Daily News- January 27 - 2002- Sunday

  • Malaysian police arrest 28 Myanmar Muslims in U.N. office compound
  • Myanmar refugees handed over to Malaysia
  • Veteran politicians prepare for February meeting with UN special envoy
  • Burma plan set to reduce problems
  • Dhaka-Yangon trade deal proves unsuccessful as smuglling rising
  • U20 : Thais held to draw by Burma

  • Malaysian police arrest 28 Myanmar Muslims in U.N. office compound

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Malaysian police arrested a group of Myanmar Muslims at a U.N. compound in Kuala Lumpur where they had stayed the night seeking asylum from alleged religious persecution, police said Saturday.

    A police spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the group of 28 people, including 10 women and six children were detained for not having valid documents and would be deported.

    The group had forced their way into the United Nations High Commission for Refugees or UNHCR office in downtown Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Four other asylum seekers who tried to enter the office a short while later were arrested. UNHCR officials told reporters on Friday that the asylum seekers would be allowed to stay in the compound until further instructions were received from their regional office in Jakarta or from Geneva.

    The officials could not be contacted on Saturday. But a security guard at the UNHCR office said police moved in after UNHCR officials had finished interviewing the group. A police spokesman said "we had UNHCR's approval to go in and get them."

    On Friday, migrant Habib Peter said they were members of the Rohinga Muslim minority in military-ruled Myanmar and faced persecution in their home country,which is also known as Burma. He said his group entered Malaysia illegally through Thailand and were seeking refugee status from the UNHCR and residency papers for a country other than Myanmar."We just want a place for our children to go to school, and for us to live in peace," Habib said.

    Myanmar's military junta allows freedom of worship to all faiths, but conflict between Muslims and majority Buddhists is not uncommon. Last year, witnesses said four Muslims were killed in clashes with Buddhists in the northern town of Toungoo. Muslims comprise 3.9 percent of Myanmar's 51 million people while Buddhists are nearly 89 percent.

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    Myanmar refugees handed over to Malaysia


    KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 26 - Three Muslim families from Myanmar who took refuge in the ground of the U.S. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Malaysia were handed over to immigration officials on Saturday. The 28 men, women and children, from three ethnic Rohingya families, had entered the compound in the capital early on Friday seeking asylum.

    Kuala Lumpur Immigration Department Deputy Director Ahmad Ismail said his officers were questioning the immigrants to determine their status. ''We have to determine whether they possess valid documents and their citizenship before deciding to deport them,'' he said.

    Ahmad said it was not known when they would be sent back to their country, adding that they would be held at a detention camp for immigrants in the western state of Negeri Sembilan pending the completion of investigations.

    The refugees said they entered Malaysia illegally several years ago to escape persecution in their homeland but an ongoing crackdown on illegal immigrants in Malaysia has exacerbated their plight.

    UNHCR officials in Malaysia declined to comment on Saturday.On Friday, Yoshiteru Fuji, officer in charge of the Malaysian UNHCR office, said some of the Rohingya occupying his office had had earlier requests for refugee status rejected. He said the U.N. body would consider their appeals on a case-by-case basis.

    Twenty more Rohingya, who come from western Myanmar, had also tried to enter the compound later on Friday but fled as more than a dozen police patrolled the entrance to the building. Police caught two of them. It is estimated that there were between 2,000 and 3,000 Rohingyas living in Malaysia.

    In February last year, about 450 Rohingyas were killed in clashes with Buddhists around Akyab town in Myanmar, according to a statement released by Arakan Rohingya National Organisation.

    Malaysia, with a population of 23 million, has two million immigrants, less than half of whom are legal. The government on Saturday announced plans to deport 30,000 mainly Filipino and Indonesian immigrants from the eastern state of Sabah, as part of a crackdown on foreign labour.

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    Veteran politicians prepare for February meeting with UN special envoy

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 24 January

    When UN special envoy Mr Razali Ismail returns to Rangoon next month he will meet with all the representatives of political parties which he has met before and he is also expected to meet with veteran politicians who fought for Burma's independence.

    In order to present their official view in meeting with Mr Razali, the 23-member veteran politicians group led by Bohmu Aung held a coordination meeting today. According to Thakhin Thein Pe, who is one of the meeting conveners, the group will present Mr Razali with the National Reconciliation Programme Report given to the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] military government back in 1999.

    [Thakhin Thein Pe - recording] We presented the National Reconciliation Programme Report to the SPDC in 1999. We have been repeatedly calling for the formation of a Government of National Reconciliation comprising representatives from the Defence Services, the National League for Democracy [NLD], Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, National Unity Party, other nationalities' representatives, and other suitable persons.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Did you discuss the ongoing dialogue [between the SPDC and the NLD]? What about its prospects and your views?

    [Thakhin Thein Pe] According to comments by U Lwin [NLD secretary] we are optimistic about the talks. There has been some progress. The fundamentals are there, we think only the implementation is needed. Since there are no perpetual friends and eternal enemies in the eyes of the NLD that could be seen as a sign of a reconciliatory approach. If the other side accepts NLD's proposal then national reconciliation will be achieved. We are all hoping for that.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] So far the government has not announced anything.

    [Thakhin Thein Pe] Well, we do not know what is holding them up. The people are very anxious about that and we are also very anxious too. While we are still waiting for the political outcome, the prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed. That is the most important thing. I asked one of my grandchildren about the current price of a former 25-pya [Burmese currency unit 1 kyat equals 100 pyas] movie ticket and he said 300 kyat. The 25-pya movie tickets were the cheapest in those days and they were the front seats. Gen Aung San [Burma's late national leader and father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] was always broke and he used to watch movies from the 25-pya seat. If only Gen Aung San were alive today he would refrain from watching movies rather than pay 300 kyat.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Well, you have been watching TV and reading the newspapers and there are conflicting remarks about the ongoing dialogue. Some say it is progressing while others say it has stalled. At such a time, the Kyant Phut [derogatory term for Union Solidarity and Development Association] rallies, which were last held about two years ago, have reappeared. What is your view on that?

    [Thakhin Thein Pe] It is simply a show of strength but one unusual thing is there seems to be no criticism about political parties. They are only reiterating the achievements and developments of the government. On one hand it is good because we think they are trying to control and prevent conflicts. We do not think the people attended the rallies in accord with their own will like the rally held at the west entrance of Shwedagon Pagoda over a decade ago. There may be people who attended on their own while some were ordered to attend.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Previous rallies called for the resignation of NLD elected representatives and denounced NLD activities but now they are only supporting the government's development endeavours. It seems strange. What do you think about that?

    [Thakhin Thein Pe] In our view, if we put everything into perspective, we think the dialogue is not between the NLD and the government. The subject matter is already known at the UN. If an agreement could not be reached among ourselves then we think gradually the UN will step in to solve it for us. The UN is already involved in the forced labour issue and has passed some resolutions. Similarly, if the UN has to intervene in our political affairs, then that goes to show that we Burmese are incapable of solving our own problems and that will definitely affect the reputation of the Burmese. [End of recording]

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    Burma plan set to reduce problems

    The Bangkokpost
    Anucha Charoenpo Subin Khuenkaew

    The region's drug problems will be significantly reduced when Burma's Mong Yong Kha development project is completed, the director of Thailand's Doi Tung project said.

    MR Disnadda Dissakul last week went on a fact-finding mission to the project site, which Bangkok is bankrolling to the tune of 20 million baht. ``If the alternative development project is successfully implemented there, we are confident Burma will seek our help to introduce similar programmes in other mountainous areas,'' he said. ``And imagine if the programme is expanded, the large amount of drugs believed to be produced there should significantly decrease. This will benefit Thailand and other countries in the region.''

    He said the programme was designed to help about 2,500 Wa people living in Mong Yong Kha produce alternative cash crops such as rice and beans. The hilltribes were now being trained to grow three rice crops a year and one bean crop annually.

    Situated about 11km northwest of Ban Pang Noon, in Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district, Mong Yong Kha was known as one of the most rampant opium cultivation areas in Burma's Shan State.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met Burmese leaders in Rangoon in June last year and pledged to help provide a 20-million-baht grant to help develop the area. The project was modelled after the royally-initiated Doi Tung project in Chiang Rai.

    MR Disnadda and Kitti Limchaikij, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, discussed the project with Pol Maj-Gen Saw Win, the Burmese Police Department director-general, and Pao Yu Yi, the southern United Wa State Army leader, on Jan 19-20.

    ``Burmese and Wa representatives are satisfied with our project,'' he said. He quoted Pol Maj-Gen Saw Win assaying the project would succeed. MR Disnadda said both Thailand and Burma would benefit from the project. Apart from alleviating drug problems along the border, cash crops grown under the programme would help boost cross-border trade, he said.

    Thailand would use international meetings to discuss the programme to large donor countries such as the United States, Australia and Japan. Nine project experts are in the area to study water and soil condition. The team is expected to come back next week for a meeting on Feb 7-8 to discuss the progress of the project.

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    Dhaka-Yangon trade deal proves unsuccessful as smuglling rising

    The Daily Star
    UNB, Chittagong - The border trade agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar in 1994 has so far been unsuccessful and the blame partly goes to rising smuggling.

    The business community in Bangladesh feels that a better approach is needed to overcome the problem as trade gap between the two neighbouring countries rose to Tk 167 crore in last four years because import from Bangladesh continues to decline. As per the agreement, both the countries could export or import goods worth 5,000 US dollars at a time without opening any Letter of Credit (LC).

    The agreement said Bangladesh could import onion, turmeric, ginger, chili, shrimp, sea-fish, various spices, pulse and pickle produced in Myanmar, and export to that country goods like melamine, cosmetic, lifesaving drugs and clothes.

    As Myanmar recently increased border trade with Bangladesh following deterioration of its relations with Thailand, the coalition government of BNP has called for raising the export-import volume without LC to 15000 US dollars from 5,000 dollars.

    According to competent sources, a section of businessmen in connivance with a section of BDR and customs officials are illegally importing huge Chinese, Thai and Malaysian goods through the Bangladesh-Myanmar border undercover of import from Myanmar, creating problems for the country's genuine importers.

    A source at Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the Bangladesh business community could not be benefited with the border trade agreement as it restricts import other than agricultural products and sea fish from Myanmar. He said limestone and bamboo are found in plenty in frontier Akyab and Mongdu areas of Myanmar and it's more profitable to use those in Bangladesh rather than Myanmar because of Bangladesh's geographical location. Bangladesh can use those raw materials by setting up pulp and cement industries here, he said.

    He apprehended that the trade relations between Myanmar and Bangladesh might suffer a setback due to forgery and fraudulence by some Bangladeshi businessmen. He said there are some businessmen in Bangladesh who cancel contracts with their Myanmar counterparts after receiving goods from them without making any payment.

    Bangladesh Consulate in Myanmar M Emdadul Islam in a recent letter brought the matter to the notice of the government and said it this trend could not be checked Myanmar might rescind the border trade agreement.

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    U20 : Thais held to draw by Burma

    The Bangkokpost
    Tor Chittinand

    Thailand struggled to a 1-1 draw against Burma in the 1st Asean Youth Under-20 Championship at the Thai-Japanese stadium yesterday.

    Despite having rising star Teerathep ``Leesaw'' Winothai in their line-up for the first time in the tournament, Thailand failed to capitalise on their chances against the tough-tackling Burmese and were unable to clinch their third victory.

    Burma made a dream start by scoring in the seventh minute when Thailand defender Thriti Rodchantra failed to clear the ball and Soe Lin Tun struck.The Burmese goalkeeper Hein Zay Yar Kyaw made several fine saves, notably from Edaphan Inthasen, before Thailand finally equalised in the 70th minute when substitute Parinya Sunkammuan headed home from a corner taken by Kittipol Papunga.Panai Kongpraphan then had a chance to win the match for the hosts but was denied by the goalkeeper.

    Thailand's coach Charnwit Polchivin said: ``Our defenders did not play well at all and left too many Burmese players unmarked. As for Leesaw, he needs time to adapt to the hot weather and time difference after being in England.''

    In the second Group A match, Singapore beat Malaysia 1-0. In Phnom Penh in Group B, Laos beat Vietnam 1-0 and the Philippines beat Cambodia 1-0. Today is a rest day and tomorrow Thailand will play Malaysia and Singapore will take on Indonesia both matches will be played at Thammasat University, Rangsit.

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