Daily News- June 16- 2002- Sunday

  • Myanmar's Suu Kyi home safely after pilgrimage
  • PTT not used as `pressure tool' on Burma
  • Police identify Karen as suspected gunmen

  • Myanmar's Suu Kyi home safely after pilgrimage

    YANGON(Reuters) June 15 - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Yangon on Saturday after a pilgrimage to visit a revered monk, her first overnight trip out of the capital since she was released from house arrest last month.

    ''She has returned home. The journey went smoothly without any problems,'' a source from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) told Reuters. Suu Kyi's trip was a key test of how much freedom of movement Myanmar's ruling junta will allow her. When she was released after 19 months in house arrest, she said there were no restrictions on her movement. But it remains to be seen whether she will be allowed to travel outside Yangon to rally support for her pro-democracy movement.

    Her two-day visit to Thamanya Hill in Karen State, southeast of Yangon, was a private trip to see a famous Buddhist monk, U Winaya, who attracts thousands of devotees each year to his retreat. Suu Kyi also visited the monk shortly after her release in 1995 from a previous spell in house arrest. Opposition sources said Suu Kyi wanted to make the pilgrimage ahead of her 57th birthday on Wednesday.

    Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is a devout Buddhist. She emerged as the figurehead of the country's pro-democracy movement in 1988, and since then has spent several years in house arrest. Her latest spell in house arrest, from September 2000 until last month, was prompted by several high-profile attempts to travel outside Yangon in defiance of travel restrictions.

    A bid to travel south of the capital by road in August 2000 led to a nine- day roadside stand-off when police blocked her car. She was eventually forcibly returned home, sparking an outcry from the international community. A month later, Suu Kyi was stopped from travelling by rail to the city of Mandalay, and placed under house arrest.

    Suu Kyi's NLD won Myanmar's last election, in 1990, by a landslide. But the military government refused to hand over power.

    Suu Kyi has been holding secretive talks with the junta since October 2000, aimed at ending the country's political deadlock. But the talks have yet to yield any concrete agreement and have focused on ''confidence-building,'' officials say.

    Suu Kyi has said she wants to get down to substantive talks as soon as possible to map out the country's political future. The military government insists it is committed to building democracy but says moving too fast could unleash anarchy. But the junta is keen to get international sanctions lifted to try to salvage the country's tottering economy. (Additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok)

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    PTT not used as `pressure tool' on Burma

    The Bangkokpost

    Reports that the government was using PTT Plc as a tool to apply pressure on Burma are groundless, according to Industry Minister Suriya Juengrungruangkij.Some local newspapers reported yesterday that PTT had been ordered to delay the last instalment payment of $100 million to Rangoon under a ``take or pay'' agreement for the supply of gas from the Yadana field off Burma.

    The delayed payment was seen as a way to pressure Burma to make efforts to reduce recent border tensions between the countries.The ``take or pay'' agreement requires PTT to pay its Burmese gas supplier regardless of whether the partially privatised oil company takes delivery.Most of the gas is used for power generation at the Ratchaburi electricity plant.

    Mr Suriya said that a payment had in fact been delayed, but the delay took place in February, well before the border and diplomatic tensions escalated.``The delay is attributed to internal operating management of PTT,'' he said.``In the past, PTT had delayed payment of `take or pay' instalments to operators of the Yadana and Yetagun fields several times.``PTT is now considering how procedures for these payments should be conducted, so the public and media should separate politics and business.''

    Mr Suriya also said he had postponed a visit to Rangoon to negotiate natural gas purchases until new payment details could be worked out.Again, he said, the decision had nothing to do with politics.

    Prasert Bunsumpun, PTT's senior executive vice-president in charge of the gas business group, confirmed that the most recent delay was not the first by the company.``The payment of `take or pay' instalments has had several delays. They have nothing to deal with international political tension,'' he said.Mr Prasert said Thailand had been obliged under the agreement to take gas from the Yadana and Yetagun fields since 1998, but was unable to do so because the co-generation power unit at Ratchaburi was not completed.The Ratchaburi plant started taking delivery of the gas last year, and the final co-generation unit would be fully installed by late this year, he said.

    Police identify Karen as suspected gunmen

    The Bangkokpost

    Police have identified two of three gunmen who killed three students when they opened fire on a packed school bus in Ban Kha sub-district on Jun 4, as well as a possible motive for the attack.One of the suspects had been identified as ``Toly,'' a Karen villager about 35 years old who held a special ID issued to ethnic groups, the source said.The suspect lived at Huay Nam Nak village in Ratchaburi's Suan Phueng district, and was on police records as having taken part in a burglary in tambon Ta Nao Si several years ago.The second suspect was identified as Jorabaeb, also a Karen, who was at the scene of the shooting, but did not open fire on the bus, according to the source.

    Police had issued warrants for the arrests of the suspects, sketches of whom had been posted in villages along the Burmese border.A reward of 500,000 baht was being offered to anyone providing information leading to their arrests.The source said police believed the bus shooting was connected to the illegal log trade, adding the bus driver, Thongmon Kemthong, was not the target as initially suspected.

    However, Gen Pallop Pinmanee, deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command, disagreed.Gen Pallop said he strongly believed the bus shooting was staged by a breakaway group of the Karen National Union rebels, and that the bus driver was the gunmen's target.The Isoc official has been locked in a war of words over the issue with Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun, who has said the Ratchaburi provincial governor should be the sole provider of information to the press.

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