Daily News- February 13- 2002- Wednesday

  • US steals fizz from Burma's Union Day
  • NLD Says Unity Be Achieved Through Negotiations
  • Myanmar-Union Day
  • Free Burma group to hold 1st meeting
  • Thai Military Hails Myanmar's Plan to Eliminate Drugs Production by 2003
  • Myanmar's Cultivated Areas of Cotton Increase
  • Myanmar junta releases 5 more political prisoners
  • Myanmar talks making progress, success imminent: junta
  • Ethnic leader: U.N. human rights envoy to press for prisoner
  • KNU officer flees detention in Burma
  • Thai police freeze drug money from stock sale linked to Myanmar kingpin

  • US steals fizz from Burma's Union Day

    Supalak Ganjanakhundee

    The United States marked Burma's 55th Union Day yesterday by issuing a blunt report calling on the country's military junta to speed up dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and release more than 1,000 political prisoners.

    The report to the US Congress released yesterday said the US government supported the ongoing confidence-building measures between Suu Kyi and the junta, and hoped the measures would lead to "meaningful democratic change".

    At the urging of UN Special Representative Razali Ismail, Rangoon's military government opened dialogue on national reconciliation with the opposition leader in October 2000 but progress has been slow, said the report, which is issued every six months to update Congress on the situation in Burma. The report, prepared by the US State Department and its embassy in Rangoon, was released on the day the junta and the opposition held separate celebrations to mark Union Day, which commemorates the signing of the Panglong Agreement.

    The pact, signed on February 12, 1947 between national hero Aung San - Suu Kyi's father - and ethnic minority leaders, paved the way for independence from Britain. But Burma has been rocked by guerrilla warfare waged by separatist minority groups since the British withdrew in 1948.The rebels claim the Panglong Agreement gives them the right to split from the Union of Burma.

    In a speech yesterday, Than Shwe, chairman of the junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council, called for unity among the nation's various ethnic groups and urged people to work closely with the Tatmadaw (military) for national development.Than Shwe said his military-ruled government had achieved national reconciliation with some groups who have given up their armed struggle and agreed to cooperate with the junta.

    The junta is engaged in peace talks with several guerrilla groups including the Shan State Army and the Karen National Union, which have been fighting government troops along the border with Thailand.

    The US report, however, saw no significant achievements, saying living conditions in Burma continued to deteriorate, and that poverty was widespread.In areas of the country where the ethnic minorities live, "there are continuing reports of extra-judicial killings, rapes and disappearances", it said.

    The report said US foreign policy goals in Burma call for "progress towards democracy", full respect for human rights and a "more effective" effort to fight drug trafficking.

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    NLD Says Unity Be Achieved Through Negotiations

    YANGON, February 12 (Xinhua)--Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) Tuesday stressed that unity could be achieved through negotiations between individuals, organizations and ethnic groups, citing the "Pinlon Agreement" signed 55 years ago.

    The Pinlon Agreement was signed on February 12, 1947 when Myanmar ethnic leaders met at the then Pinlon Conference held in northeastern Shan state to strive in unity for the country's independence from the British colonialists. Marking Myanmar's 55th Anniversary Union Day, the NLD said in a statement that the 1947 agreement was a historical landmark that gave a valuable lesson on the way of achieving domestic unity.

    The statement was issued amid confidence-building talks between the NLD and the government initiated in October 2000. The statement pointed out that the ruling State Peace and Development Council has achieved cease-fire agreements with a number of anti-government armed ethnic groups, adding however that a political solution is necessary to establish long-term peace and stability.

    The statement also stressed that democratic rights and the rights of the ethnic nationalities are inseparable both of which have to be worked for. The statement called on the country's ethnic nationalities to unite firmly in the endeavor to build a truly democratic Union.

    The NLD, which was a winning party in the 1990 general election, demands the government release Aung San Suu Kyi, the party's general secretary, and all other political prisoners in the country and guarantee the rights of free activities for all legal political parties.

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    Myanmar-Union Day


    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ More than 500 opposition members joined a ceremony Tuesday urging national unity and peaceful negotiations for reconciliation in military-run Myanmar.

    "Only with national unity can we establish the much-desired democratic state," Aung Shwe, chairman of the National League for Democracy, told the gathering at the party's headquarters in Yangon to mark Myanmar's 55th Union Day.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a visiting U.N. human rights investigator, attended the ceremony along with diplomats from the embassies of Britain, France, the United States, Japan and South Korea. Pinheiro is on a 10-day mission to assess civil and political rights in Myanmar, also known as Burma. He has met with top officials in the junta and is expected to meet NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week.

    Union Day is a national holiday commemorating the signing of a 1947 agreement by leaders of the country's ethnic minorities and the late independence hero Gen. Aung San, who was Suu Kyi's father. The agreement paved the way for the different groups in this ethnically diverse nation to take independence from Britain together as one nation rather than a set of fractured states. The country still lapsed into civil war when Britain ceded power in 1948.

    In a message read at a separate official flag-raising ceremony in the capital, the leader of the ruling military junta, Gen. Than Shwe, also called for unity among Myanmar's ethnic minorities. But he accused unnamed rogue elements of hindering the country's stability and development.

    People should "oppose all destructionists from within and outside the nation who are impeding the stability and development of the nation," said the message, read by the commander of Yangon military command, Maj. Gen. Myint Swe. Than Shwe did not name the "destructionists" but was thought to be referring to a small number of ethnic minority rebel groups still fighting the military regime. He made no mention of Suu Kyi, who did not attend the party function. She has been under virtual house arrest since September 2000 after defying official restrictions by attempting to travel outside the city for a party meeting.

    The junta, in power since crushing a democracy uprising in 1988, often trumpets cease-fires it has reached with the majority of ethnic insurgencies as a historical achievement. However, none of the ethnic minorities or the NLD which swept a general election in 1990 but was barred from taking power have a say in the national government. Suu Kyi has held closed-door talks with the regime for the past year but there has been no sign of a breakthrough.

    In a joint statement Tuesday, six minor ethnic political parties, including representatives of the Shan, Mon and Karen minorities, urged the junta and the NLD to speed up the dialogue and include the various ethnic groups in Myanmar in the talks. The parties also urged the government to declare cease-fires and grant amnesty to armed ethnic groups and implement a genuine federal system of government.

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    Free Burma group to hold 1st meeting

    Poughkeepsie Journal

    HOPEWELL JUNCTION -- The first meeting of East Fishkill's chapter of the Free Burma Coalition will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday at the East Fishkill Community Center, Route 82 in East Fishkill.

    The meeting will be introductory and informative in character, aiming to acquaint members with the coalition, a national organization formed to fight for democracy in Burma.

    The East Fishkill chapter will be an activist organization. Meetings will be held once a month. Anyone interested is welcome to attend. For information, e-mail Geoff Aung at freeburma_ef @ya hoo.com

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    Thai Military Hails Myanmar's Plan to Eliminate Drugs Production by 2003

    BANGKOK, February 12 (Xinhuanet) -- The Thai military has hailed Myanmar's plan to eliminate narcotic production in the country by 2003, according to a report of the Thai News Agency Tuesday.

    Thai Army Commander-in-chief Surayud Chulanont was quoted as saying that he saw the plan as a good move, which will help improve and smoothen relations between Thailand and neighbouring countries in the future.

    Myanmar recently announced that it would totally suppress and eliminate drugs production over the next two years.Asked to what extent the announcement can be relied on, Surayud said that he could not comment on the point, as he, himself, had known the plan from local news reports.

    He said that the military had tried its best to help address drugs problems by seeking cooperation from villagers and people in strengthening local communities.The continued efforts were expected to bear concrete results over the next five to six months, noted the Army chief.

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    Myanmar's Cultivated Areas of Cotton Increase

    YANGON, February 12 (Xinhua)--The cultivated areas of cotton in Myanmar have increased from 182,250 hectares in 1988 to 324,000 hectares now, according to the latest figures issued by the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. Meanwhile, the cultivated areas of sugarcane have expanded from 97,200 hectares to 162,000 hectares during the 13-year period.

    Figures also show the country produced 160,000 tons of cotton and 3.5 million tons of sugarcane in 2001, during which the government, however, was able to buy only 1.1 million tons of sugarcane at Myanmar's 17 mills, which need 3.7 million tons a year to operate at capacity.

    Meanwhile, the country needed 56,000 tons of cotton a year to operate at capacity, but up till the end of January this year, the government had bought only 16,000 tons for the current fiscal year ending March.

    To supply enough cotton to the factories, the government has designated as a special cotton belt the area from Thayet in the west bank of the Ayeyawaddy River in southwestern Magway division to Salingyi on the west bank of Chindwin River in northwestern Sagaing division. Myanmar grows sugarcane mainly in five divisions and states of Mandalay, Bago, Magway, Sagaing and Shan.

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    Myanmar junta releases 5 more political prisoners

    YANGON, Feb. 13, Kyodo - Myanmar's junta released five more political prisoners Wednesday, including four members of the pro-democracy National League for Democracy (NLD), an official press release said.

    Hla Tun Aung, Kan Shein, Htein Lin and Myo Myint Nyein of the NLD and Kyi Pe Kyaw of a de-registered party were released from various correctional facilities and are in good health, the press release said.

    The releases bring to 217 the total number of political prisoners released since January 2001. According to NLD secretary U Lwin's count, 801 NLD members remain in jail. The NLD won the 1990 general election by a landslide, but Myanmar's generals refused to cede power and subsequently detained many NLD politicians.

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    Myanmar talks making progress, success imminent: junta

    The historic dialogue between Myanmar's military junta and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is progressing steadily and success is "imminent", a government spokesman said.

    The spokesman on Wednesday rejected criticism from the United States and pro-democracy ethnic political parties in Myanmar that the pace of the talks, which began in October 2000, is too slow.

    "Myanmar's ongoing process might seem to be slow to some but it is a steady and sure process where success is imminent. In fact, there is a saying 'slow and steady wins the race'," he told AFP in a statement.

    The military regime this week faced mounting pressure to speed up the secret dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest since a month before the unprecedented contacts began.

    In a report to Congress, the US government said Monday that the talks had contributed to mutual understanding and secured the release of some 180 political prisoners, but much more needed to be done."The United States welcomes this confidence-building process but urges the regime to move from confidence building to genuine political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi aimed at returning the country to democracy and civilian rule," it said.The report, prepared by the State Department and the US embassy in Yangon, also held out the prospect of an easing of US sanctions against Myanmar if there was tangible progress towards democracy.

    The junta spokesman said the dialogue was "progressing in the positive direction" and characterised the current political climate in Myanmar as "more encouraging and forthcoming" than many other troubled nations.

    "There are nations in South Asia, South East Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America where talks have totally failed and there are no peaceful options left," he said."There are even countries where talks have not only failed but the situation has gone from bad to worse with fighting flaring up."

    Pro-democracy ethnic political parties this week also urged the junta to increase the dialogue's momentum and "take speedy measures to come to a political agreement".Observers hope the talks will plot a way out of the stalemate that has beset Myanmar since the junta disregarded the National League for Democracy's landslide victory in 1990 elections.

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    Ethnic leader: U.N. human rights envoy to press for prisoner


    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ A United Nations human rights investigator visiting Myanmar has promised to work for the release of political prisoners in the military-run state, an ethnic minority leader said Wednesday.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, met for one hour with leaders of Shan, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Karen ethnic minority political parties late Tuesday at the U.N. Development Program office in Yangon.

    "We requested Mr. Pinheiro to work for the release of political prisoners including some of the ethnic political prisoners," Khun Tun Oo, leader of the Shan National League for Democracy, told The Associated Press. He added that Pinheiro promised he was striving to achieve that.

    According to a report by Pinheiro delivered to the U.N. General Assembly after his last visit to Myanmar in October, there are an estimated 1,500 to 1,600 political detainees. Those figures are after the release of about 200 prisoners of the main opposition National League for Democracy over the past year as a result of the first direct talks between the regime and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi in more than six years.

    But the opposition appears frustrated at the slow progress in the closed door talks, which began in October 2000. There has been no sign of a breakthrough in the country's political deadlock that dates back to the regime's refusal to honor the NLD's sweeping victory in 1990 general elections.

    Khun Tun Oo said the ethnic leaders reiterated the NLD demand for Suu Kyi's release from house arrest and also urged Pinheiro to press the military government to hold a dialogue with the NLD leader "on an equal footing."

    Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful democracy struggle, has been confined to her Yangon residence since September 2000 after trying to defy official restrictions on her movements.

    Pinheiro arrived Sunday for a 10-day visit to assess civil and political rights in Myanmar, also known as Burma. He has already met with top officials including Myanmar's third ranking leader and military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt and Foreign Minister Win Aung.

    Pinheiro told reporters at a NLD ceremony Tuesday to commemorate Myanmar's 55th Union Day that he would meet with Suu Kyi on his return from a two-day trip to northern Kachin State starting Wednesday. He is due to visit a prison in the Kachin capital of Myitkyina and meet Kachin ethnic leaders. The U.N. investigator said he will also later meet with lawyers, judges and Home Ministry officials and visit Yangon's main Insein prison.

    During his visit in October, Pinheiro traveled to northeastern Shan State and toured a prison in Myanmar's second largest city, Mandalay but his plan to travel to Kachin was cut short due to bad health.

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    KNU officer flees detention in Burma

    The Bangkokpost

    Tak _ A senior officer of the anti-Rangoon Karen National Union has escaped after seven years in a Burmese jail.Pado Mahn Yin Sein, 71, a former KNU central committee member and Pa-an district chairman, was greeted by representatives of four Burmese pro-democracy groups in a border area opposite Tak yesterday.

    On Feb 9, 1995, he was seized by pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army guerrillas and handed over to Burmese troops at Ye Gyaw camp. He was tried in Rangoon without legal representation and sentenced to 20 years' jail for treason, possession of war weapons and immigration charges.

    Pado Mahn Yin Sein was released on Nov 27, 1999, but remained on probation.He became a monk and stayed in Pa-an. He escaped to the KNU's 7th division on Friday.

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    Thai police freeze drug money from stock sale linked to Myanmar kingpin

    BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Thai financial police on Wednesday froze 5 million baht (dlrs 100,000) in cash from the sale of stocks owned by a relative of a major drug suspect wanted in the United States.

    The cash is suspected to be the product of laundered drug money, said Col. Peeraphan Premaphuthi, secretary general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office.

    The money freeze is the latest measure aimed at hurting the finances of Wei Hsueh-kang, who leads a rebel army in neighboring Oyanmar. He is suspected of running an international drug ring as well. Wei, an ethnic Chinese, is wanted for drug trafficking by the U.S government, which has offered a dlrs 2 million reward for his capture. He is under indictment in a U.S. federal court in New York for heroin trafficking.

    The 49-year-old Wei is a leader of the United Wa State Army, an armed ethnic rebel group in Myanmar that is believed to illegally smuggle heroin and methamphetamine, a stimulant. Wei jumped bail after at Thai court sentenced him to life imprisonment for drug trafficking in 1987. The government revoked his Thai nationality in July 2001.

    In December 2001, the Anti-Money Laundering Office and narcotic suppression police raided the residences of Wei's relatives in Bangkok and two other provinces, confiscating more than 240 million baht (dlrs 5.3 million) worth of cash, jewelry and cars besides several houses and plots of land.

    Wei's racket was partially exposed when hundreds of kilograms *rounds) of heroin were found in a ship heading for international waters through a southern Thai port five years ago.

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