Daily News- June 19- 2002- Wednesday

  • Suu Kyi speaks out for women
  • Myanmar troops recapture outpost from Shan: SSA
  • Student's Sentenced to Death
  • Anti-Myanmar activists claim another victory
  • Myanmar residents fly the flag under pressure
  • Myanmar Muslims seeking asylum stay put at invaded UN agency

  • Suu Kyi speaks out for women

    source : BBC

    Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has launched a stinging criticism of the treatment of women in Burma. In an address to mark her 57th birthday on Wednesday, she said Burmese women were rarely allowed to gain positions of importance and that the situation needed to change. She also praised them for their courage in overcoming the handicaps imposed on them - and appealed to them to play a greater role in paving the way for social, political and economic change.

    Correspondents say she deliberately avoided a verbal attack on the Burmese Government, but some implicit criticism can be read into her statement.

    Birthday message

    Aung San Suu Kyi is Burma's main opposition leader, and her speech was directed at both women within the country and Burmese exiles. "In Burma, as in many other parts of the world, women are the underprivileged gender," she said. "In areas of conflict and crisis, it is our women and children who suffer most. On the other hand, our women are rarely allowed to achieve decision-making positions even though they are able and well qualified."

    The pro-democracy leader also said women needed to reach their full potential for the country to make progress. "The women of Burma must shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of the nation," she said. They must play a vigorous and leading role in paving the way to social, political and economic changes in the country."

    Aung San Suu Kyi went on to praise Burmese women for the courage they had shown in the past. "Women have had to develop endurance and courage where they might overcome the handicaps imposed on them by outmoded prejudice." "I would like to call upon the women of Burma to use this courage and endurance to ensure that we move forward as speedily as possible."

    House arrest

    Aung San Suu Kyi will be marking her birthday with the rare luxury of being free from the restrictions of house arrest. But little has been achieved since she was freed in May. The BBC's Larry Jagan says the junta that rules the country has so far not made any attempt to talk to her.

    Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as the figurehead of the pro- democracy movement in Burma in 1988. She was held under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and again from September 2000 to May this year.Since her release she has so far kept a low profile and avoided gestures that could embarrass or anger the junta. Although she is free to travel outside Rangoon she has only made one major trip, and that was a private pilgrimage rather than an effort to rally political support.

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    Myanmar troops recapture outpost from Shan: SSA

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, June 18 (AFP) - In its first admission that a Myanmar offensive was bearing fruit, the rebel Shan State Army (SSA) said Tuesday that Yangon forces have recaptured one of seven border outposts seized by the Shan last month.

    The SSA withdrew from a key mountain position between Pang Mae Sueng and Pan Kan Kaw outposts opposite Thailand's Chiang Mai province, the SSA said."More than 700 Burmese (Myanmar) soldiers and (pro-Yangon) ethnic Wa fighters were involved in the battle," SSA spokeswoman Nang Khur Hsen told AFP by telephone from the border."The position was shelled by Burmese artillery with 120mm mortars for more than six hours and there were attempts to storm it by about 700 troops, most of them Wa fighters," she said.

    "The several attempts to recapture the position had failed until midnight... but SSA leaders then ordered their men to withdraw before dawn.""Other major border camps including Pang Mae Sueng and Pan Kan Kaw, still remain under control of the SSA," the spokeswoman said.

    On June 4 Yangon announced its troops and allies in the United Wa State Army (UWSA) were launching an all-out offensive against the Shan to reclaim the border posts, which were captured in bloody clashes last month.

    The SSA is one of the major armed insurgency groups in Myanmar yet to sign a ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta, which deems the group a terrorist outfit.The SSA claimed last week over 240 Myanmar and Wa troops had been killed in the fighting along with 13 Shan militia, and that 50 Myanmar and Wa troops and Wa fighters were killed in the battle for the position captured Tuesday.None of the casualty figures have been verifiable and Yangon has made no public reference to casualties since their offensive began.

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    Student's Sentenced to Death

    By Kyaw Zwa Moe
    The Irrawaddy

    June 18, 2002—In response to demonstrations two weeks ago by students at Burma's "West Point", the country's military regime has allegedly sentenced some students to death for their role in the protests, according to sources close to students at the college.

    The protests occurred at the Military Technology College (MTC) in Maymyo, also known as Pyin Oo Lwin, in Mandalay Division and were in response to the quality of the school's food as well as a recent regulation that reduced the cadet's rank upon graduation, according to the Washington DC-based Radio Free Asia (RFA).

    It remains unclear exactly how many students have been sentenced to death or what the exact charges are, however, sources told The Irrawaddy that the number is between three and 10. The sources also said that an additional 17 students have been sentenced to 20 years in prison and that a total of 72 remain in detention.

    According to residents of Maymyo, 40 percent of MTC's 5,000 students have been expelled due to the protests. And that all students have been sent home as the school remains closed since the protests occurred. MTC is also rumored to be moving to Ho Pong in southern Shan State as a result of the protests.

    Students at the Defense Services Academy (DSA) and the Defense Services Technological Academy (DSTA), both also located in Maymyo, were prohibited from going out last weekend and are also reportedly growing dissatisfied with the government's treatment of the students at MTC, according to the residents of Maymyo.

    The source close to the students at MTC also said that the school's principal, Col Pho Aung, has come under investigation for not properly controlling the students. The source noted that it was doubtful that he played any role in the protests but was being used by the regime as a scapegoat.

    The DSA was established in 1955 and is the most prestigious military school in the country. After 1988, however, the military junta expanded the DSA to include the Defense Services Medical Academy, the DSTA and the MTC in order to produce more professionals for the military.

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    Anti-Myanmar activists claim another victory

    WASHINGTON, June 18 (AFP) - US activists on Tuesday claimed a new victory in its campaign against Myanmar's junta after discount clothing giant Ross Stores pledged to cut ties to the military ruled country.The Free Burma Coalition said Ross undertook to take "steps to discontinue the future purchasing of goods originating in Burma" in a letter to the group.

    Ross becomes the 31st US-based firm to cut links with Myanmar amid an intense campaign of pickets and boycotts launched by activists to highlight what it says is widespread forced labor in the country.

    "We're encouraged that once Ross was informed of the situation in Burma, it decided to move to end its support for this regime and its brutal human rights abuses," said Aung Din, a director of the free Burma Coalition."It is simply impossible to sell goods for Burma without supporting the military regime and its brutal repression of human rights," Aung Din said, using Myanmar's former name.

    The Ross announcement came a week after activists won perhaps the most significant victory of their campaign so far when a Los Angeles judge agreed to hear a case claiming that US energy giant Unocal was complicit in the military's human rights abuses.The lawsuit, originally filed in 1996, claims Unocal was partly responsible for violations committed by the junta during the construction of the Yadana pipeline built to carry natural gas from Myanmar to Thailand.

    Quoting Commerce Department figures, the Free Burma Coalition says apparel imports from Myanmar plummetted to 76 million dollars year on year for the first three months of 2002 from 116 million dollars in the same period last year.

    Firms, including Wal-Mart, Kenneth Cole and Hanes, have announced over the last two years that they would stop selling goods manufactured in Myanmar.

    A string of recent reports by the US State Department and human rights groups like Amnesty International have said that forced labor and child labor is rife in Myanmar, and that people are coerced into building roads, railways and military installations.The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions last year branded the country "the biggest labor camp in the world."

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    Myanmar residents fly the flag under pressure

    YANGON, June 19 (AFP) - National Myanmar flags were selling like hotcakes here Wednesday in a compulsory show of patriotism as the ruling military junta continued its vitriolic campaign against neighbouring Thailand.Union flags of all sizes fluttered from balconies, windows, telephone poles and commuter buses in the Myanmar capital in an orchestrated campaign.

    Authorities largely used gentle persuasion to get ward residents to fly the flag, but low-ranking officials occasionally threatened fines for non-compliance."It is always prudent to stay on the good side of these people,' one ward resident told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    For the past month Myanmar's tightly controlled press has been in a war of words against Thailand, with which Yangon has had strained border relations. The patriotic flurry may be an extension of Yangon's official displeasure with its "bad neighbour".Observers suggested the flags also may be aimed at showing support for state troops fighting ethnic Shan rebels in eastern Myanmar, along the Thai border.

    Wednesday also marked the 57th birthday of pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been essentially ignored by the junta since she was released in May after 19 months of house arrest.

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    Myanmar Muslims seeking asylum stay put at invaded UN agency

    KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (AFP) - A group of 18 Muslim illegal immigrants from Myanmar on Wednesday refused to leave the grounds of a UN refugee agency in Malaysia which they occupied to demand asylum.

    The members of Myanmar's minority Rohingya Muslim community invaded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre here in two batches on Monday and Tuesday.The 15 men, two children and a woman have remained camped in the compound of the centre and say they will not leave until they are granted asylum either in Malaysia or in a third country.

    Agency officials have been arranging for interviews with the immigrants and carrying out cross-checks with other agencies to "establish their claims", said Shinji Kubo, UNHCR protection officer."It is a long process, and time consuming."While we sympathise with them, we have our limitations and we cannot just ignore the interest of other groups (seeking refugee status)," he told AFP.

    Kubo said police were carrying out regular patrols around the agency, but would not intervene with the matters of the United Nations, adding that the immigrants had been well-behaved throughout their time at the centre."They said they are tired of living in fear, of being arrested and deported, " said Kubo, adding he was unsure how long the immigrants would remain at the compound.

    The Muslim immigrants, who have been given food, shelter and medication, said previous asylum appeals had always been rejected, adding that there was no other place for them to turn to as they were being persecuted in their own country.In January, more than two dozen Rohingya migrants stormed the centre to seek asylum, but were handed over to immigration officials who said they would be deported.

    Around 2,500 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar for Malaysia in 1991-92 alleging persecution by the army, but most were later repatriated with the help of the United Nations.

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