Daily News- January 10 - 2002- Thursday

  • Win aung calls for opposition patience
  • Myanmar frees five more opposition members
  • Rocket launchers found near Yangon airport
  • Complicated refugee issue finally raised
  • Bomb threat downplayed by thai police
  • Myanmar Becomes World's Second Largest Pulses Exporter
  • Razali to urge Japan to aid Burma development
  • World's Top Heroin Maker Myanmar Opens Anti-Drugs Museum

  • Win aung calls for opposition patience

    source : BBC

    Burma's Foreign Minister has said the called for patience in the reconciliation process, as the military government freed five opposition members, including a cousin of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The minister, Win Aung, told the BBC the prisoner releases were proof that the process was continuing. He said the military government would like to free all political prisoners, and the time would come for Aung San Suu Kyi to be released from house arrest.

    Win Aung also called for understanding, saying that the military government did not want to be pushed from behind. The released prisoners are Cho Aung than ,Tin Maung Kyi ,Kyaw Min,Kyi Lwin, and Tin Maung.

    The release of Cho Aung Than, the cousin and liaison officer of Aung San Suu Kyi, is seen as a significant conciliatory gesture by the military authorities. He was arrested in June 1997 and given a seven-year sentence under an emergency law, and a three-year sentence under a law banning unlawful association.

    Secret talks

    The government says 207 political prisoners have been released since Aung San Suu Kyi began secret reconciliation talks with the military government in October 2000. The NLD says more than 800 of its members remain in custody although the government disputes the figure.

    Neither side has made public the content of the talks. But on Independence Day last week, the NLD demanded the start of a meaningful political dialogue, signalling increasing frustration with the slow pace of progress.

    Win Aung said on Wednesday the opposition had their view but said the government was neither backtracking nor sidetracking. But he said it was difficult to demonstrate results.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest since September 2000 after confronting the authorities over restrictions on her movements. The NLD won a general election in 1990 that the military refused to recognise.

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    Myanmar frees five more opposition members

    YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government said on Wednesday it freed five more opposition members, including a first cousin of National League for Democracy (NLD) Party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The releases, the first of 2002, come amid ongoing secretive reconciliation talks between the opposition and the military. The talks began in October 2000. "They are all in good health and back together with their respective families," the spokesman said in a statement sent to Reuters.He said the prisoners were all men and included Suu Kyi's cousin, Cho Aung Than. Last year, the government freed around 200 NLD members.

    The NLD won Myanmar's last election in 1990 by a landslide but was never allowed to govern. Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi has been held under de facto house arrest for more than a year.

    NLD Secretary U Lwin has said the slow release of prisoners is hampering the reconciliation talks. Amnesty International says there are more than 1,500 political prisoners in Myanmar's jails. But the government disputes this, saying most of the prisoners cited are in jail for criminal offences rather than political acts.

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    Rocket launchers found near Yangon airport

    The Time of India

    YANGON, Myanmar: Security personnel found and defused two rocket propelled grenades that were aimed at Yangon international airport and armed with a timing device, a government statement said on Wednesday.

    The statement did not identify the culprits or say whether there had been any arrests. But it said the type of weapons were known to be used by the rebel Karen National Union.

    "Two rocket propelled grenades type 69 connected to a timer were uncovered at a place approximately 1 mile (2 kilometres) northwest of Mingaladon airport in the outskirts of Yangon," the statement said.

    It said the weapons were tied to a tree and directed at the airport. They were discovered early Sunday and disassembled by security officers acting on a tip-off before they activated.The statement gave no further details.

    The Karen National Union has been fighting for more autonomy inside Myanmar, also known as Burma, for more than five decades. It fights a guerrilla war against the ruling military regime on the eastern Thai-Myanmar border and is not known to be active in the capital.A state-run newspaper on Tuesday renewed the government's long-standing call for the KNU to give up armed struggle.The KNU was not immediately available for comment.

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    Complicated refugee issue finally raised

    The Bangkokpost
    By Achara Ashayagachat

    Thailand yesterday gave Burma a concept paper on the more than 100,000 displaced Burmese ethnic minority people living in Thai border camps in what was seen as a bid towards their repatriation.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Surakiart Sathirathai gave the document to his Burmese counterpart Win Aung at the end of the sixth meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Co-operation.It was the first time the sensitive issue of what to do with the 108,000 displaced people, mostly ethnic Karens opposed to Burma's military regime, was discussed at the forum.Mr Win Aung said further talks were needed, saying the issue was complicated.

    Mr Surakiart said the issue was sensitive because ``other factors'' were involved. Further talks would take place in light of the increasing political co-operation between the two countries.

    The Burmese foreign minister emphasised the displaced people were not the same as illegal migrants, whom he described as ``our people''.He said Burma would accept the displaced people as ``our people'' if they stopped fighting the Rangoon government.``We have to clarify if those who take refuge along the border are still determined to fight again,'' he said.

    The two sides also agreed that an inter-agency task force would meet in early March to discuss the repatriation of more than 100,000 of the more than half a million illegal Burmese workers in Thailand.

    Tej Bunnag, Thailand's permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs, and Khin Maung Win, Burma's deputy foreign minister, would head the talks.

    ``It is the first time that Burma is designating a certain part of Myawaddy as a holding centre to receive returning illegal workers,'' Mr Surakiart said.``The centre will be jointly managed by the two governments to show the world the transparent process in the repatriation of these people.''He said the two countries would later sign a memorandum of understanding on regulating Burmese workers coming to Thailand.

    Talks were also held on the issue of illegal drugs with both sides agreeing that the royal-sponsored Mae Fahluang Foundation would play an important role in sharing its experience in rehabilitating drug addicts and in crop substitution.

    Mr Surakiart said a drug-free village would be set up as a pilot project with a 20-million-baht government budget.Mr Surakiart will visit Rangoon within the next four weeks for further talks.He would also extend Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's formal invitation for the vice-chairman of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council, Gen Maung Aye, to visit Thailand.Mr Surakiart would also discuss preparations for the historic visit to Burma later this year of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn on behalf of His Majesty the King.

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    Bomb threat downplayed by thai police

    The Bangkokpost

    Special Branch police say they do not believe followers of drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang will really blow up public places as claimed.Pol Maj-Gen Treethos Ronlitthiwichai, commander of Special Branch division 2, said that as far as he knew Wei followers were just a group of drug traffickers, not terrorists with the potential to cause havoc.

    On Tuesday, police said a man, speaking with a Chinese accent, called their Pan Fah radio centre and threatened to hurl grenades at Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's residence, the United States embassy and police headquarters.

    The action was to avenge the crackdown on Wei in which millions of baht in assets thought to be owned by the drug kingpin have been seized.

    Meanwhile Pol Maj-Gen Treethos said he was considering whether the Far Eastern Economic Review should face wider criminal action than charges under the Printing Act. The government is angry about a report in the news magazine's Jan 10 issue which it says defames the monarchy and the prime minister.The Printing Act empowered the police merely to seize the magazine, he said. Police were taking legal advice also on whether radio broadcaster Somkiat Onwimon should face action for airing the report.

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    Myanmar Becomes World's Second Largest Pulses Exporter

    YANGON, Jan 9, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar has become the second largest exporter of pulses in the world, replacing Australia and standing only after Canada, according to the latest issue of the local weekly journal The Myanmar Times.

    Quoting a head of a local trade organization, the journal reported that Myanmar exported 800,000 tons of pulses in 2001, a ten-fold increase during the past decade. U Tun Aung, chairman of the Myanmar Pulses, Beans and Sesame Seeds Merchants' Association, attributed the possibility of Myanmar to sustain and penetrate the international markets to its increase both in quality and quantity of its pulses export. He disclosed that Myanmar has laid down future plans which include introduction of a uniform weight measuring system and cooperation with farmers.

    Myanmar mainly exports its pulses to India and Japan and new markets are being sought in Jordan and Pakistan. The country's most popular pulses export items are black gram, green mung beans and pigeon peas. Beans and pulses are one of Myanmar's four pillar crops, earning huge foreign exchange income for the country.

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    Razali to urge Japan to aid Burma development

    KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 (AFP)

    UN envoy Razali Ismail is expected to urge Japan to play a larger role in developing Burma's education, health and energy sector, a Malaysian official said Thursday.

    "Razali will seek Japan's participation to develop critical areas like healthcare, education and energy," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    Razali is expected to brief Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who arrives later in the day on the situation in Burma.

    "Razali will try to impress Koizumi to give more aid to Myanmar."

    The official said Japan in the past had provided assistance for the construction of a hydro-electric dam in Burma.

    The official said Japan was supportive of ASEAN's constructive engagement policy, adding that Koizumi would be seeking first-hand information on Razali's on-going national reconciliation efforts in Burma.

    Razali would brief Koizumi and voice his confidence that Burma was heading towards democracy but "it needs time and at the same time other nations must address its (Myanmar's) economic concerns."

    Malaysia, a close ally of Burma within the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had in past pressed for a two-pronged approach -- diplomatic and economic reconstruction to bring Burma into the international arena.

    Last month, Razali, who was on his sixth visit to the military-ruled state, spent an unprecedented two-and-a-half hours at opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi's lakeside compound.

    The talks are believed to have focussed on quickening the pace of political prisoner releases and the eventual inclusion of ethnic minorities in tripartite talks after issues between the NLD and the junta are resolved.

    Historic talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling State Peace and Development Council began in October 2000, but progress seems to have stalled in the past few months, diplomats say.

    ASEAN groups Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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    World's Top Heroin Maker Myanmar Opens Anti-Drugs Museum

    Rangoon (AP)

    In a moment frozen for posterity, a life-size dummy of Burma's military intelligence chief, wielding a metal stick, chops down plastic opium poppies against a painted backdrop of mist-shrouded mountains.

    On another floor, syringes, confiscated amphetamine pills and antique opium pipes are displayed in glass cases. Grisly photos of dying junkies adorn the walls to warn visitors of the dangers of drugs.

    Not shy about claiming its place in history, Burma's military government has opened a grandiose Drug Elimination Museum to advertise - in the hyperbole typical of authoritarian regimes - that its counter-narcotics efforts are making great progress in curbing the illicit trade.

    The result is that the sprawling three-story museum, built on the site of a former cemetery in central Rangoon, is short on education and high on propaganda - it even fails to note that the impoverished country is now the world's number one heroin producer.

    The museum cost 1.05 billion kyat ($1=MMK725) to build, including funds from private donors - one of whom is leading Burma businessman Lo Hsing-han, widely known as a former drugs kingpin.

    It opened in June and gets about 2,500 visitors every month, most of them from schools, said police Maj. Myo Thu Soe, a curator. Children pay a five kyat entrance fee and adults 10 kyats.

    At the palatial entrance, a brass plaque quotes junta leader Gen. Than Shwe vowing to fight the drugs menace "threatening all the people of the world," even if it gets no foreign help.

    Little aid has been forthcoming, largely because of the current regime's human rights record and refusal to hand power to the winner of the 1990 general election, democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The government's performance fighting drugs is better than in politics, but the results still have been mixed.

    Production of opium, the raw material of heroin, doubled after the regime took power in 1988, as it reached cease-fires with a number of ethnic insurgents involved in drug trafficking.

    But according to the latest U.S. estimates, opium harvests have declined steadily in the past five years to below their pre-1988 level, due to poor weather and the government's eradication efforts.

    Still, Burma was estimated to grow enough opium in 2001 to make more than 80 tons of heroin.

    It became the top producer in 2001, overtaking Afghanistan, where the former Taliban rulers successfully banned opium growing a year ago.

    Also, Burma is increasingly a source of methamphetamines. This cheap and popular stimulant is wreaking havoc in several Asian nations.

    To mitigate the responsibility of the military - which has led the country from prosperity to poverty in the past 40 years - the museum initially focuses on the origins of the drug trade in centuries past.

    Foreign traders are blamed for introducing opium in the 16th century, and Britain is accused of using it to "destroy" Burma's social fabric during colonial rule in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    One display shows 18th century Burmese King Bodaw reading an edict against sales of opium and other intoxicants while top-hatted white men in the background strike drug deals.

    Military campaigns against ethnic drug armies are documented with detailed inventories of narcotics confiscated and government soldiers "who have sacrificed their lives and limbs for mankind."

    Oil paintings depict generals making peace deals with ethnic insurgents and promoting development to end the dependence of hill tribes on opium as a crop.

    One gruesome photo shows surgeons extracting bags of heroin from the stomach of a human drug mule, and another presents a wasted addict described as "on his death bed."

    At the center of the museum is a life-size representation of a hillside the size of two tennis courts. A mannequin of a farmer guides a plow pulled by a stuffed buffalo. The farmer cultivates tea and buckwheat instead of the opium poppy.

    Min Kyaw Thya, 11, among a couple of dozen scurrying students who were the only visitors one recent morning, was more interested in the displays of stimulant pills.

    "I haven't seen the tablets before," the youth said as he bounced a tennis ball. "Now I'll know what they look like so I won't eat them."

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