Daily News- February 22- 2002- Friday

  • International labor group to meet Myanmar opposition leader
  • Ne Win's Health Takes a Turn
  • Expansion of naval base
  • Burmese Drug Lord Hit in the Pocket
  • More Burmese troops pouring in to flush out Wa from drug town
  • Burma wants border golf course, too
  • Myawady TV to use Palapa C2 satellite from 1 March
  • U.N. envoy urges release of Suu Kyi, all political prisoners
  • Junta temporarily closes two universities following gang brawls
  • Assets valued at B20m seized

  • International labor group to meet Myanmar opposition leader

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ A visiting delegation from the International Labor Organization plans to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi before leaving this weekend, mission leader Francis Maupain said Thursday.

    The four-member team from Geneva arrived Tuesday to follow up an October 2001 visit to assess the government's efforts to end forced labor. The ILO delegation has already met Labor Minister Tin Win and Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win and officials from the Labor Ministry.

    "As in previous occasions, it's part of the conditions of the visit that we can go and visit people we feel whose contribution may be relevant to the objectives of the mission," Maupain said, when asked whether he would be visiting Suu Kyi.

    Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate, has been under house arrest since September 2000 for trying to travel outside Yangon for a political meeting. She held 2 1/2 hours of talks with Monday with Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N. human rights rapporteur on Myanmar.

    Suu Kyi leads the National League for Democracy Party, which swept the 1990 general elections but was barred by the ruling military from taking power. Hundreds of NLD members have since been jailed.

    In November 2000, the ILO urged its 175 member governments to impose sanctions and review their dealings with Myanmar to ensure they are not abetting forced labor. The military has long been accused of using unpaid manual labor on public works and making civilians serve as army porters. The ILO team will submit its report to the meeting"of the ILO Governing Body on March 21.

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    Ne Win's Health Takes a Turn

    Far Eastern Economic Review INTELLIGENCE Issue cover-dated February 28, 2002

    Confounding reports that he is seriously ill, Burma's former strongman Ne Win has written to the Thai authorities saying he would like to make an official visit to Bangkok soon.

    If he did, the 90-year-old leader, considered something of a political guru and behind-the-scenes influence for the ruling generals in Rangoon, would doubtless have an audience with Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej as a former Burmese head of state.

    Such a visit would also further enhance rapidly improving bilateral relations, which hit a low with border skirmishing in 2001.

    Ne Win was last reported to be in poor health in Rangoon last December, after receiving medical treatment in Singapore. At one stage he was said to be in a prolonged coma while undergoing treatment for various ailments.

    To The Top

    Expansion of naval base

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 19 February

    A branch of naval warships carrying 105-mm artillery pieces arrived at the headquarters of the No 20 Strategic Command stationed at Kyauktaga village, Bokpyin township in Tenasserim Division on 10 February. On 15 February, a field director and five high-level officials arrived at the place and discussions were made with the commanding officers of the No 20 and 13 Strategic Commands. The discussions were on the deployment of the No 317 heavy weapon company and the No 34 naval artillery camp at the No 20 Strategic Command.

    Military observers told Democratic Voice of Burma that it is an interesting piece because the event of the expansion of the heavy weapon company and naval artillery camp at the place coincides with the arrival of Chinese warships, an SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] directive on making bomb shelters along the Thai-Burmese border, and the SPDC's purchase of Russian arms.

    To The Top

    Burmese Drug Lord Hit in the Pocket

    Far Eastern Economic Review INTELLIGENCE Issue cover-dated February 28, 2002

    Notorious Burmese drug lord Wei Xuegang is losing a fortune in Thailand. According to Peeraphan Prempooti, head of Thailand's Anti-Money Laundering Office, Thai authorities seized another 20 million baht ($460,000) of his ill-gotten assets on February 19.

    Since late December, Thai authorities have nabbed more than 270 million baht worth of Wei's assets, including property and 80 million baht invested in the Thai stockmarket. Peeraphan says the United States Drug Enforcement Agency has been instrumental in the chase, providing both intelligence and technical assistance, including sophisticated software that has plugged local banks, brokerages and insurance companies into the cause.

    Thai authorities are monitoring the transactions of 100 people they suspect are acting as nominees on Wei's behalf. So far, no Thai politicians have appeared on the radar screen, according to Peeraphan.

    To The Top

    More Burmese troops pouring in to flush out Wa from drug town

    Shan Herald Agency for News No: 02 - 21: 21 February 2002

    At least 7 battalions of Burmese forces in eastern Shan State have arrived in the southern Wa capital of Mongyawn in a move to pressure a recalcitrant Wa faction out of the area, according to border sources.

    A source has identified the Burmese units as Infantry Battalions 65 (Mongton), 221 (Mongpyak), 226 (Loimwe), 227 Mongkhark), 277 (Mongton) and Light Infantry Battalions 333 (Monghsat) and 529 (Tachilek).

    "These units were already reported to have been in the area for more than a month," said a Thai border watcher. "But more fresh troops showed up on Monday evening (18 February)."

    This was in response to the refusal of Wei Hsaitang, dismissed Commander of the United Wa State Army's crack 894th Brigade, to move out from the area as demanded by the Burmese military authorities last month. The mysterious shootout that took place on 10 February resulting in 7 Burmese soldiers killed and 3 wounded was also believed to be an expression of dissatisfaction by his faction.

    Wei has long been reported to be at odds with both the high command in Panghsang near the Chinese border that had directed him to return to assume command of the 916th Brigade, and his rival commander, Wei Hsuehkang of Division 171, the discredited drug fugitive from Thailand. (Wei Hsaitang and Wei Hsuehkang, although they bear an identical family name, are not relatives).

    An unconfirmed report from a former Wa commander who was lately at the Wa northern capital also say Wei Hsuehkang was elected as a vice chairman at a month long meeting that began in mid-December. "There are reasons why he was chosen," said a source from the Border Patrol Police. "For one thing, he is known to be enjoying intimate relations with Gen Khin Nyunt. For another, the Wa are going through a period of financial difficulties. They are in need of Wei's resources to bail them out." A Shan State Army commander, who knew Wei well, commented, "He is the remote control (device) of the Wa."

    Some observers doubt Wei's vice chairmanship could be publicly announced due to his negative political image. "If I were him, I would have chosen Wei Hsuehlong, his elder brother, to take up the office as my front man," he said. "For one thing, Hsuehlong is already in Panghsang. For another, he is less well known."

    Whether it was Wei Hsuehlong or Wei Hsuehkang, it was obvious the younger brother had gained sufficient power to oust his rivals in the south including Wei Hsaitang. "All the officers who are being recalled to Panghsang are those who have won the wrath of Wei Hsuehkang," said a Lahu source. Wei Hsaitang however is still in Mongyawn, according to several sources, for reasons still unexplained, although his replacement, Ta Leu, has been there for weeks.

    One Thai businessman who knows Ta Htang, as Wei Hsaitang is known, said: "His removal, I fear, might affect the relations between Wa and the Shan State Army. He had been against Wa troops fighting against the Shans, much to the chagrin of Rangoon. But we don't know what Wei Hsuehkang's stand is regarding the SSA." "The present trouble with Wa also explains why the expected Burmese offensive against the SSA has yet to get off the ground," according to another border watcher.

    Local newspapers have for over a month been reporting Rangoon's military buildup against Shan forces opposite Chiangrai province. The Shan attack on a Burmese outpost on 8 February received an on-the-scene coverage by TV Channel 7.

    To The Top

    Burma wants border golf course, too

    Theerawat Khamthita
    The Bangkokpost

    PM's Office Minister Somsak Thepsuthin says he supports development of another international golf course this one at the Golden Triangle, as proposed by Burmese military leader Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt. The course would straddle the border, with fairways and greens in both countries.

    Mr Somsak, who is in charge of tourism, yesterday visited the 500-rai area of mangroves on the banks of the Ruak river proposed as the site for the golf course by Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council. He said golfers would be drawn to the novelty and challenge of driving balls across the Ruak river.

    Some senators yesterday expressed disapproval of Mr Somsak's other pet project the planned Emerald Triangle golf course to be built in a lush forest where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia meet.They said it would probably spawn another crop of border casinos.

    Senator Pong Leng-ee, a former Forestry Department chief, said it was illegal to build golf courses in a national park. It would destroy the environment and natural resources in Ubon Ratchathani.``Building golf courses in national parks could be held as an abuse of government policy,'' he said. ``People who want to play golf on courses straddling three countries are just mentally deranged.''Senator Amorn Nilprem (Ubon Ratchathani) said it would inevitably lead to building of more casinos.Mr Somsak should think again.

    Senator Gen Bundit Malai-arisoon said landmines and bombs from the Vietnam War era were believed still in the area.``Nobody would dare pick up a golf ball which lands off the fairway. And the Cambodians, who can hardly make ends meet, could certainly not afford to play,'' Gen Bundit said.

    Meanwhile, Thai authorities were said to have given verbal approval to Rangoon's proposal for a bridge linking Tachilek, in Burma, to Chiang Saen. A source in the Golden Triangle and Paradise Resort Co, which runs a hotel-casino in Tachilek, said the agreement had nothing to do with the planned Ruak river golf course.

    Myawady TV to use Palapa C2 satellite from 1 March

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Feb 21, 2002
    Text of report in English by Burmese newspaper The New Light of Myanmar web site on 21 February

    Yangon [Rangoon], 20 February: Beginning 1 March Myawady TV will use Palapa C2 satellite in transmitting its programmes through satellite.Persons who use satellite dish will have to switch to Palapa C2 satellite at 113 east.

    Other facts about the satellite are as follows: Beam: Asia beam, down link frequency 3706.5 MHz, Symbol Rate 5.926 MSYM/SEC, FEC 3/4, Polarization horizontal, modulation QPSK.

    No change is required for those who use ordinary antenna. Myawady TV continues to broadcast its programmes from Asia Sat2 [at 100.5 degrees east] till 28 February 2002.

    [The LyngSat web site reported Myawady TV to be dual-illumunating via both Palapa C2 and AsiaSat 2 on 21 February]

    To The Top

    U.N. envoy urges release of Suu Kyi, all political prisoners


    BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ A U.N. envoy on Friday urged Myanmar's military regime to release all political prisoners and allow detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to resume "normal political activities."

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N. rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, also called on the international community to engage the country's isolated ruling junta on a "principled" basis.

    He was speaking to reporters in Bangkok after a 10-day visit to Myanmar. It was his third and "smoothest" yet trip there since he was appointed a year ago, he said. Pinheiro said the military afforded him freedom of movement and that he interviewed more than 25 political prisoners in private. He also held a three-hour meeting with Suu Kyi.

    She has been under house arrest in Yangon since Sept. 2000 after she tried to travel outside the city for a political meeting without military permission. The Nobel Peace laureate heads the National League for Democracy, which won a general election in 1990 by a landslide. The military, which has run Myanmar, also known as Burma, since 1962, did not honor the result and kept its grip on power. Hundreds of her supporters were jailed.

    Pinheiro applauded the release of 11 opposition prisoners during his stay. Some 223 prisoners have been freed since the regime began closed-door talks with Suu Kyi in October 2000. Between 1,500 and 1,700 remain in prison, he said.

    He believed the government was "seriously considering" his specific appeal for the release of 17 elected lawmakers from Suu Kyi's party, sick prisoners and those jailed for talking to U.N. investigators in the past.

    Pinheiro urged the international community to keep faith with the political mediation efforts of U.N. envoy Razali Ismail, credited with brokering the talks between Suu Kyi and the regime. There has been no sign of a breakthrough in the talks.

    Critics of the junta have long advocated stronger action to isolate the regime to pressure it into political change. Western nations already ban arms sales and most foreign aid.

    In a report he will make to the U.N. Commission for Human Rights in Geneva on April 4, Pinheiro said he would recommend that countries should not deepen sanctions. In August 2001, heads of U.N. relief and development agencies in Myanmar urged a dramatic increase in foreign aid, warning the country was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

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    Junta temporarily closes two universities following gang brawls

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 20 February

    It has been reported that the military had to intervene to take control of the situation following a riot involving students from the Institute of Economics and the Culture University in Ywarthargyi in South Dagon Township on 14 February.

    Although the exact cause of the problem has not been known, rumours circulating in Rangoon are saying that the incident started with a brawl between members of the Scorpion Gang of Kyaw Ne Win, a grandson of U Ne Win [former dictator], and the White Snake Gang, and later developed into a clash between the students of the two universities.

    Three brawls took place on that day respectively at 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m., and 11:30 p.m. [all times local]. About 200 students were involved on each side during the riot and no one dared to stop them.

    Eyewitnesses told DVB that four military trucks from the War Office in Rangoon arrived at the scene after midnight and raided the campuses of the two universities. The two universities have been temporary closed and details of report on arrest of students have not been received so far.

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    Assets valued at B20m seized

    Cheewin Sattha and Theerawat Khamthita
    The Bangkokpost

    Police arrested five people and seized assets worth 20 million baht in raids on 25 places with suspected links to drug baron Wei Hsueh-kang.

    Police, drug and money-laundering officials searched 13 places in Muang district and nine in Fang district of Chiang Mai, and three houses in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district in a follow-up to last December's drive against Wei and his drugs and money-laundering activities.About 100 million baht of Wei's assets, including luxury houses, cars and jewellery, have already been seized.

    In Chiang Mai, police searched Saeng Siri gold shop on Witchayanon road, owned by Somboon Boonchua, and seized jewellery worth around six million baht.

    Chartchai Suthiklom, deputy secretary-general of the Narcotics Control Board, said Mr Somboon, 62, was suspected of having connections with the United Wa State Army, a big methamphetamine producer in Mong Yawn on the Burmese border.``We believe he built his wealth from drug money,'' Mr Chartchai said.Police interviewed Mr Somboon but have not pressed charges.

    Wei, an ethnic Wa Haw, was arrested in Bangkok years ago, convicted of drugs trafficking and sentenced to death.He was granted bail during his appeal and then fled to Burma and joined the Wa forces in Mong Yawn.

    In other searches in Chiang Mai, police seized 95,000 baht in cash, five bank accounts and jewellery. Five people were arrested.Police say that if their ID cards turn out to be fake their Thai nationality will be revoked.In Chiang Rai, police also seized jewellery and land title deeds.It is not known whether other operations are planned.