2000 and since January 2001, the government has released 212 NLD members and NLD-related individuals. The NLD demands the government release Aung San Suu Kyi and allother political prisoners in the country and guarantee the rights of free activities for all legal political parties.

    On human rights issues, the Myanmar government insists that whatever human rights mean to various nations with different economic, social, historical, cultural and traditional values, human rights for a third world country like Myanmar mean rights toenjoying the basic human requirements such as security, food and shelter.

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    Methodists Join Protest Over Olympic Uniforms

    Women in the United Methodist Church are protesting the uniforms worn by Olympic torchbearers because of the uniform maker's alleged ties to inhumane working conditions in Myanmar.

    The Women's Division of the country's second-largest Protestant church joined other groups in letters to the International Olympic Committee and to the uniform maker, Marker Outerware, protesting the uniforms.

    The coalition asked the IOC to clarify its contract with the firm and to denounce further production in Myanmar. It asked the firm to end all production there.
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    Thai-Burma border closed as inquiry ordered

    The Bangkokpost
    Supamart Kasem

    The army has shut border checkpoints in Mae Sot and Mae Ramat districts while an inquiry continues into the unexplained deaths of 17 people whose bodies were found in a stream last week.

    A major investigation has been set up into the murders, involving hundreds of police from Mae Sot, Mae Ramat and Tha Song Yang districts and border patrol police from the 345th and 346th companies.They have been ordered to establish the motive for the killings.The Thai military and Burmese authorities in Myawaddy are co-operating.

    The border closure was ordered yesterday by Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasing, the Third Army commander.Pol Maj-Gen Sewek Pinsinchai, the provincial police chief, said crossings at Wang Kaew and Mae Kit Mai villages in Mae Sot district and Wang Pha village in Mae Ramat district were temporarily closed.

    The murder investigation was being headed by Pol Lt-Gen Boonpen Bampenboon, he said. ``At least 10 people have been interrogated,'' Pol Maj-Gen Sawek said. ``We suspect either smuggling of workers or drug trafficking across the border was the motive. As far as we know, those killed were not Thais. We are trying to determine if they were killed at the spot where their bodies were found, or taken there from elsewhere.''

    On Jan 27, before the first seven bodies were found, 61 illegal Burmese immigrants were arrested by local authorities and troops near Mae Phasa village in Mae Sot district. They were led to the village from the border by Som Jaikaewthi, 33, and were about to go separately to various provinces for jobs. Those arrested were handed over to the Tak immigration office pending deportation. Mr Som was charged with smuggling aliens into the country.Shortly afterwards, it was reported that Thai and Burmese job brokers met near the village. A few days later the first seven bodies were found.

    Thongmuan Sithikaew, Wang Pha village chief, and local residents found the first bodies in Mae Lamao stream, about 4km from the Moei river, on Jan 30. Three of the dead were women. Mae Lamao stream is a branch of the Moei river.On Jan 31, seven more bodies, four of them women, were found about 500m from the first spot. Mr Thongmuan reported the findings to border patrol police at Wang Pha and to Ramat district police.

    The Mae Lamao stream supplies tap water for the village so the residents dumped the 14 bodies downstream, where they would float down into the Moei river.

    On Feb 3, seven bodies were plucked from the Moei river in Mae Ramat district. They were believed to be some of the 14 bodies dumped by Wang Pha villagers. Two additional bodies were found in Mae Lamao stream on Feb 4 and another on Feb 6, making 17 altogether. Police have recovered 10 bodies for examination, seven from the Moei river and three from Mae Lamao stream.

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    Thai troops on alert after attack

    The Bangkokpost

    Troops at Doi Lang have been put on alert after a Burmese army patrol was attacked just across the border, opposite Mae Ai district in Chiang Mai, and at least three of them were wounded.Sources said it was unclear what happened. Except for Burmese soldiers and their Wa supporters, there were no other Burmese minority forces in the area.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkasing, Third Army commander, said Thai troops had been told to refrain from using their guns unless absolutely necessary.Thailand and Burma have deployed troops at Doi Lang since 1996, each country claiming ownership of the 32-square-km of land, which was the former stronghold of opium warlord Khun Sa.They reached an agreement last year to avoid resorting to arms without first consulting on any conflict that may arise during a confrontation.

    Col Sampan Sriratbuapan, commander of the Thai ranger unit at Doi Lang, said he was not sure what actually happened on the Burmese side of the hill. ``We heard several shots fired and we are checking with the Burmese. We haven't heard from them yet,'' he said.

    Local military sources said at least three Burmese soldiers were wounded and were taken from the Doi Lang base for medical treatment. The gunfire lasted about half an hour.

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    Myanmar delegation in Iraq to discuss trade

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ A Myanmar government delegation is in Iraq to explore trade opportunities between the two countries, a foreign ministry official said Sunday. The 11-member delegation led by Forestry Minister Aung Phone went to Iraq on Saturday.

    "Myanmar can sell a wide range of its products such as beans, pulses and rice to Iraq," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The presence of a deputy minister for energy in the delegation appeared to indicate that Myanmar was interested in negotiating a countertrade deal for Iraqi crude oil.

    A Yangon-based diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that Iraq has a shortage of food and Myanmar needs crude oil, which can be obtained from Iraq under the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.

    The oil-for-food program was created in 1996 to ease the suffering of 22 million Iraqis living under sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the Gulf war. Under the program, Iraq is allowed to sell unlimited amounts of oil to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies, and to pay war reparations.

    Other members of the Myanmar delegation include its ambassador to Egypt and embassy staff, agricultural officials, members of the Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a member of the Myanmar Pulses, Beans and Sesame Seeds Merchants Association.

    Myanmar, also known as Burma, is forced to import oil because of a decline of domestic production and an increase in energy consumption. At the same time, its struggling economy leaves it with modest reserves of foreign exchange, making countertrade deals attractive.

    According to the records of the Central Statistical Organization, Myanmar produces 11,000 barrels of crude oil per day, down from 32,000 barrels per day in 1979.The most recent available official figures show that Myanmar imported dlrs 209.8 million worth of crude oil from January to October 2001.Myanmar usually imports crude oil from Malaysia, Singapore and Korea.

    Myanmar to some extent shares Iraq's status as a pariah state in the world community, because of Western disapproval of its military government, which has a history of human rights abuses and refuses to turn over power to a democratically-elected government. However, the sanctions against Myanmar are much more limited in scope than those against Iraq, the most important ones involving the blockage of aid from international development institutions.

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    Thailand, Myanmar Agree to Cooperate in Various Fields

    BANGKOK, February 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to cooperate in various areas, including tourism, fishery, link of land transport, and narcotic suppression, according to a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sunday.The agreement was reached during a three-day official visit to Myanmar by Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai which ended Friday.

    Myanmar agreed with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's proposal to develop Chiang Mai as a new aviation hub of the Thai kingdom, linking with Rangoon, Mandaley, and Pukam in Myanmar, said the statement.

    The two countries agreed on a plan to construct a highway linking northern Thailand with Myanmar and India, with officials of the three countries scheduled to meet in Mandaley in April to further the plan, which will be supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said the statement.

    Thailand and Myanmar planned to construct a new bridge linking Mae Sod in Thailand's western province of Tak with Myanmar Tachilek province. The construction of the bridge is to start soon,indicated the statement.

    In addition, the two governments signed an agreement on avoidance of double taxation. Also Myanmar acknowledged Thailand's policy of sending illegal Myanmar workers and immigrants back and pledged not to take legal actions against those returning.

    Preparation for the upcoming visit to Myanmar by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn had also been made during Surakiart's February 6-8 visit to Rangoon, according to the statement.

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    Burmese arrested with speed pills

    The Bangkokpost

    Police seized 498,000 methamphetamine pills and arrested a Burmese man for drug trafficking yesterday.The man, identified as Jam, 25, was stopped for a search while riding a motorcycle through the Tachilek-Mae Sai border checkpoint. Police found 18,000 speed pills in his possession.

    He said he was taking the pills to two traders who ordered them from Tachilek. Police searched their houses in Mae Sai district. Police found 478,000 speed pills at Nuan Namwong's house. They found another 4,000 pills and 2.3 million baht in cash at Somsak Chumjai's house. The two suspects fled before the police arrived.Mr Jam said he delivered between 10,000 and 20,000 methamphetamine pills at a time to the two men.

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    Myanmar worker killed in attack at construction site

    The Star

    TANGKAK: A Myanmar worker was killed after he was attacked by a group, believed to be workers from Thailand, at a construction site near here at 9.30pm on Friday.

    The victim, only known as Bak Chang, 30, suffered several injuries on the head and body and died shortly after a gang of about 15 workers attacked him with pieces of wood and a hoe.

    Muar crime chief Deputy Supt Mat Fauzi Nayan, who rushed to the construction site with about 30 policemen, said police had classified the case as murder. "We believe the attack was carried out following an argument which broke out between two groups of foreigners working at the site earlier."Initial investigations showed the victim was attacked when he was alone at a wash area within the site, he said yesterday.

    DSP Mat Fauzi said that after the attack, the assailants ran into a plantation not far from the site and police had launched a team to look for them. He said no arrests had been made up to noon yesterday and urged those with information to come forward.

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    Razali says talks moving but slowly

    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Reconciliation talks between Burma's military junta and the opposition are progressing but not as fast as expected, U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail said on Monday.

    "It's moving along, maybe not as fast as it should," Razali, who returns to Burma next month for his seventh official visit, told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference in the Malaysian capital.

    "These kind of things are difficult, they take time," said the veteran Malaysian diplomat.

    Razali has shuttled between pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi and Than Shwe, the top leader of the Burma's military government, since his appointment in April 2000 but as yet to limited effect.

    Talks have help yield the release from prison of 207 members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy and the opening of 32 NLD township offices in Rangoon Division.

    Suu Kyi met Than Shwe last month, according to unconfirmed reports, as speculation simmered she may soon be freed from house arrest, a move diplomats see as crucial to progress in a dialogue aimed at ending the political deadlock.

    The NLD says more than 800 of its members remain in jail, with their release being another requirement for progress.

    Diplomats have warned that unless talks between Suu Kyi and the military produce concrete results soon, pro-democracy activists and Burma's many ethnic groups will lose patience.

    The 1991 Nobel Peace laureate has been confined to her home since September 2000, with outings only to meet military leaders in confidential talks the two sides began in October 2000.

    Suu Kyi's NLD won the country's last democratic elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to take over power from the ruling military. Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister U Khin Maung Win said on Saturday Razali would visit Myanmar for four days from March 19. Razali said he was coordinating his efforts with U.N. human rights envoy to Burma Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who arrived in Yangon on Sunday for his third official visit, which is expected to touch on the question of prisoner amnesties.

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    UN Human rights envoy meets Burmese generals, also to see Suu Kyi

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    Rangoon, Feb. 11- Burma's military rulers, long criticised for their human rights record, met the United Nations human rights envoy on Monday in a bid for international legitimacy which could lead to more aid and investment.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro is on his third visit to Burma in less than a year to complete a report to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in April.

    Many Western countries, including the United States and the European Union, have criticised Burma's military rulers for widespread human rights violations and placed limited sanctions on the poverty-stricken country.

    A report from Pinheiro citing progress could help soften the stance of decision makers in Brussels and Washington.

    Pinheiro met Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung and his deputy Khin Maung Win on Monday morning. He was expected to meet opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in the afternoon.

    Rangoon has also received visits by European Union officials and last year accepted a delegation from the International Labour Organisation investigating claims of forced labour.

    Yet despite Rangoon's attempts to clean up its image, many governments say more needs to be done before they give the green light for aid and full political and economic relations.

    NLD leader Suu Kyi still remains under house arrest and, according to Amnesty International, some 1500 political prisoners still languish in Burma's jails.

    Promised unlimited access while in Burma, ruled by the military since the 1960s, Pinheiro also plans to spend three days in northern Kachin state and is due to leave the country on February 19.

    After years of political isolation, Burma's military rulers have shown a few signs in the last two years of opening up to the international community on the issues of human rights and democracy. Late in 2000, U.N. special envoy to Burma Ismail Razali persuaded the generals to start talks with the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which has never been allowed to govern, despite a landslide election win in 1990.

    Last year, the government allowed the NLD to reopen some offices and released dozens of political prisoners seized in crackdowns on democracy and ethnic minority groups in the 1990s.

    Razali has hinted that some form of democracy could emerge in the next three years, but there are signs the opposition is becoming disillusioned with the lack of progress.

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