Daily News- July 22- 2002- Sunday
Aung San Suu Kyi meets with minorities on latest road tripThousands flock to see Aung San Suu KyiJapan Foreign Minister to visit MyanmarDVB may be independent from NCGUB in futureLoss from closed border tops B5bnPro-Shan lyrics likely to annoy RangoonMore Myanmar people to be trained in Israel
Aung San Suu Kyi meets with minorities on latest road trip
YANGON, July 22 (AFP) - Aung San Suu Kyi continued her latest political excursion in southern Myanmar Monday as colleagues in her National League for Democracy (NLD) hailed her meeting with minority groups there.
The charismatic pro-democracy opposition leader was greeted by thousands of enthusiastic supporters at each of her several stops since arriving Saturday in Mon state, 170 kilometres (106 miles) southeast of Yangon.It is her second political foray outside the capital since the ruling military junta released her May 6 after 19 months of house arrest.
"It is an impressive trip," NLD spokesman U Lwin told AFP by telephone."This time she is not only meeting the Burmese, but those of other ethnic groups," he said, adding that it is the first time she has met with the region's minorities since her release.
Mon state remains one of the most politically sensitive regions in the country, as splinter insurgent groups from the region wage sporadic attacks against the military government.The Mon ethnic group comprises a majority in the state, with other main ethnic minorities in the region being the Karen and the Pa-O, U Lwin said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, accompanied by senior NLD officials, was warmly greeted by supporters as her caravan passed through several minority villages on its way to the state capital Mawlamyine and other destinations in the region, he added.
The 1991 Nobel peace prize winner, who has been busy opening several NLD offices in the state, was due to dine Monday evening with senior representatives of the ethnic groups as well as members of the Mon Democratic Party allied to the NLD, the spokesman said.
Observers have said that the inclusion of ethnic minorities in national reconciliation talks will be a crucial step towards a peaceful and democratic Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi was spending Monday at Chaung Zon, a Singapore-sized island just off the coast in the Andaman Sea, where she was to open an NLD office and meet with party members before paying homage to senior monks, U Lwin added.NLD offices in Mon state and around the country were closed following the party's sweeping 1990 election victory that the junta refused to recognise.
Suu Kyi spent much of Sunday in Mawlamyine, Myanmar's third largest city, where she was escorted to two government infrastructure projects.Such visits and the provision of security suggests relations between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military, who have been engaged in secret talks aimed at national reconciliation since October 2000, have moved beyond the hostility and confrontation that marked their ties in previous years.
This trip follows Aung San Suu Kyi's triumphant nine-day visit to the northern city of Mandalay and other destinations last month.The whirlwind tour was considered an unqualified success by both her own party and diplomats, who saw it as the first true test of her freedom.Aung San Suu Kyi is expected back in Yangon Tuesday evening, U Lwin said.
Thousands flock to see Aung San Suu Kyi
YANGON, July 21 (AFP) - Aung San Suu Kyi's second political foray outside the Myanmar capital since her release from house arrest offered further evidence of the opposition leader's overwhelming popularity with thousands of people Sunday flocking to catch a glimpse of her.
The charismatic head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) reopened party offices and visited government projects during a trip to southeastern Mon state amid tight security, a party official said.The trip, which began Saturday and is expected to last four days, is the second time she has left the capital on party business since her release in May from 19 months under house arrest.
Thousands of people craned to see the democracy leader wherever she stopped, NLD spokesman U Lwin told AFP."Mon people are very faithful to the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.Mon state remains one of the most politically sensitive regions in the country, as splinter insurgent groups from the region wage sporadic attacks against the military regime.
"You have to take such risks if you want to stay in touch with the people," another NLD source told AFP. "Aung San Suu Kyi has always emphasised the fact that her first duty is to the people."
The source said that the government was providing tight security along Aung San Suu Kyi's route because of the danger."Government officials have been clearing the road and providing security along the way, although they are not following her everywhere," he said.
The leader stopped overnight in Mawlamyine, Myanmar's third largest city, which lies 173 kilometres (107 miles) southeast of Yangon.
"This morning she went to the riverside where the government showed her how bridge-building is going on," spokesman U Lwin said, adding that in the afternoon she would visit a recently-constructed government dam.Such project visits and the provision of security suggest relations between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military, who have been engaged in secret talks aimed at national reconciliation since October 2000, are in good shape.
U Lwin said the party head also reopened three NLD offices."This morning she reopened the Mon state office and Mawlamyine township office," he said.
The 1991 Nobel peace prize winner travelled to Thanbyuzayat Sunday afternoon, which is the site of a famous WWII cemetery containing the graves of more than 3,500 Allied prisoners of war."She will attend a ceremony to open the township's NLD office. After that will meet with party members," U Lwin said.
Aung San Suu Kyi would reopen a total of five offices during her trip, he said.NLD party offices in Mon state and around the country were closed following the party's sweeping 1990 election victory that the junta refused to recognise.
The diminutive leader will stop overnight in Mudon, and on Monday visit the island of Chaung Zon, before returning to Mawlamyine for another night.
On Tuesday she is scheduled to meet with ethnic minority groups including the Mon, Karen and Pa-O, and members of a Mon political party allied with the NLD.
Observers have said that the inclusion of ethnic minorities in national reconciliation talks will be a crucial step towards a peaceful and democratic Myanmar.This trip follows Aung San Suu Kyi's triumphant nine-day visit to the northern city of Mandalay and other destinations late last month.The whirlwind tour was considered an unqualified success by both her own party and diplomats, who saw it as the first true test of her freedom.
Aung San Suu Kyi said after her release that the junta had promised her complete freedom of movement, but some observers doubted the hardline regime would permit long-distance travel for political purposes.The 57-year-old rallied the nation a dozen years ago with a passionate democratic groundswell that alarmed Myanmar's military rulers.
To The TopJapan Foreign Minister to visit Myanmar
BANGKOK (Kyodo News)- Myanmar's junta has basically agreed to Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's plan to visit Yangon from Aug 3 to 5, diplomatic sources said Sunday. Kawaguchi may meet with not only military government officials but also pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), who was released from nearly 20 months of house arrest on May 5.
Kawaguchi is likely to urge the military government to launch a full-fledged political dialogue with Suu Kyi, with an eye toward securing political stability and promoting democracy in Myanmar, the sources said.
To The TopDVB may be independent from NCGUB in future
Oslo, July 22: The media conference organized by the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) to commemorate its 10th anniversary came to an end on July 20. The conference, attended by Burma's prominent journalists and experts, emphasized the importance of the role of independent media in Burma.
Since 1962, media in Burma has been tightly controlled by the successive military governments. Free expression and the right to criticize government policy have been completely suppressed.
Speaking to the Mizzima News, Mr. Vincent Brossel, the Asia-Pacific Director of the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières said that there can be no freedom of media in Burma unless there is democracy.
"The SPDC (Burmese junta) has sent to jail a large number of journalists and writers who are supporters of the democratic movement. In Burma, a least 16 journalists are still detained. The future of press freedom in Burma is deeply linked with the future of the democratic transition." "As we usually say in RSF, there is no freedom without press freedom. In the case of Burma, we might say, there would be no press freedom without democracy".
DVB may be independent in near future
The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) was established on July 19, 1992 in Norway after Burmese democratic leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As DVB has completed ten years identifying itself as a voice of the exiled government (the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma), most of the DVB team members are keen to see DVB as an independent body in future.
"DVB has been working under the banner of NCGUB. Even though we function independently, many see DVB as a propaganda machine of the NCGUB. We want to broadcast only the reliable, fair and true news and information. We want to continue DVB to become as an independent media in future Burma. However, we will not deviate from supporting the cause of democracy", said DVB's Director Ko Aye Chan Naing.
Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister of the NCGUB said that he would discuss with his Cabinet ministers regarding the matter (whether DVB should be independent from NCGUB or not). "Whatever it may be the outcome (of Cabinet decision), DVB has to be the voice of democracy movement and gives credible information to the people of Burma", he added.
Since most of the participants were Burmese journalists in exile working for different Burma-related media organizations, they shared their experiences with each other and discussed possibilities for future cooperation among themselves.The two-day conference concluded that the role of media is important for the establishment of democracy in Burma and support programs to strengthen the Burma media organizations-in-exile should be organized. Moreover, the participants also decided to regularly meet once a year.
Loss from closed border tops B5bn
Business losses have now topped five billion baht as a direct result of Burma's two-month closure of its border with Thailand.Trade and tourism in northern border areas have declined dramatically, not to mention the social costs with families often split and living on different sides of the frontier.
Hardest hit are three usually bustling permanent checkpoints ,Mae Sot-Myawaddy in Tak province, Mae Sai-Tachilek in Chiang Rai and Ranong-Victoria Point in Ranong.
Tharapong Leelawong, the deputy chairman of the House committee on commerce, said the cost to business was now estimated at over five billion baht.The committee has urged the Foreign Affairs Ministry to negotiate with Burma to resolve the stalemate at the Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Brunei.
Buntham Thipprasong, of the Chiang Rai chamber of commerce, said the local border committee had tried in vain to get their Burmese counterparts to begin talks. Burma had twice snubbed the usual monthly local border meetings.In Chiang Rai, trade through the checkpoints was normally 20-30 million baht daily. Tourism had slumped by 70%, he said.
Narong Sukthavorn, a Chiang Rai customs official, said consumer goods sold to Burma through Chiang Rai were worth up to three billion baht annually. Burmese imports such as livestock and electrical appliances were worth 60 million baht a year.Revenue from import taxes was down. The usual target was 20 million baht a year but with the fiscal year set to end on Sept 30 only 14 million baht had been collected so far.
In Ranong, Burmese consumers were hurting the most. They were forced to buy goods from Rangoon, which meant paying the extra transport costs, said Thirayut Samnuan, head of the customs procedure unit in Ranong.Commuter movements were also at a standstill after Burma halted shuttle boat services between Ranong piers and Victoria Point.Burmese patrol boats were plying the waters, deterring Thai trawlers from buying the catch from Mergui. Prices of seafood in Ranong have soared.
Fewer gamblers were venturing out to the Andaman Club Hotel's casino. Normally, 200-500 gamblers turned up daily at the hotel on Thahtay Kyun Island, known to Thais as Koh Son, but the number had halved.Burma had imposed a strict ban on its citizens travelling to Ranong and anyone caught defying it was fined or put in jail, he said.
In Tak's Mae Sot district, up to 20 million baht in daily trade with Myawaddy has been lost. Paniti Tungpati, adviser to Tak chamber of commerce, said the tightened border security had scared away tourists. The ``fear factor'' translated into immeasurable losses, he said.Burma is also suffering. Its currency, the kyat, has dipped from the previous exchange rate of 5-5.50 baht for 100 kyat to 4.50 baht last week.The kyat would continue to nosedive as slow trade lessened demand for it in the market, Mr Paniti predicted.Mr Paniti, a member of Tak's Border Civil Society, said the effects extended beyond the commercial aspect. The dispute had cut social ties between families living on the two sides of the border.``Many of them are cousins and in-laws with a common culture,'' he said.
Farm activities which relied on kinship labour from either country had also ceased. Many people were out of work and this aggravated the normal problems of hardship.Mr Paniti said the border tension had sown a seed of mistrust between the younger generations of the two countries. It was dangerous to cite historical pretext to fuel hostility, as the Burmese newspaper the New Light of Myanmar , the junta's mouthpiece, had done through articles criticising former Thai kings.
Tak senator Udon Tantisunthorn said greater efforts toward reconciliation were needed by both countries.Boontham Piromsingkorn, Tak provincial councillor, said the 6pm-6am curfew in border villages had inconvenienced farmers who had to work in the field from the early hours till late evening.Nocturnal fishing in the Moei river was also no longer possible, making it difficult to feed families.
Smaller border checkpoints in Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Kanchanaburi are also feeling the bite. They are losing up to five million in trade each month, although it was reported some Burmese officials opposite Kanchanaburi had allowed certain goods to pass through.
To The TopPro-Shan lyrics likely to annoy Rangoon
Wassana Nanuam Subin Khuenkaew
Music stores along the border with Burma are stockpiling copies of popular singer Ad Carabao's latest album, in anticipation of protests from Rangoon that could see it withdrawn from sale.The lyrics and accompanying video clips are fiercely critical of Burma's suppression of the Shan people.
Sales of the album ``Mai Tong Rong Hai (Don't Cry)'' are brisk, with soldiers on border assignment and Shan people the biggest buyers.
Ad Carabao, whose real name is Yuenyong Ophakul, wrote all 10 songs. He says he fully supports the Shan State Army's fight against Rangoon, calling it a ``just war'', and despises the Burmese military leadership for its brutal rule. The songs depict the SSA's bitter struggle for self-determination.
The album was released last week and was an immediate favourite in areas like Chiang Rai's border district of Mae Sai, with its large concentration of Shan residents.
Many of the scenes in the videos show the corpses of junta soldiers, and SSA troops overrunning Burmese outposts. One video shows SSA troops trampling on a portrait of Senior Gen Than Shwe, chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council.
The songs have suggestive titles such as ``Kid Banchee (Settle the Score),'' and ``Jub Arvut (Grab your Weapons).'' The biggest hit is ``Chan Ying Jao Kala (I'm Shooting Jao Kala)'' with stirring messages encouraging the SSA to kill Kala, the name the Shans use to refer to the Burmese.
Yu Temeeyasak, owner of a karaoke lounge and music store, said the VCDs sold out almost immediately and she had placed an order for more.Staff in many record shops said they were stocking up in anticipation that Rangoon would make a formal protest against the songs soon.
To The TopMore Myanmar people to be trained in Israel
YANGON, July 22 (Xinhuanet) -- More Myanmar people are set to be trained in Israel with scholarships under a decision made by the Center for International Cooperation (CIC) of Israel, the local Myanmar Times reported Monday.
Quoting sources at the Israeli Embassy, the report said the CICunder the Israeli Foreign Ministry has extended the quota of training scholarships it makes available to Myanmar every year from 20 to 25.The courses, being offered and conducted in Israel, cover agriculture and related science, education, economics, medicine, public health and rural, community and social development, it said.
During the past few years, under the arrangement of the two agriculture ministries, more than 100 Myanmar graduates have attended practical farming courses conducted by the host country.
Meanwhile, Myanmar and Israel have been also seeking economic and industrial cooperation and some Israeli industrial enterpriseshave signed memorandums of understanding with Myanmar on economic cooperation since 1996. Israel, with an investment of 2.4 million US dollars in a single project in Myanmar so far, is one of the 25 countries and regions investing in the country, according to official statistics.
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