Daily News- July 21- 2002- Sunday

  • Democracy leader receives rousing welcome, continues travel in eastern Myanmar
  • Myanmar's junta denies Muslim minority is suffering
  • Japanese aid to Myanmar remains stable this financial year
  • Myanmar opens 10 border trade points
  • Two killed, one hurt in pier shooting

  • Democracy leader receives rousing welcome, continues travel in eastern Myanmar

    By AYE AYE WIN, Associated Press Writer

    MOULMEIN, Myanmar - As once-forbidden political songs played, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told supporters Sunday that only the people have the right to decide the fate of the military-run nation.

    The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, on her second trip outside the capital since being released from house arrest in May, received a rousing welcome in this eastern Myanmar city.

    Military authorities, who once harassed her and jailed members of her National League for Democracy, did not appear to interfere with Suu Kyi's activities.

    "Whatever happens, the NLD will persevere in the building of a democratic system," she said. "Only the people have the right to decide the fate of a country. No one else should or must take the decision into their hands."

    Suu Kyi spoke to some 500 supporters as she placed NLD signboards on a building in Moulmein that will become the party's local headquarters.

    The mood was festive, and NLD songs espousing democracy were played over loudspeakers. A party member said it was the first time the songs had been allowed to be played.

    Some 3,000 clapping residents jammed Moulmein's main street when Suu Kyi arrived from the capital Yangon on Saturday after a 290-kilometer (180-mile) road journey.

    Such large public gatherings are rare in Myanmar, also known as Burma, other than at rallies organized by the military, which has ruled for the past 40 years.

    Suu Kyi's four-day trip shows the ruling junta's new willingness to allow her and her party some political freedom.

    "Our goal of democracy is within sight," said Kyi Lwin at the opening of the NLD office. Already in his 70s, the NLD official was released from a four-year prison term in 2001.

    After the ceremony, Suu Kyi left for three towns south of Moulmein. She was to spend the night in Mudon.

    Along the journey, Suu Kyi has delivered short speeches, stressing the importance of public political awareness and education for young people and noting Myanmar lags far behind neighboring countries in development.

    Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962 and under the control of the current junta since 1988.The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power when the NLD scored an overwhelming victory. Instead, they jailed thousands of NLD members.Suu Kyi, now 57, was placed under house arrest in 1989 for six years and again in September 2000 for 19 months for traveling outside Yangon to rally political support.

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    Myanmar's junta denies Muslim minority is suffering

    YANGON, July 20 (AFP) - Myanmar's ruling military junta denied on Saturday a recent human rights report that outlined escalating conflicts between the country's Muslim minority and other religious groups.

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a briefing paper last week that recounted violent attacks against Myanmar's Muslims in 2001, based on interviews with Muslims, religious leaders inside the country and eyewitnesses.

    "The HRW briefing paper on Myanmar highlighted some isolated incidents which unfortunately occurred a couple of months ago in certain townships in the country," the junta said in a statement."These kinds of isolated cases of minor disagreements happen sometimes."But prompt action taken by the government in cooperation with the religious leaders of the respective religions has always managed to prevent any kind of religious incidents from flaring out of control and the occurrence of incidents has been resolved peacefully."

    "Myanmar does not suffer or experience any situation where one religion comes into serious conflict with another."

    The HRW paper reported outbreaks of violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Taungoo, 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of Yangon, in May 2001.More than a thousand people led by Buddhist monks attacked Muslims' shops, homes and mosques, it said.

    "Many Muslims were reportedly beaten and there were credible reports of at least nine deaths. Violence spread to nearby townships and villages," the paper said."The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) did little or nothing to intervene to stop and prevent the attacks."

    The paper said further outbreaks of violence were spurred on by the Taliban's destruction of Buddhist images in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in March 2001, and the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.These occurred in Prome, Pegu and in Arakan state, a predominantly Muslim area.The paper called on United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, due to make his eighth visit to Myanmar on August 2, to include the concerns of Myanmar's Muslims on his agenda.The junta has long endured harsh international criticism for its allegedly widespread rights violations.

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    Japanese aid to Myanmar remains stable this financial year

    YANGON, July 21 (AFP) - The Japanese government's overseas aid agency expects to spend more than 21 million dollars in Myanmar during the current financial year, the same amount as the previous 12 months, a report here said.

    The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) assistant resident representative in Yangon, Eiji Kozuka, told the Myanmar Times that projects to be funded this year included a geographical database and a mangrove ecosystem management project in Ayeyarwaddy Division.

    The database of the Yangon and Ayeyarwaddy divisions would enable fast, accurate information to be provided about both regions, Kozuka was cited as saying in the weekly newspaper's edition to be published Monday.

    The mangrove management project would span three years and encourage community involvement as part of an integrated strategy to help preserve an important ecosystem, he added.

    "Although farmers have their own ideas on how to preserve the forest, we want to share with them some of the knowledge to which we have access," Kozuka told the English-language paper.Other projects included funding for an afforestation project in the central dry zone, which along with northern Shan state was one of two areas designated by JICA as priority regions, the report said.Kozuka added that JICA was involved in the nearly 40 development projects throughout Myanmar, it said.

    Japan is the biggest creditor nation and aid donor to Myanmar. It suspended all but a small amount of humanitarian aid in the aftermath of the 1988 military takeover, but the flows of funds resumed in 1994.Its aid-for-reform strategy has been criticised in the West, notably by the United States, which has said in the past that despite signs of a political thaw, it remains inappropriate to deal with Myanmar's military rulers.

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    Myanmar opens 10 border trade points

    YANGON, July 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar has opened a total of 10 border trade points with four neighboring countries -- China, Thailand, Bangladesh and India - to promote its border trade with them, according to a report of the country's Ministry of Commerce available here Sunday.

    Along the border with China, there stands three such points -- Muse, Lweje and Laizar, while along that with Thailand, there liesfour which are Tachilek, Myawaddy, Kawthoung and Myeik.

    On the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, two trade points are located which are Maungtaw and Sittwe, while there is just one trade pointknown as Tamu situated on the Myanmar-India border.The report disclosed that there is however no border trade point near Laos so far, adding that discussions are underway to set up one there.

    According to official statistics, the value of Myanmar's bordertrade with China stands first, followed by that with Thailand.

    Myanmar's border trade was first introduced by the Myanmar Export Import Service on December 1, 1988, less than three months after the present government took office, and "import first, export later" system was then applied.The system was replaced by "export first, import later" system in 1997, and the normal trade based on US dollar was adopted the same year to remove border trade based on currencies of respectivecountries.

    The Myanmar border trade authorities have reduced the service charge from 10 percent to 8 percent starting July 28, 1998.Other official statistics show that in 2001, Myanmar's imports and exports, including those through border trade, totaled 5,077.58 million US dollars, an increase of 24.7 percent from 2000.

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    Two killed, one hurt in pier shooting

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    A Thai man and a Burmese national were killed and another Thai was injured after being shot by six unidentified gunmen at a pier in Mae Sot district on Friday night.

    Police said Uthai Khamhom, 56, from Mae Sot's Ban Tha Art, and a Burmese known only as Semi, 49, from Myawaddy, died while Thanongsak Namfai, 45, was wounded after six men in two pick-up trucks turned up at a Thai-Burmese pier in Mae Sot and many gunshots were heard from there about 8pm on Friday.

    The injured was sent to Phawor Hospital by local police, who inspected the scene and found many M16 shells.

    Mae Sot district chief Samart Loifa, who inspected the crime scene yesterday morning, said the victims and gunmen might be involved in the smuggling of stolen vehicles or speed pills, since the pier was a meeting point for drug traffickers and car theft gangs.Pracha Sithian, a volunteer security guard of Ban Tha Art village, said he rushed to the pier after hearing the gunshots but he was stopped by two men armed with M16 assault rifles who claimed to be secret agents working there.

    In another development, the Mae Sot district chief said Myawaddy authorities had ordered Democratic Karen Buddhist Army troops at a camp opposite Ban Tha Art, to cancel yesterday's execution of two Burmese monks arrested on drug charges and to hand both suspects to Burmese police for legal action.

    On Friday, Phra Yan Bi Ya, or Chaiwat Suwanrassamee, 42, and Phra Vanita, 28, were arrested for their alleged attempt to smuggle 90,000 speed pills from Burma to Mae Sot.

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