Daily News- July 25- 2002- Thursday

  • Sales go ahead despite lyrics criticising junta
  • Rights group urges Thailand to reconsider refugee relocation
  • Thursday’s Curse
  • Reporting casualty?
  • Burma Thanks Human-Rights Critics

  • Sales go ahead despite lyrics criticising junta

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    The latest album by popular country singer Ad Carabao, which contains lyrics criticising Rangoon and supporting the Shan struggle against Burmese troops, will not be withdrawn from circulation, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday.

    Mai Tong Rong Hai (``Don't Cry''), was selling briskly in the northern border provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son, which were home to a large number of Shan villagers.The album is based heavily on anti-Burmese sentiment, with tracks inciting the Shan State Army (SSA) to continue its bloody conflict, branding the Burmese junta as dictators, and praising the country's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The video features a Shan rebel stamping on the picture of Burmese Prime Minister Than Shwe, and another kicking a sign emblazoned with the word ``Myanmar.''It also includes clips of the SSA firing on Burmese troops, as well as bodies of Burmese soldiers.

    Gen Chavalit said Ad, or Yuenyong Opakul, had the right to compose and perform songs on whatever subject he chose to cover.``He is not an official,'' he said. ``We cannot control private media.''The government would continue to ensure state employees did not draw the country further into conflict with Rangoon, he said.

    To The Top

    Rights group urges Thailand to reconsider refugee relocation

    BANGKOK, July 25 (AFP) - Human rights and development watchdog Forum-Asia on Thursday urged Thailand to reconsider plans to relocate a Karenni refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border.

    "Forum-Asia is deeply concerned by the critical situation faced by the Karennis of Camp No. 3," the group said in a statement."Forum-Asia urges the Thai authorities to reconsider their decision to relocate the camp, and instead, to increase Thai support and protection for refugee populations, who are in dire need of it."

    The group estimates that some 20,000 Karenni refugees currently live in three camps along the Thai-Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province, some 924 kilometres (574 miles) from the capital.There are around 4,500 refugees in the camp which is to be relocated.

    On July 12, Thai authorities informed Karenni leaders that their camp, which has been in its current location since 1995, would be relocated to become part of Camp No. 2 from September 26, the group said.But Camp No. 2 has in the past been the target of attacks by the Myanmar military leading to deaths and injuries of refugees, it said.

    "A new relocation to Camp No. 2, or to any other area, threatens to destroy years of efforts and to put the health and lives of thousands of Karenni people at considerable risk," the statement said.The group also said camp leaders had been warned by the Thai authorities not to speak out nor to seek outside help to fight against the relocation.

    "It is noteworthy that an increasingly hostile attitude on the part of the Thai authorities, vis-a-vis Karenni refugees, has been noticeable since earlier this year when the rape of two Camp No. 2 Karenni women by Thai soldiers was publicly exposed," it said.

    On July 15, Thailand's National Security Council (NSC) barred foreign journalists from visiting all refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, saying the region was "under martial law"."From now on, foreign journalists will be banned from visiting camps or controlled areas as they are likely to report only on negative aspects of official work or on inaccurate and unconfirmed reports," NSC chief Khachadpai Buruspatana said.

    As of May 2000, over 122,000 ethnic Karen, Karenni and Mon refugees, who had fled Yangon's military government, lived in at least 17 camps in the border provinces of Tak and Mae Hong Son.

    To The Top

    Thursday’s Curse

    By Ko Cho
    The Irrawaddy

    July 24, 2002 - Burmese do not consider themselves to be superstitious, however, they do place a high degree of trust in the words of astrologers, who can be found throughout the country predicting the good with the bad. All names in Burma are also rich in meaning and according to Burmese astrology all represent a different day of the week.

    Literary circles in Burma have been abuzz this year due to the deaths of eight famous writers, painters and poets—all of whom have pen names that signify Thursday.

    "It is a very strange thing this year," an editor of a well-known magazine told The Irrawaddy yesterday. "I think it is bad luck to have a Thursday name this year."

    The eight deceased include Tatkatho Phone Naing, 73, Linyone Maung Maung, 78, Mya Myitzu, 83, Min Khine Oo, Min Thik Mon, Latputtar Maung Kout as well as comic painter Art Mite Mite (Pyay). Lin Wai Mying, 53, editor of the Rangoon-based Living Color business magazine, also died on June 27. Although his pen name signifies Wednesday, his given name, Myint Oo, represents Thursday.

    The deaths of these writers have been providing fodder for Burmese journalists this year. Burmese journalists, working inside Burma, told The Irrawaddy that the mysterious Thursday deaths have been one of the hottest topics this year amongst their readership. Due to heavy-handed censorship in Burma, anything related to politics or the overall state of affairs of the country is almost always kept out of the media.

    Coincidentally, the ruling junta’s number-two man, Gen Maung Aye, also has a Thursday name. The general found himself in hot water early this year upon returning from Thailand, where he reportedly granted Thai authorities permission to launch attacks in to Shan State in order to apprehend drug lord Wei Hsueh-kang. The junta denied he ever agreed to such tactics, setting off a war of words that eventually led to the closure of Burma’s border with Thailand.

    To The Top

    Reporting casualty?

    If three American servicemen were wounded near the Burmese border during a military clash, as reported by a regional magazine, no one in that part of the world is willing to admit knowing anything.

    The Bangkokpost -25, July, 2002

    The "Intelligence" column report from the Far Eastern Economic Review of July 11 that claims three US soldiers were wounded during a clash along the Thai- Burmese border has caused much bewilderment among Thai forces and members of the Shan State Army.No details were given by the weekly magazine other than to say the incident took place just inside Burma opposite Mae Fa Luang in Chiang Rai, where the SSA has several military outposts and a major command at Koh Hom.

    The magazine quoted an unidentified diplomat as saying: "US servicemen were so close to the action during recent border clashes that three of them were wounded at Mae Fa Luang in northern Thailand." Thai troops posted to the border district were amazed when they were asked to clarify the FEER story.

    "That report might stem from the magazine's own illusion," said one mid-level officer with the northern 3rd Army. "How could they write such an unfounded story that could cause wide confusion?" The officer said US forces were not involved in the Surasi 143 military exercise held near the border in May.

    Jao Gorn Juen, commander of the SSA's Chiang Toong unit, also said he was surprised by the report and did not think it could possibly be true.Jao Gorn Juen's troops have been fighting a combined Burmese-Wa force since last month which has been trying to dislodge the SSA from its bases at Koh Muang, Koh Wan, Koh Fah and Koh Hom."It would be good if they [the US troops] helped us fight the junta," said Jao Gorn Juen jokingly at the weekend from his stronghold at Koh Hom.

    Another Thai army officer said the linking of US servicemen to the Surasi 143 military exercise was not completely out of the blue as there had been reports in the local press tying the US to the recent border tensions.He claimed there were calculated moves among some sectors to blame the US for the present strained relations between Thailand and Burma.

    Maj-Gen Trairong Intaratat, an adviser to the prime minister on special affairs, warned recently in an article in a Thai weekly that there were attempts by "a third party" to undermine ties between Thailand and Burma.The former classmate of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wrote that "the third party was behind moves to incite a confrontation and tensions along the Thai-Burma border and didn't want to see improved ties between our two countries".

    Burma's military junta, nor surprisingly given its penchant for the melodramatic, made much of the FEER report at a press conference in Rangoon, claiming the three US servicemen were wounded while accompanying Thai troops helping the SSA against Burmese forces.The junta mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar, meanwhile, is continuing its press attacks on the Thai army which began after a fierce clash along the border beside Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng on May 20.Rangoon suffered heavy losses during the clash and has since accused the Thai army of giving military support to the SSA. The Thai army denies this, but Rangoon responded by closing all border checkpoints on May 22.

    To The Top

    Burma Thanks Human-Rights Critics

    Source : Far Eastern Economic Review

    Rangoon's military rulers, who normally denounce human-rights groups every time they issue a report criticizing abuses in Burma, have praised United States-based Human Rights Watch for its recent report, "Crackdown on Burmese Muslims."

    In the July 18 report, Human Rights Watch described several attacks on Muslims in May and September last year, including one north of Rangoon in which Buddhist monks led an attack against Muslim mosques, shops and homes, killing nine people. The report also said that the government imposed travel restrictions against Muslims in 2001 that have sharply limited the number of Muslim pilgrims allowed to travel to Mecca.

    In a statement on July 20, the government complimented Human Rights Watch for its "interest and concern on the rights of Muslims." The junta then downplayed the events, saying that "isolated cases of minor disagreement happen sometimes" and that it has managed to prevent religious incidents "from flaring out of control."

    What prompted the gentler tone? It might be that United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, who helped negotiate the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this year, is due to arrive in Rangoon on August 2 for his eighth visit. It might also have been prompted by advice from DCI Associates, the U.S. lobbying firm that Rangoon hired in April for $450,000 a year to help push for improved relations between the U.S. and Burma.

    To The Top