Daily News- July 27- 2002- Saturday

  • ASEAN's Brunei meeting must address stalemate in Burmese dialogue
  • Myanmar, Thailand downplay border tensions
  • Ex-Suu Kyi aide wary of confrontational approach to junta
  • Thai and KL ambassador met Suu Kyi
  • Mysterious arrest in Burma
  • Rangoon urged to free aged newsman
  • Soothsayer linked to Ne Win family coup plot gets 21 years in jail
  • Crackdown on Shan Continues
  • Myanmar invites new UN Human Rights Commissioner

  • ASEAN's Brunei meeting must address stalemate in Burmese dialogue

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    July 26: The Philippines-based Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) called for serious discussion on the political stalemate in Burma at the forth-coming ASEAN ministerial meeting in Brunei.

    The 35th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the 9th ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting (ARF) will be held from 19 July to 1 August 2002. They are scheduled to discuss progress made on the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), prospective economic reforms and counter-terrorism measures in the Southeast Asian Region.

    In a statement issued on 26 July, IID expressed deep concern that the gravity and scope of the Brunei agenda might prevent ASEAN ministers from addressing problems implied by the Burmese generals' foot-dragging with regard to starting a substantive dialogue with opposition groups.

    "The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2002 but until now the generals have not started any substantive dialogue to discuss Burma's future", the statement said. "Only a genuine and substantive dialogue among the SPDC, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and representatives of Burma's ethnic nationalities will serve a democratic future for Burma. Lingering problems like Burma must be dealt with promptly and showed not be left alone like a festering sore in the ASEAN Corpus. The hitherto 'constructive engagement' of ASEAN with Burma must now be made to work. The ASEAN ministers meeting in Brunei must express their impatience at the pace of development in Burma" it emphasised.

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    Myanmar, Thailand downplay border tensions

    By JASBANT SINGH, Associated Press Writer

    BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei - Myanmar and Thailand on Friday played down recurring border clashes between their armies, with officials declaring close cooperation under way to ease tensions.

    The director-general of Myanmar's Foreign Ministry, Thaung Tun, blamed some of the tension on media coverage of the clashes at the porous border of the two countries.

    Tej Bunnag, permanent secretary of Thailand's Foreign Ministry, said that Myanmar was informing the Thai government of military movements at the border to avoid misunderstandings."We are cooperating all the time," Tej told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a meeting of senior ASEAN officials. "The response from Myanmar has been good."

    Friction between the countries intensified May 20, when Myanmar accused the Thai military of firing artillery onto its territory to support attacks by ethnic Shan rebels on Myanmar army outposts.Thailand claimed its army fired only "warning shots" into Myanmar after stray shells from fighting there landed on Thai soil.In protest, Myanmar has shut border checkpoints with Thailand and banned official visits by Thai delegations. The conflict also touched off a war of words in the Thai and Myanmar media, with both countries banning journalists accused of writing vitriolic articles.

    "Both countries are trying to get back to normal," Thaung Tun told reporters. "We have a very long border with Thailand and as in all such cases, these things happen. Things are being taken care of."

    Thailand's tolerance of Myanmar's ethnic rebels, who have supporters among the more than 100,000 refugees from Myanmar sheltering in Thailand, is a long- standing issue of contention between the two countries.

    Myanmar's military government, which has been accused of human-rights abuses including rape, murder and village destruction in rebel areas, has frequently alleged that the Thai military aids the rebels. Bangkok denies it. Some of the rebel areas also overlap with heroin and amphetamine production centers, some of the controlled by rebels or former rebels.

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    Ex-Suu Kyi aide wary of confrontational approach to junta

    TOKYO, July 26 Kyodo - A former personal aide to Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi voiced caution Friday about taking a confrontational approach to the country's military junta.

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    Thai and KL ambassador met Suu Kyi

    The Nation

    Thai and KL delegates in Rangoon held talks with pro- democracy leader.The Thai Ambassador to Rangoon Oum Maolanon held talks with the opposition pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi shortly after her release from house arrest. Foreign Ministry spokesman Rathakit Manathat confirmed yesterday that the meeting, the first with Suu Kyi, had taken place but gave no details.

    The courtesy call in mid-May was part of Thailand's effort to promote alternative diplomacy in Burma and occurred amid increasing tension between the two countries.

    The Nation has learned that Oum visited Suu Kyi with the Malaysian Ambassador to Rangoon, Cheah Sam Kip. A source added that other Rangoon-based envoys from the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) have also held meetings with Suu Kyi.

    Oum met Suu Kyi on May 20, the same day he was summoned to see Burmese deputy foreign minister Khin Maung Win to receive a protest letter over skirmishes along the northern Thai-Burma border.

    Relations between Thailand and Burma soured in late May following massive flare-ups along the border. Burma accused the Thai Army of providing artillery support for the rebel Shan State Army.Thailand has maintained an open policy towards meeting the Burmese opposition leader since the Chuan Leekpai government.

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    Mysterious arrest in Burma

    The Nation

    A Thai businessman in Burma has been placed under house arrest since the middle of this month for unknown reasons, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

    "We do not yet know why the Thai businessman was put in detention. Burma has also refused to grant him bail before the case goes to court, probably next month," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Rattakit Manathat.

    "We are waiting for more information from Burma about the businessman and the charge [against him] before deciding on our next step," he said."What we know so far is that the businessman, whose name is being withheld, has been manager of a medical appliance company for some years," he said.

    The Thai embassy was alerted about the arrest by a group of Thai businessmen in Rangoon. They said the man was put under house arrest after his business ran into some problems, the spokesman said.

    Thai Ambassador to Burma Oum Maolanond has sought information from Burmese officials about the fate of the businessman. He expressed concern over the incident and asked Burmese authorities to look into it, Rattakit said.

    "If the Thai businessman is found guilty, he should face legal action. But if not, the Thai embassy is ready to ensure he receives fair treatment," the spokesman said.He said Burma had refused the Thai embassy's request for a consular official to visit the businessman.

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    Rangoon urged to free aged newsman

    The Bangkokpost

    The New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists has called on Rangoon to release an elderly Burmese journalist so that he can receive ``urgent medical care.''

    Win Tin, 73, a former editor-in-chief of the daily Hanthawaddy and vice- chairman of Burma's Writers Association, suffers from haemorrhoids and prostate gland problems, but is not being provided with medication recommended by the prison doctor.

    Currently serving the 13th year of a 20-year sentence in Insein prison, Mr Win Tin is regularly visited by a physician but prison officials have not permitted him to treat the journalist's ailments, the committee quotes a network of exiled Burmese journalists as saying.

    Mr Win Tin was brought back to prison on May 20 after several months of treatment at Rangoon General Hospital. His health has been severely affected by years of maltreatment, including a period when he was kept in solitary confinement in one of the prison's ``dog cells''. While in detention, he has suffered two heart attacks, undergone two hernia operations, and contracted spondylitis, which is a degenerative spine disease.

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    Soothsayer linked to Ne Win family coup plot gets 21 years in jail

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - A soothsayer employed by relatives of former dictator Ne Win to give them spiritual guidance in an alleged coup plot has been sentenced to 21 years in prison in a separate case involving public security, his lawyer said Friday.

    Soothsayer Myo Myint Aung, better known as Setkya Aung Pwint Khaung, was sentenced by a special court last week under the Emergency Provisions Act and Printing and Publishing Act, said one of his lawyers, Ye Lin. Setkya Aung was accused of printing photograpjs of himself and distributing them to followers without proper registration.

    In Myanmar, also called Burma, followers of famous monks or soothsayers keep photos of their mentors for luck. Military-ruled country is known for draconian controls over publication.

    The lawyers for Setkya Aung Pwint Khaung have said the printing and distribution was done by others."My client will submit an appeal," said Ye Lin.

    The case was conducted separately from the treason trial of former dictator Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Saw Win, and Ne Win's three grandsons, Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win.However, the government has continued throughout to link alleged black magic rituals to the alleged coup plot. The junta has a record of harshly treating opponents, who often receive the most severe possible sentences.

    The government contends Ne Win's relatives tried to recruit military units to kidnap junta leaders and force them to form a new regime loyal to Ne Win. They were arrested on March 7 and have been on trial since May 10.

    Ye Lin, the soothsayer's lawyer, said his client "is not involved in high treason case."

    In addition to high treason, punishable by death, Ne Win's relatives are charged with inciting military personnel to commit high treason and the illegal importation and use of telecommunications equipment.All four have pleaded innocent. Their trial continued Friday at the special tribunal inside Insein prison in the capital, Yangon.

    Setkya Aung Pwint Khaung was arrested in March together with them, but not charged in connection with their case. He had been employed by Kyaw Ne Win as a consultant at his company, which the prosecution contends served as a personal militia for Ne Win's family.The soothsayer testified as a prosecution witness in the treason case.

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    Crackdown on Shan Continues

    By Saw Oo
    the Irrawaddy

    July 26, 2002-Burma’s military government appears poised to uproot the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army-South (SSA-S). The government has been engaged in offensives against the SSA-S for months now with the aid of the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army (UWSA). And on Sunday of this week, in the Burmese border town of Tachilek, opposite Mae Sai, Thailand, the regime began arresting individuals who they believe are directly involved in the financing of the SSA-S.

    According to reliable sources in Tachilek, authorities raided the homes and businesses of Tachilek residents with alleged connections to the SSA-S, which resulted in the arrest of 27 individuals. The authorities confiscated an undisclosed amount of US dollars, large amounts of Burmese and Thai currency, as well as four vehicles and other luxury items.

    The homes and businesses belonged to Ah Wei and his relatives. Ah Wei and his wife, however, had fled Tachilek one week before the raids, and their whereabouts remain unknown. Ah Wei, who is thought to have direct links with the SSA-S, is a former member of notorious druglord Khun Sa’s Mong Tai Army (MTA). The MTA disbanded in 1996 after Khun Sa capitulated to the generals in return for business concessions in Burma. Upon the MTA’s surrender, the SSA-S began fighting the regime, calling for greater autonomy for the Shan.

    Ah Wei, who is ethnically Chinese, runs restaurants and massage parlors as well as a go-go bar in Tachilek. Sources say he was also involved in importing stolen vehicles from Thailand. After searching Ah Wei’s home in Tachilek’s San Saen ward, authorities reportedly found weapons and maps of eastern Shan State.

    "People in Tachilek have become very worried since authorities began arresting people connected to Tachilek’s massage parlors and gambling dens," said one Thai-based Shan journalist. He added that the 27 arrested individuals might be helping to finance the SSA-S.

    The local Burmese authorities, along with officers from the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), were reportedly given shoot-to-kill orders if anyone attempted to defend themselves or flee the scene during Sunday’s raids.Burmese authorities have released 10 people since Sunday, however, the other 17 remain in the MIS compound in Tachilek, according to sources located there.

    Meanwhile, sources in Tachilek also told The Irrawaddy that on Wednesday of this week, Rangoon authorities ordered the head of Tachilek’s police department, Thant Zin, as well another police commander from Shan State to report to police headquarters in Rangoon. The two were reportedly detained upon arrival and questioned regarding their involvement with Ah Wei and alleged bribes they had received from him in recent months.

    In April, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper, Burmese authorities also raided buildings owned by the Golden Star Group, which is under the control of influential businessman Jai Lin and two other hilltribe groups. Buildings belonging to SSA-S member Kan Yod were also raided before being forced to close by Tachilek authorities.

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    Myanmar invites new UN Human Rights Commissioner

    WASHINGTON, July 26 (AFP) - Myanmar on Friday invited new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello to visit Yangon to inspect its human rights performance, despite widespread perceptions that it is appalling.

    In a statement issued through its Washington based lobbying firm, the Yangon junta extended "its warmest congratulations" to de Mello, a Brazilian, who was confirmed on Tuesday by the UN General Assembly as successor to Mary Robinson.

    "The government of Myanmar also extended an invitation to Mr de Mello to travel to Myanmar at his earliest convenience after assuming the new post on September 12," the statement said.The visit would allow de Mello "to witness the ongoing progress with regard to human rights efforts on behalf of all of Myanmar's citizens," the statement said.

    Myanmar is ostracized by world powers for what critical governments and pressure groups describe as a terrible human rights record, and its suppression of the pro-democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi.But in recent months, in line with a tentative dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the government has released from jail groups some activists of her National League for Democracy which won a 1990 election never recognised by the military.It has also hit out at what is says is a smear campaign by two ethnic Shan rights groups, who accused junta troops of raping women and girls.

    UN special envoy for Myanmar Razali Ismail, is due to make another visit to Yangon at the beginning of August and rights groups have called on him to press the junta for more concessions.

    De Mello's fellow Brazilian, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, serves as UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar and has made several trips to the country, most recently in February.

    Myanmar issued its statement on Friday as Secretary of State Colin Powell left Washington for Asia, to attend regional security meetings.The junta had earlier mounted a bid to hush up European and US criticism of its record at meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and partners, which Powell will attend next week in Brunei.

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